You are in [Events] [1643-51 Civil War]

Summary:

The event which dominated England in the 17th century was the Civil War of 1642-51. Much of the country was affected in one way or another, although there were surprisingly few weeks of actual fighting. As a result of its geographical location, midway between London and the southwest Hungerford often became an unwilling centre for military activity and troops (see Norman Hidden: "Caught in the No-Man's Land of War").

At its peak there were 210,000 men bearing arms, one in five of the adult male population at the time. One in 20 men would die.

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- The Sealed Knot Civil War re-enactors at Basing House, Aug 2010

- Shaw House

- Littlecote House

- Robert Devereux,

Three Civil Wars:

There were actually three periods of war:

- the First Civil War stretched from 1642 to August 1646 when Charles I became a prisoner of the Scots.

- the Second began in March 1648 and ended in August of the same year with the Battle of Preston and the fall of Colchester, while

- the Third Civil War followed in June 1650, when Charles II raised an army in Scotland only to be defeated at Dunbar and Worcester in 1651.

The background to the Civil War:

Reduced to its simplest terms, the Civil War was a struggle for political power and authority between the King (Charles I) and his supporters on the one hand, and an opposition group which was dominant in Parliament on the other. The confrontation was considerably heightened by marked differences in religious views of the two parties involved, with the high church Anglicanism of many Royalists set against the dissenting Puritanism of a large number of Parliamentarians.

The King ran the country between 1629 and 1640 without calling Parliament. He ran it well, the Treasury was sound, the courts (Star Chamber and High Commission) functioned efficiently and fairly, national defences were maintained, a strong navy was supported by Ship Money, and the national church was maintained.

But, gradually opposition to the King's policies grew. John Hampden and John Pym led the way by refusing to accept Ship Money being levied on inland towns. In Scotland the severely Protestant followers of John Calvin and John Knox were gaining popularity. In 1638 the King decided to bring the Scots into line by imposing a prayer book similar to the Anglican Church.

When he recalled Parliament in 1641 (in order to obtain money for his depleted coffers) Hampden and Pym gathered increasing Puritan support. Charles showed moral weakness, the vacillation alternating with petulant anger. Finally, Charles acted - and entered the House of Commons on 4 Jan 1642 demanding the surrender of the five men he believed were the key leaders amongst the malcontents. None was present, the King was humiliated, and a resort to arms had to follow. The King formally declared war against his rebellious subjects on 22 Aug 1642.

The first major battle was at Edgehill near Banbury on 23 Oct 1642.

How did it affect people around Hungerford?

Men and women of at all levels of society, sometimes even within the same family, took different sides on issues of principle, and many fought for them to the death. Because of the close proximity to Newbury, where two major battles were fought, the townspeople of Hungerford inevitably became involved, most especially in the lead-up to the 1st Battle of Newbury in September 1643.

The adjacent market town of Newbury was of strategic importance because of its position between London and the west, and between Oxford and the south. Indeed, the King considered Donnington Castle to be of key strategic importance at this crossroads.

The Pophams at Littlecote House were strong supporters of Parliament. One of the finest collections of Parliamentary armour was displayed in the Great Hall until the 1990s.

Many people in the rural areas were on the King's side, but many of the townspeople of Newbury, especially the Presbyterians, supported Parliament. No doubt the ordinary householders in Hungerford and Newbury simply had to "support" whichever army was around at the time. They were called on to provide food, accommodation, and stabling, and later they were left to tend the wounded and bury the dead.

The lead-up to the 1st Battle of Newbury, Autumn 1643:

In September 1643, the Earl of Essex (Robert Devereux), robert devereux 3rd earl of Essex along with his Parliamentary troops successfully relieved the month-long siege of Gloucester. The besieging Royalists led by King Charles I himself, withdrew on 5 September, having sustained heavy casualties. Essex entered Gloucester on 8 September.

Having relieved Gloucester, the Earl of Essex could not run the risk of being trapped in Gloucester, and had to plan his return march to the safety of London.

He left Gloucester on 10 September, making an initial march north to Tewkesbury, where he was able to re-supply his army (and confuse the Royalists into thinking he was marching north). He made a quick about-face, and headed south-east, through Cheltenham, his troops then marching rapidly along the Roman Road to Cirencester. This route avoided the King's circle of garrisons around Oxford, and was felt to be the fastest and safest route to Newbury , Reading and London. Essex and his army reached Cirencester at 1am on 15 September, Cricklade on the night of 16 September, and Swindon on the 17th, about twenty miles from Newbury.

