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The Civil War and Launceston


By Sir Alfred Robbins, 1885, with additional research marked * by Richard and Otho Peter.

Upon the threshold of the English Civil War, one of the causes of which was the King’s attempt to levy ship-money, a portion of which impost Launceston had to pay. Writing to the Council on April 19, 1639, Francis Godolphin, then Sheriff of Cornwall, stated that, upon receipt in the previous December of the writ for shipmoney, he imposed “a fit proportion” upon every parish and hundred, causing the constables to be the collectors. He was assured that no clergyman had cause to complain of being over-rated, and he had directed that “ no poor man should be rated unless he had an estate in lands or tenements worth 20s. or upwards by the year, or goods to the value of £10.” But everybody was not satisfied, for the Corporations of Callington, Camelford, and St. Mawes, in particular, “complained much of their poverty and disability, and desired to be relieved by other corporations,” and generally Godolphin found “no great willingness in the commonalty to pay,” and he expressed a fear lest he might be forced to make good some part of the assessment himself. In another letter of the same date he informs Nicholas that
a communication from the latter on the same subject, of March 11, had reached him on March 25 while at the Launceston Assizes, and be had not been able previously to reply because of the difficulties he had had over the ship-money. Although he took credit for himself that Cornwall had been the first county to send an instalment in answer to the writ, it was evident he was ill-satisfied with the success of his efforts, and he complained that only five towns had responded, Launceston with £30, Padstow with £25, Penryn with £18, Helston with £17, and Penzance with £10. He had threatened the other boroughs with pains and penalties if they did not soon pay, and he now asked for an order that any constables who did not recover the full sum assessed on their parishes should be sent for to the Council. The difficulties thus pictured by Godolphin were repeated and increased throughout the country, and Charles was forced in the spring of 1640 to call what is known in history as “The Short Parliament.” The members returned for Launceston were Sir Beville Grenville and Ambrose Manaton, while for Newport John Maynard and Nicholas Trefusis were elected. Of Grenville there is little to be mentioned between the date of Eliot’s death and that of his fourth return for Launceston. In 1636 his father, Sir Bernard Grenville, had died at Stowe, Kilkhampton, and in the next year Beville is to be found with. John Trefusis reporting to the Council that they had endeavoured to settle a municipal dispute at Bodmin but in vain.

Sir Bevil Grenville
Sir Bevil Grenville

In 1638 he raised a troop at his own expense with, which to assist Charles in the expedition against the Scots, showing in this the first sign of that devotion to the King which was afterwards to be his most distinguishing feature, but which, as exhibited by the tried friend of Eliot, has seemed a paradox not easily to be explained. In the summer of 1639, while still in the North with the King, he was knighted, and we find him writing from Newcastle in May of that year to William Morice,  afterwards owner of Werrington and member for Newport, a prominent agent in bringing about the Restoration, and Secretary of State to Charles the Second. Grenville’s attachment to the royal cause may be differently looked at, but the most commonly accepted view is that taken by the sympathetic biographer already quoted, “that he saw sooner than most the bad designs that were forming, and apprehended very clearly the pernicious consequences which must follow from them.”

