Our small town of Much Wenlock has been continuously inhabited for a thousand years. It grew up around the Priory and, until the Dissolution in 1540, its citizens’ lives were ruled by the Prior who held his own court. Of course many worked for the Priory directly, while others were farm tenants, the Prior being the preeminent landowner in the area, so fulfilling the role of Lord of the Manor.
In exchange for their tenancies of up to 20 acres, the farmers were expected to do work for the Prior. Sometimes his demands were greatly resented. So much so that in 1163 Wenlock’s peasant farmers rose up, making suit to the King to remove the overbearing prelate. It is recorded that they ‘threw down their ploughshares.’ In return, the Prior excommunicated them, the worst punishment imaginable short of execution. But still the farmers did not back down. They besieged the church and fought off the knights who had been despatched to restore order. The Prior was forced to hold an enquiry, and abide by the decision of a committee whose members were chosen by the farmers themselves – four knights and six monks whose judgement they must have trusted. And so justice was done – people power medieval style.
For more about Wenlock Priory see an earlier post HERE
And at Thursday’s Special the theme this week is WINDOWS.