War Widows Past and Present: The Civil War Petitions and War Widows’ Stories Projects
As we approach Remembrance Day, our blog considers the plight of all war widows, both past and present. How do the stories of our widows from the Civil Wars speak to those widowed by conflict today? Civil War Petitions was deeply honoured to join War Widows' Stories for a discussion at a public engagement event organised by Dr Nadine Muller. Click on the video below to find out more (video will open in YouTube)... These video clips are taken from an event held at ‘The Firing Line Museum’ of the Welsh Soldier at Cardiff Castle on 8 June 2018. The discussion was organised by Dr Nadine Muller of Liverpool John Moores University as part of her ‘War Widows’ Stories’ project. The project, which is funded by the AHRC works with a number of bodies including The War Widows’ Association of Great Britain to capture the lives of ‘war’s forgotten women past and present’. This discussion brought together past and present the persons of Lloyd Bowen, who is Co-Investigator on the Civil War Petitions project, as well as two widows of servicemen, Mary Moreland and Moira Kane. The discussion considered the many aspects of widowhood and the ways in which widows’ stories are often omitted or neglected in accounts of wars past and present. Part of the originality of the Civil War Petitions project is that it seeks to recover widows and their stories from such a long time ago. Although, of course, there were marked differences in the discussion of women’s experiences separated by hundreds of years, nonetheless there were some arresting similarities. Dr Bowen talked about the experience of war widows of the Civil Wars not knowing whether their husbands had perished. One of the contributors noted that she too had experienced something of the uncertainty of the battlefield, having been informed incorrectly on two occasions that her husband had died. The discussion also found similarities across time in widows’ difficulties dealing with the state and negotiating the complex bureaucracies of pensions and entitlements.
Charity in the City: Funding the Relief of Maimed Soldiers in Post-Restoration Bristol
Bristol was one of the largest cities in seventeenth-century England and was hotly contested over during the Civil Wars. Unfortunately, there are no surviving petitions and certificates, or details of payments made to maimed soldiers and war widows, from Bristol itself. Therefore there will be no data relating to the city on Civil War Petitions. However, what does survive is a large amount of data relating to how money was collected from Restoration Bristolians to fund the pensions and gratuities of soldiers and widows. As Mark Stoyle explains, this data provides an intriguing insight into how the county pension scheme operated in provincial cities... When we think of the maimed soldiers and war-widows of post-Civil War England and Wales, we tend to visualise them within a rural context: as residents of country parishes and small market towns. Yet it is important to remember, that although the great majority of the wounded and bereaved people who sought financial support from the authorities in the wake of the conflict did indeed live in the countryside - as, of course, the great majority of the general population did at this time - a small, but by no means negligible, proportion of the supplicants were city-dwellers. London - which was then, as now, by far the most populous community in the kingdom - would have accounted for the greatest number of urban maimed soldiers and war-widows, but many must also have lived in the great provincial cities of England: York, Chester, Bristol, Norwich and Exeter. Research carried out for the ‘Conflict, Welfare and Memory’ project is gradually beginning to uncover more information about the financial provision which was made in regional urban centres for individuals who had been hurt and bereaved during the civil conflict of the 1640s - and the records of the city of Bristol contain some especially illuminating information on this subject. Bristol was the second city of the kingdom in the seventeenth century, and, as one might expect, it was bitterly contested during the Civil War. Initially held for Parliament, the city was stormed and taken by Royalist forces in July 1643, with the king’s troops suffering terrible casualties during the assault. Bristol remained firmly in Charles I’s hands throughout the next two years, and served as the king’s chief military entrepot in the West, but, as the tide of war turned against the Royalists in 1645, so their grip on the countryside around the city began to weaken. In September that year, Parliament’s New Model Army first laid siege to Bristol and then, a few days later, stormed the city in their turn, slaughtering scores, perhaps hundreds, of the defenders in the process. Some Bristol men would have been killed or wounded during the two great assaults upon the city, while more would have suffered a similar fate while they were serving in the rival armies: whether because they had marched into the field of their own volition or because they had been impressed to fight against their wills. In the immediate aftermath of the war, moreover, it seems likely that appreciable numbers of wounded ex-soldiers would have gravitated to Bristol from elsewhere in the hope of finding work or charity in the city - even though such in-migration of ‘indigent persons’ was vigorously discouraged by the local governors. All in all, it is hard to doubt that men who had been hurt during the fighting of the 1640s would have been a familiar sight on the streets of post-Civil War Bristol. Because Bristol - like several of England’s other great provincial cities - was a county of itself, it possessed its own justices of the peace (or local magistrates), and its own quarter sessions court, and it is Bristol’s privileged county status which allows us to glimpse the measures which were taken to relieve wounded Royalist veterans in this particular urban community during the 1660s. In May 1661, the Parliament which had been summoned following the restoration of Charles II to the throne the year before - the so-called ‘Cavalier Parliament’ - met at Westminster and MPs subsequently passed the famous ‘Act for the relief of poor and maimed officers and soldiers who have faithfully served his Majesty and his Royal father in the late wars’. This was the act which made provision for wounded Royalist veterans - and for the wives and orphans of those who had been slain while fighting for Charles I - to receive regular financial support from their neighbours. Under the terms of the act, each parish in the kingdom was to be charged at the same weekly rate for this purpose as it had been under a previous, similar statute - passed for the relief of men who had been hurt in the wars of Elizabeth I - while the JPs of each county were to determine whether further sums of money ‘over and besides the same’ should be ‘adjudged meet to be assessed upon every parish’. The Bristol JPs soon set to work, and, at the meeting of the sessions court which took place in August 1662, new rates were laid down for each of the parishes within the county of the city of Bristol. First, the clerk of the court