The Royalists, led by Prince Rupert, were wrong-footed by this move, but set off through Broadway and Northleach, heading for Newbury, where they hoped to cut off the Parliamentary progress to London. Various other parts of the Royalist army all headed towards Newbury. Charles' army spent the night of the 17 September at Alvescot, ten miles north-east of Essex troops, but still about 28 miles from Newbury.

It looked as though the Essex would reach Newbury first, but on 18 September, Prince Rupert and the Royalists intercepted Essex in the Aldbourne Chase, where a considerable (largely cavalry) skirmish took place.

As the weather deteriorated, Essex was able to lead his army through Aldbourne itself, where two of his ammunition wagons broke down. They went on through the darkness, mud and rain towards Hungerford. If they could cross the Kennet bridge at Hungerford, they could march east towards Newbury, and the safety of Reading.

On the evening of 18-19 September, a small Royalist detachment held Hungerford, but in the darkness and bad weather, the scouts had failed to realise that Essex was closing on them. The town was taken by surprise. One Royalist was killed in the scuffle, and twenty-five were captured.

Having seized the bridge, the Parliamentary troops succumbed to their exhaustion. Many of the troops spent the rest of the night in cottages at Chilton Foliat. It is said that Essex himself stayed at Chilton House, the manor house that used to stand just west of the church, and was the home of the courtier Mr John Packer. They were confident that Rupert was not in persuit.

Most of the Parliamentary troops spent the night in Hungerford. Rupert and most of the Royalist army were at Lambourne and Wantage, still sixteen miles from Newbury.

It has been stated that several of the soldiers wounded at Aldbourne Chase were brought to Hungerford and some died here; four were reported to have been buried on 18 September (I can find no record of these in the Berkshire Burial Index - HLP).

After re-assembling in Hungerford the next morning (19 September), and obtaining what refreshment they could, Essex and the Parliamentary forces marched on through Kintbury and Hamstead Marshall to Enborne, intending to spend the night in Newbury. They moved at a snail's pace, for reasons that remain unexplained, but were partly due to the roads being a quagmire from the constant rain.

The Parliamentary quartermasters rode into Newbury in the late afternoon and were well received by the citizens. They were engaged in chalking up billets for the damp and dispirited troops, who were still some miles off, when they received a rude shock!

With a flurry of hoofbeats and pistol shots, Rupert's Horse swept into the town, drove off the escort and captured several of the unfortunate quartermasters. Essex, fearing that the Royalist Foot were close behind, halted his troops short of the town, allowing the Royalists free access to Newbury with comfortable billets and plenty of food. The Parliamentary troops had to bivouac near Enborne, two miles short of the town. This round had been won by Charles.

The King's troops, under Prince Rupert, had the advantage of being able to choose the position to fight, and were drawn up on Wash Common, blocking Essex's way into Newbury. However, the Royalists failed to exploit their positional advantage to the full.

The 1st Battle of Newbury, Sep 1643:

The 1st Battle of Newbury on Wash Common started the next day, on 20 September 1643.

The two sides were fairly evenly matched; the King had about 8,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry while Essex had 10,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry. Both sides had about 20 artillery pieces. The battle continued right on into the darkness, the fighting being fiercest on the top of Round Hill and on Wash Common, but neither side gained a decisive advantage. At nightfall both sides drew back to rest.

Essex's men were even more tired, hungry, thirsty, and dispirited, but the King also had had heavy losses of men and officers, and he was worried about the shortage of ammunition.

The King held a Council of War after dark, and decided not to renew the fight the next day, as his powder and shot were running low. He withdrew the Royalist troops during the night, and the Parliamentary troops were able to continue via Reading to London.

About 3,500 men were killed in this battle, including the King's Secretary of State Viscount Falkland, who was popular with both sides. (See the Falkland memorial at Wash Common).

There are records of a soldier, Henry Checkley, being buried in Hungerford on 4 October.

