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Richard II’s London – Historic Britain Weblog


Whereas researching this novel I had the nice fortune to stumble throughout the e book “The Turbulent London of Richard II”—not, because it seems, due to the content material. It was means too specialised for me. But it surely got here with probably the most superior fold-out “sketch map of London within the time of the Peasant Revolt” that I photocopied and taped to my wall. It’s nonetheless there, three novels later. I spent hours scrutinizing it till I had a devoted understanding of England’s most vital metropolis, most of which was nonetheless tucked within the previous Roman partitions.

This was vital, for on the time of the Peasants Revolt, the town officers relied on the wall to maintain the rebels out. There have been seven gates within the Roman wall: Ludgate (going through west), Newgate (the place the jail was), Aldersgate (going through Smithfield), Cripplegate, Bishopsgate, Aldgate (east, going through Mile Finish), and the Postern Gate on the Tower of London (pedestrian solely). The one different means into London was over the London Bridge, which had a drawbridge on the Southwark finish. After all, the mayor of London was depending on the loyalty of his gatekeepers, and this in the end failed him. As soon as Aldgate was opened and the insurgents got here pouring into the town from the east, he had no selection however to decrease the drawbridge and provides passage to the Kent rebels.

Outdated London Bridge by Peter Jackson

London Bridge was a world all its personal, populated by each conceivable enterprise besides taverns—for that they had no cellars. The retailers occupied the bottom flooring with their colourful indicators 9 ft above the pavement so a horse and rider might move beneath. Each signal displayed a picture representing a commerce so it might be recognized by anybody, literate or not. The bridge was twenty ft vast, lined on either side by buildings cantilevered over the sting, supported by big wood struts. Every home solely occupied 4 ft of the stone platform; which meant that solely twelve ft was left to accommodate the highway. Two and three tales excessive, the homes blocked out the solar like a tunnel, particularly since lots of the prime flooring had been linked by an enclosed walkway. This might have been the conduit by which 1000’s and 1000’s of rebels pushed their means into the town. At this stage of the insurrection they had been exhorted by their leaders to be well-behaved, although I can solely think about the trepidation felt by the hapless shopkeepers.

Curiously, one of many rebels’ first targets was John of Gaunt’s nice Savoy palace, which was probably the most elegant townhouse in all of London. It bordered the river, upstream on the way in which to Westminster alongside the Strand. The Strand was the London model of Millionaire’s Row: rich riverfront properties freed from the stink and air pollution of the town. To get to the Strand, you needed to move out by Ludgate then cross the Fleet, an open sewer polluted by the butchers and tanners dumping their refuse into the River Holborn—to not point out the jail sewage. The Fleet in flip poured its stinking offal into the Thames. And that’s not all: at sure docks alongside the river contained laystalls (suppose Dicken’s Puddle Dock, at Black Friars). That is the place the night time soil, or human excrement, was piled up, ultimately to be taken away by 5 barges situated downstream. You may simply think about the horrific stench.

Anyway, the rebels needed to move the well-known Knights Hospitaller Temple alongside the way in which to the Savoy (they’d be again—that’s the place the legal professionals lived). You additionally had Durham Home (residence of the Bishop of Durham), York Home (for the Bishop of York), the convent of the White Friars…you get the concept. I don’t suppose any of those palaces escaped the eye of the insurgents. As soon as they destroyed the Savoy—actually, for they by accident blew it up with barrels of gunpowder, trapping lots of the rebels within the cellar—they rampaged their means again into the town, spreading out of their efforts to remove the hated foreigners who competed for jobs and took meals from their mouths. Oh, and to see how a lot plunder they may amass.

In the course of the early section of the Peasants’ Revolt, the king and his few nobles took refuge within the Tower of London, alleged to be invulnerable to assault. And it most likely can be, although any fortress is simply as sturdy as its human defenders. Whereas Richard and social gathering had been at Mile Finish negotiating with the rebels on day two, the troublemakers remaining within the metropolis pressured their means in and seized the Archbishop of Canterbury and Treasurer Hales, decapitating them within the course of. How? Nobody is aware of, however for the reason that Tower defenders had been commoners, one can solely assume they had been persuaded to affix the trigger.

Tower Water Gate: Wikipedia

After two days of rioting, the rebels lastly agreed to fulfill King Richard at Smithfield, approached by Aldersgate. Simply north of the town partitions, Smithfield was an open area so massive it could take about ten days for a yoke of oxen to plow it. Each August for the reason that time of Henry I, the well-known Bartholomew Truthful was held there, bringing folks from everywhere in the nation. In any other case, Smithfield was most frequently used as a horse market, although generally it hosted sporting video games, tournaments, and even executions. The Scottish insurgent, William Wallace, was hanged, drawn, and quartered on this very spot, underneath the elms within the far northwest nook. This time it was the flip of Wat Tyler, who led his rowdy followers to Smithfield in an try and wrest extra concessions from the king. Sadly for Wat, this might be the location of his premature finish, as effectively. And within the confusion, the rebels had nowhere to go however north towards Clerkenwell Fields, for the way in which out was blocked by the Roman wall to the south, the Fleet to the west, and the Priory of St. Bartholomew to the east. A courageous and resilient King Richard led the way in which and the chastened rebels adopted. As soon as they had been introduced underneath management, the Essex rebels scattered to the north, however the Kent contingent was led again by the town and over the London Bridge once more; this time their habits was impeccable (underneath ache of dying).

By all accounts, an amazing quantity of harm was accomplished to London throughout the Peasants’ Revolt, however in fact it survived. One wonders why it didn’t go up in flames just like the Nice Fireplace of 1666, however maybe the violence was directed extra in opposition to folks than constructions?

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