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John Ball

Person  Male  Born 1338  Died 15/7/1381

Born St Albans. As a priest he followed the Lollard doctrine which advocated social equality and hence was imprisoned several times. This was where he was when the Peasants' Revolt began. The Kentish rebels freed him and he responded with a sermon on Blackheath which included 'When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?' meaning that as there were no lords at the beginning of time, why should there be any now? 

This, not surprisingly, led to his reimprisonment, trial and execution. He was hung, drawn and quartered at St Albans, in front of Richard II. His quarters were distributed across four towns for display and his head ended up on a spike on London Bridge. Other rebels suffered the same fate and at least one of them was sent, piecemeal, to Norwich, Harwich, Lynn and Yarmouth but we can't discover Ball's final destinations.

We've heard that in the modern meat trade the "fifth quarter" means the offal, whereas in medieval England it could have been used to mean the head. Nice.

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John Ball

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The Great Rising / Peasants' Revolt

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