The Short Parliament was summoned to meet at Westminster on April 13, 1640, and was dissolved on May 6, but it was impossible for Charles to govern any longer without legal authority for taxation, and the Long Parliament was called. In this Grenville took his seat for the county, while Ambrose Mauaton (described in the
Official List of Members as Becorder of the borough) and William Coryton (who in the Short Parliament had sat for Grampound and who was now re-elected there) were chosen for Launceston, and John Maynard and Richard Edgcumbe for Newport. Of the four Maynard alone was devoted to the Puritan party, and he sat for Newport only a sufficient time to declare his preference for Totnes, for which place also he had been elected. It is to be noted, however, that there is some confusion among these returns. The Official List of Members, in addition to leaving Launceston altogether out of the boroughs represented in the Short Parliament, names Nicholas Trefusis as the only member for Newport; while for the Long Parliament it gives for the two boroughs the four mentioned above. But Browne Willis, whose authority has usually been accepted in these matters, names Grenville and Manaton for Launceston and Trefusis, Maynard, and Paul Speccott for Newport in the Short Parliament, and Manaton and Coryton for Launceston, and Richard Edgcumbe and Sir J. Percival, Knt., for Newport in the Long. At the first glimpse it would seem as if the Commons Journals would settle the point as to Maynard in favour of Browne Willis, for on April 17, 1640, in the Short Parliament, it is stated  “Mr. Jo. Maynard chooses to serve for Totness, and waves Newport,” it appearing unlikely that Maynard would have been twice returned for the both boroughs after the distinct preference he had shown for the one; but this is upset by an entry of December 8, 1640, that “Mr. Maynard, chosen for Newport and Totnes, waves Newport, and chooses to serve for Totnes.” Although, however, a new writ was issued on the same day, it does not appear to have been acted upon, as on
February 9, 1647, an order was again made for a writ for Newport, “in the place of Mr. Maynard, who . . . chose to serve for Totnes.” The feelings of the majority of the Commons towards Coryton had been shown in the Short Parliament by the fact that in their order for a production of the proceedings in the Star Chamber and King’s Bench concerning several members of the previous House, with Eliot at their head, his name is not given though six of those implicated are set out at length.  And the Long Parliament had not been in session many days before the vengeance of those who had not forgotten or forgiven his defection from Eliot began to be visited upon him. Acting as mayor of Bossiney he had, it was alleged, unduly interfered with the return of members; the matter came before the Committee of Privileges, with Maynard as chairman, the Commons instructing that inquiry should be made not only into the election at Bossiney but also into “the undue proceedings of the said Mr. Coryton, as Vice-Warden of the Stannaries, contrary to the Petition of Right.” In the next month it was ordered “that the Committee
for Mr. Corriton’s Business shall consider also of the Misdemeanours committed by Mr. Corryton, as Steward of the Duchy, and Deputy Lieutenant of the County;” and, after a long inquiry, it was resolved on August 18, 1641, “that Mr. Coryton shall not be admitted to sit as a Member in this Parliament,” it being furthermore agreed on the same day that a new writ should be issued “for electing of another Burgess to serve for the Town of Dunhevett, instead of Mr. Coryton.“; In his place, though the date of the election is not known, John Harris was returned.

Sir Ralph Hopton
Sir Ralph Hopton

The House of Commons at this period had, however, more serious work on its hands than the punishment of Coryton. Strafford was attainted at the end of April, 1641, Sir Beville Grenville opposing the step, and within a fortnight and before the execution, “Great Multitudes of People did repair to Westminster, being Full of Fears and Jealousies of Plots and Designs against the Parliament.” One outcome of the popular movement was a “protestation,” declaring attachment to the reformed religion and to the rights and liberties of the subject. Hundreds of Members signed on May 3, the day on which it was first laid on the table, among them and at the same time as Cromwell being Sir Ralph Hopton, afterwards the Royalist commander in Cornwall ; Piers Edgcumbe, member for Newport in
1627, and Richard Edgcumbe, member for Newport in the existing Parliament, it being doubtful which of these was the “Mr. Edgecomb” denounced by the populace as one of the “Straffordians, Betrayers of their Country“; and in addition there were John Maynard, member for Newport in 1640, who signed next to Denzil Holies, and Sir Alexander Carew, member for the county, whom Grenville had vainly besought to vote against the attainder. Signatures were added on several days during the next fortnight, but it was not until nearly every member who cared to affix his name had done so that, on the eighteenth, Ambrose Manaton, member for Launceston, followed the example, while Grenville, though not in the previously mentioned list of fifty or sixty Straffordians, did not sign at all. Two months later Parliament ordered that the whole nation should sign, and certificates preserved in the House of Lords show that the clergy, churchwardens, overseers, and constables of the parishes of St. Mary Magdalene, St. Thomas, St. Stephens, Lawhitton, and South Petherwin, as well as those of Tresmere, Trewen, and other places in the neighbourhood of Launceston, did in this matter as the Houses bade them.