set out ‘the antient rate of the severall parishes within this Citty according to the Statute of 43 Elizabeth’. This rate had laid down that Bristol’s seventeen parishes would pay total sums ranging from 17s 4d per year to 8s 8d per year for the relief of local maimed soldiers. (The wealthiest parishes were those whose inhabitant had been rated at the highest sums, while the least wealthy parishes were those whose inhabitants had been rated at the lowest.) The total sums derived from this ‘ancient rate’, the clerk calculated, had been 3s 9d per week, or £9 15s per year. Now, he went on to record, ‘the new rate for the same parishes’ - this time for the relief of wounded Royalist veterans - had been assessed across the board at three times the amount of the old one, with the wealthiest parishes being rated at £2 12s per year and the least wealthy ones at £1 6s. The new assessment would bring in a total sum of 11s 3d per week, or £29 5s per year, to assist Bristolians who had either been wounded while fighting in the former king’s cause, or who had lost husbands or fathers in his service. In a subsequent entry in the quarter sessions minute book, dated 13 January 1663, the clerk provided a little more information about the way that the sums raised under the new assessment were to be raised, noting that the JPs had ordered that ‘the churchwardens and petty constables’ of each parish ‘shall truly collect ever afterwards the said taxation … and pay the same over … quarterly within ten days before every Quarter Sessions to Captain John Hix, who is appointed Treasurer [for the maimed soldiers] by this court’. There is no further information in the minute book about Hix (or Hicks), but his title suggests that he may himself have served in Charles I’s army, and that that is why he had been chosen by the JPs to oversee the collection and distribution of the monies for the relief of ‘maimed [Royalist] officers and soldiers’. The clerk concluded by noting the JPs had instructed, first, that ‘this order be delivered from time to time from one churchwarden to another for the continual collection of the said taxation as aforesaid, without any further direction of this court’, and, second, that any officers who failed to gather the rate would suffer the penalties laid down in the original Elizabethan statute. Sadly, no lists of the Bristolians who benefited from these careful arrangements appear to have survived. We may guess that wounded ex-Royalist soldiers who lived in the city and county of Bristol petitioned the justices for pensions - just as they did in other counties across the kingdom - and that those whose petitions were approved were then recommended to Hix for payment. What is clear is that Hix himself did not long remain in office, for in October 1663 the clerk recorded that ‘the court hath this day appointed Mr Thomas Prigg to be Treasurer of all such … sums of money as shall be rated … within … this city towards the relief of … maimed soldiers’. A year later, Prigg himself was replaced by another (ex?) military man, named in the minute book only as ‘Captain Smart’. On 4 October 1664, the clerk noted that ‘Captain Smart is this day chosen Treasurer of the moneys for maimed soldiers in the room of Mr Prigg and the churchwardens of the several parishes are to take notice thereof accordingly’. Smarte’s tenure was to prove lengthier than that of his predecessors. In 1668, he was asked by the justices to continue as ‘Treasurer for the maimed soldiers and indigent officers … for this year ensuing’, and he was similarly entreated two years later. Our final glimpse of Smart comes on 21 August 1671. On this day, the JPs ordered that the Chamberlain of Bristol should pay the sum of £25 5s which he had recently received from ‘George Wilkins the collector’ - was this as much as Wilkins had managed to gather from the £29 5s per year which was formally due from the city parishes? - to Smart, while Smart himself was ‘desired to issue out the same to the widows and maimed soldiers’. These last words make it clear that, as late as 1671, the widows of former Royalist soldiers, as well as wounded Royalist soldiers themselves, were continuing to be supported by their neighbours in the city. Sadly, no further references to maimed soldiers - or to the financial provision which was made for supporting them - appear in the Bristol quarter sessions minute books for 1672-1705, so we will have to turn to other sources as we seek to cast new light on the neglected subject of how those who had suffered wounding and loss during the Civil Wars subsequently made shift to get by in England’s largest urban communities.
A Female Combatant: Jane Merricke of Hereford
In the materials at the heart of the ‘War, Conflict and Memory’ project, women appear almost exclusively as widows petitioning for relief after their husbands’ death in service. They can seem passive figures, using the language of need and extremity to make a case for welfare payments. Although this impression is misleading (many female petitioners were vigorous and independent advocates for themselves and their children), it is nonetheless a product of the conventions governing the transaction of petitioning authority in the seventeenth century. It is striking, then, to encounter a female petitioner who was not requesting relief because of her husbands’ demise, but rather on account of her own war service. Lloyd Bowen introduces us to Jane Merricke of Hereford... Although women did not have a formal role in the Civil War armies, recent research, including that of project member Professor Mark Stoyle, has highlighted the role of female camp followers as well as women who dressed as men and served in royalist and parliamentarian forces. Moreover, there are several high profile cases of women participating in military encounters during the Civil Wars, perhaps the most famous being Brilliana Harley’s defence of Brampton Bryan in Herefordshire during the royalist siege. She was praised by one of her captains for her ‘masculine bravery’ in the face of the enemy. Most evidence of women in military contexts concerns high status figures like Harley who were left to defend the homestead while their husbands served elsewhere. This makes Jane Merricke’s petition all the more interesting as it shows participation in a Civil War siege by an obscure and relatively low status woman. Perhaps even more striking is the fact that Jane describes herself as the wife of Henry Merricke; there is no indication that he has died at the time the petition was composed and one would expect her to be described as ‘widow’ if this were the case. It seems that Jane was not content to be a demur wife who left engagement with the local authorities to the putative head of the household. Rather she devised her petition on her own initiative and with her own agenda. Jane Merricke’s petition was addressed to the mayor and justices of the city of Hereford. This was a wholly separate jurisdiction to the county of Herefordshire and made its own provision for poor relief. Merricke’s petition was presented to the authorities after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 and detailed her service in his father’s cause during the siege of the city which lasted from 29 July until 2 