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  • Haydn Wheeler

Monmouth Led the Clubmen, Wearing the White Apron.

Updated: Jul 3, 2020

Sheila Wiggins above holding the flag and motto of the Clubmen in Bridgewater.

The Clubmen were in name again at the time of the Monmouth Rebellion. The Somerset Clubmen who had gathered on the borders of the Poldens in 1645 were again in name in 1685. On the march into Bridgewater on July 3rd 1685 Lord Grey led the army and The Earl of Monmouth led the Clubmen, he did this as a "mark of a particular favour." ( Clubmen wearing white apron) were reported.

Meetings of Clubmen were being held at the place of Polden Hill. A Quaker attending these meetings rode out from these meeting to inform the Duke that the country was rising in large numbers.

On hearing this Monmouth wrote a commission as requested by the Quaker. Declining giving the Quaker a commission in his army, Monmouth gave a commission of permission on Wednesday June 24th, for the Clubmen gathered on Polden Hill to act in his favour. The Clubmen from here then proceeded to Shepton Mallet and as stated, then on into Bridgewater.

An account of Monmouth's rebellion is given in a Letter which is preserved in the British Museum, from a clergyman named Paschal, who lived at Chelsey, and mentions the said commission.

“The Duke of Monmouth's Commission, procured by the Quaker, and published at the meeting of the Club men, on Pealden Hill, (Polden) Wednesday, June 24, 1685. “James R.

“Whereas we are given to understand that our faithful and loyal subjects, in and about Brent Down and Uphill, and other places adjacent in our county of Somerset, have taken arms, and in defence of our person and of the righteous cause we are engaged in, we could not but in a particular manner take notice of their affection and commend their zeal, which they have given such early marks of against popery and tyranny. And therefore we do hereby justify and allow whatsoever they have already join our behalf. And further we do authorize them or any of them, and by these presents give them our royal warrant and commission to arm themselves in the best manner they can, and to disarm, seize, take, prosecute, and kill, and with force and arms subdue all manner of person and persons, that shall appear in arms for James duke of York, the usurper, or that shall act by any authority, derived, or pretended to be derived from him. And persons whatsoever, whether French or Irish, papists or others, that shall land upon the coast, and in a more particular manner to prosecute, subdue, and kill Christopher duke of Albemarle, and his adherents, whom we have already declared rebels and traitors. And we do hereby likewise authorize, and require all our loving subjects, in all other parts and places upon the coast in the said county of Somerset and Devon toward the said coast, which will otherwise be speedily invaded by French and Irish papists, sent for over, and called in to that purpose, which will be to the utter ruin and devastation of our kingdom, and all our loving subjects.

Dated at our camp at Glastonbury, the 23rd of June, 1685, the first year of our reign.

A Complete Collection of State Trials and Proceedings for High Treason and Other Crimes and Misdemeanor 1783

Postcard by W H D Tiley of Wimborne. Part of the wall decorations of the "Old Time Dorset Exhibition" at Wimborne.

The name of this Quaker is unknown. The Reverend Thomas Axe states in his account of the Monmouth Rising as his name being Thomas Pheere. But certainly the name of the Clubmen leader and as such the Quaker was Thomas Plaice, a serge maker from Edington.

Plaice was disowned by the the Society of Friends meeting at Merston in September 1685 for his activities in the rising.

"on the behalf of the people called Quakers" "The said Tho Plaice was very active and conversant in the late Duke of Monmouth's Army ( as we are credibly informed although not in arms) Testify and declare that we utterly disown the aforesaid practices of the said Tho Plaice"

Their is also a letter from the Friends at Ilchester to Friends in London which links Plaice with the Clubmen.

Plaice was arrested in London and sent to Wells in the Assize for his part in the rebellion and was due to be hanged but King James sent a stay of execution this followed a pardon.

The numbers alas the Duke was hoping for came to a mere 160 in full for The Clubmen, not the 10.000 he was hoping for. Although this has to be viewed with the precise term Clubmen being used for those that gathered on Poldon Hill. .

Records state that about 11% of The Dukes 3,500-4000 army were farmers, clothiers and common folk as such.

An excerpt follows from the fiction story on Monmouth's Rebellion Martin Hyde, the Duke's Messenger, by John Masefield (1878 1967) British poet, and writer.

"Then I remembered what the old soldier had said the night before about club men. This camp must be a camp of club men, I thought. They had come there to protect their stock from the rapine of our vile pillagers, who had spread such terror among the farmers the day before.

W H D Tilley, Wimborne

The Clubmen were again here in rising, and the revived Clubmen in name from the 1645 risings was again much in thought and in practice .

With the arrival of Judge Jefferys ( the hanging judge ) the fate of the Clubmen who took part in the Monmouth Rebellion again felt a cruelty put upon them.

W H D Tilley Wimborne


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