The Capture of Robert Kett


The Village of Swannington is probably most famous - some would say infamous - for an event which occurred on 27th & 28th of August 1549.

Two labourers came across an exhausted man, and an equally exhausted horse, sleeping in a barn somewhere in Swannington. They took him to their employer, Master Richards, who detained him. The next morning The Earl of Warwick, on behalf of the King, sent 20 horsemen from Norwich to arrest the man and take him eventually to London where he was charged with, and found guilty of treason.

The man was Robert Kett, the leader of the Norfolk Uprising. His troops had encamped on Mousehold Heath for many weeks, from where they controlled Norwich. The King's army had been sent to defeat the rebellious peasants and this was accompished on 27th August, when most of Kett's army agreed to a surrender in return for a full pardon (this was honoured). Kett made his escape, and in an exhausted state took refuge in the Swannington barn.

        Some claim the barn was in the vicinity of Joles, now 
        Woodlands, Farm, others suggest it was off Ketts Lane,
        but the most popular choice of sites is the ruin in the 
        meadow behind Church Lane (photograph).However, It 
        is most unlikely that we will ever find out for certain.

        Kett was sentenced to death by the method used at the
        time for treason: partly hanged, disembowelled alive,
        beheaded and quartered.This was to take place at the
        Tower of London, but it was decided to send him back
        to Norwich to set an example to the local people. He
        was housed in Norwich Guildhall and 6 days later,on
        December 7th, he was paraded through the streets to the
        Castle and hanged. His body was left until it rotted away. 
The Swannington man who first apprehended Kett was awarded 20 shillings by order of the Privy Council on February 3rd 1550. I wonder how he spent it!

R GIBBONS © 2001