"Men of Kent... the cause that hath brought us together is not the cause of a county or a shire, but of this England, in whose crown our Kent is the fairest jewel", cries Sir Thomas Wyatt in Tennyson's Queen Mary.This year marks the 450th anniversary of his rebellion, a war in which Hartley played a small part. Our main source is the Tonbridge schoolmaster John Proctor, who was a fervent supporter of Queen Mary, so his account is highly coloured. However there are sources supportive of Wyatt also.
The rebellion began on 25 January, when Wyatt had a proclamation read out at Maidstone. He stressed his rebellion was not against the Queen but against the proposed marriage to Philip of Spain - "we seek no harm to the Queen, but better counsel and councillors". Fear of domination by Spain was uppermost in people's thoughts. Interestingly, given the times, both sides hardly mention religion, although Proctor believed Wyatt was a Protestant. It was meant to be part of a wider rebellion, but the others collapsed quickly.
Battles of Wrotham and Hartley 1554, 1833 map of Kent showing key events
He then set up headquarters at Rochester . Opposed to him in Kent were the sheriff Sir Robert Southwell and Lord Abergavenny. The latter may have wanted to prove his loyalty to Mary, having previously been a supporter of Lady Jane Grey. Family ties may have been more important - Southwell, Abergavenny and Warham St Leger (see below) were all related. However most people in the county sat tight and awaited the outcome.
Wyatt was counting on reinforcements from his supporters Henry Isley and the Knevett brothers (Anthony and William) in the west of the county, to whom he wrote an urgent letter on the 27th requesting they came to him as soon as possible. Sir Henry and his force of 500 marched from Tonbridge  to Sevenoaks , where they rallied the townsfolk. Anthony Knevett told one "if you hap to hear that I am taken, never believe it, for undoubtedly I will either die in the field or achieve my purpose". Meanwhile standing between them and Wyatt, Southwell and Abergavenny had a force of 600 at Malling . Things were very tense - the arrival of a messenger just after 1am on the Sunday 28th led to rumours that Wyatt had attacked, and shouts of "treason, we are all betrayed". The messenger brought the vital intelligence that Isley was at Sevenoaks and that they planned to attack the house of George Clarke at Wrotham (who was with Abergavenny's forces at Malling), which they resolved to defend. At this point, the attack and defence of a house looks more like a personal feud.
Early on the 28th Abergavenny stationed his forces at Borough Green  in the path of Isley's men, and thence sent out scouts to find out where the opposition was (finding the other army was always a problem before the modern era). He did not have long to wait, they reported "they were at hand comin towards him as fast as they could march, which was glad tidings to the Lord Abergavenny and his band." Isley seems to be equally well informed for Abergavenny found they had gone off the main road and up the hill past a house called Yaldam  to reach the higher ground. Proctor reports "the Lord Abergavenny, the sheriff, and the rest of the gentlemen with such other of the Queen's true and faithful subjects, as with great pains taking to claim the hill, and to hold way with the horsemen, overtook the rebels at a field called Blackesoll Fielde  in the parish of Wrotham, a mile distant from the very top of the hill, where [they] handled them so hot and so fiercely that after a small shot with long bows by the traitors, and a fierce bragge shewed by some of the horsemen, they took their flight as fast as they could. Yet of them were taken prisoners above three score".
A mounted band under the command of Warham St Leger set off in pursuit of Isley's men, apparently along Hartley Bottom Road. They caught up with them in Hartley Wood  where Proctor implies some of those taken prisoner were summarily killed: "from hence chased the horsemen till they came to a wood called Hartlei Woode, four miles distant from the place where the onset began. The Queen's true subjects did so much abhor their treason and the traitors in such detestation, as with great difficulty any escaped with life that were taken prisoners, and yet were they all very well armed and weaponed and had also great advantage by the place of flight. Sir Henry Issleye lay all that night in the wood and fled after into Hampshire. The two Knevetts being very well horsed were so hastily pursued, as they were driven to leave their horse, and creep into the wood, and for haste to rip their boots from their legs, and run away in the vampage* of their hose. The chase continued so long as night came on before it was full finished." (*the vampage is the lower part that covered the feet of the hose or stockings that men wore in those days).