September 1645. Hereford was a key target in the west of England and had changed hands several times from the beginning of the war, although the strain of royalism was always strong there. As King Charles’s fortunes waned in mid-1645, the Scottish Covenanters under Lord Leven, who were fighting alongside the English parliamentarians, surrounded the city. The town’s royalist governor, Sir Barnabas Scudamore, later praised the city’s ‘officers, gentry, clergy, citizens and common souldiers’ who ‘behaved themselves all gallantly upon their duty, many eminently’, adding ‘to particularize each would be too great a trespasse’. But we can particularize at least one of these loyal defenders. In her petition Jane Merricke described how, ‘when the Scotts beleaguered’ the city she had been ‘sorely wounded in severall parts of her bodie & limbs’. She was injured while ‘casting up worke for the defence of the … Cittie, which is not unknown to the whole Cittie’. It was clearly all hands to the pump as the royalists of Hereford scrambled to shore up their position against an impressive Scottish army. Female military support was not that unusual in the siege of a major urban centre, however. When the nearby city of Worcester was besieged in 1643, for example, it was reported that ‘the ordinary sort of women, out of every ward of the city, joined in companies, and with spades, shovels and mattocks’ went ‘in a warlike manner like soldiers’ to destroy parliament’s offensive works. Similarly, one diarist wrote of Chester women during its siege being ‘all on fire, striving through a gallant emulation to outdo our men and will make good our yielding walls or lose their lives’. Merricke is unusual, however, in that, unlike these reports where ‘women’ are referred to generically, we can identify her and differentiate her experience. Merricke’s petition had a colourful and compelling narrative underwriting her request for money. She maintained that when Charles I came to the city after its relief in September 1645, Merricke was brought before him at the marketplace. The king, ‘comiseratinge her sad mishap ... out of his gracious favour then promised [her] … that shee should be cared for’. This paints a remarkable scene. It suggests that Merricke’s fortitude and bravery were particularly noteworthy and that she had been brought before the king as an example of Hereford’s resolute royalism. Perhaps this was why she noted that the ‘whole cittie & the inhabitants thereof’ knew of her actions. Charles’s gratefulness and generosity towards the city was particularly marked at this point as the royalists were struggling elsewhere in the country. On 4 September the king granted an augmentation to the city’s arms praising effusively the Herefordians’ ‘loyalltie, courage and undaunted resolution’ during the siege as they, ‘joineing with the garrison and doing the duty of souldiers then defended themselves and repell’d their fury and assaults’. Merricke seemed emblematic of such commitment and loyalty and, given the king’s buoyant mood, he may have promised Merricke she would be looked after. However, we must also remember that Merricke was making this claim over a decade later in an effort to buttress a request for money. Her tableau of the poor woman and the monarch rather flies in the face of what we know about Charles’s tendency to distance himself from his subjects. He was something of an aloof monarch who did not mix readily with the people. While Merricke may not have invented the episode, might she have embellished and augmented the encounter for her own ends? It is impossible to be certain, but her petition nonetheless shows how relatively lowborn subjects could be skilled at composing petitions to tell compelling stories in the hope of obtaining a favourable outcome from the authorities. Raising the siege of Hereford was one of a diminishing number of military bright spots for the royalists in 1645. The city finally fell to parliamentarian forces under Colonel John Birch on 18 December that year and the parliamentarian tide swept that over Hereford engulfed the rest of England and Wales in the following months. There was little prospect of Jane Merricke receiving any recompense until the restoration of monarchy in 1660. Even then, however, she claimed to have petitioned the authorities several times without success. Undeterred, she wrote another entreaty requesting consideration of ‘her sad condicon & her poore estate’. Merricke asked for an annual pension from the city elders to look after her and her children. An endorsement on her petition which now resides among the corporation’s papers at the Herefordshire Archives and Records Centre merely recorded that she was given twenty shillings from the moneys the city administered as a charitable bequest from one Mr Wood. It seems almost certain that this was a one-off gratuity rather than the annual pension she had requested. It is likely Merricke would have been disappointed with this meagre sum; it was hardly a generous return on a king’s promise. Jane Merricke's determined pursuit of compensation means she is one of the few non-elite women involved in military service during the Civil Wars who can be identified by name. The reason others are not found in the archive of welfare petitions seems clear. The legislation which established both the parliamentarian and royalist compensatory systems envisaged a clear distinction between male combatants and female dependants. This was a rigorously patriarchal society and the systems of military welfare, particularly that of the royalist side, reflected this. Perhaps emboldened by a royal promise, Jane Merricke broke ranks to request her due as a female military veteran. She was, however, a singular case among the thousands of petitioners in post-Civil War England and Wales.
Sir Thomas Fairfax, the Leeds widow and the soldier of Otley
The cases of claimants to pensions and military welfare were often strengthened by certificates of their service signed by their officers to authenticate their claims. In his capacity as parliamentarian commander-in-chief, Sir Thomas Fairfax was called upon to write many such certificates and letters. Some of these were for the maimed soldiers and war widows of his native West Riding of Yorkshire, who had served in Parliament’s northern army under his father, Ferdinando, Lord Fairfax, from 1642 to 1644. On 12 February 1645, just six days before his private entry into London as the commanding general of Parliament’s New Model Army, Fairfax took time to write a letter to Parliament’s Committee for Petitions in support of Ellen Askwith. Ellen was the widow of John Askwith of Leeds, one of Fairfax’s very first Yorkshire officers, who, despite not being from a gentry family was known to Fairfax personally. Fairfax remembered that at the outbreak of war, John Askwith ‘did very good service in encouraging the people to yield their obedience and best assistance to the king and parliament’. He recalled how John was made scoutmaster at Bradford in 1642, and that ‘by his diligence and vigilancy the enemy’s designs were often discovered, and many times the enemies forced upon great disadvantage’. In May 1643, John Askwith was commissioned as a captain of horse, five months before Cromwell wrote about