Records of soldiers buried in Hungerford:

14 Feb 1643: Dudley Smallman(?) "soldier"
4 Oct 1643: Henry Checkley "soldier"
14 Feb 1642/43: Dudley Smallman "soldier"
20 Apr 1644: John Tuggie, "minister and soldier"
from nr Lechlade
29 Apr 1644: Tho Cooper, "minister" from Northants
16 Dec 1644: William Hall, "soldier"
26 May 1646: Henry Kidder, "soldier"
26 Aug 1646: Roger Pitman, "soldier"
7 Jun 1651: Thomas Silversyde, "soldier" from London

Further local events:

June 1644: Nothing more is heard of either army in the neighbourhood of Hungerford until June 1644, when Essex and his army spent the night of the 10th in the town, whilst on his way to the West Country.

October 1644: On 5th October, the Earl of Manchester (a Parliamentary general), who was then at Reading, reported that most of his horse were at Hungerford, where they stayed until being sent to Salisbury on the 9th.

Later that month, the King was at Salisbury, and after a number of successes in the west country, he planned to move east to relieve the garrisons at Banbury Castle, Basing House and Donnington Castle - all of whom had been besieged a long time.

The Parliamentary forces decided they must intercept him and prevent him returning to Oxford or London. Once again, it was at Newbury where they met.

The 2nd Battle of Newbury, Oct 1644:

On 24 October 1644, the King had managed to reach Newbury first and occupied the town, making his own quarters at Shaw House. He decided to despatch a troop of his soldiers to Banbury, in an attempt to draw some of the Parliamentary armies away from Newbury. However, this resulted in the King's own force being reduced to some 9,000 men, and all three parts of the Parliamentary army remained at Newbury against him. Nevertheless, the Royalists had joined up with Colonel Boys, who was holding Donnington Castle, and took up strong positions.

The large Parliamentary army, under the Earl of Manchester, found Newbury heavily defended, but three generals, in conference, decided to attack the King's very strong defensive position from both sides at once.

They sent Cromwell, with the more junior commanders Waller and Skippan on an encircling march of 13 miles north and west around Newbury (through Chievely, Winterbourne and Boxford) through the night to reach the west of Charles' line, while Manchester remained in the east.

The plan was that at a pre-arranged signal, both forces would attack simultaneously - but things did not go according to plan.

On the morning of 27th October, Manchester and his troops made a feint attack on the King's headquarters at Shaw House, which developed into something greater so that his men were seriously committed.

Later in the day he did not recognise Waller's signal to attack - Waller attacked at 3pm. but Manchester did not attack until 4pm, with the light rapidly failing into dusk. Fighting continued until dark, but despite the heavy pressure, the Royalists held their own, and having deposited their guns and baggage in the Castle, they withdrew over a bridge over the river Lambourne which was an obvious line of retreat, but no Parliamentarian troops blocked their path, and the Royalists were free to withdraw.

The following day, the Parliamentarian commanders held a council of war at Speen. Cromwell, Balfour and Sir Arthur Hesilrige eventually were allowed to take cavalry in pursuit of the King's army, but soon found that the Royalists had already crossed the River Thames at Wallingford and had reached the safety of the neighbourhood of Oxford.

The Siege of Donnington Castle:

Colonel Sir John Boys held the castle bravely against great odds, in face of a number of assaults, both before and after the second battle of Newbury.

A major assault on the castle was made by Manchester and his entire army, with siege pieces brought from London, on the 7th November, 1644, but it was repulsed and the Parliamentary troops retired to Newbury.

Two days later the King, with Prince Rupert, returned with reinforcements and raised the siege. He collected his artillery, spent the night in the castle, and left the next day - when the castle and Sir John Boys were again besieged.

They held out until the end of the war, when ordered to surrender by the King. The garrison marched cut with full military honours in April 1646. The siege of Donnington had lasted 20 months.

King Charles executed:

In 1649, following the Second Civil War (1648-49) and a second defeat for Charles, he was subsequently captured, tried, convicted, and (on 30th January 1649) executed for high treason at the banqueting house in Whitehall . The monarchy was abolished, the House of Lords was abolished, and the Commonwealth was proclaimed.

In 1650 Oliver Cromwell became Lord-General, and in 1653 Lord Protector.

1651: That troops were stationed in Hungerford during the Commonwealth is shown by the occasional parish register entry. Thus in 1651 there is record of the burial in Hungerford on 7th June of Thomas Silversyde, "a soldier, of London"; and among the baptisms on 22nd August that year was that of Thomas, son of Thomas Later, "a soldier".

