The English Civil Wars and Interregnum, which lasted from 1642 until 1660 when the monarchy was restored, represent a fascinating epoch in our history – years of military campaigns, major social upheaval, religious change and of course the overthrow of the monarchy and rule by Parliament.
The world was indeed ‘turned upside down’ in this period, so that it would not be surprising if the survival of local records was poor. And there are many gaps in Hampshire sources – for example, no quarter sessions records between 1642 and 1646, with the abolition of the episcopacy no diocesan records between 1643 and 1660, and very evident patchiness in other areas.
But enough survives to provide intriguing glimpses of Hampshire in these turbulent times. Some of the most intriguing are the references, often incidental, to military and anti-monarchy activity found in official archives of the period – particularly parish, county and borough records. For example, the meticulously maintained parish register for Romsey records the burials of nearly 20 soldiers between July 1643 and March 1644. These include on 12 December 1643 seven soldiers ‘slaine at the routing of the kings forces at Romsey’ (below)…
…on 6 February 1644 ‘Richard Gold a soldier slayne by his owne muskett per misfortunne’ (below)…
and on 13 March 1644 ‘William Morris a soldier hangd upon the Swan signe poll’. (10M58/PR2.)
In another parish register, for Whitchurch, we find a more oblique reference – when it was noted in 1644 that ‘this was a time of great troubles by reason of the warres and so many were omitted to bee registered’. (83M76/PR2.) Then, the churchwardens’ accounts for Upham from 1642 record a payment made ‘for cleanseing the church against Christmas aftter the Troopers had abused it for a stable for their horses.’ (74M78/PW1, below, with detail.)
And those for Chawton, in c1642 record a payment of 5s, ‘to him that strooke out the kinges armes’, that is obliterated the king’s arms which had been displayed in the church. Interestingly, the same Chawton accounts record a further payment, in 1660 when the monarchy was restored, ‘for inblazinge the kinges armes in the church. (1M70/PW1.)
Hampshire quarter sessions order books which resume in 1646 contain many orders for the repair of bridges. This is usual quarter sessions business – but their dilapidated state in these years is often attributed to the ravages of war. For example, in April 1646 there is an order that Robert Oldinge be reimbursed for the cost of rebuilding the bridge at Redbridge, near Southampton, which had been ‘pulled down by a partie of the kings forces’ in December 1643. (Q1/2.) The Lymington town book, well-kept throughout the Civil War years, includes in its 1644 accounts payments ‘for releeving divers companies of souldiers coming from Cornwall’, ‘for straw to lodge souldiers’, ‘to Captaine Green for him and his men’, ‘to James Garrettes wife for a sicke souldier’ and ‘for a shrowde for him’. (27M74/DBC2, below.)
And Winchester’s records include a number of entries which shed light on the war’s impact on that city. For example, the city’s ordinance book for the period contains a transcript of Oliver Cromwell’s letter to the mayor William Longland, dated 28 September 1645, asking to be allowed to take the city without force. Cromwell writes at 5 o’clock at night: ‘Sir, I come not to this city but with a full resolucion to save it and the inhabitantes thereof from ruine. I have comaunded the souldyers upon payne of death that noe wrong bee done which I shall strictly observe. Only I expect you give mee entrance into the city without necessitateing mee to force my way….’ He ends ‘I expect your answeare within half an howre…’ (W/B1/4.)
Longland’s speedy reply, dated the same day is also recorded. ‘Sir, I have received your letter by your trumpett and … retorne you hearty thanckes for your favourable expressions therein. But withall I am to signifie unto you, that the delivery up of the city is not in my power it being under the commaund of the right honourable the Lord Ogle… In the meane tyme I shall use my best endeavor with the Lord Ogle to performe the contentes of your letter…’ Winchester finally surrendered to Cromwell’s forces in October 1645. (W/B1/4.)
Sarah Lewin, Information and Archives Manager