Hidden by Red Saunders: An Impressions Gallery touring exhibition, 9 March – 29 September, 2013John Ball (Hedgerow Priest), 1380 Hedgerow priest, 1380
Overview John Ball was a religious preacher who left the church to inspire the radicals in the Peasants' Revolt.
Profession? Chaplin? 25 February 1364, Edward III issued an official document stating John Ball had been granted his protection from the fear of injury or death threatened by his enemies. Despite this, Ball’s protection was soon withdrawn as the King heard he was preaching around the country against the faith of the church. Although little is known of his personal life. Some of his letters depict him as having previous experience as a Chantry priest in York, before moving to Rochester. Travelling Radical Preacher?
Ball in trouble John Ball soon earned himself a radical reputation and was ordered to appear before Archbishop Simon Langham as Bishop Simon Sudbury of London requested his arrest. Ball managed to avoid arrest for the following fourteen years despite the warrant
The Peasants’ Revolt Enforcement of the third poll tax led to rioting in Essex in May 1381 and England saw the beginnings of the Peasants’ Revolt. But who released John Ball from Prison?
Who do you believe? I was in the group of rebels who freed John Ball from jail. As the revolt spread to Kent, where, our first act was to free John from prison.
Who do you believe? I was in the group of rebels who released John Ball from Prison. It was the Royal Prison which Wat Tyler and I stormed in June.
Who do you believe? It is difficult to determine whether either argument is correct, however there is substantial evidence to prove that Ball was released from prison and met the rebels upon their arrival on Blackheath on the 12 June. It is here John Ball preached to the peasants, encouraging them to stand strong by a well known fourteenth century couplet.
John Ball preaching to the rebels Whanne Adam dalfe and Eve span, Who was þanne a gentil man? Ball used this couplet to demonstrate the need for equality without unjust and evil oppression as that is the will of God.
Legacy Peasants’ Revolt failed although it did raise awareness of the discontent of the Peasants. Arrested in Coventry and sentenced in court at St Albans on 12 July Ball fled on the 15 June Ball was hung, drawn, and quartered at St Albans on 15 July 1381
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