Later in 1651, the young Charles (later Charles II), having been crowned at Scone, made an abortive attempt to recover his father's kingdom, and seize the throne by force of arms. He was defeated by Cromwell at Worcester on 3rd September 1651, and on the following day the Council of State sent orders to the Militia Commissioners of Hampshire to march their levies (enrolled men), which were then stationed at Hungerford, to join Cromwell's force at Worcester (State Papers Domestic 1651, p.406).

Penruddock's Rising, March 1655:

Cromwell was now firmly established as Protector, but not all Royalist opposition was quelled.

A further attempt to overthrow the Commonwealth occurred in March 1655, and had its origin in the area of Salisbury. Led by Colonel John Penruddock, a small group of gentry from the West Country rode into Salisbury on 11 March with about 200 adherents on horseback, raised the Royal standard and proclaimed Charles as king.

The assizes were being held at the time, and the revolutionaries seized the sheriff and judges and held them prisoner. The next morning, they headed west out of Salisbury, through Blandford, Sherbourne and Yeovil, hoping to pick up more supporters, but a single troop of horse of the new Model Army under Captain Crook defeated them in a three hour street fight in South Molton, Devon on 14 March. Most of the supporters fled, but Crook captured Penruddock and the ringleaders.

Amongst Penruddock's 200 supporters were a small number of Royalist sympathisers from Hungerford and district. These included William Palmer, a cordwainer, who joined the group at "Bottles Hill", 4 or 5 miles from Hungerford, intending to rendezvous at Old Sarum, but had turned back and was arrested. More notable local rebels were Sir Seymour Pyle of Axford near Ramsbury and his brother Gabriel Pyle; Robert Mason who owned the manor of Hidden-cum-Eddington; two more landowning gentry in John Deane and Thomas Curr; John Lucas , a tradesman's son of Hungerford; and John Kensey, surgeon, who is described in one list as of Hungerford but probably came from Newbury.

In May Penruddock and the ringleaders were tried at Exeter. Several of them (including Penruddock himself) were executed; many were sold as slaves in Barbados.

Of his followers Mason and Curr were fortunate to escape; Deane, Lucas, and Kensey were tried and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. However Deane was reprieved; and Lucas and Kensey by what was described as an act of grace had their sentence reduced to beheading.

The incident shows what relatively small support there was in Hungerford for a Royalist action so extreme. Of those named as having Hungerford connections Palmer changed his mind; Kensey almost certainly came from Newbury (the name Kensey appears nowhere in Hungerford parish registers, nor in any other Hungerford documents); the Pyles resided well outside the parish; Deane lived in the parish of Tidcombe.

Of the remainder who might more properly be considered Hungerford locals, Robert Mason had fought as a young Cavalier in both the first and second Civil Wars; Thomas Curr was a staunch Roman Catholic whose adherence to his faith had caused him to lose much of his landholding in Sandon, Helmes and Anvilles; John Lucas was a member of a well-to-do Hungerford family of mercers, being the son of Jehosophat Lucas who had given the town its famous Hocktide horn in 1634. John was born in 1631 and, like Mason, and probably other hot-heads, was a young man when he was caught up in the excitement of Penruddock's rebellion. There are several indications that the rest of the Lucas family held Puritan views; the will of John's uncle Onesimus (1638) in particular being full of the most extreme Puritan theology. One can but feel sorry for poor young Lucas, as one may for surgeon Kensey who, we are told, was drawn into the rising by Robert Mason, the latter "a desperate fellow". Be that as it may, different fates befell them. Lucas and Kensey were executed; but when the King returned Mason received a knighthood, and Deane climbed his way back to become the member of Parliament for Great Bedwyn.

Cromwell's death and the Restoration of Monarchy:

Cromwell died in 1658 and was succeeded as Lord Protector by his son Richard Cromwell, but he was forced to abdicate the following year. The new parliament of 1660 proclaimed Charles as King and invited him to return to Britain. He reached London on 29 May 1660, his 30th birthday.

See also:

- Littlecote House

- Norman Hidden: "Caught in the No-Man's Land of War"

- "Gloucester & Newbury 1643 - The Turning Point of the Civil War", Jon Day, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2007

- "The English Civil War", Peter Young & Richard Holmes, Wordsworth Military Library, 2000