the ‘plain, russet coated captain’. Raising a troop ‘which he completely armed at his own proper cost’, must have crippled Askwith financially, for which Parliament now owed his widow £960. At the fall of Bradford on 2 July 1643, Ellen Askwith and Lady Anne Fairfax were both captured. Historians have commented on the courtesy and kindness the royalists showed to Lady Fairfax, but not on their treatment of Ellen Askwith. Sir Thomas’s letter related how the royalists ‘in hatred’ for Askwith ‘ruined his house, plundered his goods, wounded his wife at Bradford, and brought her and six children into a poor and desolate condition’. On top of all these losses, a further £633 remained due to Ellen Askwith for John’s arrears of pay at his death, which occurred on 23 July 1644, possibly from wounds that he received at Marston Moor, where his troop suffered terrible losses. Ellen was ordered to be paid £1,000 out of the composition fine charged upon the royalist, Thomas, Viscount Savile of Howley, but it remains unclear how far these debts were ever settled. Like hundreds of other parliamentarian widows, Ellen was forced into action to recoup what was owed her husband. She discovered to Parliament’s Committee for the Advance of Money the concealed estates of a supposed local royalist, Thomas Wood of Beeston, whose rents she was assigned to receive from Wood’s tenants. In 1655, her executrix, Anne Askwith, complained to the Committee that Wood’s tenants continued to with-hold these rents. How far Anne was reimbursed for her and her family's suffering in the parliamentary cause remains unknown. Despite his absence in southern England, Fairfax was named on the commission of the peace in all three of Yorkshire’s Ridings. In April 1648, he succeeded his father Ferdinando, 2nd Baron Fairfax, as Custos Rotulorum (Keeper of the Rolls and leading Justice of the Peace) for the West Riding. In July 1649, at which time Fairfax was sitting in the Rump Parliament’s Council of State, Fairfax signed a certificate for presentation at the Leeds quarter sessions on behalf of Anthony West, who had been ‘desperately wounded at the storming of Selby’, on 11 April 1644, ‘by being shot through the body with a brace of bullets’. Still carrying these wounds five years later, it is likely West was known to Fairfax personally because he was from Fairfax’s native parish of Otley. The Justices recognised that West’s wounds made him unfit for work, paying him a gratuity of 10s and recommending that the general sessions at Pontefract award him a pension for life. The following year a generous pension of £5 per year was ordered, and West was still receiving small gratuities from the justices as late as 1658. Fairfax may have personally identified with Anthony West because both men had personal experience of the pains that gunshot wounds inflicted. Fairfax had been shot through the shoulder at Helmsley Castle in 1644, and shot through the wrist at Selby in July 1643, perhaps even close to the very spot where West had been struck down nine months later. By the time he reached his fifties, Fairfax’s wounds increasingly confined him to the wheelchair now on display at the National Civil War Centre, Newark Museum (on loan courtesy of the kindness of his modern-day relative, Tom Fairfax). You can read more about Fairfax in Andrew Hopper, ‘Black Tom’: Sir Thomas Fairfax and the English Revolution (Manchester University Press, 2007), and in Andrew Hopper and Philip Major, eds, Englands Fortress: New Perspectives on Thomas, 3rd Lord Fairfax (Routledge, 2014).
Meet a Magistrate: Richard Hutton of Goldsborough Hall in context
In our first ever blog, we were introduced to a petitioner, one of the more colourful characters amongst our Civil War claimants. But what of the Justices of the Peace who were the primary targets of the majority of our petitions? Many of these too had led interesting lives, and their complex back-stories must have had a profound effect on the way in which they negotiated their way through their magisterial duties during the Civil War years - including administering the county pension scheme. To mark the release of the petitions from the West Riding of Yorkshire on to Civil War Petitions next week, we welcome Ronald Hutton to introduce us to the family of one Restoration JP who heard and endorsed petitions from maimed soldiers and war widows in that county... Richard Hutton’s endorsement of a petition from maimed old royalist soldiers, thirty years after the Civil War, brings home vividly to me how much the vicissitudes of political fortune could affect one gentry family, from the West Riding of Yorkshire, during the mid-seventeenth century. Richard was the third generation of eldest sons of that family to hold that name, and destiny had treated each in utterly different ways, even though they had all held to the same, moderate and constitutionally monarchist politics, throughout. The story is given a special poignancy by the fact that the family concerned happens to be my own. The first Richard was from a Cumberland family and made a great success as a lawyer in London, rising by the 1630s to be Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and a knight, and buying an estate in the West Riding on which he built the mansion of Goldsborough Hall. Unhappily for him, he happened to be in office when Charles 1 imposed Ship Money on the English and John Hampden challenged his right to do so. The king asked the twelve judges to pronounce on the case, and though five eventually found against the Crown, Sir Richard was the only one to say explicitly that the monarch had no right to tax his people in any way without parliamentary consent. He fell into royal disfavour as a result, and he died soon after. His son duly became the second Sir Richard, of Goldsborough, and saw his father vindicated when the Long Parliament abolished Ship Money as illegal. This Hutton, however, turned against the reformist party in the Parliament when he decided that it was going too far, and threatening the traditional order in Church and State which his father had defended against the Crown. As a result, when Civil War broke out in 1642 he joined the royalists, garrisoning Knaresborough Castle for the King, raising an infantry regiment for his northern army, and helping to defend Pontefract Castle when most of the North was lost. The castle was relieved in early 1645, and Sir Richard came out of it to join the King’s Northern Horse, fighting with it at Naseby and dying with it when most of it was destroyed at Sherburn near the end of the war. Our third Richard was therefore left the son of a royalist martyr and with an inheritance diminished by fines and plunder. Notwithstanding, he engaged in conspiracy against the republican regimes and was imprisoned as a result. He must have been overjoyed in 1660 when the monarchy for which his father had died was restored, within the limits which his grandfather had sacrificed his career to impose. He resumed his place as one of the leading gentlemen and magistrates of his Riding, and he lived out the remainder of his days in peace. It was probably an especial pleasure for him to be able to do something for some of his father’s old comrades. So, in a way, our story has a perfectly happy ending.