The certificates referred to are mainly dated February or March, 1642, and in the January one of the clergymen who could have signed had passed away. The Register records that on January 6, 1642, (N.S.) “was buried Mr. Willm Crompton minr of Lanceston,” and it would appear that the reverend gentleman before coming to St. Mary Magdalene’s had been “ Preacher of the Word of God at Barnstaple, in Devon,” as well as at Little Kimble, Buckinghamshire, and Laneast, Cornwall, this information being mainly gathered from the title-pages of sermons he preached and published, principally in an endeavour to prove St. Augustine to have been the first Protestant. It is not probable that he had been long at Launceston when he died, (for “John son of Edward Gubbins minister” was buried here on May 3, 1636) but at all events sufficiently long to merit the honour of a special funeral sermon, preached by the vicar of Tavistock, and, with a dedication to the mayor, recorder, and aldermen of the borough, published in London, a copy being still to be seen in the Bodleian Library. Five years later, there was admitted to Merchant Taylors’ School “William Crompton, eldest son of William Crompton, clerk and Parson of Lanceston, co. Cornub., born at Little Kimble, co. Bucks, 13 Aug., 1633,” who afterwards became vicar of Cullompton, publishing some of his sermons as his father had done before him, and dying in 1696.

On May 30, 1642, when both sides id the great constitutional struggle were eagerly preparing for the war which was now felt to be imminent, John Escott, a Launceston woollen draper, was sufficiently incautious to condemn the proceedings of the Parliament in the hearing of Henry Willis, a townsman, who on the sixteenth of the next month deposed to the same before Nicholas Gennys, Mayor of Launceston, and Leonard Treise, Justice of the Peace. The affidavit was immediately forwarded to the House of Lords, which on the twenty-third ordered ” that John Escott, who hath spoken scandalous words against the Parliament, shall be sent for as a Delinquent.”* The unfortunate woollen draper was accused of having stated that ” he never knew nor heard of a Parliament that did
proceed so basely as this present Parliament now doth ; that many able honest Men of the House were grieved at their Proceedings; and that Mr. Seldon (who was a Man that had more Learning than a Thousand Round-headed Pyms)” had observed to an acquaintance that there was no good to be done in the House of Commons. Escott obeyed the order of the Lords, to whom, on July 11, he presented a petition stating that he had come two hundred miles to answer a false charge, and praying that the matter might be inquired into or that he might be discharged upon bail.  The former portion of his prayer was granted, but in a manner little calculated to give satisfaction to the suppliant, as is evident from another petition he presented on October 9, in which he said that he had undergone part of their lordships’ sentence, having stood in the pillory in Cheapside and at Westminster, that he had lain in Newgate, where the sickness had been very hot for more than nine months, by which his health had been impaired, and that his estate had been consumed by excessive fees; he therefore prayed to have liberty on bail in London and within six miles round. Ten days later the Lords, “in regard the Plague is in Newgate, and he aged and sick,” granted his request ”for his health’s sake,” simply stipulating that he should “render himself within three days after notice given him from this House;” but it is not known whether he was further persecuted for
what would seem to us a legitimate effort of political criticism. What relation, if any, the sufferer was to Richard Escott, colleague of Eliot for Newport and of Grenville for Launceston, is also uncertain. From the Parish Register it appears that “John sonne of Richard Escotte” was christened on March 30, 1585, and on August 22, 1614, the baptism of “Richard sone of John Estcott” is recorded, here as in later instances the name of the latter (sometimes given as “John
Estcott, gent.”) being written unusually large. It may be thought that an individual once described as “gent,” could scarcely figure as a ” woollen draper” thirty years later, but as a careful distinction is made in the Register between “Mr. John Badcock mercer” or “Mr. Robt Pearse mercer,” and such other tradesmen as “John Abbot shopkeeper” or “William Cornish innholder,” it is evident that a superior social position was recognised in the case of the business with which the sufferer was connected.

