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  • Haydn Wheeler.

Cromwell Meets With Clubmen at Duncliffe Hill 1645 “a place full of wood and almost inaccessible”,

Clubmen come face to face with Cromwell's New Model Army: Duncliffe Wood.

During the English Revolution (Civil War) the Clubmen of Dorset and Wiltshire had many rendezvouses in these counties. Large bodies of people would gather, in places like ancient woodland and hillforts to air their grievances (plundering was rife by both Royalists and Parliamentarians) arising from a war "most horrid and unnatural." Calling for the two warring parties to cease this war and for peace and order to be restored, petitions and declarations were written, such as the Desires and Resolutions deceleration which was read aloud at Badbury Rings by a Thomas Young to a gathering of 4000 people in May 1645. When the parliamentarian New Model Army arrived in Dorset the story of the Clubmen entered into a new dynamic.

On the 4th August 1645 Lieutenant General Cromwell having been given intelligence of a 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 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 inform the holders of, that the Lieutenant General of the army stood at the bottom of the hill.

Upon hearing that and knowing Cromwell in person was at the bottom of the hill a Mr Richard Newman descended to meet with and question Cromwell as to why the Gentlemen < leaders of the Clubmen> had been taken (arrested) in Shaftesbury the previous Saturday. Cromwell replied that they had been taken on General Fairfax's authority and were to be tried judicially for raising a third party (a body of people, not Parliamentarian or Royalist) 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 whereupon the culprits would be punished. The Clubmen leaders taken in Shaftesbury if found guilty would face charges to that nature, if innocent would be freed by Fairfax himself.

Cromwell himself somewhat surprisingly with a small party went with Mr Newman to meet with the Clubmen gathered at the top of the hill (some climb!) whereupon they agreed to Cromwell's assurances and returned to their homes, which seems rather surprising, Maybe they knew that a mass of body of Clubmen were gathering at nearby Hambledon Hill to confront Cromwell's dragoons.

Richard Newman ( the man who spoke to Cromwell at Duncliffe Wood) and his part in the Clubmen risings in Dorset, was later on 25 November 1648 giving a pardon. The pardon was issued under The Great Seal Of Charles I and issued at Westminster by the order of Parliament. It states,"To Richard Newman of Fifehead Magdalen, for his part in the late rebellion."

Letter from Cromwell on his encounter with Richard Newman next to The Great Seal of Charles I. Seal attached to pardon that was granted to Mr Newman in 1648.

A tree dedication project by the Woodland Trust has as one of its designated sites Duncliffe Wood. In October 2017 ( 800th anniversary of the Tree Charter) a tree was dedicated with a thought to the Clubmen in mind who met there in 1645. Among the wooded area in the generality and mix of trees, a nod to the Clubmen was seen most fitting.

Duncliffe Woods with its ancient coppiced small-leafed Limes, witnessed a part of our history and a body of people in the English Civil war, who tried to bring two warring parties to peace in what was spoken of as a "world turned upside down."

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