The battle gave the government forces a great fillip, but their joy must have been tempered by the fact that Isley and the Knevetts all gave them the slip. Reading between the lines, it appears they were unwilling to follow Isley and his men into the wood. Incidently it is possible that Foxborough Wood may be the Hartley Wood referred to, as Hartley Wood was called Northfield Wood in the c17th. Meanwhile Anthony Knevett evaded capture and arrived at Rochester that night.
It was not until 10pm that evening that the government general Duke of Norfolk heard the news at Gravesend, when he wrote to the council "Post scripta. Arrived here with me a servant of Sir Percival Hartes, who hath reported to me ... the overthrow my lord Abergavenny hath given to Isley and other rebels..." This was his one bit of good news, for the following day Norfolk marched to Rochester where he was defeated when a large part of his army defected to Wyatt. Thereafter the Duke played no further part.
Our area's involvement was not quite complete. For Wyatt now marched to London encamping at Dartford on 31 January. He met by emissaries of the Queen in the west of the town. They offered a pardon if Wyatt's men dispersed now, and made some vague assurances about the marriage. Government sources claimed Wyatt had arrogantly demanded the custody of the Tower of London with the Queen in it. Their main purpose seems to have been to wrongfoot Wyatt, who after all had proclaimed loyalty to the Crown. Proctor says there was unrest in his forces at this time, but they were won over when Wyatt told them Southwell and Abergavenny were hanging any of his supporters they captured. Given what Proctor said about the events at Hartley, there at least was a grain of truth in this.
Wyatt marched to Southwark only to find the city too well defended, so he marched away at the request of his supporters there to spare the borough from attack. Crossing the Thames at Kingston, and marching through such villages as Brentford and Knightsbridge, his ragged forces finally marched to Ludgate to find it barred against them. Returning along Fleet Street, they were finally defeated at Temple Bar.
Wyatt, Isley, and about 90 others were executed, the rest fined or released. Wyatt went to his death refusing to falsely implicate Princess Elizabeth, even when offered his life (it is generally thought that she had no knowledge of the rebellion). In all 350 Kentish men were arrested and convicted, David Loades (Two Tudor Conspiracies) states that the numbers included 1 each from Hartley and Ash, with the largest number from Maidstone (78), Smarden (32) and Dartford (30).
One other link to Hartley was Thomas Fane of Tonbridge. He was brought to the tower of London on 9th February in the company of Anthony Knivett, who had escaped from Hartley. On the walls of the tower are the words he wrote from the book of Revelation "Be faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life". He owned the Scotgrove Estate, which included Chapelwood and the sites of the Milestone School and Penenden.
The rebellion appears to have made Mary much less merciful to those who opposed her policies. Lady Jane Grey was executed soon after Wyatt's rebellion and in Kent 58 Protestant martyrs were burnt at the stake - a number second only to London itself. On 19th July 1555, Christopher Waid, a linen weaver from Dartford and Margery Polley of Pembury were burnt at the stake at the Brent in Dartford. The same day Dartford bricklayer Nicholas Hall was burnt at Rochester. They are commemorated by the Martyrs' Memorial on East Hill.
Text of John Proctor's Account
Summarised text is in italics.
