Memorial to the peasant's revolt

Smithfield, EC1: Memorial to the Peasants’ Revolt

Where: West Smithfield, EC1

What: Memorial to Peasants Revolt of 1381; largescale triptych in slate on the side of St Bartholomews Hospital, opposite St Bartholomew the Great Church and Smithfield Market. The carving commemorates the site of the Peasants Revolt (Great Rising). On a bronze plaque to the side is the following information: “This memorial commemorating The Great Rising of 1381 was commissioned by Matthew Bell, carved by Emily Hoffnung and unveiled by Ken Loach on 15th July 2015. ‘If the Barons merited a monument to be erected at Runnymede, Tyler merited one in Smithfield.’ Thomas Paine, 1791.” On either side of the lettering in slate are carved illustrations of medieval weaponry and farming tools.

The Peasant’s Revolt, also called Wat Tyler’s Rebellion, was a major uprising of Kentish rebels which demanded social and economic reforms following the Black Death and the introduction of Poll Tax. They met with a 14-year old Richard II at Smithfield, violence erupted, the rebellion was subdued, the King revoked his concessions and Wat Tyler was murdered.

Text: Upper case lettering is alternated with lower case.

1_Lower case: At this place on 15th June 1381 Wat Tyler, John Ball and other representatives of the Great Rising met King Richard II to finalise terms for ending the Rebellion. The King had agreed to all the political reforms aimed at alleviating the plight of the people.  However he and his advisors later reneged on that agreement, after killing Tyler in the process near this spot.  John Ball and many others of the Revolt were also later executed.

2_Upper case: Things cannot go on go on well in England nor ever will until everything shall be in common when there shall be neither vassal nor Lord, and all distinctions levelled.   John Ball

Material: Slate

Artist:  Emily Hoffnung

Date: 2015

Further information:

  • The plaque owes its existence to the efforts of local resident Matthew Bell, whose blog is here. Features images of the unveiling and background to the project. Also on Twitter W@TylerPlaque
  • Article about the unveiling by Londonist
  • Artist’s portfolio
  • Timeout article
  • Islington Tribune

Further images:

Side panels of memorial carved in slate
Close-up of the carved side panels depicting medieval weaponry and farming tools
Lettering in slate remembering Peasants Revolt
The memorial in full, West Smithfield