How to Win Friends and Influence People: Negotiating Tactics of Civil War Petitioners
In a previous blog, David Appleby demonstrated the determination that was required by some petitioners to successfully secure a pension. But what other negotiating strategies were open to those ordinary people who were forced to petition their social superiors to secure financial relief in order to survive? Here, Ismini Pells reveals some of the ingenious methods adopted by maimed soldiers and war widows in search of a pension… Securing a pension or gratuity was no easy matter for maimed soldiers and war widows from the English Civil Wars. Money was in short supply. The pensions and gratuities distributed at the Quarter Sessions were dependent on a system of county-wide taxation, but years of sustained warfare had taken its toll on local economies. Many localities petitioned the Quarter Sessions to be alleviated from the burden of paying the tax for the maimed soldiers’ money. For example, in Haslingden, Lancashire, in 1661 the overseer of the poor John Ogle petitioned the sessions at Preston to be excused from caring for one maimed soldier, Raph Rishton, claiming ‘ye Town being verie Little & ye Charge soe great’ (Lancashire Archives, QSP/210/7). Taxation is seldom popular but those who lived through the Civil Wars saw taxation more than double from pre-war levels and the war-weary often simply refused to pay up. At the West Riding of Yorkshire Quarter Sessions held at Barnsley in 1649, the JPs empowered churchwardens and constables collecting money for lame soldiers to levy a 20s fine on anyone who refused to pay their contribution (WYAS, QS10/2, fol. 213). Often, one suspects, refusal was politically motivated. The former royalist stronghold of Newark, for example, was not keen to pay the taxes that funded pensions for wounded parliamentarians during the 1650s. In addition to all of this, those who sought financial relief had to compete both with other petitioners and the large volumes of routine administrative business that took place at the sessions. Yet petitioners were far from powerless. Those who sought pensions knew exactly how to manipulate the system in their favour. Petitioners’ cultural and political awareness influenced their decisions on which aspects of their stories to emphasise and (equally importantly) which to leave out. Most commonly, maimed soldiers and war widows attempted to represent themselves as the ‘deserving’ poor. Maimed soldiers often stressed how they had hitherto earned an honest living and explained how their wounds now prevented them from following their trade. For example, in his petition to the Worcestershire Quarter Sessions, Arthur Bagshaw explained how a shot to his hand had put an end to his career as a tailor. Widows usually emphasised their role as mothers and almost always mentioned their now fatherless children. Sarah Bott told the Essex magistrates that her husband’s death on campaign in Scotland had left her with ‘with five small children in a very sad and deplorable condition, destitute of necessary maintenance’. Some petitioners demonstrated an awareness of being a burden on their community and went into great detail of the lengths they had gone to maintain themselves by other ways. Johan Illery informed the Devon JPs how she had turned to ‘spynning & carding’ in an attempt to eke out a living after her husband had been hanged for his allegiance to parliament by Lord Paulet, the royalist victor at the siege of Hemiocke Castle (Devon Heritage Centre, QS/Bundles/Box 51). In Denbighshire, Mary Buckley pawned or sold all her worldly goods (NLW, Chirk Castle MS B11/6), whilst Michael Powell claimed that ‘his wyfe was constrained to wander about the towne to collect the charytie of all well disposed people’ to pay his surgeon’s fees (NLW, Chirk Castle MS B16c/44). Many were quick to draw the JPs attention to vacancies that had arisen through the death of existing pensioners but others tried more underhand tactics. Claimants who uncovered instances of previous disloyalty to the present regime amongst current pensioners’ were rewarded for their efforts. In 1648, Matthew Thackwray was awarded a pension of £2 by the Pontefract Quarter Sessions for snitching on George Thackwary and Henry Lee (WYAS, QS10/2 fols 142-3). Other pensioners attempted to cover up their dark past. John Allen and Nathaniel Lingard, both of Lincolnshire, chose to highlight how they were ‘instrumental to the happy restoration of his Majesty’ by marching south with General Monck in 1660, rather than the years of service into the Cromwellian Protectorate that had preceded their departure from Scotland (Lincolnshire Archives, LQS/A/2/1, fols 301 and 313). Above all, it was imperative for petitioners to know their target audience. Toadying up to the JPs rarely harmed. Martha Emming told the Essex bench that she did ‘humbly prostrate both herself and her cause to your grave and serious considerations, not doubting of your wonted and known clemency and justice’. Henry Norton, petitioning as late as 1710, made a cunning appeal to the Tory justices on the Northumberland bench by claiming that he had been ‘a True Member of ye high Church of England’. Obsequiousness was of the utmost importance for those claimants that aimed straight for the top and directed their petitions to figures such as Oliver Cromwell or Charles II. Often these petitions were directed back to the Quarter Sessions but those like Jeremiah Maye who were lucky enough to secure an endorsement now had added weight to their cause. After the Restoration, however, some petitioners aimed directly at finances in the king's gift. Charles II was famous for his love of dogs and there was no better way to gain the king’s attention than by mentioning his canine companions. Elizabeth Cary, whose husband had been killed in royalist service, was in receipt of a pension directly paid from the Exchequer but she petitioned Charles to transfer this to her son after her death. She was sure that the king would remember her son, as he had ‘followed your Majestie to Oxford (& was there bitten by your Majesties Dogg Cupid (as your Majestie may happily call to minde)’ (TNA, SP 29/66/153). What better way to attempt to secure the royal benevolence than a comedy moment, a mother’s love and a bit with a dog?
