One leader of the uprising – William Ham of Stoke Climsland

Horse Bridge
Horse Bridge, Stoke Climsland

There is no information regarding William Ham’s life circumstances, however we know that he took part in the Rebellion through a reference found on William Ham is in A.L. Rowse’s Tudor Cornwall (p.122), with the footnote Rolls Parlt. vi. 544.

The parish of Stoke Climsland is situated in the valley of the river Tamar and is bounded by the river Inny on the north. It is significant that in 1437 a brand new bridge was built over the river Tamar, namely Horse Bridge, which could have been accessed by inhabitants of the parish of Stoke Climsland in about an hour by foot.  It is probable that the bridge enabled Willam Ham and another rebel yeoman from Stoke Climsland called John Alyn to communicate with their counterparts such as John Tolle, a yeoman from Lamerton, east of the river.  Any messages received from the East would have received the colouring of Willam Ham’s and John Alyn emotional states before being passed on further west into the Cornwall.  Therefore it is likely that their geographical position had a vital role in the spread of dissatisfaction with the state of affairs and fostered a conception of ideas about potential uprising.

Although there are no records held for the Stoke Climsland parish from 1456 until 1536, one might conclude that it is likely that William Ham would have been aware of the monumentality of the Crown’s power.  It is known that the Black Prince visited the Duchy and had direct dealings with its business.  Despite his awareness of potential consequences for him, he still decided to take part in the Rebellion.

By taking part in the rebellion William Ham risked his status of a yeoman.  During the late medieval period, yeoman was a person who had a freehold of a significant portion of land, in as much as 100 acres and often even more.  It is not clear how William Ham might have acquired his status and if his predecessors were yeomen directly associated with the Crown and given a post retirement gift such as land originally owned by the Crown.

In respect of Willam Ham’s name, he carries a relatively common surname found amongst farming families recorded over the centuries in the East Cornwall, in particular, around Stoke Climsland, Lezant, St Clear and Quethiock. A William Hamet was recorded in ‘The Ministers Accounts of Cornwall in 1297’, who held a property near Hammet Manor during the reign of Edward I (late 13th and early 14th centuries).  It is not known if our William Ham was related to that person. It not is clear when he was born and if he was killed in the Battle of Blackheath.  Historical records state however that Henry VII executed Lord Audley, Flamank and An Gof, and that he pardoned by proclamation a majority of rebels.

Written by Frances Gibbs, translated and filmed by Ray Chubb

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