 As he had not heard from Isleye, Tonbridge or the west of the county on Friday 26th January, Wyatt "addressed an earnest letter the Saturday morning to Isleye, the Knevetts and others, with the town of Tonbridge, requiring them to accelerate their coming to him". They had just returned from raiding the loyalist Sir Henry Sidney's armory at Penshurst when they got the letter. They resolved to march to Wyatt, but hearing that Lord Abergavenny, the Sheriff and George Clarke had raised a force after them,  they left Tonbridge, but first had a proclamation read that Lord Abergavenny and others had traitorously wrongfully imprisoned people and they and others wanted to enslave the country. "This done, with all speed calling their company together they by the noise of drums....  they marched that night to Sevenocke." They told the townspeople not to believe any tale told by the Privy Council. "Antony Knevet after he was leapt to is horse, took one by the hand, and said 'fare you well'. And if you hap to hear that I am taken, never believe it, for undoubtedly I will either die in the field or achieve my purpose' But within 24 hours he brake his promise, and ran away no faster than his legs could carry him".  The Sheriff makes a proclamation at Malling (set out verbatim) calling for loyalty to the Queen and support for Lord Abergavenny,  and denied rumours of a force of strangers at Dover.  The proclamation was read out "loud and clear" by one Barrham, a servant of Lord Abergavenny. At the end the people cried "God save Queen Mary".  Sheriff calls for their support.
 The Saturday at night the Lord Abergavenny suspecting that Wyat and his complices lying withing 4 miles of them, and being so much provoked in that they were in the day so rightly set forth their colours at Malling would for revenge work some annoyance to them or his band that night, either by a cammasado, or by some other means, did therefore to protect the same set a strong watch in the market place at Malling and other parts of entry into the town; and gave the watchword before he would take any rest. But between 1 and 2 of the clock in the night when everybody was taken to rest saving the watch, there happened a larom, sundry crying 'treason, we are all betrayed' in such a sort that such as were in their beds or newly risen thought verily that either Wyat with his band had been in the town or very near. The thing was so sudden and happened  in such a time as men not acquainted to like matters were so amazed, that some of them knew not well wat to do, and yet in the end it proved to nothing; for it grew by a messenger that came very late in the night desiring to speak with the Lord Abergavenny or Mr Sheriff to give them certain advertisement that Sir Henry Isleie, the two Knevetts and certain other with 500 weldishe men wre at Sevenocke and would march in the morning from thence early towards Rochester, for the aid of Wyat against the duke of Norfolk and in their way burn and destroy the house of George Clarke aforesaid. Whereupon the Lord Abergavenny and the Sheriff with the advice of the gentlemen aforenamed, for that the said Clarke had been a painful and serviceable gentleman, changed their purposed journey from Rochester, to encounter with Isleye and his band, to cut them from Wyat and save Clarke from spoil. And so in the morning early being Sunday. The Lord Abergavenny, the Sheriff, Warram Sentleger Richard Covert, Thomas Roydo, Anthony Weldon, Henry Barnet, George Clarke, Johan Dodge, Thomas Watten, Heughe Catlyn, Thomas Henley, Christopher Dorrell, Heughe Cartwright, Johan Sybyll, esquires; Thomas Chapman, James Barram, Jasper Iden, Johan Lambe, Walter Heronden,  Walter Taylor, Johan Raynoldes, Thomas Tuttesham, Johan Allen and Thomas Holdriche, gentlemen, with yeomen to the number of 600 or thereabout marched out of Malling in order till they came to Wrotham Heath, where they mought easily the sound of the traitors' drums, and so making haste pursued them till they came to a place called Barrow Green, through which lay the right and ready way that the traitors should take marching from Sevenocke towards Mr Clarke.
The Lord Abergavenny being very glad that he had prevented them in winning the green sent out spialles to understand their nearness, and to discrive their number, reposing themselves till the return of his spialles, who at their coming, said he needed not to take further pains to pursue them. For they were at hand coming towards him as fast as tehy could march, which was glad tidings to the Lord Abergavenny and his band. And taking order forthwith to set his men in array, he determined to abide their coming and there to take or give the overthrow. Which the traitors understanding, whether it was for that they misliked the match, as the place to fight, whiles the Lord Abergavenny and his band were busy in placing themselves, they shrank as secretly as they  could by the way. And were so far gone before the Lord Abergavenny understood thereof by his espailles, as for doubt of overtaking them afore their coming to Rochester, he was driven to make such haste for overtaking them, as divers of his footmen were far behind at the onset gening.
