And so we went riding through dark woods and groves,
Gringolet and myself going slow down wind-ways,
Till we came unto Albury set high on its hill
With eyes over Hertfordshire at sweet summer tide
Where Walter atte Lea lies asleep in repose
In a bier by a window beside a bright light
That shines upon him and his wife lying there.
What now he whispers I wish I could hear
But all of his voice has gone blown with the barley
Along with the words that he spoke long ago
To Richard the boy king who ruled with weak reason
When peasants in Essex and Suffolk and Kent
Did rise up against those grasping greedy for tax!
Walter wanted to walk with his own peasants there
To tackle them himself and not to allow
Central courts to oppress them and cause much contempt
When he had to live there and treat with his men
And help rule his lands without disloyal folk.
Repression he argued had gone way too far
And if it did not stop well then doom must swift follow
He talked with his men there
Who knew his local law
Walter saw what was right fair
In talking with the rural poor.
The Church of St Mary at Albury in Hertfordshire contains a variety of monuments and brasses to attract the casual visitor. The tomb of Sir Walter atte Lea, referred to in this post, is now sadly much defaced and has also been moved at some time in the past. Sir Walter atte Lea (also known as Sir Walter atte Lee) himself played a key role during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, attempting to deal with complaints locally rather than to impose harsher penalties from a distant monarchy. He appears to have handled the matter incompetently although this did not stop his further advancement under Richard II, as this link reveals. The location of the church, atop a hill surveying much of the surrounding countryside, means it commands attractive views over the east Hertfordshire uplands.
New Book by the Author: Michael Smith’s new translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight will be published in July 2018. To pre-order your special collector’s limited first edition – with your name in the back – please click here