In the summer of 1549 Robert Kett and his army of Norfolk countrymen staged what was to be the last great popular revolt in southern England. Their principal discontent was the seizure of common land and the resistance of the landowners to any legal attempt to call a halt to their enclosures.
The rebellion was quashed by Government forces led by the most recalcitrant of the gentry and groups of foreign mercenaries, but for six weeks Kett and his men, camped on Mousehold Heath on the edge of the city, created an alternative form of rule which excluded (and terrified) the landowners.
Vilified at his trial as a ‘felonious and malicious traitor and a public enemy’, it was not until the early 20th century that Kett came to be rehabilitated and viewed as a champion of the rights of the common people. Joseph Clayton’s book provided the first account that sought to justify the rebellion and to offer an heroic portrait of Kett.