Alan Partridge re-enacted it - but what was the Battle of North Walsham?

Alan Partridge re-enacts the 1381 Battle of North Walsham Picture: BBC

Alan Partridge re-enacts the 1381 Battle of North Walsham Picture: BBC - Credit: Archant

The Battle of North Walsham: it sounds like something that Steve Coogan's creation Alan Partridge has made up.

Alan Partridge re-enacts the 1381 Battle of North Walsham. Picture: BBC

Alan Partridge re-enacts the 1381 Battle of North Walsham. Picture: BBC - Credit: Archant

The Battle of North Walsham: it sounds like something that Alan Partridge has made up.

So when the tragi-comic TV presenter donned armour to re-enact it on This Time with Alan Partridge on Monday evening, most viewers were simply laughing along with the joke.

But the informed minority knew that it really happened - and it was one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in Norfolk.

So what was it?

Margaret Callow's book Of Wheat or War: The Battle of North Walsham Picture: Margaret Callow

Margaret Callow's book Of Wheat or War: The Battle of North Walsham Picture: Margaret Callow - Credit: Archant


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The Battle of North Walsham played out on North Walsham Heath in June 1381, during the Peasants' Revolt. Norfolk men involved in the revolt were chased back to North Walsham by the Bishop of Norwich, Henry le Despenser, and his men.

According to the chronicler Thomas Walsingham, 'the warlike Bishop' led a successful attack on the rebels' entrenched position. He said they were routed as they fled through woodland and cut down as they were found.

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The battle is the subject of a book - Of Wheat or War: The Battle of North Walsham - published last year by Margaret Callow, from Lammas, near Aylsham.

At the time of its publication, Mrs Callow said: 'We go to North Walsham shopping and there's a stump cross near the water tower, and three commemorative crosses to the Peasants' Revolt there, which I did not know.

Margaret Callow with her book about the Battle of North Walsham Picture: supplied by Margaret Call

Margaret Callow with her book about the Battle of North Walsham Picture: supplied by Margaret Callow - Credit: Archant

'There are probably a lot of bodies buried in the woods coming in to North Walsham from the fight with the Bishop in 1381.'

On Monday's show, Coogan's Partridge, revelling in a return to the BBC as co-presenter of This Time, donned a ski jacket and stood on 'North Walsham Heath' to give a guide to the battle - heavily biased against the rebels.

He said: 'Behind me is North Walsham Heath. Today it's a pleasant place to rest: once it was a peasant place to rest because they lay dying here.'

The presenter added: 'You can picture the peasants, loaded on cider, weeing in the bushes, telling disgusting jokes, before attacking the Bishop's men in dawn raids.'

Partridge tore off his ski jacket to reveal a suit of armour - then fought with and 'killed' some peasants.

At the end, he said: 'It was a defeat that could've been avoided if the peasants had simply raised their concerns through the correct channels.'

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