Using the rebellious Londoners’ invaluable knowledge of the city’s geography, the great mob made its way to strategically-important targets. Having swollen their ranks by releasing prisoners from London’s jails, the locals led the mob to their first target, the New Temple, home to London’s lawyers and thousands of legal documents. The rebels pulled the residences there to the ground and ransacked Temple Church, which contained the legal records, burning them in another communal bonfire. The rebels then made their way to the Savoy Palace, John of Gaunt’s impressive residence, and perhaps the finest private house in the country.
The Anonomaille Chronicle describes the destruction: ‘at last they came before the Savoy, broke open the gates, entered the place and came to the wardrobe. They took all the torches they could find, and lighted them, and burnt all the cloths, coverlets and beds… all the napery and other goods they could discover they carried into the hall and set on fire with their torches… they burnt the hall and the chambers as well as the apartments within the gates’. They also took away the treasures they found, either melting them on the fire or flinging them in the sewers.
It is testament to their purity of intention that this group of economically-desperate rebels did not take any of Gaunt’s treasure as plunder, though it could save them from poverty. Tyler had strictly forbidden looting to ensure the destruction of such places remain symbolic rather than larcenous, and one man caught hiding a goblet was himself thrown onto the fire as punishment. As gunpowder was added to hasten the Savoy’s destruction, the inferno must have been spectacular. In a final symbolic act, one of Gaunt’s priceless vestments was raised up a pole and shot with arrows, before being torn apart.