While Escott was smarting under the sentence of the Lords, stirring events were occurring in his native town. The struggle between the King and the Houses became acute in the summer of 1642, and it was of the utmost importance to each side to secure the armed forces of the various counties. Cornwall was a doubtful shire,
and it was determined by both parties to make a trial of strength at the Launceston Summer Assize. The Royalists, who were welcomed into Cornwall by Sir Beville Grenville, had chosen Truro as their head-quarters, with Sir Ralph Hopton as their leader, while the Parliamentarians held the eastern part of the county, with Sir
Alexander Carew and Sir Richard Buller at their head and Launceston as their rallying point. The former had been invested by the King with a “commission of array,” upon the authority of which Hopton was levying troops, while the latter were endeavouring to raise the militia, the dispute concerning which had been the last factor in provoking the struggle. The Parliamentary Committee resolved to put the matter to the test of law, commencing proceedings by delivering to Mr. Justice Foster, the presiding judge at the Launceston Assizes, an order from the Lords and Commons inhibiting the execution of the commission of array, but when they required his performance of the same his lordship simply replied that “he would do his duty.” From the presence of the judge the members of the Committee proceeded to the church of St. Mary Magdalene’s, only to find the pulpit occupied by “one Mr. Nicholas Hatch,” whose assize sermon was a strong attack upon the policy of the Parliament; and on their return to the court matters were not much more to their satisfaction, for the judge in charging the grand jury “made a little
noise of the commands ” of the Houses, and only found “vigour, voice, and rhetoric” when upholding the royal instructions. Despite these discouragements, the Committee caused a presentment to be made “against divers men unknown, who were lately come armed into that county against the peace of the King,” but Hopton immediately produced in answer a commission to himself, signed by the Marquis of Hertford on Charles’ behalf. ” After a full and solemn debate “the grand jury acquitted Sir Ralph and his companions, and turned the tables by preferring an indictment against Carew, Buller, and the rest of the Parliamentary Committee” for a rout and unlawful assembly at Launceston, and for riots and misdemeanours committed against many of the King’s good subjects in taking their
liberties from them. The High Sheriff, John Grylls, was thereupon instructed by the grand jury “to raise the posse comitatus for the dispersing that unlawful assembly at Launceston, and for the apprehension of the rioters,” and as he was a Royalist he was nothing loth to obey.

All this did not take place without a wrangle in the court. The Parliamentary Committee told Sir Nicholas Slanning, one of Hopton’s colleagues and a member of Parliament, that the House required his presence, “but he answered with a politic silence,” while the Sheriff replied that he was a servant of the King, and “a sniffling answer” was all that could be obtained from our old acquaintance Coryton. After the grand jury had given its decision, both parties appealed to the townspeople. The day following the Assizes Slanning, Grenville, and many companions, together -with the Sheriff and his guard, went to the Launceston market-place and there read the royal proclamations explaining the differences between the King and the Houses, whereat, according to the Royalist account, “the people appeared well pleased.” But immediately the Parliamentary Committee heard what was being done they in their turn sallied into the market-place, and bade the Sheriff and his friends be silent, but these declined either to do that or to read the House’s commands, whereupon the Committee had to request their servant to
do the latter, and the strange scene ended in a wordy contest, and not, as might have been expected, in blows. The Royalists straightway went westward to recruit their forces, while the Commons’ Committee remained another two days in the town “labouring a right understanding of the power of Parliament and to undeceive the people,” and they then reported to the Speaker that their efforts had certainly been ” of high advantage.” (This account of the assize proceedings is drawn from three independent sources, namely, a long description in Clarendon (vi., 240 and foil.), a letter sent from Launceston by the Parliamentary Committee of the West to Speaker Lenthal (given in full in the Lords Journals, vol, v., p. 275,), and one from Beville Grenville and his companions (dated Launceston, August 5, 1642) to the Earl of Bath (summarised in the Fourth Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, Appendix, p. 307).)

