English Civil War

The Civil War in the Hinckley District

civil war hinckley
Parliamentarians on the march

1637 More tensions arose when Charles and William Laud (Archbishop of Canterbury) enraged the Scots by proposing religious changes in Scotland by trying to introduce a new prayer book, this caused riots in Edinburgh. William Laud would be later executed at Tower Hill, London on 10th January 1645.

1638 Scottish nobles and ministers signed the National Covenant, a solemn affirmation of their commitment to the Scottish Presbyterian tradition in defiance of the religious policy of King Charles I.

1639 Charles made an attempt to bring the Scots to heel. The First Bishops War ended with the peace of Berwick, this just happened to be a breathing space for both sides.

1640 Charles summoned parliament again to raise the money for his Scottish campaign. Parliament discussed its many grievances, so Charles dissolved parliament on 5th May 1640. The Second Bishops War followed and in August the Scots invaded England and captured Newcastle. Charles was now forced to make peace with the Scots and to make things worse, he had to pay their army's costs.

August 1641 Charles was forced to abandon all attempts to impose any religious changes in Scotland, in return the Scots withdrew from northern England.

November 1641 A list of grievances called the Grand Remonstrance was drawn up but it was passed by only 11 votes. John Pym (leader of the Long Parliament) then demanded that the King hand over control of the militia, for many that was a step too far and feared that Pym might replace royal government with something worse.

January 1642 Charles entered the commons and attempted to arrest five MPs for treason, but they had already fled. No King had entered the commons before and his actions caused an outrage, Charles feared for his safety and he left London.

March 1642 Parliament declared that its ordinances were valid laws and that they would not require the royal assent.

April 1642 Charles tried to seize arms in Hull but he was refused entry to the town. In London Parliament began to raise an army.

22nd August 1642 Charles began to raise and army and then he set up his standard in Nottingham. By setting up his royal standard on the Castle Hill at Nottingham, and by summoning his loyal subjects to join him against his enemies in parliament, Charles effectively signalled the start of the English Civil War.

king charles i oliver cromwell
King Charles I (left/top), Oliver Cromwell (right/bottom)

Hinckley played an important part in the Civil War as the town's proximity to several rival garrisons. The royalist garrison was at Caldicote, Ashby de la Zouch and Leicester, while the Parliamentarians were at Tamworth, Coventry and a few fortified houses in Warwickshire.

The local townsfolk were forced to decide whether to directly declare their allegiances or to attempt to remain neutral which would risk payment of levies, ransoms and fines to both sides. It was a particularly unsettled time for the clergy in and around Hinckley. Due to Leicester being in the hands of the Parliamentarians, they controlled the county committee.

Parliamentarian Calvary
Parliamentarian Calvary

1643 The town was visited around Easter by both parliamentary and royalists troops from the rival garrisons, particularly parliamentary troops from Tamworth, Coventry and Astley Castle in Warwickshire. Troops from Coventry garrison were particularly active in the town, taking horses and "free quarter" and availing themselves of 'dyett and Beere', and taking some of the inhabitants hostage for ransom. Royalist troops raided the town to threaten those with parliamentary sympathies.

According to the claims from Hinckley Bond, George Nix, a soldier from the Coventry garrison took a pistol worth 4s from Richard Cooper. A soldier under the command of Captain Flower of Coventry took two bridles and saddles worth 15s. Robert Bloode claimed 2s 8d for 'dyett and Beere' taken by Coventry soldiers and there was a further claim from the townspeople for £8.0.10d for the quartering of 127 men under Colonel Purefoy and Captain Bosseville of Coventry for a day and a night. In Hinckley Borough four of Colonel Purefoy's soldiers allegedly took two saddles and bridles worth 6s from George Warren. Some of Captain Ottaway's soldiers from Coventry are accused of taking a white mare worth £2 from Thomas Davenport. The inhabitants further claimed £9.10 for the 'free quartering' of 211 men and 72 horses under the command of Colonel Purefoy, Bosseville and other parliamentary commanders.

4th March 1644 Lord Hastings (of Ashby de la Zouch) men brought in 26 honest countrymen from several towns intending to take them to Ashby de la Zouch, along with a huge herd of cattle, oxen and horses from the country people and a minister named Mr Warner who they abused and threatened to hang. These prisoners were herded into Hinckley church and asked in a jeering manner, 'Where are the Round-heads your brethren at Leicester? Why they not come to redeem you?'

