The city of Norwich opened its gates to Geoffrey Lister’s rebels. This all happened during what is now known as the ‘Peasants’ Revolt’, a few days after the men of Essex and Kent had marched on London, and Wat Tyler had been killed.
The unrest affected much of southern England, and Norfolk and Suffolk were no exceptions. Geoffrey Lister, ‘king of the Commons’, was a successful businessman and property owner from Felmingham, near North Walsham. No peasant then, but a substantial character, as were many of the insurgents in 1381.
Most of them felt justice was on their side, and they were redressing the balance against over-mighty, corrupt royal officials and churchmen, particularly in the wake of the hated poll tax. Like so many, they misread the signals coming from the young king, Richard II, unaware savage retribution was at hand.
After seizing property rolls and records at ecclesiastical sites, such as Binham and Carrow, the rebels marched on Norwich. Lister seized Norwich Castle and imprisoned some of the gentry and judiciary.
It was the Bishop of Norwich, Henry Dispenser, who led the counter-attack. Lister and his rebels withdrew to the north. The bishop’s army caught up with them on the road to North Walsham, where they were defeated.
Lister was captured, and hanged, drawn and quartered on the spot. His quarters were sent to Norwich, Lynn, Yarmouth and his home village, Felmingham.
Bishop Henry put up three crosses to mark the battle site, one of which can be seen just off the Norwich Road.