The Scottish Connection
Over the duration of our project we aim to identify, digitise and transcribe literally thousands of petitions and other documents related with ex-soldiers and bereaved families from the Civil Wars. The project will focus on the counties and boroughs of seventeenth-century England and Wales (although we are already liaising with Irish and Scottish colleagues, with eye to future projects). Even in the heart of England, however, as David Appleby has found whilst researching Nottinghamshire, there is plenty of evidence to show that the so-called ‘First English Civil War’ of 1642-1646 was never solely an English affair... When fighting broke out in England in 1642, both King and Parliament solicited the services of professional Scottish officers. A more formal intervention came in January 1644, when the Scottish Covenanters sent a large army over the border in support of their English co-religionists in Parliament. At first, parliamentarian commanders such as Fairfax and Cromwell cooperated well with the Covenanters led by the earl of Leven and General David Leslie. The two allies even formed a ‘Committee of Both Kingdoms’ to coordinate their mutual war effort against Charles I. Gradually, however, tensions emerged. With the rise of the Independents, and the corresponding eclipse of the pro-Scottish Presbyterian interest within Parliament, Scottish soldiers were made to feel less and less welcome. As parliamentarian subsidies dried up, Leven’s army was starved of money, ammunition and food, and forced to live off the land. Scottish commissioners accused the Independent faction within Parliament of withholding funds deliberately in order to make the Covenanter army unpopular with English civilian communities. Charles I clearly intended to exploit his enemies’ divisions when he delivered himself to Leven’s army then camped around Southwell, Nottinghamshire, in May 1646. In the event, the Covenanters used the king as a bargaining chip to prise £400,000 from Parliament. Having handed him over to their erstwhile English allies the Covenanters marched back to Scotland in February 1647. Many of the Scottish soldiers would return to fight in England in 1648 and 1651. The impact of these political and military machinations on ordinary people’s lives can be seen in petitions such as that of a parliamentarian cavalry trooper named Joseph Curtis. Curtis’ petition to the Nottinghamshire authorities in 1647 detailed how, whilst he had been serving with Colonel Francis Thornhagh’s regiment, his home and possessions had been looted first by royalist enemies then by Scottish allies; the former causing him £100 in losses and the latter £53 9s, for which he received only five pounds by way of compensation (TNA, SP 28/241, fol. 1352). The Scottish Covenanters, meanwhile, lost many men dead and wounded in the fighting in Nottinghamshire, particularly whilst besieging the royalist stronghold of Newark. Several documents detail the expenses of nursing sick and wounded Scots in and around Nottingham (e.g. SP 28/241, fol. 84). Not all Scottish soldiers were able to leave when the Scottish army marched away from Southwell with their royal prisoner: the petition of one Nottinghamshire widow, Anne Nixon of Barthley, shows that as late as September 1646 she was still caring for a Covenanter named James Scott. Scott had been wounded months earlier, during the siege of Newark, and was still too ill to move. Just as Leven’s army had been starved of money by Parliament, so Widow Nixon was being forced to provide for the wounded man out of her own meagre funds. To its credit, the Parliamentary Committee for Nottinghamshire did belatedly allow her some financial relief (SP 28/241, fol. 722). Extra money was provided to enable James to journey north to re-join his army, as it had been for another Scottish soldier, Willy Scott, in May that year, who had ‘been long wounded here’ (SP 28/241, fol. 114). Most poignant of all was the petition of William Moffett in October 1645. Moffett had come down with Leven’s army, but had somehow ended up under local English command, in the infantry company of Major Joseph Widmerpole. The petition details that having suffered a bad fall, his injuries had proved too complicated for the local surgeons, leaving Moffett ‘in danger to be a cripple so long as he lives’. William pleaded for help from the Parliamentary County Committee, reminding them that he was ‘far from his country and friends’ (SP 28/241, fol. 531); a sad fate which has befallen so many wounded soldiers throughout history’s wars.
Archival Material now on Civil War Petitions!
So Civil War Petitions is now fully up and running! With images and transcriptions of original documents, exhaustive calendars of payment records gathered from the archives, and an array of different ways of searching the documents and records to interrogate them further, Civil War Petitions promises to provide comprehensive coverage of military welfare in England Wales during and after the Civil Wars. For a full guide to the type of material that you will be able to find on Civil War Petitions, visit the About the Data page. For a full explanation of some of the terms used, visit the Glossary. However, Civil War Petitions is very much still a work in progress! The research team have been working hard, travelling all over the country to gather data. So far, we have material on Civil War Petitions from the following counties: Denbighshire Dorset Durham East Riding of Yorkshire Essex Gloucestershire Hampshire Town and County of Kingston-upon-Hull Town and County of Newcastle-upon-Tyne North Riding of Yorkshire Northumberland Worcestershire West Riding of Yorkshire City and County of York Unsurprisingly, the survival rate for the documents is patchy, depending on the locality. Not all counties have any surviving petitions or certificates, or a complete set of order books or treasurers’ accounts for the payment records. However, the team have gathered any relevant data from the material still in existence. Not all of the data gathered so far has been uploaded to Civil War Petitions. The counties finished uploading all the data for are: Durham Essex Hampshire Town and County of Kingston-upon-Hull Town and County of Newcastle-upon-Tyne Northumberland City and County of York A few additional payment records need to be added for Dorset, East Riding of Yorkshire and North Riding of Yorkshire. A few additional petitions need to be added for Worcestershire. This work will be completed over the next few weeks. Large numbers of petitions and certificates have been found in Denbighshire (over 300!), as well as extensive treasurers’ accounts for this county, whilst the West Riding of Yorkshire also has a large number of petitions and certificates (over 100) and very extensive order books. Gloucestershire has a smaller number of petitions and certificates (19), as has North Riding (23). The completion of these four counties are very much our immediate focus and will be added as a series of mini-updates over the next quarter. Do keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook feed for news of when these have been added. The project will thereafter upload further archival material in a series of quarterly updates. The counties which you can expect to see coming soon include: Berkshire City and County of Bristol Herefordshire Lincolnshire Nottinghamshire In addition, we expect Civil War Petition’s mapping functions and better graphics for the Events and Injuries pages to be ready later this autumn. Civil War Petitions was officially launched by the project team at the National Civil War Centre on Thursday 26 July 2018. We were delighted to welcome academics, university staff, students, archivists, school teachers, museum professionals, representatives of modern military welfare charities, descendants of leading Civil War families and local government officials amongst our guests. All have been, or soon will be, involved in some way in our project and we would like to thank everyone who has in some way supported us. We were entertained throughout the evening by the wonderful ‘Diabolus in Musica’, seventeenth-century period costumed musicians who regaled us with a variety of contemporary music. They did a fabulous job of uplifting the spirits of any who might have been flagging under the heat of the hottest day of the year! We were also extremely honoured to have a special performance from the Waddington branch of the Military Wives Choir. Before the performance, one of their members shared her experiences of being a military wife and explained what it meant to be part of the armed forces family. She spoke of supporting her husband through unsocial working hours, a constant peripatetic lifestyle and the uncertainty brought about by deployment – all these are timeless themes to military partners across the centuries and a poignant reminder of the anxieties and certainties that must have been experienced by families during the Civil War, as well as the comfort that can be drawn from the wider military community. We are very grateful to Carol King, Business Manager of the National Civil War Centre and her team for hosting us and helping us put on such an enjoyable evening. If you have any comments, questions or enquiries about Civil War Petitions, please feel free to either email us via firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us via our Twitter or Facebook pages.
