Robert Kett, the fourth son of Tom and Margery Kett, was born in Wymondham in 1492. Robert eventually became a substantial landowner in Norfolk.
During the Tudor period large numbers of farmers changed from growing crops to raising sheep. This involved enclosing arable land and turning it into pasture for sheep.
Sheep farming became so profitable that large landowners began to enclose common land. For hundreds of years this land had been used by all the people who lived in the village. Many people became very angry about this and villagers began tearing down the hedges that had been used to enclose the common land.
Those people caught damaging hedges were severely punished. However, on 14 June 1549, it was announced that Edward VI had pardoned all those people who had torn down hedges enclosing common land. Many landless people thought that this meant that their king disapproved of enclosures. All over the country people began to destroy hedges that landowners had used to enclose common land.
Kett admitted that he had been wrong to enclose the common land. Kett also agreed to help the protesters persuade other landowners from enclosing public land. As Kett was a well-educated man, the crowd asked him to become their leader. Kett suggested that they should march on Norwich. On the way, other villagers in the area joined the march. By the time Kett reached Norwich, he had about 16,000 followers.
The mayor of Norwich refused to let Kett's army enter the city. However, Kett and his men, armed with spears, swords and pitchforks, successfully stormed the city walls. The English government were shocked when they heard that Kett and his rebels controlled the second largest city in England.
Kett formed a governing council made up of representatives from the villages that had joined the revolt. This council then sent details of their demands to Edward VI. Edward's chief adviser, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, responded by sending John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and a large army to Norwich.
Kett made the mistake of deciding to fight the king's army in open fields. This enabled John Dudley to make full use of his cavalry. Kett's untrained and poorly-armed men had no chance against Dudley's experienced soldiers. It is estimated that 3,000 of Kett's men were killed in the battle. Kett was captured and executed for treason on 7 December 1549.