All Images Courtesy Of Stewart MaCarthur
Sir Lewis Dyve as Royalist Governor of Sherborne was 1st approached by the Clubmen in March of 1645. With the continued outrage being inflamed by Royalist General Goring's forces in the South West, Sir Lewis Dyve saw fit to quell their anger.
With colour, 40 horse and their furniture (tackle) Lewis Dyve's boosted the Clubmen's arsenal. The Clubmen were reported as
"we with great courage are now resolved to die, as to suffer the intolerance and outrages as put upon us by Goring's forces."
By May of 1645 things between the Royalist garrison under Sir Lewis Dyve's in Sherborne Castle had now taken a turn for the worst. The continued outrages being enforced upon the people in the South West by General Goring's forces had put Dyve's out of favour with the Clubmen. At a place between Shaftesbury and Blandford a meeting of Clubmen was held. Here it was agreed to stop the payments to the Royalists in Dorset, and a threat made to join the Parliamentarian forces in the West, under command of General Graves and Weldon.
A threat only. The Clubmen were still very much a force of their own through May, June, July in Dorset, as can be seen in their resolve to keep petitioning and demand a stop between King and Parliament in hostilities.
The focus on Goring is of great importance here also. The Clubmen were prepared to do what ever was needed. Royalist or Parliamentarian. Goring was the focus of their ills early March.
By August with Fairfax and army now in Dorset, and planning siege to Sherborne, the ongoing communications between the Clubmen and the Governor of Sherborne Castle were seen as a threat by Fairfax. It gives us good reason as to why the Clubmen had decided to meet at Shaftesbury on August 2nd, 3rd and why Fairfax was eager to quash this third force before it was able to ignite as a revolt. Both King and Parliament had no desire to see the Clubmen succeed in a vision of their own making.
Fairfax in a letter addressed to his farther on the 3rd-4th August 1645 speaks of his arrival at Sherbourne and his desire to push Goring into Cornwall. The Clubmen of Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire are seen as dangerous if not quashed.
"We have taken 13 or 14 of their chief leaders, Leiutenent Cromwell is gone out with some horse to hinder the Clubmen's meeting which I here they have appointed to command and demand their leaders. We most not neglect their business for their violence is proable to lead them to some foolish attempt which I hope may make them repent their errors if they will not be advised which way I desired him just to make use of.
What is to be done with those captured in Shaftesbury.
On the 2nd-3rd August 1645 Fairfax now knowing of a planned meeting of Clubmen in Shaftsbury, sent Colonel Charles Fleetwood with a thousand horse to quash. Fleetwood surrounded these Clubmen at a place called Castle Hill, he then captured the leading members and then returned with them to Sherborne, where Fairfax was stationed.
Luck would have it, the Reverend Dr. Thomas Bravell one of the leading men in the Clubmen movement was not taken prisoner. With anger rising at the arrests the Reverend would hold a large part in what played out after on the 4th August at Hambledon Hill.
With the church bells ringing, the signal to gather was heard. Sherborne being the target to free those previously took in Shaftesbury, The Clubmen with white "cokeade" in their hats numbering according to accounts from Fairfax's parliamentary report 2500, (some accounts put the number at 4000).
With horse drum and banner and armed with flintlock, scythe and pitchfork. The rendezvous at Hambledon Hill was set..
4th August 1645 Lieutenant General Cromwell having been given intelligence of Clubmen rendezvous in the county of Dorset, set forth to engage. With a party of 1000 Dragoons from Sherborne heading towards the town of Shaftesbury and passing through Sutton Waldron, his first encounter came at Duncliffe Hill a heavily wooded area near the town. Seeing colours (flags) flying from the top of the hill Cromwell sent a Lieutenant with a small party to see the meaning of the flying colours and to "aquaint the holders of, that the Lieutenant General of the army stood at the bottom of the hill." Upon hearing this and knowing Cromwell in person was at the bottom of the hill a Mr Richard Newman descended to meet with and questioned Cromwell on why the Gentlemen (leaders of the Clubmen) had been taken in Shaftesbury the previous Saturday. Cromwell replied "that they had been taken under General Fairfax's authority and are to be tried judicially for raising a third party in the Kingdom. Fairfax did not want to see their places plundered and they could defend any violence coming upon them. They should also bring any grievance against them to the New Model Army where upon the culprits would be punished."