Colonel Grey had 120 foot soldiers and 30 troopers after drawing forth Major Bingley, Captain Hacker and Captain Bodle's troops from Bagworth House. He marched towards Hinckley believing the royalists would stay there that night. At about 7 o'clock the parliamentarians arrived to find all passages into the town blocked up. About a mile from the town they captured one of Lord Hastings scouts who affirmed them to be 300 horse and 50 dragoons.

Royalist Calvary charging the Paliamentarians
Royalist Calvary charging the Paliamentarians

The parliamentarians entered the town from the Barwell end, the dragoons alighting by the mills where they left their horses with a small guard and advanced with the forlorn hope of 30 horse commanded by captain Fitzgarret, to force the passage, which after some resistance was effected. Colonel Grey leading a body of a 120 men charged up to the cross and after 15 minutes fight beat the royalist out of the town. A second charge with dragoons firing shots, caused the cavaliers to flee. Among the royalist casualties was Colonel Nevel's trumpeter with his silver trumpet.

Colonel Grey's forces released 2 ministers, prisoners, and 30 countrymen taken from Cosby and Leire. The inhabitants of Hinckley were as relieved as any when Ashby finally surrendered.

14th November 1645 Thomas Cleveland who was the vicar of Hinckley suffered sequestration by the Leicester County Committee, confessing that at the outbreak of the war he sat with Lufton as commissioner of array to take contributions from the Leicestershire clergy and that gave him £4. However his original support for the king's cause appears to have been forgiven after his compounding through payment of a fine, and there is no further mention of his involvement, unlike some of his 'malignant' neighbours accused of visiting royalist garrisons or preaching against parliament.

1646 A claim for damages from quartering and plunder submitted to the Warwick County Committee lists several incursions by troops from the parliamentary garrisons at Tamworth, Coventry, and Astley House in Warwickshire. Troops from the Tamworth garrison under the command of Major Fox and Captain Hunt are charged with billeting ninety men and horse in the town for one night, for which the townspeople claimed £4.10s.

King Charles captured
King Charles captured

May 1646 The king surrendered to the Scots, the Scots handed the king over to parliament.

November 1646 A man named John Lilburne (English political Leveller) demanded a republic and the abolition of the House of Lords. He also said that all men should be allowed to vote, there should also be religious freedom.

1647 The army fell out with Parliament, the soldier's pay was heavily in arrears and they were not happy.

April 1647 Parliament voted to disband the army and give them no more than 6 weeks pay, the army refused to disband.

December 1647 Charles made a secret agreement with the Scots, they agreed to invade England on his behalf. Oliver Cromwell crushed an army of Scots and English royalists on several attempts.

The army now felt that Parliament was being too lenient with the king. They occupied London and Colonel Thomas Pride ejected 140 members of the Commons. This action was called 'Pride's Purge', it left a Parliament of 60 members.

January 1649 Charles was put on trial for treason, he was found guilty on 27th January 1649.

30th January 1649 King Charles I was executed by being publicly beheaded outside Whitehall, London. It was said that when the axe came down it was met with such a groan from the crowd that had never heard before at an execution.

Execution of King Charles I
Execution of King Charles I

30th January 1649 King Charles I was executed by being publicly beheaded outside Whitehall, London. It was a bitterly cold day, the River Thames had frozen solid.

The king not wishing his shivering to be mistaken for fear, Charles dressed in three shirts. There was a delay of four hours while legislation was drawn up and passed, this outlawed any future succession to his throne.

Charles was escorted under guard along Whitehall Palace and through Banqueting House to the scaffold, where he was met by two heavily disguised executioners, a coffin draped in black velvet, and a low wooden block.

He readied himself, saying to the executioner "Does my hair trouble you?" he was asked to put it all under his cap. Charles made his last statement to the crowd, he said "I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be". He took off his cloak and his Garter insignia, place his neck upon the block.

With one clean strike his head was severed, but when the executioner held it aloft no cheer arose from the vast crowd. It was said that when the axe came down it was met with such a groan from the crowd that had never heard before at an execution.