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  • Writer's pictureHaydn Wheeler

Unpaid rents and plundering

With the argument between King and Parliament, civil war had in 1642 caused the beginnings of a burden upon county, town, village alike.

Plunder and cruel oppression's had been put upon the towns and counties. The paying of soldiers garrisoned in towns and villages, with the added loss of cattle, horse, food and ones own provision had destroyed any structure of civil normality. Counties such as those in the south west had also to deal with the passing through of troops from both sides. Each side needing supply and quarter.

Examples of this are recorded in witness and papers printed of the time. Although having to be seen through the eyes of interests who best suit these reports, they reflect the horrors put upon those having to cater for soldiers put upon them.

Highworth in Wiltshire was quartered by Royalist troops through the first civil war and suffered as a result of. Traders coming to market in 1643 with cattle found difficulty to trade, which then had a diverse effect on the local economy. Not only were the townspeople having to deal with quartered troops and loss of trade, they were also under pressure to take in the sick and wounded from the siege of Cirencester.

A permanent garrison of 200 Royalist troops was appointed on the 10th January 1645 under the command of Major Henry Henne . This was to be gone by the 27th June 1645 when the garrison was attacked by Parliamentarian troops under the command of Fairfax. The result of this was now a Parliamentarian presence in the town to 1646 when after it was disbanded. This constant presence of troops led to traders going to market in the easier to access markets as in nearby Swindon. The town was also hit by an outbreak of the plaque in 1646. A series of events of which the town after took several years to recover from.

A look at the Western Campaign now being undertook by Faifax which involved the said attack of Highworth of June 1645 involved the practice of impressing of new recruits (forced into the army). Fairfax had lost troops after the Battle of Nasby. In a letter to Parliament, he describes on the 26th June 1645 "some stragglers being gone from him to carry their rich plunder home", and the continued approval to impress men into his army is approved by the house.

Letter from Fairfax datedd 26th June 1645

Report on the taken of Highworth on the 27th June 1645 by Fairfax troops.

A earlier report from the The Parliament Scout 16th January 1645 has an early account of Kilsby, and tells the plunder by Royalist troops of Kilsby and surrounding parts.

A later report from Perfect Occurrences 23rd Jan 1645

"These troops were most inhuman, drove away 60 cattle, 200 sheep and plundered the townsman to their shirts, for they left them nothing that was good".

Kilsby had in the early days of the civil war met troops with resistance in the manner of recruitment. On the 9 August 1642 Captain John Smith Royalist and a troop of horse went to the village of Kilsby in Northamptonshire.

They were met by a crowd armed with muskets and pitchforks who showed them short shrift.

The petition made on October 24th 1645 by Sir William Ford, (father of Edward, who he knew would find favour after the fall of Winchester and Arundel) throws light on the sufferings of the inhabitants of West Sussex during the English Civil War

Two years since he was forced to go into the King's Quarters, his land being sequestered, his house spoiled, and his personal estate taken from him And being at Winchester when Sir Ralph Hopton marched into Sussex with his Army, your petitioner went along with him to see if he could get any rent of his Tenants, but none of them paid him any money, yet he procured as many as spoke unto him protections, and at the return of the Army (Hopton's retreat from Arundel) the Soldiers wanting bread were appointed to fetch the same from the countrymen's houses, but they fearing to be plundered of their goods under colour of fetching bread, divers of the country came to your petitioner and entreated him to be a means that they might send some Bread, and not to have the Soldiers to fetch it, and according to their desire he sent a note to have done so (for their good), and he had not any of his Tenants taken prisoners, nor any of their cattle taken away for his rent behind, as he might have had. And your petitioner being at Winchester when Lieutenant General Cromwell lately took the same Town and the Castle there, his pass was made for him to go to Oxford, but he desired to have a pass to go to London, and he nobly granted him a free pass, not forcing him to go into the King's Quarters."

As can be read this shows what was inflicted on the people of the County during the wars. Soldiers as masters, unpaid rents and plundering.

Sussex in the great Civil War and the interregnum, 1642-1660 reads

"A graphic picture of the sufferings of all classes in the fatal winter of 1643 The country far and wide ransacked for bread, rents unpaid, two sets of hungry soldiers in turn masters, Church, cottage, mansion, and park alike pillaged, the squires in gaol, the parson and the farmers fined"

The Clubmen declarations and petitions of 1645 reflect the sufferings being but upon the Counties and a course of actions to put an end to.

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