He followed in his reply to Richard Newman
"The Clubmen leaders taken in Shaftesbury (list below) if found guilty would face charges to that nature, if innocent would be freed by Fairfax himself."
Cromwell with a small party went with Mr Newman to meet with the Clubmen gathered at the top of the hill where upon they agreed to Cromwell's assurances and returned to their homes.
Which seems rather surprising, maybe they knew what mass of body of Clubmen were gathering at Hambledon Hill.
On Hambledon Hill a large-iron age earth Fort a gathering of 2-4000 Clubmen were preparing to march upon Sherborne to free as mentioned before by Newman and the account at Duncliffe, the leaders captured in Shaftesbury under General Fairfax's authority.
Being led by Reverend Thomas Bravell from Compton Abbas this body of men were to change tact and take up a defensive position on the hill after hearing Cromwell was heading their way.
On arriving Lieutenant General Cromwell and his dragoons were met by a man at the foot of the hill holding a musket. When asked what he was doing he said he was joining the Clubmen. After being told to lay down his weapon he cocked his musket and aimed at them. Forced to the ground his weapon was taken while he was left unharmed.
Cromwell saw the hill fort was well defended due to the earth ridge fortifications, with a narrow channel where only his dragoons could enter just three abreast.
Sending a Lieutenant and 50 dragoons to ask someone from the Clubmen entrenched on the hill to negotiate, this request was met by being fired upon.
Cromwell had by now a Clubmen by the name of Mr Lee who was going back and forth, and in two attempts passed the message that if they disbanded no harm would come upon them. After being fired on again Cromwell sent Captain Lieutenant Gladman's troop to approach them, where they were fired on yet again. Two dragoons were shot and killed, four horses and up to 9 troops wounded.
Thereafter followed Major Desbourogh with his dragoons, where on finding or maybe being told of a rear entrance to the hill fort, charged at the Clubmen from behind. Reverend Thomas Bravell could be heard above the chaos shouting, "they must stand to it now, and that rather then lose their armies, he would pistol them that gave back" The battle went on for several hours not the so called one hour as in the parliamentarian report but the balance was always in Cromwell's more disciplined troops favour. Finally with the resistance over, Cromwell's dragoons defeated this stand by the Clubmen. Taken were 12 Clubmens colours, the loss of life is recorded as Cromwell had lost 3 men one an officer and 12 wounded with the Clubmen a loss of 12 men, some reports say 60, many injured some fleeing and with the prisoners put into St Mary's Church in the local village of Shroton overnight now being used as a goal.
A later account by Joshua Sprigge in "England's Recovery for the Public Good" 1647 gives an interesting account of the aftermath of the battle regarding parliamentarian prisoners.
"Captain Pattison was sore hurt on our side, of which afterwards he died, and about 12 more. We found among them 16 of our men whom they had disarmed and taken prisoner, and threatened to hang some of them, but the tables were turned. We quartered that night in Shawton, and kept the Clubmen in the church., and with them four vicars and curats, which were taken with them upon the hill, whereof, Mr Talbot of Milton and Mr Lawford of Aukford".
Cromwell with the prisoners gathered in St Mary's Church the day after the battle, spoke from the pulpit, with warning on the consequences of opposing the New Model Army.
The Clubmen were to have the liberty to defend themselves against plundering, but were to refrain in the future from stopping any soldier going about their business, and meetings such as had the day before would not be countenanced. Any man who was on the list just made deserved to be hanged if he should be taken again opposing parliament.
Fairfax letter concerning the siege of Sherborne Castle and the capture of The Clubmen leaders in Shaftesbury. Courtesy of Dorset History Centre .
Video of Duncliffe, Hambledon Hill
Protestant Mercury Report, Clubmen Dorset and their meeting with Lewis Dives