The Civil War in Chippenham
A re-enactment of events is being staged in Monkton Park on the first weekend in July. With this in mind, I have delved into the Local Studies Library to arm you with further information regarding exactly what occurred in Chippenham during the Civil War period.
Tony MacLachlan has written an excellent account in his book ‘The Civil War in Wiltshire’, which is well worth looking at, and is the basis for the information provided here.
I will give a run down of the events for Chippenham as they occurred:
Sir Edward Bayntun and Sir Edward Hungerford sided with Parliament…
Beginning of 1643
The war had not touched Chippenham as yet…
20th March, 1643
The Parliamentarian Sir William Waller heard that a small number of Royalist forces were attacking Rowden House, the home of Sir Edward Hungerford. He intercepted them at Sherston. At the same time, the small Royalist army camped out in Chippenham was driven out.
8th July, 1643
Royalists headed towards Chippenham as ‘fugitives’, pushing east through Wraxall and Guideahall. Outside Chippenham, scouts reported that Waller’s cavalry were threatening their rear from Pickwick. The Royalist commanders halted the Cornish regiments and sent messengers to Waller, ‘offering to contest the issue afresh’ between Biddestone and Chippenham. Waller declined and each force spent the night within talking distance of each other! Cannon could be heard in the countryside surrounding the town.
9th July, 1643 (early hours)
Detachments of Parliamentary Cavalry raced through Chippenham. There were dog fights between the cavalry and infantry of both sides. A ‘ferocious’ cavalry charge took place near the northern edge of Pewsham Forest. A withdrawal was made southward towards Bromham.
17th July, 1643
Having been defeated at Roundway Down a few days before, a large number of Roundheads took refuge in Chippenham, ‘cruelly killing a townsman, William Isles, who unwisely crossed their path’…
Royalist horsemen managed to capture Col. Ludford, Rowden’s Governor. Rowden House itself ‘was physically robust and seemed almost impregnable’ but it contained a garrison of only c.200 men and could not hold for long…
15th February, 1645
Rowden House: Two Royalist Knights with 500 men demanded surrender – they received musket fire in response. A Parliamentarian reinforcement unexpectedly arrived bringing with it food and ammunition. They tried to leave an hour later but the Royalists were now prepared and stopped them. What followed was two days of heavy bombardment.
9th May, 1645
The Royalist, Sir James Long (just released from Parliamentary custody), led his troops into Chippenham. The Parliamentarians did not resist for long; Chippenham was an outpost for Malmesbury and did not contain many troops. The soldiers ‘fled through Corston with Royalists in hot pursuit’.
12th July, 1645
This time the move against Chippenham was probably ‘a chance to settle old scores’. The Royalists Boville and Long had been ‘embarrassed by recent defeats’ and were thought to have planned the operation. The Parliamentarians felt that Chippenham was a town unlikely to be attacked. It contained only ‘flimsy breastworks’ as a defence. Dowett attacked Bath Road, sending his men in lines against a moveable timber barricade. Then Long and Bonville launched an attack on the opposite side of town. Boville took possession of houses while Long ‘charged into Market Place’. Parliamentarians retreated along St. Mary’s Street. In less than two hours, the Royalists had taken the town; there were less than 200 men on either side. The Parliamentarians then heard trumpets in the distance and, thinking they were supporting troops, rallied. Fighting took place for another hour before dying down. It was one of the last Cavalier victories of the war.
The newspaper ‘Mercurius Aulicus’ reported the event:
‘those rebels in the street were killed, taken or drowned, and the town wholly mastered; wherein they took Lieutenant-Colonel William Eyres. and 80 prisoners besides, the rest escaped away in the dark… who left behind all their arms… having killed the rebels’ marshall, 1 sergeant, and 10 common soldiers, besides many drowned; the inhabitants of the town not losing the value of sixpence, though taken by the assault’.
As a side note, although it was said above that the inhabitants did not lose any money, the garrisons routinely took provisions from the local populace, regularly paying well below the market rate. Underdown notes in his book ‘Revel, Riot and Rebellion’ that Waller ordered contributions to be paid to his army. The townspeople were doubly burdened during the first winter of the war. Records in the Chippenham Borough Chest show that the town made three contributions to the Parliamentarians and two to the Royalists in Malmesbury. They also paid a fine of £200 to the Royalists as a penalty for their assistance to the Parliamentarians. MacLachlan notes that the taxmen of both sides often visited a town on the same day! Included in the borough records was a rate for horses bought for Sir William Waller and a rate for quartering the soldiers on 22nd October 1644.
26th September, 1645
Parliament took over Lacock and Boville left the county. Any remaining Royalists in Chippenham left after hearing of the surrender at Lacock…
Waller had been nicknamed William the Conqueror due to his frequent successes, but he was defeated at Lansdown and routed at Roundway Down (Goldney, 1989).
Local Studies Assistant
The sources used are available in our Local Studies Library:
MacLachlan, Tony (1997) ‘The Civil War in Wiltshire’. ISBN 0 9530785 0 7, Ref: AAA.
Underdown, David (1987) ‘Revel, Riot and Rebellion: Popular Politics and Culture in England 1603-1660’. ISBN 0 19 285193 4, Ref: AAA.
Goldney, Frederick Hastings (1889) ‘Records of Chippehnham’, Ref: CHP.327
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