Harsh students of the Middle Ages: how was the largest student brawl in historyBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/en/article/harsh-students-of-the-middle-ages-how-was-the-largest-student-brawl-in-history
In the student environment, a fight is quite a common phenomenon. What can I do, it's a young thing - they argued, fought and made up, and then they go back to the classrooms to gnaw the granite of science together. But that's how it happens these days. In the Middle Ages, morals were different and students were more severe. One of the student fights that took place in the 14th century in the UK was so large-scale that it went down in history.
On February 10, 1355, a large-scale student brawl began in Oxford, or rather a massacre that cost the lives of almost a hundred citizens of the kingdom. This sad event is remembered in the university city and it is even immortalized by a memorial sign at the place where the events unfolded.
By the middle of the 14th century, Oxford was an example of a unique symbiosis. Citizens, students from different parts of Europe and a solid professorial team got along here on a small square. Everyone was busy with their own business — pundits tried to hammer science into the students' heads, the students themselves tried to draw from the storehouse of their wisdom, and the locals were glad that a lot of visitors left ringing gold in their shops and taverns.
Both the inhabitants of the university campus and the residents of glorious Oxford were not fools to drink at all. And, as you know, where alcohol is, sooner or later you'll get into trouble. It is worth noting that conflicts between students and townspeople sometimes happened, but usually everything ended with broken noses and torn coats.
The tragedy occurred on the Day of St. Scholastica of Nursia in the popular, thanks to low prices, tavern "Swindlestock". Several students, of whom history has preserved the names of Roger de Chesterfield and Walter Springeheus, came to the institution located in the very center of the city to honor the memory of the respected saint.
After drinking a little, the company began to resent the quality of the alcohol and snacks served. It was Roger and Walter who behaved especially aggressively, who went into direct conflict with the owner of the tavern, John Croyden. In the course of the dispute, glasses and everything that was under the hands of the unruly youngsters flew at the owner of the Swindlestock.
Adequate visitors pulled apart the fight that was beginning and the company of drunken students were put out of the doors of the institution. The story could have ended there if the incident had not been made public and had not reached the Mayor of Oxford. The official was not satisfied with the explanations of the administration and demanded the extradition of hooligans for trial and exemplary punishment.
It is important to mention that without the permission of the rector, it was not possible to bring students to justice on legal rights. At that time, students of the university obeyed only its laws and the jurisdiction of the city authorities did not apply to them. The rector refused the mayor's envoy and at that moment everything could stop again.
But, unfortunately, the students, sensing the reliable rear of the university authorities, finally lost their conscience. The perpetrators of the disorder in Swindlestock, led by de Chesterfield and Springheus, showed up in a noisy crowd at the town hall and began insulting the mayor and his assistants. It is quite natural that there were conscious citizens who were ready to stand up for the "fathers of the city". A crowd of Oxfordians poured out into the streets with clubs and stones to teach the insolents a lesson.
Under the cries of "Fight! A fight! Hit fast, hit hard!" the residents of the city attacked the students and a real massacre ensued. Reinforcements were constantly arriving from both sides, and in addition to improvised items, swords and knives were used. The small town turned into a real battlefield, as several hundred people participated on each side. The fight lasted for almost two days, without quieting down for a minute and 93 people became its victims.
Since there was a clear numerical advantage on the side of the residents of the city, the students got the most. They lost 63 people killed, against 30 victims on the part of the townspeople. Such nonsense as counting the wounded in those days did not bother at all — it is obvious that there were an order of magnitude more of them.
Such a serious tragedy led to proceedings in high instances, at the county level. Quite unexpectedly, the citizens, led by the mayor's office, were found guilty, and the university was the injured party. No one was severely punished, but they awarded the mayor and his assistants to perform a special rite of repentance.
Since then, every year, on February 10, the mayor of the city and other major officials had to take a "redemptive walk" — to walk around the city without hats, and at the end pay the university a symbolic fine of 5 shillings and 3 pence. That is, for every student killed, the city pays only 1 penny. The custom existed for 470 years, until in 1825 the next head of Oxford ignored the procession and the fine.
Formally, the decree on the mayor's guilt was in effect until 1955. The official reconciliation of the city and university authorities also took place on February 10 and was accompanied by the awarding of an honorary academic degree to the mayor, and the title of honorary citizen of Oxford to the Vice-Chancellor of the university.
The building of the Swindlestock tavern decorated the city center until the beginning of the 18th century and was demolished due to dilapidation. Currently, there is a bank building on this site, one of the walls of which is decorated with a memorial plaque, reminiscent of the once iconic institution for students.