I’ve written about Swannington before, but not Kett’s Lane. It’s a lovely slice of countryside, unspoilt for an area which was for a period in the mid twentieth century a fairly industrialised airfield. It sits between the main axial roads radiating outward from Norwich spidering off towards Holt and Fakenham , just off one of the older main routes through the area; the River Wensum and the old M&GN, now Marriott’s Way just to the South as the land drops down towards Alderford and on to Lenwade carries more history than traffic, it is a past of railways, and beside the Wensum next to the Golf course at Weston Longville a small Bronze age barrow cemetery which may date further back still into the Neolithic fixes the landscape with some certainty in it’s own past beneath the feet of the pylons that carry the singing power-lines which sew the remains of late twentieth century civilisation together.
There are plenty of places named after Robert Kett in Norfolk, Norwich is obviously central to the story, with Kett’s Hill and Kett’s Heights, businesses carry the name both as descendents and as proximity names. Kett is a famous son of the city and the county. There are drives, roads, courts and lanes named for him, after him, because of him. He always seems to me to be almost reluctantly at the head of a story that starts on the 8th July 1549 near Wymondham, and once he was trying to steer the process engulfed the county in a rebellion that was as much a personal dispute with another landowner, Flowerdew as it was about class, land, freedom, god and the dissolution. It is almost impossible to write about Norfolk and not cross one of the lines the alleged rebels and also the establishment; The Ketts, Aldridge and Codd, Warwick, Sheffield and Northampton; drew across the county From the Oak at Wymondham through Bowthorpe to Norwich, Bishopsgate, Pockthorpe and the heath.
It is said that in this corn or somewhere nearby stood a barn or farm building, nobody knows exactly where now, these things blur and become half-remembered or half-forgotten with the passage of words and stories through time as locations are spread and plough-chopped by the furrows of the near half-century that has passed. It was in this building that two farm labourers found Kett in a state of exhaustion, the change from Landowner to Rebel, to leader and into a war that was lost had worn him down. As the rebellion had collapsed on the 27th of August he had escaped from the camp on Mousehold Heath and headed out into the fields to hide. Once found he was taken to the men’s master, a landowner named Richards a man probably of the same Yeoman class as Kett. Here he was detained, messages were sent. The next morning Warwick’s men came and took him away, eventually to London and trial, returning to the city to be left hanging outside the castle walls as a warning to become part of the tale we all know.
It is too complex to relate Kett’s tale properly in one piece unless that were to be a well researched book. It is a book which deserves to be written. This is therefore just another piece in the patchwork of the landscape they occupied.
Kett’s Lane, Swannington
Nick Stone, 2016