Norwich was rocked by ‘The Great Blowe’. This city dust-up had its roots in growing discontent in the wake of the civil war.
In the aftermath of King Charles I’s surrender in the spring of 1646, puritanical religious reformers had tightened their grip on Norwich and other places in eastern England. They even banned Christmas.
By early 1648, the city was in a funny mood. Norwich apprentices and workers were up for a fight. Rumours spread that popular Mayor John Utting was about to be arrested by the authorities, and sent to London. The city gates were locked and by midnight a crowd reckoned at about 2,000 people had gathered in support of the mayor, shouting for ‘God and King Charles’.
Things got out of hand. As Parliamentary cavalry were summoned to break up the unrest, rioters decided to seize arms and ammunition stored at the headquarters of the County Committee.
What happened next is unclear, but there was an explosion. . . and when the dust had cleared 40 people were dead, many more were injured and the windows of St Peter Mancroft and St Stephen’s Churches were blown out. Which was why Norwich people recalled the incident as the ‘Great Blowe’.
The authorities cracked down. Some 300 people were arrested, and eight ringleaders hanged at Norwich Castle the following January.
At a national level a second civil war broke out, and Colchester was besieged by Parliament. In January, 1649, King Charles was tried and beheaded in London. England became a Republic.