I came across the St. Scholastica Day Riot while researching my book—No Good Deed. Which comes out July 18. And is available for preorder right now. All kinds of things turn up with keywords like middle ages, medieval, archery, Nottingham, Robin Hood, time travel, ya heroines who are awesome…
(True fact: I wrote a book set in the medieval period and still never spell it right the first time.)
So, there was a rule on the books at Oxford University that students are forbidden to “bring bows and arrows to class.” That’s so specific, I figured there had to be a story there.
In 1355, long-simmering tensions between Oxford students and the townspeople boiled over in a tavern when, in the middle of a pub brawl over the quality of the beverage, two students hit the tavern keeper over the head with a tankard. The brawl spilled out of the pub and turned into more of a riot, with the scholars running amok and armed fights breaking out. So…that escalated quickly.
The townsfolk retaliated, and locals poured into town to support them, shouting “Havok, Havok! Smite fast, and give good knocks!” Not terrible catchy as a marching slogan, but effective, since that’s what they did. In then ensuing riot about 60 scholars and 30 locals were killed, at which time this stops being quirky history and turns into a cautionary tale about two factions with unbudgeable resentments toward each other. (*ahem*America*ahem*)
The students might have had to curtail their projectile weapons in class, but the townspeople got a harder deal. Every year the townspeople had to march “bareheaded” through town and attend a mass on St. Scholastica day. Penance, basically. And the university held them to that, even after Henry VIII kicked Catholicism to the curb. Also, they had to pay a fine of one penny for every student killed. This went on until the early 1800’s, when the mayor was like, “Um, yeah…we’re not going to do that.”
In 1955—yeah, 500 years later—there was finally an act of conciliation between the university and the town.
The ban on weapons in class has expanded to include a lot more than bows and arrows. (But there is an archery club. I checked.)
I was actually going post this yesterday as a Throwback Thursday post, but today is St. Scholastica Day (February 10th). I guess if you live in Oxford, UK, you can save your penny and stay home from church.