The Rebels are coming!
PUBLISHED: 11:55 21 June 2016
The story of one of Norfolk's great historical moments is retold this summer in a very dramatic way
Does the year 1549 mean anything to you? It is the date of one of the most significant events in Norfolk’s history - and also now the name of a special new production which aims to tell the story of this part of our county’s heritage.
Kett’s Rebellion was a peasants’ revolt that took place through the summer of 1549 against enclosure of the common land by wealthy landowners. This summer, 467 years after the ill-fated rebellion, the Norfolk-based theatre collective The Common Lot is staging a “panto-documentary” telling the human story behind the revolt. The production - described as a serious tale laced with lots of chorus work, comedy, song and audience participation - will form part of the Lord Mayor’s Celebrations in Norwich, with some of the company also joining the colourful carnival-style procession through the city.
Written by Simon Floyd and Karl Minns (of the Nimmo Twins comedy duo), the show’s cast and crew will consist of more than 50 Norfolk people selected from open auditions that took place in March. Ten performances are scheduled in some of the city’s great outdoor locations and all performances are free to the public. In commemoration of those who died during the rebellion - some 3,000 lost their lives in the fighting between the rebels and an army led by the Earl of Warwick - the company hopes to light the beacon on Kett’s Heights at their penultimate show. Following the final performance on Mousehold Heath in Norwich there will also be a party, where all are welcome to celebrate this historic event.
A brief history:
Life in Tudor England was tough for peasants who relied on the land. Enclosure of common land by the landowners who wanted more ground to graze their sheep meant that peasants had nowhere to keep their own animals. This became a catalyst for protest among the poor who were also struggling with unemployment and low wages.
In July 1549 tensions were running high at an annual fair at Wymondham. An angry group decided to pull down landowners’ fences at nearby Morley and Hethersett, and were directed to the land of yeoman farmer Robert Kett. However Kett spoke with the group and decided not only to join their cause but to lead them as they marched the 10 miles into Norwich, gathering on Mousehold Heath where they gained more local support.
Some, 12,000 rebels eventually gathered on the heath overlooking the city, when a herald was sent to proclaim their camp a rebellion and, offering a pardon if they dispersed peacefully. But Kett’s men rejected the offer and, the city gates where closed against them. A few days later the rebels stormed the walls and took control of the city.
An army of up to 14,000 men, commanded by the Earl of Warwick, marched on the city and fought battles in the streets, forcing Kett and his followers to retreat to their camp at Mousehold. Eventually the rebels left their camp to head to Dussindale, where they met the army again. During this final battle the rebels were heavily defeated and it is thought up to 3,000 of them were killed.
Kett was found, captured and taken to London to be tried for high treason. He was found guilty, imprisoned in The Guildhall in Norwich and on December 7, 1549 was hung from the walls of Norwich Castle.
Where to see 1549 in Norwich:
Friday 24 (7.30pm) Heigham Park
Saturday 25 (7.30pm) Wensum Park
Sunday 26 (2.30pm) Cow Tower
Thursday 30 (7.30pm) The Forum
Friday 1 (7.30pm) Whiffler Theatre, Castle Gardens
Saturday 2 (1pm) Whiffler Theatre, Castle Gardens
Friday 8 (7.30pm) Cathedral Close
Saturday 9 (2.30pm and 7.30pm) Kett’s Heights
Sunday 10 (2.30pm) Mousehold Heath