OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Sites and Scenes of the Civil War


Pages: <1> 2

Picture an England half a waste of forest, moor and fen, half a tillage of unhedged fields; with vile roads-mostly unhedged, too-running over it, streams of mire in winter, chasmed with leg-breaking ruts in summer, and you have the England in which Charles I and his people waged their war. Split that England with a line from the Wash to Southampton Water, and to the London side of it all, roughly, was Parliament country, the rest King's country, mostly. One place near that dividing line saw no fighting indeed, but was for long a very storm-centre of the breeding war.

Great Hampden lies kindly in tranquil Buckinghamshire, and there is Hampden House with its wild avenue of beeches and Spanish chestnuts-the avenue about as John Hampden knew it but the house much altered, though something is left of the place he lived in and his fathers before him time out of mind, for there were Hampdens of Hampden, they say, before the Norman came to England.

Tradition holds that the avenue was cut in one night by John Hampden's grandfather on the hint of Queen Elizabeth, then his guest, to open up a view, but here tradition has mixed things. A Queen's Gap there is and it seems it was so cut, but this is not the avenue. The name and the whole story, however, serve for a sign that one of that ancient line with its immemorial traditions was not likely to be without his loyalties, nor was John Hampden without them, but his loyalty to the old freedom of the English was stronger than his loyalty to a misguided king, and it was so with many men of his breed; that was the rock on which Charles the First wrecked.

In Stoke Mandeville parish, not far away, you may see the land that was John Hampden's land, and if you walk from Hampden House by Whiteleaf Cross to Great Kimble Church you will follow the way he took that cold eleventh day of January, 1635, when he walked over to the church and there refused to pay twenty shillings Ship-money on that Stoke Mandeville land. The Exchequer Chamber adjudged he had to pay, but his defeat made him a rallying-point of all discontents, as his protest, thus unwisely advertised by the Crown, made him a foremost champion of liberty in the People's mind. Though the People forget sometimes with some ease Hampden had a certain cousin who never forgot-Oliver Cromwell, whose aunt, Elizabeth Cromwell, became Hampden's mother.

John Hampden finished his work at Chalgrove Field, over the Oxford border, on June 18, 1643. An obelisk marks the spot, but no man can tell with certainty where exactly was that hedge behind which the Puritan horsemen were drawn up. Prince Rupert flamed out at sight of those defiant "crop-eared Roundheads" - he thought better of them later on- and with an oath and a cry of "This insolency is not to be borne!" he leaped the hedge, his Cavaliers after him. There followed no more than a hot skirmish, but it gave Hampden his mortal hurt. He rode off the field drooping over his horse's neck in agony, his shoulder shattered by two carabine balls or, as some more doubtfully say, by the bursting of his own pistol. He died at Thame bard by, and they brought him to his own Great Hampden church for burial, where you may see his monument still, on the north wall. The exact site of the grave is unknown. Buckinghamshire was on the borderland between Puritan country and King's country while Charles lay at Oxford, and it feJt stirrings of the war in many places. The Cavaliers took Newport Pagnell on its northern edge in 1643 and so cut the road from London to the North. It had to be retaken, and Essex with seven regiments took it, and the Puritans-held it for the rest of the War. It was a strong place then with a castle, swept away when peace came, and the Cavaliers could never get it again, though they were always trying.

There is Middle Clay don, with its House, the home of the Verneys, and in it Vandyke's portraits of Charles I and Sir Edmund Verney, his gallant standard bearer at Edgehill where he died, as "he knew he would"; there is a vast monument in the church to Sir Edmund and his no less gallant son, Sir Ralph, who fought on the opposite side. At Latimer, high above the Chess valley stands the mansion of Elizabeth's day where Charles I was prisoner and Charles II once lay hid; at Boarstall is the great gate with embattled turrets, all that is left of the strong moated house for which Cavalier and Puritan fought through out the war, winning and losing it by turns till Fairfax took it for the last time, on June 10, 1646, and at Hillesden you may see to this day the bullet marks pitting the old oak door of the church. They fought greatly at Hillesden.

You can find the marks of those old fights-very vivid and actual it makes the mind's picture of them -scattered in a good many other places, at Ledbury in Worcestershire, for instance, where Prince Rupert and his men fought the Puritans all up and down the streets and in the churchyard, in the April of 1645 and beat them. The church is scored with bullet-marks, and they will show you the bullets themselves taken from the church doors and the doors of houses in the town. Buried deep in a brass plate in the chancel of Tarvin church, in Cheshire, there is a bullet fired that August day of 1644 when Prince Rupert and Prince Maurice tried to reach Chester with a relieving column, and fought and were beaten by Sir William Brereton, of Handforth Hall; and the gable-end of an old house near the quay at Weymouth has a cannon-ball, no less, embedded in it, fired in the siege of 1644.

There are more bullet-marks on the tower of S. Mary's Church at Marlborough, and the whole north wall of the church at Tong, in Shropshire, is pitted with them and the mark of a cannon-ball shows near the blocked-up door. Very grim also was the fight that left all bullet-riddled the south door of S. Lawrence's Church at Alton, in Hampshire, where Sir William Waller surprised the Cavaliers under Lord Crawford in the early morning of December 13, 1643 - a day of hard frost.

