What links Sir John Danvers his estate in Lavington, a Mr Merryweather with his pan and pestle and the signing of Charles 1st death warrant in 1649. Throw into that equation some Italian gardening and the Clubmen of 1645 and you have a tale, I suggest.
With the Royalist garrison in Devizes under the command of Governor Sir Charles Lloyd in December 1644 a need to refortify the castle was in need. Massey the Parliamentarian commander had demolished parts of the castle when previously garrisoned in town. Devizes was occupied by both Royalist and Parliament alike throughout the English Revolution. Sir Charles was a dab hand on the engineering front and had succeeded in strengthening the fortification.
John Rushwoth, lawyer and historian wrote later of Sir Charles when discribing of the arrival of Cromwell in Devizes'
Historical Collections of Private Passages of State 1645-1648
"During which time Cromwell ſat down before the Caſtle of the Devizes, which commanded the County of Wilts, and was ſituate in the Road of Traffick between the Weſt and London ; a place of great Strength, having been an old Fortification, raiſed on a huge Mount of Earth ; the Governour Sir Charles Lloyd, a ſtout Gentle man, and a good Engineer, had added to the Strength of its natu ral Situation what Art could do ; having cut out of the main Earth ſeveral Works commanding one another, and ſo ſtrong that no Can non could pierce them; beſides that, being Pallizado'd and Stocka do’d in moſt places, it was a matter of extream difficulty to Storm it"
The financing and need of resources to furnish this fortification had an ugly outcome for the people of Devizes and surrounding towns and villages . A letter describing the burning of Sir Edward Baynton's house tells of such horrors put upon the people of Wiltshire.
Blakemore Forest in the parish of Melksham 9th of June 1645.
"Loving Cousin:—My best respects remembered. Having gotten a fit opportunity in these miserable distracted times, by my son, to write to you, I have thought fit to give you a touch of the miserable sad condition of our poor county of Wilts; being almost all over distressed with continual vexation of plundering by soldiers of the King's forces. I can hardly enough express our sad condition. We live in Blakemore-forest and about the Devizes, in which town the castle is made a garrison, commanded by Colonel Lloyd for the King. His soldiers rove about our county, where our misery is such that we are forced to pay them moneys to eat up our provision of victuals, oats, hay, and such like. For we must allow every common soldier sixpence by the day, besides diet; twelvepence per sergeant; eighteenpence the lieutenants and captains. And to add further misery to our country, the said Colonel Lloyd with a party of horse and foot came from the Devizes some ten days since to Bromham two little miles from thence, when they utterly destroyed by fire one of the famousest buildings in these western parts, Sir Edward Baynton's house, a member of the Parliament; it being a stately fabrio of stone, with great store of very rich furniture. Nothing now is left standing but walls and chimneys. I suppose fifty or threescore thousand pounds cannot repair the loss : it is a great grief to our neighbours. When these troubles of quartering, billeting, and plundering will cease, I know not So with the prayers of myself and mine for you all, desiring the like from you, I
take my leave: And rest, your loving kinsman till death, "E. K."
Source "A history, military and municipal of the ancient borough of the Devizes"
Newspaper Archive. 9th June 1645.
Devizes Pan and Pestle.
What has this to do with a link involving a pestle and pan, the beheading of a King, Italian gardening and the Clubmen. Well this involves an episode of intentions of plunder by a Royalist party. With as mentioned the need to furnish this garrison and castle, Governor Lloyd had sent out this Royalist party to the village of Lavington. Keen to get their hands on goods and resources for the garrisoned castle they went to enter the dwellings of a Mr Merryweather.
Sir John Danvers
Now Mr Merryweather did happen to be a tenant of Sir John Danvers a man who had with his second marriage come into possession of the estate of Lavington. Sir John Danvers was a gentlemen with a taste for the Italian style of gardening. After travelling extensively through France and Italy he had laid out his garden at his house in Chelsea in an Italian way.
' 'Twas Sir John Danvers of Chelsey,' John Aubrey writes,' who first taught us the way of Italian gardens.'
Not only did he lay out his garden in Chelsea in an Italian way but also his estate in Lavington, which brings us back to Mr Merryweather's plight .
With the Royalist at the door, Mr Merryweather took flight in haste to the top of the house to send warning to the surrounding towns and villages. In hand as he reached the top of the house he held a pestle and pan. With this he beat the pan with the pestle causing much alarm to a great many in the village. On hearing this the villagers took to ring the market bell. With now the market bell ringing other towns and villages in the area took to ringing there church and market bells, which caused a summoning of a great number of Clubmen to gather in a defense of one another and against an action of plunder being put upon Mr Merryweather. With a thousand Clubmen now gathered they took it upon themselves to head into Devizes. On arrival they put to Governor Lloyd they would tolerate no plunder by any, Parliament or Royalist alike. An added note to their dissatisfaction is a description of a hanging by Fairfax of a soldier for plunder not more then 8 miles from Devizes. A threat of sorts or a touch of propaganda by the writer of the parliamentarian news letter account. Whatever way, it serves a purpose in the Clubmen's favour. For it sends the message Fairfax is a man you can trust against plunder and also a threat in the form of, if you do not do the same we will choose a side.
Now where dose this involve a headless King. Well Sir John Danvers and his estate where Mr Merryweather enjoyed his Italian garden, later signed the death warrant for Charles 1st. Yep, not really a direct cause and effect, but makes for a good tale. Later in the Memorials of the Danvers a pestle and mortar is mentioned in the estates belongings, it could be.
Is Mr Merryweather really part of the Merewether’s family later of Bulkington manor, Another story..