Thursday, 11 October 2007

Wat Tyler House (the hub of Swindon Council)

The original 1930's Civic Offices council building can be seen in the background here behind the rather lovely arbour-like walk that links it to Wat Tyler House. Wat Tyler House stands in the foreground of this little garden and is used by the citizens of Swindon to undertake any transactions they may have with the council. Its name evokes an important episode of the England's often forgotten history of the common people (see below).

This engraved stone is outside one of the entrances to Swindon's main council building, Wat Tyler House. When I first saw it, having moved back to Swindon after many years away, I was very moved. In my absence a rather attractive council building had appeared and it had been named not after some local dignitary or benefactor, but after the leaders of the Peasants Revolt of 1381. Wat Tyler and John Ball led a revolt into London against the first poll tax and the hierarchical system of feudalism and serfdom. Although the revolt initially met with success and the poll tax was withdrawn, the peasants were eventually forced back into the old system of serfdom under the Lords and Bishops of the day and Wat Tyler killed.
(The folk band Fairport Convention have composed a ballad telling his story).