Tag Archives: Bath

1643- English Civil War

anthony-van-dyck-portrait-of-sir-ralph-hopton-and-of-his-wife-elizabeth.jpgIt’s interesting that in January 1643 the king was still receiving petitions asking him to return to London and his parliament.  A Parliamentary committee even visited Oxford where the king was based in order to promise him his safety if he returned to London.

Elsewhere the business of running a kingdom continued.  Towns loyal to the king gathered their silver and sent it to Oxford where another mint had been set up.  Shrewsbury sent twelve wagons.  Ambassadors came and went.  Justice was served.  The Irish question continues to haunt English politics.  It would have to be said that being so concerned with their own conflicts that the English in Ireland found themselves without provisions or ammunition by May 1643.

As a starting point, the war is best seen as being fought regionally in 1643 as it gives an indicator of key figures as well as the respective strength of the various forces – think of each region as a game of chess between the two sides which is complicated by the fact that the is a national oversight that sees regional conflicts interlocking although it would have to be said that the majority of local leaders weren’t paying much attention to the national picture they were far too busy skirmishing with their former neighbours. I shall start from the south coast and the Southwest of England

The South East/ south coast – Nicely straight forward (for the most part) – Dover Castle was captured by Parliament before the starting whistle was blown in 1642.  In Hampshire the Royalists notably held Basing House and Portsmouth but everywhere else in the county was Parliamentarian.  Parliament set about forming committees and raising taxes in these areas as well as raising troops.  Parliament also stated that if people couldn’t pay their taxes in coin they could pay in kind and produced a table for guidance – so wheat was the equivalent of 5 shillings.  By the end of the year Hampshire, Dorset and Somerset would be embroiled in the conflict and Basing House which was one of the largest Tudor houses in the country would be on the receiving end of not one but three direct assaults as the Parliamentarians under the command of Sir William Waller (pictured below.)

220px-WilliamWaller.jpgThe royalist command in Cornwall was held by Ralph Hopton featured at the start of this post with his wife Elizabeth.  In 1642 he and his men had driven the Parliamentarians from Launceston.  Whilst Hopton  was unable to secure Devon at this time, Cornwall was firmly royalist.  This position was confirmed on the 19th January 1643 when Hopton won the Battle of Braddock Down and from there went on to besiege Plymouth which was in Parliamentarian hands. In early 1643 there were a number of skirmishes between both sides but places like Parliamentarian Exeter continued to petition and negotiate for peace between the warring factions.  In London, Parliament urged the Devon Committee to raise more money and troops.

It is perhaps not surprising that by this time churches and cathedrals across the country were hiding their  plate and anything valuable as it was seen as fair game by both sides.  In Chichester, the plate was discovered and taken away by Parliamentarian forces.

Ultimately Hopton and his royalist Western  Army would advance in the direction of Bath where he comes into conflict with Sir William Waller and the Parliamentarian Western Association forces (The Western Association comprises Waller’s military command of Gloucester, Wiltshire, Worcester, Shropshire and Somerset.  By March he will have secured Salisbury, Winchester and Bristol for Parliament).  To counter this Hopton and Waller come to blows on 16th May 1643 when Hopton takes on a Parliamentary force at Stamford Hill.  The Royalists are victorious and they advance towards Bath.

The Battle of Landsdown Hill is fought on the 5th July 1643.  Waller has the high ground and the royalists suffer heavy casualties although it is the Parliamentarian force that eventually retreats.  The morning after the battle, Hopton is temporarily blinded and paralysed when a munitions wagon explodes.  Despite the fact that they have won the battle, the Royalists retreat to Chippenham being harried by Waller’s men as they do so.  It would have to be said that victory doesn’t look particularly victorious given that strategically Waller gains the upper hand in the aftermath of the battle.

Parliamentarians from Bristol (it had been secured for Parliament in March by Waller without much fuss) move to outflank Hopton’s Royalists and the whole lot end up in Devizes on the 9th July.  Waller thinking that he has won offers Hopton surrender terms which Hopton pretends to consider knowing that he needs to give the Royalists time to come to his assistance having sent a message to Oxford with Prince Maurice prior to being besieged. His hopes are fulfilled when 2,000 fresh cavalry put in an appearance from Oxford.  The Battle of Roundway Down is fought on the 13th July 1643.  Waller is resoundingly beaten and has to go to London to raise more money and men.

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A8c0810724dd73ce9dcdf6dd691337811--doublet-bristol.jpgt that point the Royalists realise that they could control the whole of the southwest.  On the 24th July Prince Rupert  (pictured above) and his men rock up outside Bristol (England’s second city at this time) and suggest very nicely that its Parliamentarian Governor Colonel Nathaniel Fiennes might like to surrender.  Fiennes declines the invitation and on the 26th Rupert and his forces storm Bristol.  By nightfall Fiennes asks for terms and at the beginning of August King Charles visits.  Fiennes will ask for a parliamentary investigation into the fall of Bristol as he is widely castigated on account of the fact that Waller has far more success with Gloucester than he has with Bristol – Gloucester requires its own post and besides which is just outside the region I am covering today.

Elsewhere Dorchester, which was Parliamentarian and where its citizens had been busy digging ditches and earth banks night and day surrender to the Royalists without a blow and in September, Exeter is taken by Prince Maurice.  It was Parliamentarian in sympathy and had hoped to withstand siege but it could not be supplied so therefore had no choice. Maurice moves on to besiege Plymouth  and Dartmouth. Falmouth is already Royalist. At Poole the Parliamentarians foil a Royalist attack but the Parliamentarian navy under the command of the Earl of Warwick takes up residence in the harbour to discourage further attacks.

I should add that Dorchester will change hands again before the end of the year.  Parliament will offer the Royalist prisoners taken in Dorchester the opportunity to pay a large fine in return for their freedom.  The money is used to continue to finance their armies.

By this point towns with any strategic value in the area are suddenly re-assessed in terms of their security.  For instance twenty barrels of powder and shot were dispatched to Lyme Regis by Parliament so that it could be defended and the Earl of Essex is ordered to advance through the Midlands to come up behind the royalist armies.  Towns and strategic locations throughout the area have their own story to tell at this time, including Dunster Castle which is unexpectedly Parliamentarian in sympathy at the start of 1642 – but the post is already long enough, so I shall save that for another day as well.

By December 1643, Hopton, elevated to the peerage is still doing battle with his Parliamentarian adversary William Waller.  Both have had victories and both have suffered defeats.  Waller is holed up in Farnham Castle but Hopton is unable to capture him so heads off for Arundel Castle instead which he captures for the Royalist cause.

On the 27th Waller takes nearby Chichester.

In 1643 some places surrender without a blow being struck, other locations are the scenarios of grim and bloody battles fought hedgerow by hedgerow.  Some places are besieged, the siege is raised and they are left like beacons in a landscape shaded by the opposing army.  All in all there is a feel of sands shifting but that at this point in the South West that the Royalists should be victorious.

I intend to post on Dunster Castle and the Luttrell family as well as Gloucester this week. From there I shall progress to Yorkshire where the Royalist Commander at the start of 1643 is the Earl of Cumberland and a man out of his depth.  He will have to summon the Earl of Newcastle for help.  This will be an opportunity to revisit the civil war in the West Riding not to mention the increasing significance of Thomas Fairfax.  Meanwhile in the Midlands the war is described by Brian Stone not in terms of chess but rather more like a football match and I haven’t even got so far as the Battle of Newbury.

 

Emberton, Wilfred. (1995) The Civil War Day by Day. Stroud: Sutton Publishing

 

 

 

 

 

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