Dead and buried? The fate of the Civil War battle-dead
In a previous blog, Andrew Hopper revealed the military and political uses of wounded survivors and prisoners of war from Civil War encounters, but what became of those of did not live to tell the tale of the fighting they had experienced? This week, Civil War Petitions welcomes a guest blog from Sarah Taylor, who uncovers the murky story surrounding the disposal of the dead... Although military historians have, in recent years, increasingly turned to studying alternative aspects of battles other than just their tactics or wider political impact, one aspect that has still been largely ignored is what happened to the bodies of those killed in battle. On looking at the sources, it is not all that surprising that this topic has received so little attention. Most sources avoid the topic, while of those which do mention the disposal of the dead, many do so incidentally. Following the battle of Edgehill (23 October 1642), for example, one source writer claimed that the Royalists had ‘about 3000 of theirs slain’ as he had been ‘informed by the Countrie men that saw them burie the dead next day’ (Thomason Tracts E.124). The writer’s interest was not in what had happened to the bodies but in how severe the opposition’s losses had been. Quite a few of those sources which do refer to the disposal of the dead appear to do so because of a matter of honour (that is, someone had acted with particular honour or, more likely, with particular dishonour). Parliamentarians after the battle of Hopton Heath (19 March 1643), for example, tried to ransom the body of the Royalist commander back to his men in exchange for the prisoners and weapons that the Royalists had captured in the battle. One Royalist source describing the incident accused the Parliamentarians of ‘barbarisme and inhumanity’ and that their actions were ‘ignorant of what belonges to the honour of a souldier’ (D686/2/69). The commander’s own son was present and he, in a letter to his mother, sounded quite baffled when talking about this action which was ‘never before heard of in any warre’ (E.99). Given the unusual and dishonourable nature of the incident, it is not at all surprising that source writers felt the need to mention it. Another notable encounter was the first battle of Newbury (20 September 1643), where a Royalist source described how ‘severall heapes of [the Parliamentarian’s] dead were found cast into Wells, Ponds and Pits, one Draw-well of 30 fathoms deepe being filled to the top with dead bodies…and in sundry places with armes and legges sticking out besides those above ground whom [the Parliamentarians] had not time to cover’ (TT E.69). One Parliamentarian source actually responded to these ‘wilde relations’, claiming that since they had fought close to a river a well would not even have existed in such a place, let alone that the Parliamentarians would throw their dead down it (TT E.250). The very fact that the Parliamentarians felt the need to respond to the claim suggests that disposing of one’s dead in such a manner was not acceptable, and that the Royalists may have been trying to use the dead as propaganda, to slander the Parliamentarians and their reputation. It does seem unlikely that the Parliamentarians would have thrown their dead into a well, particularly as the Parliamentarian commander had already ordered the locals to finish burying his dead; while it seems unlikely that the Parliamentarians would have wanted to alienate the locals by blocking their water sources, since they were reliant on the people for support and resources, like food, men and equipment. As for where the dead were buried, the sources are again very tight-lipped. A number of sources talk about high-status men being taken to churches for burial but because they say little about the rank-and-file, it is very difficult to judge if, and to what extent, those high-status men were being treated differently to the rest of the dead. It is clear that not all high-status men were buried in a church: letters by one man lament how he was unable to locate the body of his father, who had been the Royalist standard-bearer, after the battle of Edgehill so that he could take it for a church burial (Verney letters). The same letters noted how one lord ‘was like to have been buried in the fields, but that one came by chance that knew him and took him into a church, and there laid him in the ground’, highlighting how, sometimes, it was down to chance and one’s friends and family to find and remove a body for a church burial. If this was the case, then it seems quite likely that some common soldiers may also have received a church burial, particularly if they had friends or family nearby who were able to find their body and to convey it to a church. This lack of information is very problematic. Clearly some of the dead were being buried in churches, but what about everyone else? There are a few historical sources that confirm that some of the dead were buried on or near the battlefield, such as the one above, which mentioned the dead being buried ‘in the fields’. A churchwarden’s account also records how some of the dead from the first battle of Newbury were buried on the battlefield, as well as in the churchyard. This suggests that some of the dead were buried on the battlefield, a picture that some of the archaeology would seem to support (although even much of this is shaky because it is so hard to explicitly link burials to a specific event). Burials have been reported on Naseby battlefield since near to the time of the battle, for example. Overall, the evidence is very patchy: certainly some of the dead were buried in churches following a battle, while others seem to have been buried on the battlefield. It is not certain that both of these things occurred at all battles, though. The character or nature of a battle could certainly have had an impact. Much of the battle of Worcester (3 September 1651), for example, was fought within the town; while church records note that lots of those who were killed in the town were then buried in churches in the town, so the location of a battle may have had an impact on where the dead were buried. The numbers of bodies might also have had an impact. If there were lots of bodies, then we might expect that more of the dead were buried on the battlefield simply because it was too difficult to move so many bodies to a church which would not have had the space anyway. Battles where few men were killed, on the other hand, like Hopton Heath, may have led to many men being taken to a church for burial, rather than being buried on the battlefield. Sadly, the lack of detail in the historical sources makes it difficult to say much and it seems only with more archaeological finds will we truly start to understand where the dead were buried and why. Sarah Taylor is a third-year PhD student at the University of Huddersfield, funded by the Heritage Consortium. She is researching what happened to the bodies of those killed in battle, covering the period which includes the Wars of the Roses and the Civil War.
