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Battle of North Walsham
Further reading and sources
The Peasants Revolt features in several contemporary or near contemporary chronicles, but only one author provides a substantial account of the battle of North Walsham – Thomas Walsingham, a monk of the Benedictine Abbey of St Albans (there are various different works of his known but essentially the account is the same in all of them).
John Capgrave’s chapter on Henry Despenser, bishop of Norwich, in his Liber de Illustribus Henricis (‘Book of Famous Henries’), written in 1446-7 for Henry VI, may be partly based on Walsingham’s account (Capgrave also misnames Lister as Jack) but also has independent detail. These accounts specifically mention the location of the battle by name. (NB Capgrave’s account is in this ‘Book of the Famous Henries’ not in his Chronicle of England).
The Anonimalle Chronicle (the best account of the Peasants’ Revolt as a whole) does not mention the battle by name but simply has it that Bishop Despenser ‘collected many men-at-arms and archers and he attacked the rebels in several places where he could find them’. The Chronicon of Henry Knighton is equally vague, noting that the commons rose in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, and mentioning Despenser’s suppression. Both chronicles mention the killing of Sir Robert de la Salle but without context. Froissart has a detailed account of the death of Sir Robert in Book II of his Chronicles, although in this version first written in the late 1380s, Froissart’s ‘William‘ Lister is from Stafford (or possibly Stamford – the original French is Stanfort). The rebels in London are described as expecting Lister and Baker (probably Bacon) to bring their troops to London.
The Peasants Revolt edited by R. B. Dobson is invaluable, bringing together the sources for the whole revolt. Also useful is the parallel text edition of The St Alban’s Chronicle Vol 1 1376-1394. The Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham, ed. J. Taylor, W. Childs and L. Watkiss (Oxford Medieval Texts, 2003).
E. A. Powell, The Rising in East Anglia in 1381 (Cambridge, 1896) has some material from the legal records, but suggests the battle may have been on 22 or 23 June (p. 37).
Andrew Prescott’s PhD thesis, ‘The Judicial Records of the Rising of 1381’ (London, 1984), also includes useful material and is available for free download at ethos.bl.uk. His article, The Abbey of St Benet Holme and The English Rising of 1381’, in Monastic Life in the Medieval British Isles: Essays in Honour of Janet Burton, ed. J. Ker, E. Jamroziak and K. Stober (Cardiff, 2019), pp. 139-57, is also useful. Prof Prescott is also the author of the entry for Geoffrey Lister in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Also useful on organisation is Andy Reid, ‘The Rising of 1381 in South West and Central Norfolk’ in Studies towards a History of the Rising of 1381 in Norfolk, ed. B Cornford (1984), pp. 11-33.
The website https://battleofnorthwalsham1381.wordpress.com collects much information about the battle and battlefield, as well as ongoing work and projects.
A leaflet titled The Battle on the Heath, an account of the conclusion of the Peasants Revolt in Norfolk by Anthony Norris, 1711-1786, is usually available in the parish church of St. Nicholas, North Walsham. Dr. Page in The Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society (Great Yarmouth Committee) (undated) notes the damage to the church supposedly relating to the rising. Page’s manuscript copy for a History of North Walsham (also undated) includes an account based on Walsingham, and also includes details of the three crosses, as well as two other cross heads from his garden. Dr. William Hewitt’s Observations on the public edifices of North Walsham (1857) repeats Norris’s assertion of 30,000 casualties, and comments on the battle site and crosses. Christobel M Hoare’s The history of an East Anglian soke: studies in original documents (1918) in summary form is available at the battleofnorthwalsham1381 website. R. Cozens-Hardy examines the crosses in ‘Norfolk Crosses’, in Norfolk Archaeology vol. 25 (1934.)