The Black Death of 1348 - 1353 decimated the population
of England, so in 1349 the King attempted to limit the wages paid
to labourers to their pre-plague levels. A writ was sent to all the
Sherriffs in the country, which consisted of the following
Due to the number of people killed by
the pestilence, and seeing that the landowners have
limited workers to help, the King ordains the following.
|| Every able person under the
age of 36 who is not a craftsman must work for
his lord for the same wages as before the plague.
|| Any worker or servant leaving
his lords service without cause or licence should
|| A man must not pay his servant
more than the above wages, on pain of a fine of
twice the labourers wage.
|| A Lord of town or Manor must
not pay his servant more than the above wages, on
pain of a fine of thrice the labourers wage.
|| Any craftsman charging more
for his goods or service than pre-plague levels
should be imprisoned.
|| Traders and Merchants
overcharging for their goods will pay a fine of
three times the amount.
|| Anyone giving alms to the poor,
or gifts to beggars will be imprisoned. This is
to ensure that they carry out rightful employment.
In 1351 the Statute of
Labourers tried to enforce the above ordainance, by
setting wages to be paid. This started to reduce the
peasants ties to their Lord, as single men could make
more as wage earners, than as unfree peasants.
This and the unfair treatment given to
peasants and merchants by the ruling classes, caused the
people of Kent and Essex to feel restricted and grieved.
On June 12th 1381 a Blacksmith Wat Tyler , reputed to have
lived near Brenchley in Kent, together with Jack Straw led the rebellion.
They started on the Romney Marshes and the rebels marched through
Appledore to Staplehurst then on to Maidstone, where they attacked
the gaol, and released the prisoners. From Maidstone they marched
on London, where much property was destroyed, and many wealthy
people were killed.
The King Richard II aged 14 agreed to
meet the rebels, and to their demands for an end to
serfdom, low land rental and repeal of the Labour Laws.
The majority of the 100,000 peasants were satisfied and
went home, but Wat Tyler remained with 30,000 supporters
to see if more could be obtained. The Mayor of London
felt that the more demanding attitude of Tyler was
worrying, so ordered his troops to kill Tyler. The Kings
troops had now had time to regroup, and drove the rebels
The final outcome was that the King's
promises were ignored, and the oppression of the
In September 1382 there was a small scale repeat when the peasants
realised that nothing had changed, and marched on Linton and
Maidstone , but they were quickly defeated and many executed.