On the 8th, June, 1381. Yalding is visited by William Gildbourne from Fobbing in Essex.
I have been sent to see you by Wat Tyler. He wants me to tell you what has been happening during the last few days. On the 30th May, the king's tax collector, Thomas Bampton, sent a message to our village that we had to assemble in Brentwood. When we arrived in the town we saw that people from the villages of Corringham and Stanford were also there. Bampton told us that we had to pay our poll tax. We tried to tell him that we had paid the tax in March but he refused to believe us. Thomas Baker showed Bampton the receipt that the tax collector had given to us, but Bampton said it was a forgery. When we refused to pay any more money, Bampton threatened to arrest us. There were over 300 people in Brentwood and we were able to force Bampton and his two soldiers to go back to London.
After Bampton left, we went into the forest and made a camp. We sent out messages about what had happened in Brentwood to other villages in the area. On 2nd June news reached us that the Chief Justice, Sir Robert Belknap, and his soldiers, had arrived in Brentwood. We heard that Belknap only had a few soldiers so armed with scythes, sickles and a few old swords, we went back to Brentwood. When Belknap saw so many angry people he left very quickly.
The next day, we heard how a serf from Rochester called John Belling had been captured by soldiers in Gravesend. Belling was taken back to Sir Simon Burley at Rochester Castle. We decided to march on Rochester and rescue Belling. When we arrived a large crowd led by Robert Cave, a baker from Dartford, had surrounded the castle. Sir John Newton, the constable of the castle, was so frightened he let John Belling go.
Cave told us that John Ball had been imprisoned in Maidstone. He said we should march to Maidstone and rescue him. On the way we broke into several manor houses and destroyed all the documents we could find. For as you all know, without these the lord of the manor will not be able to force serfs to do labour service.
We arrived in Maidstone on 7th June. A meeting was held and we chose Wat Tyler from Colchester to become our leader. We then marched on the prison and freed John Ball. Tyler then asked for volunteers to take Ball's letters to the people of England. Wat Tyler wants you to meet at Maidstone. When we have enough people, we plan to march to London to see the king.
Maidstone, 7th June, 1381
People of Yalding. Now is the time. Stand together in God's name.