Social History...

Kett's Rebellion

A further period of hard times came upon the people following the Reformation, and there were numerous local risings. These risings were not so much of religious nature but agrarian. Times were hard following upon the debasement of the coinage by Henry VIII and the rise and uncertainty of prices, was great distress. The most formidable rising was in Norfolk, where the Reformation was generally popular, but where the landlordís excessive sheep farming on common land had caused great discontent. The armed commonality, under their leader Kett, captured Norwich and encamped outside its gates There they slaughtered 20,000 of the offending sheep. One of their demands was the emancipation of all those labourers who was still villeins. Like most other peasant risings that of 1549 was put down, and as usual the leaders hanged. It is not improbable some men of Wicklewood participated in this rising, although no records exist to support this supposition. Under the influence of Latimer an effort was made to induce Parliament to pass effective statutes to control enclosure of land, but this met with little success. In spite of economic troubles the standard of life of the people was slowly going up during the early and middle Tudor period.

One contemporary record of 1577 notes the improvement in household conditions, "Not among the nobility in gentry only but likewise of the lowest sort in most parts".

The writer states "Our fathers have lain, full oft upon straw pallets, covered over with a sheet, under coverlets made of dogswain or hop harlots, and a good round log under their heads instead of a bolster. If it were so that our fathers or the good man of the house had a mattress or flock bed and a sack of chaff to rest his head upon, he thought himself as well lodged as the lord of the town Pillows were thought only for women in childbed.

As for servants, if they had any sheets above them, it was well, for seldom had anything under their bodies, to keep them from the prickling straws that ran oft through the canvass of the pallet and razed their hardened hides".

Chimneys also came into general use, even in cottages, due to some extent to the increased use of coal for the domestic hearth. Common houses and cottages were still of timber, or of 'half-timber' with clay and rubble between the wooden uprights and crossbeams. But brick was gradually coming in and particularly in the eastern counties, where timber was running short owing to the process of deforestation. Wooden plates were beginning to give way to pewter, and wooden spoons into tin, or in the case of wealthier people, of silver.
Until the 18th-century it was not possible to ripen enough wheat to feed the whole population. Oats, wheat, rye and barley were all grown according to the soil and climate.
It all parts of England the village grew a variety of crops for its own use, and its bread was often a mixture of different crops. Fynes Moryson who knew the chief countries of Europe well, wrote, shortly after Queen Elizabeth's death "The English husband-men eat barley and rye and brown bread, and prefer it to white bread as abiding longer the in the stomach, and not so digested with their labour; but citizens and gentleman eat most pure white bread, England yielding most kinds of corn in plenty". Meat and bread were the chief foods. Vegetables were little eaten with meat; cabbages help to make the pottage. The inns of Elizabethan England had a character of their own for individual attention afforded travellers. Fynes Moryson, who had sampled the wayside hospitality of half Europe, wrote "The world affords not such Inns as England hath, either for food or for the humble attendance to passengers, yea even in very poor villages. While he eats, he shall be offered music, which he may freely take or refuse".

But the inn was not a resort of wayfarers alone, it frequently happened that the inhabitants of the Manor House would adjourn to the local inn and spend long hours in the privy chamber round glasses and tankards.
This custom continued for several generations after the death of Elizabeth and in all ages the ale bench has been the centre of the middling and lower classes of town, village and hamlet.
Although times were better in that period (1559-1640) than in earlier Tudor times, there were recurrent periods of distress.

The growth of industries and country areas was accompanied by periodic unemployment.

To meet such emergencies a Poor Law took shape, and a compulsory Poor Rate was levied. This was to guard against the coming into being of "Sturdy Beggars" who had terrorized the countryside in the days of Henry VIII. The lot of the village parson too was not always easy, and the need to support a wife and children made the parson's poverty yet more acute. It was not until the middle of the 18th-century that a rise in the status of the parson took place. In 1690 a license was issued for the sale of All Saints' Church bell.

The circumstances compelling this action would suggest that the people of Wicklewood were not affluent.

For a long time the bell had been split, and the parishioners being unable to afford the cost of repairing it, had been paying "Discretion Fees" to the Bishop for default thereof. We're able to gather some indication as to the standard of living of the people at the latter end of the 18th-century from the following figures which relate to Norfolk generally

Labourers were paid at the rate of one penny per day during the winter; one halfpenny per day during the spring For work during harvest, lasting approximately five weeks, the pay was between £2.12.6d to £3.00 and included food, drink and lodging. Ploughing was paid at the rate of 2/6d per acre (12-1/2p) Hoeing turnips was threepence an acre for the first time and twopence per acre for the second.

Cost of provisions. Bread: twopence per pound.
Beef: fourpence per pound
Butter: sixpence per pound
Veal: threepence ha'penny per pound
Mutton: fourpence per pound
Candles: sevenpence per pound


Crop rotation covering a period of four years:-
First year - Wheat Third year - Barley Second year - Turnips Fourth year - Land down in clover