Finglesham and the Rebellions of 1450-1
In 1451, after disturbances in Eastry, 'John Tayllour' a 'taillour' of Finglesham was charged with treason. This was the third rebellion in just over a year, and it came about for a number of reasons. In the late 1440s Kent had declined; trade was badly disrupted by an increase in piracy and the war in France had led to the loss of the territory of Normandy. Sandwich suffered a drop in exports of wool and cloth as well as a fall in wine imports. So it is not surprising to find that cloth workers formed a significant proportion of the insurgents in the mid-1400s. Henry Vl's administration was unpopular, and local officials abused their power. Furthermore, the county was under the very real threat of attack from the French, who had burnt Rye and Winchelsea in 1448. On 14th April 1450 a commission of array was sent out to muster men against a possible French attack, and a command given to set up warning beacons.
On 9th January 1450, Adam Moleyns, bishop of Chichester, was murdered, and on 14 April. Henry Vl's chief adviser, William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, was particularly unpopular, he had been committed to the Tower on the demand of the Commons on 28th January. He was associated with the failure of the war in France and was rightly suspected of exploiting royal favour. Pardoned by the King and sent into exile, however, there were riots after his release from the Tower of London, and when he sailed from England on 2nd May his ship was intercepted and he was murdered.
Eastry Rebellion 1450
In the last week of January 1450 there was great uncertainty about the defence of the channel coast. On Saturday 24th January rebels had gathered in the villages between Sandwich and Dover. They were led by Thomas Cheyne, an had a list of people they wanted to behead:
William Aiscough, Bishop of Salisbury
William Duke of Suffolk
James, Lord Saye
Abbot of Gloucester
The rebels also wanted to take valuables from the Prior of Christchurch, Canterbury. Several of the leaders were not local to east Kent, and hid behind inventive names such as: 'King of the Fairies', 'Queen of the Fairies ', and 'Robin Hood '; Thomas Cheyne was known as 'The Hermit Blewbeard '.
By Monday 26th January there were said to be 200 rebels gathered at Eastry, it was claimed numbers swelled throughout the week into the thousands, and the gathering must have included men from the parish of Northbourne. What their actions were is unclear, although it is claimed they attacked religious houses and Cheyne intended to take Dover Castle. However the rebellion ended at Canterbury where they attacked St. Radegund's abbey hospice, situated just outside the city walls.
Cade and his followers were well organised; Thomas Cheyne had messengers about the county and was also following events in London. At this time - 29th January - the Duke of Suffolk was impeached and sent to the Tower.
Thomas Cheyne was captured in Canterbury on 31st of January, and subsequently hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. His head was sent to London Bridge, his quarters distributed between London, Norwich, and two of the Cinque Ports; although no one wanted to take on the job of transporting the dismembered corpse, for fear of retribution from supporters of the uprising. Thomas Cheyne seems to be the only person from the east Kent uprising to have been executed.
Cade Rebellion 1450
The summer rebellion was mainly formed by the men of Kent and Sussex, and led by Jack Cade. Following the Duke of Suffolk's murder, there were rumours that Kent was to be turned into a forest as a punishment for Suffolk's death. Men of Kent and Sussex led by Jack Cade rebelled. Cade and his followers waited three hours outside the Westgate at Canterbury but Mayor Clifton refused them entry.
They marched on towards London and defeated the Royalist forces near to Sevenoaks, then continued on to London entering the capital on July 2nd with the permission of the City Council. The mayor then presided over the executions of several government ministers. But after two days of orderly occupation the rebels became unruly and destructive, so the Londoners forced them out of the city; an attempt by the rebels to return led to a battle on London Bridge. Jack Cade and his followers were persuaded to return home with promises and pardons. Jack Cade was not so lucky; on 12th July 1450 he was mortally wounded by Alexander Iden, Sheriff of Kent, and died on the way to London.
The troubles in Kent continued sporadically for some two years; in August 1450 William Parmynter made himself Cade's successor by naming himself the second captain of Kent.
Eastry Rebellion 1451
A commission was set up on 27th January 1451 to deal with the offences committed in Kent since the pardon of 7th July 1450. The intention was to show how the king dealt with traitors and rebels - a show of strength. Sessions were held at Canterbury, Rochester and Faversham; in February, as a result of these 'show trials' some thirty rebels were found guilty and hanged. The Canterbury hangings on 8th February cause considerable disquiet and apprehension throughout Kent. Despite the judicial terror there was still defiance in the county evoking the spirit of the earlier Cade rebellion.
It is not surprising that disturbances sprung up in April 1451, including Eastry. They may now have been encouraged by the fact that all but one of the lords on Thomas Cheyne's 1450 'hit-list' was now dead.
Support had been strongest in the Kent Weald and was fomented by Henry Hasilden, a shingler from Rotherfield, who was hanged in May. From June 26th to July 1st the judicial progress had reached Tonbridge so they were in a position to deal with the April troubles:
It is to be inquired for the king whether John Tayllour of Finglesham, 'taillour'. Richard Millere late of Strood, 'maltmyller', (John Stedefeld late of Yalding, "fleccher"), together with other unknown traitors, etc. on 21 and 22 April 1451 assembled at Eastry and Brenchley, and there and elsewhere in the said county on diverse previous occasions imagined and compassed the death of the king and the destruction of his realm. And they finally agreed that that they and other felons, traitors, lollards and heretics, being their accomplices and their association, would depose the king from the government of his kingdom and take the government of the said kingdom upon themselves; and that they would take, kill and finally destroy the lords spiritual and temporal of the realm, especially those opposing them in their plans; and that they would institute 12 peers from among themselves to rule the said kingdom. And these traitors on the aforesaid 21 and 22 April assembled to carry out these plans etc. at Eastry and Brenchley to the number of 100 men and more arrayed for war, and rose in insurrection and war against the king, saying that there would be forty thousand men with them in a short time; and believing and proposing as lollards and heritics that all things should be held in common against the sacred law of the church and laws and customs of the kingdom used and approved time out of mind, etc.
Dorse: True Bill 1
Ultimately all the risings since the Cade revolt had proved ineffectual and the judicial witch-hunts of the spring and summer of 1451 left a bitter memory. The fear of French attack proved justified, in 1457 the French made a daring attack on Sandwich.
 - Medieval Kentish Society: Kent Records Vol. 18 (1964), 245 - 6.
For a full account of the events see I.M.W. Harvey, 1991, Jack Cade's Rebellion of 1450.