(and the men of Barnet)

he Peasants' Revolt of 1381, in which the men of Chipping Barnet played a leading role captured for us by the horrified St Albans chronicler.
On entering London on 13 June the Kent and Essex rebels sent a message to St Albans via men from Barnet and the next day Barnet men were again prominent in the St Albans contingent which headed to the capital and returned with the message that 'there would no longer be serfs but lords'

During the following week the rebels attacked the symbols of the abbot's lordship broke into his prison, woods and warrens, burnt the hated court rolls and in a startling piece of theatre staged a mock mass, placing torn-up documents instead of bread on the tongues of the (un)faithful. They also forced the abbot to issue charters for each village: 'The people of Barnet came with bows and arrows, two-edged axes, small axes, swords and cudgels and obtained a similar charter of liberties as those of the people of St Albans, including free hunting rights, fishing rights, and rights of erecting hand mills' (milling was the lord's monopoly).

After this they demanded' a certain book made from the court rolls' so they could burn it because it contained evidence that' almost all the houses of Barnet were held by the rolls'. The abbot prevaricated' promising it within three weeks, and thus saved the book for posterity. The revolt was over in London on 20 June, although total suppression took longer.

On 28 June royal commissioners arrived in St Albans, but there was still some resistance: '300 bowmen from the surrounding villages, especially from Barnet and Berkhamsted'. Nevertheless the rebels knew they were beaten. On 15 July Richard II arrived in St Albans and annulled all the abbot's enforced concessions, and on 20 July received oaths of fealty from all the inhabitants of Hertfordshire.
LATER RESISTANCE: The abbot's tenants had concentrated on specific grievances rather than the more general revolutionary formulations emanating from London, but with none of these addressed, pressure soon began to rebuild. Illegal land transfers continued and in 1417 there was another violent revolt with royal justices eventually sent because' the bondmen and tenants in bondage of the abbot of St Albans at Chipping Barnet have leagued together to refuse their due customs and services'. Specifically on 19 April they had 'bound themselves by oath to support each other, refused to attend the manor court and resisted with arms against the abbot and his officials'.In May and June the abbot sent his cellarer and bailiff who found themselves threatened with death and mutilation.

The sheriff of Hertfordshire also found it difficult to bring the rebels to trial and the case was not finally heard until October 1418.The abbot won of course but behind the rhetoric and the fines there was actually some accommodation. He had to face the impossibility of running the manor without the support of its leading families. The revolt involved both 'bondmen and tenants in bondage', an important distinction since nominally un free land had in fact became a normal part of the land market and men who were personally free were investing in it but irked by its restrictions.

Many of those involved in 1381 were not peasants at all but men of substantial property. The Barnet rebels in 1417 included twelve freemen, among them a citizen of London. The general solution which gradually emerged during the 15th century was the disappearance of personal unfreedom and its associated services and indignities - and refusal of such services had long been another constant in the Barnet rolls.

Once personal status was no longer an issue, the actual copyhold tenure, that is land held by copy of court roll, ceased to be resented and lasted until the 20th century.