A Brief History of Time (in Civil War Petitions)
As explained elsewhere in this website, the project team is currently hard at work locating and transcribing thousands of documents which will eventually be made freely available via this website. In addition to these verbatim transcriptions, the team aims to produce a modernised text version of each document. However, even modernised texts can still be confusing, not least because of the various ways in which time was measured in the seventeenth century. Here, David Appleby sketches out the chronological minefield, and finds that the text of some petitions suggests that the poorer and middling sorts of people tended to mark the passing of time rather differently from the social elite... In February 1582, Pope Gregory XIII issued a decree to remove ten days from the calendar. He further ordered that every year thereafter should commence on 1 January. Gregory’s intent was to reduce confusion by aligning the calendar year more closely with the solar year. However, reflecting the bitter religious divisions in Europe at the time, Protestant states such as England pointedly continued to use the old-style Julian calendar (so named because it had been established by Julius Caesar in 45BC/BCE). This meant that throughout the whole of the seventeenth century, the calendar year in the British Isles began on 25 March, rather than 1 January. The festival of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin had long since ceased to be observed in Protestant England, so 25 March was known simply as ‘Lady Day’. Even in the seventeenth century, many English people (particularly those trading with Europe) were beginning to consider the Julian system inconvenient but it was not until George II’s reign that the ‘New Style’ dating was written into law. Following a vote in Parliament, it was declared that 1752 would begin on 1 January. The potential for confusion caused by the clash of these ‘Old’ and ‘New’ styles was never better demonstrated than in 1813, when workmen accidentally broke through the wall of a vault under St George’s chapel in Windsor. On investigation, it was found that one of the coffins in the vault contained the body of King Charles I. The engraved silver plate on the coffin lid recorded that the king had met his end in 1648 – whereas, by the modern (post-1751) calendar, he had actually been executed on 30 January 1649. Interestingly, a commemorative stone laid in the chapel in the nineteenth century copied the date on the coffin plate, again suggesting that Charles had died in 1648. Did those who commissioned the marble slab do this deliberately, or were they unaware of their error? Even professional historians are sometimes caught out. A common method used by historians and archivists to avoid confusion between ‘Old Style’ and ‘New Style’ dating is to transcribe any affected dates by noting both years. The date of Charles I’s execution might therefore be transcribed as 30 January 1648/9. This method was already in use in the seventeenth century for precisely the same reason. Officials who did not take such precautions sometimes got themselves in a muddle: one Nottinghamshire Parliamentary Committee warrant to pay an officer’s widow named Anne Nethercotes was erroneously dated ’28 March 1645’, despite the fact that it was clearly issued on 28 March 1646. It seems that the scribe forgot that Lady Day had come and gone, and that the new calendar year had started. The Georgian Act of Parliament which confirmed 1 January as the first day of the year also brought the British calendar into line with its Gregorian counterpart. Taking leap years into account, the discrepancy was even greater than it had been in Pope Gregory’s time, so Parliament ordered that 2 September 1752 be followed by 14 September. It is often claimed that the poorer sort rioted and demanded that the lost days to be restored to them, but there is no tangible evidence that such disorder ever took place. Red-letter dates, such as 5 November (Bonfire Night) and 30 January (the anniversary of the Regicide), remained untouched, although strictly speaking all should have been moved by the requisite number of days. Historians have generally followed this convention without comment. The only real problem arises when researchers have to deal with an exchange of letters between British and Continental correspondents, when it can sometimes seem that letters are being replied to before they have even been written! Another chronological trap hidden in the quarter sessions minute books concerns the regnal years of Charles II’s reign. Restoration officials habitually pretended that the ‘Interregnum’ (i.e. the Commonwealth and the Cromwellian Protectorate) had never happened, dating Charles II’s accession from the death of his father on 30 January 1648/9, rather than the restoration of the monarchy in May 1660. In such circumstances, the ‘Old Style’ Julian calendar reinforced efforts to recreate the pre-war ancien regime. All of which explains why the preamble to the Michaelmas quarter sessions in Essex in October 1660 notes that the court is being held in the twelfth year of the king’s reign – implying that the reign had commenced in 1648/9. In contrast to the exact, often politicised calendar utilised by the gentry, phrases used in the petitions of maimed soldiers and war widows suggest that the common people still tended to mark the passing of time with more traditional milestones. It is particularly interesting to see the survival of traditional Catholic terminology in popular Protestant discourse. Winifred Badge, who petitioned the Parliamentary County Committee for Nottinghamshire on 30 January 1644/5, stated that her husband had been slain ‘on Lamass Day’ whilst besieging Wingfield Manor. Lamas, or ‘loaf-mass’ was an old Anglo-Saxon festival, Lamas Day itself occurring on 1 August. Lamas loomed large in the lives of common country folk not least because it was traditionally the time on which certain privately-owned land had to be opened up to common grazing. It is equally revealing that the term ‘Christmas Day’ surfaces in a petition submitted by Thomas Collishaw of Bilborough, Nottinghamshire, in April 1648. The petition declared that in addition to his own sufferings Collishaw desired recompense for a horse which he had bought on Christmas Day 1642, and had ridden ‘all Christmas’ until it fell lame. Collishaw – and the amanuensis who wrote the parliamentarian cavalry trooper’s petition – were presumably aware that Christmas, Easter and Whitsun had been banned by Parliament in June 1647, on the grounds that the three festivals had no basis in Scripture, and were therefore sinful. Of course, the Civil Wars gave maimed soldiers and bereaved families new and more distressing milestones with which to mark the passing of time. These milestones included not only the bloody consequences of huge set-piece battles such as Edgehill (1642), and sieges such as the two at Lichfield in 1643, but also bitter fighting for relatively obscure places such as Wingfield Manor (Derbyshire, August 1644) and Shelford House (Nottinghamshire, November 1645). The course of some people’s lives would be changed by otherwise inconsequential incidents. It is very doubtful whether Martha Emming of Coggeshall, Essex had previously heard of Heslington in Yorkshire, but she would forever remember it as the place where her husband Daniel was killed. The evidence suggests that he was one of the ‘five or six’ hitherto nameless parliamentarian soldiers who died there on 6 June 1644, as Parliament’s Eastern Association army probed York’s outer defences. Recommended reading: R. Cheney (revised Michael Jones), A Handbook of Dates for Students of British History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). David Cressy, Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2004). Keith Wrightson, ‘Popular senses of past time: dating events in the North Country, 1615-1631’, in Michael Braddick and Phil Withington (eds.), Popular Culture and Political Agency in Early Modern Britain (Woodbridge, 2017), pp. 91-107.