John Ball

John Ball played a big role in the Peasant Revolt. He was a Lollard priest (a religious sect that called for church reform) who’s claim to fame was being a roving priest with no parish linking him to the established church. As he traveled, he shared the teachings of John Wycliffe, especially those dealing with social equality.John Ball

Even before the Revolt, these teachings got Ball into some trouble. The Archbishop of Canterbury threw him into prison three different times, and even excommunicated him! Not one to be deterred, he continued to preach about the same subjects and the people still loved him. He managed to start a riot in June of 1381.

Once the Revolt began, John Ball was in prison, but the peasants quickly released him. He later gave a sermon at Blackheath which included the famous quotation “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentlemen?” and although some sources (ones who didn’t like Ball) say that he was among those who rushed into the Tower of London in order to seize the Archbishop of Canterbury, he does not appear in most accounts after his speech at Blackheath.

At any rate, he was still taken as a prisoner after the revolt and was of course found guilty. He was ceremoniously hanged, drawn and quartered in the presence of the king in July of 1381, and they stuck his head on a pike on London Bridge. While we are certainly not doing that at the fair, rest assured that you’ll see John Ball around in November.

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Published in: on August 3, 2011 at 8:05 am  Leave a Comment  

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