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   Wat Tyler Inn
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Tradition states that Dartford played a major role in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 and that Wat Tyler, leader of the Kentish peasants, was from Dartford. Fact and legend have become blurred over time. All contemporary accounts of the Peasants’ Revolt are unreliable. Virtually every aspect of Wat Tyler’s career is controversial, his exact identity and his social and geographical origins. John Stow (d. 1605), London’s chronicler writing in the sixteenth century, asserts that the revolt was led by John Tyler of Dartford, whose daughter was reputedly indecently assaulted by a visiting tax assessor.

A contemporary account in Thomas Walsingham’s Historia Anglicana gives the leader’s name as Walter Helier, an Essex tiler. Thomas Paine in his book The Rights of Man (1791) maintains that Walter Tyler was a resident of Deptford.

Dartford, Deptford, Colchester and Maidstone have all claimed Wat Tyler as a local hero. Other identifiable leaders were Abel Ker, John Ball, Jack Straw (or Rackstraw) and John Wrawe.


Document 2: Click the link below to view the document

An 18th century account of the event which started the Peasants' Revolt of 1381



Document 3: Click the link below to view the document

John Dunkin's account of the causes of the revolt


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   Wat Tyler Inn
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The revolt against Richard II’s poll tax started in Essex, not Dartford. On 31 May 1381, 5,000 peasants and fishermen from Stanford-le-Hope, Fobbing and Corringham, marched into Brentwood to confront the commissioner of taxes. The chief justice was despatched to maintain law and order. Six of his men were beheaded by the peasant army. Plunder and riot spread through Essex.

Abel Ker, a resident of Erith was a leader of the Kentish peasants. He and his followers raided the monastery at Lesnes and frightened its abbot into swearing an oath to support him and his men. They then took a boat across the River Thames and persuaded some 100 men from Barking to re-cross the river with them. On 5 June 1381 the combined force raided Dartford.

Though Abel Ker and his ever-increasing band of followers attacked Dartford they were not in sufficient strength to do much damage. A large number of men from Dartford came out and joined them as recruits.

Robert Cave, a Dartford baker took over the leadership from Abel Ker. At the Dartford house of Thomas Shardelow, the coroner of Kent, large quantities of official documents were seized by the rioters and ceremoniously burnt in the streets of the town. Cave and his men then marched to Rochester where they plundered the castle, finally heading off to Maidstone for more plunder and murder. Cave was later arrested and imprisoned for ten years.

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Wat Tyler appears to have taken over the leadership of the peasant army when it reached Maidstone, lending some weight to the theory that Wat Tyler was Maidstone born and bred.

The sacking of Canterbury and the march on London by the Kent and Essex peasants culminated in three days of anarchy in the city of London. On 15 June the king agreed to meet the rebels at Smithfield. Wat Tyler was murdered during the course of this meeting, after which the crowds dispersed and some of the remaining leaders were arrested and later hanged. A general amnesty for those who had taken part in the revolt was declared on 14 December 1381.

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