This was fair fighting, but at Hopton, in Herefordshire, was something like butchery. There was a castle at Hopton; the square keep is left still and the depression where the moat once ran, and some other fragments. Samuel More, of Linley, with thirty-one Puritan soldiers held it for three weeks against far stronger Royalist forces, some of them Irish, under Sir Michael Woodhouse, the Governor of Ludlow. Woodhouse fired the entrance porch of the keep and battered a breach by the chimney on its west side - breach and marks of the fire you can see to this day - and on March 13, 1643, the little garrison capitulated. it was said they refused quarter, but whether or no, they were all slaughtered and their bodies thrown into the pool which is still shown nearby.

Worse was the sheer massacre at Barthomley, in Cheshire. Lord Byron's Cavalier troopers, plundering, ravaging and burning in South Cheshire, swept into Barthomley at Christmastide, 1643, and drove a detachment of Brereton's Puritans, with many of the villagers, into the church tower. One of his officers, Major Connought, broke up pews, gathered mats and rushes from the church floor, heaped them against the tower door and set fire to them. As the Puritan soldiers and the wretched villagers broke through the flames, one by one, they were stabbed and hacked to death without mercy. "I put them all to the sword," Byron wrote to the Earl of Newcastle; "which I find to be the best way to proceed with these kind of people, for mercy to them is cruelty." It was unlucky for Byron's fair fame - and the reputation of Cavaliers in general - that the letter fell into Puritan hands, and his evil example was well followed by the Puritans at Elton, in Northamptonshire, where Dr. Michael Hudson, rector of King's Cliffe and a chaplain of Charles I, held Woodcroft Castle against them with a small garrison. Though only a twelfth-century fortified manor house in reality, with two round towers and a moat - one tower remains, and the moat - the castle was a strong place, but it had to yield at last, and when it did so Hudson was savagely butchered by the inflamed Puritans.

Mercy and chivalry were not always so forgotten, witness the gallant thing that happened at Calde-cote Hall, in Warwickshire, on Sunday, August 28, 1642. Caldecote was the home of Colonel Purefoy, a noted Puritan, and there on that Sunday came Prince Maurice and Prince Rupert, looking for him with many troops of horse. All the men of the estate had been drawn off to defend Coventry and reinforce Lord Brooke of Warwick Castle, so when one of the men-servants (he has left his story of the day) saw from the tower soldiers coming from Coventry "winding and glistening on the road like a silver serpent," and reported what he had seen, Colonel Purefoy was persuaded by George Abbott, his son-in-law, to go into a hiding-place in the middle of the hop-garden, where they covered him with hop-poles. Then Abbott and his mother-in-law set about the defence of the house, although they had only eight men. They barricaded the doors and put feather beds at the windows, while "Dame Purefoy told Dolly, the cook, to make up a fire and bring the pewter spoons and platters to melt down for bullets, for we had some powder and good store of guns but no bullets."

The Cavaliers clattered up to the silent house and demanded admittance; no answer came, so they tried to force the door. Thereon "the Dame lifted up one of the guns and said, 'God forgive me,' pulled the trigger and fired." They heard a scream, a groan, and a scuffle outside (a Cavalier officer was killed by that shot) and then a volley of bullets smacked against the door. The eight men firing, and the women loading and handing the guns, they held the fight till their powder began to run short, and as by that time the Cavaliers had fired the stables and lit a bonfire against the front door they decided to yield. As Prince Rupert broke in at the head of his men the valiant Dame knelt to him and asked mercy.

Rupert loved a brave foe always and was as gallant as need be in his good hours, and full mercy and quarter he gave, nor would he let his men sack the house. They searched it, indeed, for Colonel Purefoy, but the cokmel was not there, and they never thought of the hop-garden. "Dolly, the cook, made great outcry about her fine pewter platters." George Abbott died in 1648, and in Caldecote Church you find the monument ' Dame Johan Purefoy ' erected to him August 28, 1649, and on it the words: "God honoured him in the memorable and unparalleled defence of this adjoining house, with eight men (besides his mother and her maids) against the furious and fierce assault of Princes Rupert and Maurice, with eighteen troops of horse and dragoneers."

Dame Purefoy had her Royalist compeers. There was Lady Lyster, who held Rowton Castle, in Shropshire, for a fortnight, and had it burnt when she surrendered, for her pains, all except the fifteenth-century tower which still stands with the newer part that has known no war; and Lady Blanche Arundell, then being sixty years old, held Wardour Castle, in Wiltshire, against thirteen hundred Puritans with only twenty-five soldiers and some serving-men, and her women to load and hand the muskets-in this, and in the proportion of her small forces to the enemy, her likeness to Dame Purefoy came very close. Her ordeal was longer, though; she stood a five-days' bombardment, and surrendered only when threatened with mines, fireballs and petards. There are beautiful ruins left of the castle, and that is all.

