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  • Haydn Wheeler

"Alienated those whose hearts were best affected to the Kings service"

It "Alienated those whose hearts were best affected to the Kings service". The Earl Clarendon wrote in his memoirs when referring to plundering by troops quartered .

The inhabitants of towns, villages and parishes affected by troops through the English Revolution can be seen with the plight imposed on them by Royalist troops in South Brent ( Brent Knoll) in March 1645.

Brent Knoll in Somerset, known as South Brent in 1645.

Colonel Ayscough rode into South Brent with a troop of 60 horse.

With the troops in search of quarter the inhabitants of South Brent in Somerset were exposed to 11 days of plunder, pillage and abuse upon themselves.

Accounts of atrocities committed included a Mr Phillips, servant to Henry Simons who 3 Royalist troops, Francis Swift, Richard Huchings John Parsons were quartered with.

When John Grabhams oxe was taken by 3 Royalist soldiers and placed with a Henry Simons ( who they were quartered with) servant Phillips the oxe was later retrieved in the night again by Grabhams. On seeing the oxe was missing Philips was given a beating by the soldiers and Henry Simons wife was threatened that a sword would be run through her ,unless she returned with a rope to hang her man. On managing to raise 20 shillings, (a months wage for an infantrymen) on her return, the soldiers anger was quelled and her man released.

The atrocities continued through the villages of South Brent and surrounding villages.

A farm labourer was killed while on his travels on the highway and a William Lush's house was wrecked and his wife threatened to be killed if he interfered with them in the taking of his goods.

A John Gillingham a butcher was robbed of his purse and money and the house of Maude Blake was broke up and there followed the theft of her broad cloth and linen.

The grievances given in the deportation by the inhabitants of South Brent to Royalist Lord Hopton continue in the same vein. Threats to have their homes burnt to the ground and theft of their goods.

Things came to an abrupt halt on the 4th April.

With a taste for justice to be done and a show of force, the inhabitants of South Brent rose up. Led by a Captain John Somerset ( who was said to hold a limited commission from the Governor of Bridgewater) and a Thomas Gilling, armed themselves with pikes, musket and staves.

The uprising itself ended with no loss of life and the two leaders Somerset and Gillingham were arrested. Upon a petition giving to Lord Hopton who was in control of the North of the county Somerset the two prisoners were released.

Things went from bad to worse after the uprising with new troops sent to the area, where upon, more plunder and pillage took place.

St Michael's church, Brent Knoll .John Somerset. Copyright Mike Searle ,licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

In summing up the plight of the people of South Brent Henry Symonds in the the Somerset Archaeology, History Society 1919 report wrote

"Indeed, the damage brought upon would not have been greater if Cavalier and Roundhead had done pitch battle in that neighborhood"

The inhabitants of South Brent and their deputation give us a snapshot of ills thrown onto the people by quartered troops through the English Revolution, and give us an insight on why the Clubmen of 1645 had resolve to get order out of chaos.

Source. Somerset Archaeology, Natural History Society 1919

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