The first fight that the Lord Abergavenny could have of them after they forsook their proposed way, was as they ascended Wrotham Hill directly over Yaldam, Mr Peckam's house, where they thinking to have great advantage by the winning of the hill, displayed their engines bravely, seeming ot be in great ruffe. But it was not long after or their courage abated, for the Lord Abergavenny, the sheriff, and the rest of the gentlemen with such other of the Queen's true and faithful subjects, as with great pains taking to claim the hill, and to hold way with the horsemen, overtook the rebels at a field called Blackesoll Fielde in the parish of Wrotham, a mile distant from the very top of the hill, where the Lord Abergavenny, the Sheriff, the gentlemen aforesaid, and other the Queen's true and faithful subjects handled them so hot and so fiercely that after a small shot with long bows by the traitors, and a fierce bragge shewed by some of the horsemen, they took their flight as fast as they could. Yet  of them were taken prisoners above three score. In this conflict Warram Sentleger (who brought with him a good company of soldiers and always a serviceable gentleman), also George Clarke, Anthony Weldon and Richard Clarke with others did very honestly behave themselves. Warram Sentleger hearing of a strate towards between the Queen's true subjects and the traitors, came to the Lord Abergavenny in the field with all haste, not an hour before the skirmish, who with the rest of the gentlemen, with certain of the Lord Abergavenny's and the Sheriff's servants, being all well horsed, served faithfully, and from hence chased the horsemen till they came to a wood called Hartlei Woode, four miles distant from the place where the onset began. The Queen's true subjects did so much abhor their treason and the traitors in such detestation, as with great difficulty any escaped wit life that were taken prisoners, and yet were they all very well armed and weaponed and had also great advantage by the place of flight. Sir Henry Issleye lay all that night in the wood and fled after into Hampshire. The two Knevetts being very well horsed were so hastily pursued, as they were driven to leave their horse, and creep into the wood, and for haste to rip their boots from their legs, and run away in the  vampage of their hose. The chase continued so long as night came on before it was full finished. Thus was Isley, the Knevetts and their band overthrown by the faithful service of divers gentlemen and yeoman serving under the Lord Abergavenny and the Sheriff, whose forwardness, courage and wisdom in this traitorous broil, no doubt was very much praiseworthy, as well for their speedy acceleration their strength, which (considering how they were every way compassed with traitors) was no small matter in so little space, and for their wise and politic handling also in keeping them together from Wyat, who marvelously and by sundry ways sought to allure them away. For had not they in their own person to the encouraging of their company adventured for, and by their wisdom, discretion and great charge, politicly handled the matter, some think that Wyat had been at London before he was looked for by any man, with no small train, whose journey was greatly hindered and is company very much discomforted by this repulse given to Isleye and his band. Where amongst other things God's secret hand was greatly felt to the great comfort and present aid of true subjects agsinst the traitors, who having such advantage of the place (as indeed they had)  were like rather to give than receive so foul an overthrow. But this it is (you see) to serve in a true cause, and her whom God so favoureth, that He will not suffer the malice and rage of her enemies at any time to prevail against her; to whom He hath given so many notable victories and so miraculous that her enemies might seem rather to have been overthrown by the Spirit of God than vanquished by human strength. The Lord Abergavenny, the Sheriff and the gentlemen with them, after they had given humble thanks to God for the victory (which they did very reverently in the field) and taken order for the prisoners, were driven to divide themselves for want of harboroughe, and victuals for the soldiers that had well deserved both. The Lord Abergavenny and certain with him went to Wrotham. The Sheriff and certain with him to Otforde, where they had much to do to get victuals for their soldiers.
 Wyat marched from Gravesend to Dartford where he reposed the night.  Wyat met councillors at west end of town, where he had planted his ordinance. [50ff] While at Dartford, common people were unhappy with Wyat, because while he said he was loyal to the Queen, he wouldn't let her proclamations be read. So "which perceived by Wyat and his mates, they devised a brute to be sounded in his band, that the Lord Abergavenny and the Sheriff did cause to be hanged as many as they could take coming from his band."  Next Thursday Wyat marched to Deptford Strand, 8 miles from Dartford.