Corfe Castle, too, is in magnificent ruins, and stands splendidly crowning its hill as you look through an abrupt gap of the Purbeck Hills towards the near sea. Lady Bankes had no soldiers at all, nothing but maids and footmen and house-servants, but she held it from May to August, 1643, against a hundred and fifty Puritan troops from Poole. They battered it with artillery, and then Sir Walter Erie, their leader, offered 20 to the first man who should scale the walls. That prize was not easy to win-you can soon find how slippery are those steep green slopes, though there is no longer a kitchenmaid pouring hot ashes on you from the top of Plunkenet Tower. Gloriette Bastion has gone, where they did great deeds, but Plunkenet stands, and Buttevant and the King's Tower, the Queen's Hall and the Chapel, with the gigantic keep on its rock topping all.

Lathom House, in Lancashire, was a castle also, and a strong one, in all but name, circled by walls six feet thick buttressed by eighteen towers with guns mounted on them, the Eagle Tower in the midst overlooking all the rest, and all ringed by a moat. Charlotte, Countess of Derby, was better furnished than Dame Purefoy and Lady Bankes, for she had three hundred good soldiers fully officered, but she was beset by three thousand Puritans, with a park of artillery, under Sir Thomas Fairfax and his colonels, so she needed them.

From the end of February, 1644, very closely they beset her, pushing earthworks closer and closer, battering her walls and her towers with cannon day and night (they used a hundred barrels of powder), and trying to tunnel beneath her defences with mines. But week after week she held out, harassing the enemy with constant sorties, scouring his trenches with murderers (well-named cannon of that day) mounted on the towers, and peppering him with musketry whenever a head showed, while in the dim early morning of April 26 her men made a furious sortie and brought in a great thirteen-inch mortar-piece which had been "their grand terror."

Colonel Rigby, chief in command for Fairfax, on May 23 sent the Countess an angry summons to submit to the mercy of Parliament.

The Countess smiled: "You would say the cruelty of Parliament," said she. "No, the mercy of Parliament," affirmed the messenger. "The mercies of the wicked are cruel." she retorted, and told him to say to " that insolent rebel, Rigby," that she would never yield. Nor did she, for on May 27 Colonel Rigby marched off to Bolton with all his men to meet Prince Rupert, who on the 29th stormed the town, beat Rigby, slew sixteen hundred of his troops, took seven hundred prisoners, and sacked the town.

Of all sieges of little places, none so famous as that of Basing House, in Hampshire. It lay in the village of Old Basing, mightily commanding the Basingstoke road and doing infinite mischief to Puritan convoys, but of all its glories, and its defences, which covered fourteen acres, nothing is left but an old red brick curtain wall with peak-roofed end towers, a dovecot, some mangled walls and foundations, and remains of the "loftie gate-house with foure turrets looking northwards" and bearing the Paulet arms, "three p swords in pile." The Basingstoke Canal flows alongside, where part of the moat might once have been, and beyond it is a great barn, marked by Puritan cannon-shot, near where the riding-school of the great house stood when all was standing.

>>> Next page >>>
Pages: <1> 2

Pictures for Sites and Scenes of the Civil War

Memorial to the Crowning Mercy
Memorial to the Crowning Mercy >>>>
The King Hoist His Standard at Nottingham: Opening scene of the Civil War
The King Hoist His Standard at Nottingham: Opening scene of the Civil War >>>>
Brick Parlour at Hampden House, and the Puritan H.Q. at Saffron Walden
Brick Parlour at Hampden House, and the Puritan H.Q. at Saffron Walden >>>>
Grenvile Tablet at Stratton: Stamford Hill and Lasdown Hill Monuments
Grenvile Tablet at Stratton: Stamford Hill and Lasdown Hill Monuments >>>>
Haymaking in Hampshire on the site of Oliver Cromwell's Battery
Haymaking in Hampshire on the site of Oliver Cromwell's Battery >>>>
Edgehill, and the Saracen's Head, at Southwell, Where Charles Surrendered
Edgehill, and the Saracen's Head, at Southwell, Where Charles Surrendered >>>>
Edgehill, and the Saracen's Head, at Southwell, Where Charles Surrendered
Edgehill, and the Saracen's Head, at Southwell, Where Charles Surrendered >>>>
S. Mary's, Marlborough: Uxbridge Treaty House, and the King's Arms Salisbury
S. Mary's, Marlborough: Uxbridge Treaty House, and the King's Arms Salisbury >>>>
Ruined Walls, Vaults and Turret of Basing House, Long Held for the King
Ruined Walls, Vaults and Turret of Basing House, Long Held for the King >>>>
The Monument which marks where Hampden fell on Chalgrove field
The Monument which marks where Hampden fell on Chalgrove field >>>>
The Tithe House at Ely Cromwell's Residence and Office
The Tithe House at Ely Cromwell's Residence and Office >>>>
Memorial to lord Falkland at Newbury
Memorial to lord Falkland at Newbury >>>>
Marple Hall, the Home of Judge Bradshaw, Regicide
Marple Hall, the Home of Judge Bradshaw, Regicide >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About