For the time this did not appear to be the case. Hopton, following up the success he had legally gained, returned to Truro, and, having gathered a force of three thousand men, “advanced towards Launceston, where the committee had fortified, and from thence had sent messages of great contempt.” Sir George Chudleigh, a Parliamentarian, “being then at Tavistock with five or six full troops of horse,” drew to Lifton to assist his friends at Launceston, but his services were not required. “Sir Ralph Hopton marched within two miles of Launceston, where he refreshed his men, intending the next morning early to fall on the town; but Sir Richard Buller and his confederates, not daring to abide the storm, in great disorder quitted the town that night, and drew into Devonshire, and so towards Plymouth ; so that in the morning Sir Ralph Hopton found the gates of Launceston open, and entered without resistance.” The Royalists next moved towards Saltash, “where was a garrison of two hundred Scots, who, upon the approach of Sir Ralph Hopton, as kindly quit Saltash as the others had Launceston before.” The Parliamentarian forces were thus entirely driven out of the county, and as the Cornish Royalists would not advance beyond the borders of their own shire (a determination which ultimately proved the ruin of the King’s cause in these parts) they were disbanded “till a new provocation from the enemy should
put fresh vigour into that county, ”

Meanwhile the Houses had been taking steps to punish those who had been most prominent in opposing their Committee at the Launceston Assizes. On August 9, 1642, the Lords received from the Commons the letter previously quoted from, and forthwith agreed to resolutions adopted by the Lower House disabling Slanning from being a member and sending for him as a delinquent, the latter step being also ordered for “Mr. Hatch, the Minister that preached the Sermon,” and for the Sheriff of Cornwall, while Beville Grenville and John Arundell of Trerise (Trerice), both members, were summoned to attend the service of the House. In the letter already noted from Grenville and his friends it was prayed that they might have the King’s warrant not to leave their county except by his majesty’s orders. This request was evidently granted, for Grenville and Arundell replied to the order of the Commons that “they were commanded by his Majesty’s special Commands to continue in their County, to preserve the peace thereof,” and the Sheriff returned the same answer. The Commons thereupon resolved that Grenville should be disabled from continuing a member, and referred the case of the others to a special committee.

The winter which followed was a troubled one. According to journals favourable to the Parliament, the Cornish Cavaliers “like brethren in iniquity” were suffered by Hopton and Slanning to do as they liked, one of their exploits consisting in plundering the residence at Tavistock of John Maynard, the late Puritan member for Newport, for they “toare in pieces his writings, cut his beds in pieces, and cast abroad the feathers, and pulled down part of the roofe of his house.”
Comfort was, however, extracted by the Parliamentarians from a report that Hopton and his adherents in Devon and Cornwall “are in much distresse, having so lamentably plundred the Country, that it is unable any longer to sustaine them,” and from a later rumour that “Sir Ralph Hopton is either dead or dangerously sicke, and that Sir Bevil Greenvill and the rest of the malignants in Cornwall, are determined to breake up their army, being no longer able to continue them together for want of money and other provision.” A pamphlet, dated December 10 and entitled “A true Relation of the Present Estate of Cornwall,” contains a doleful picture of the troubles of the time. In this a certain Jeremiah Trivery denounced “the malitious malignant party, the Cavaliers of Cornwall,” who, having despoiled the inhabitants of Fowey at the end of the preceding month in return for hospitable entertainment, had proceeded for Launceston, where “getting in with the like wild they likewise plundered that, all but of their owne religion that are yet secure.”

January opened gloomily enough. Hopton, who had been besieging Exeter, learnt in the last days of December of the approach from Somersetshire of the Earl of Stamford with a large force, and he retreated by way of Torrington and Okehampton to Launceston. The Parliamentarians endeavoured to come up with him, and having on January 13 taken New Bridge after a smart engagement, occupied Launceston which the Royalists had abandoned. Ruthven, Governor of Plymouth, was the Parliamentarian leader in this enterprise, and was closely followed by the Earl of Stamford who came to Launceston “with a strong party of horse and foot.” The Royalists had retreated from Launceston to Bodmin and the Parliamentarians now advanced from the same town towards Liskeard. Battle was joined on January 19 at Bradock Down between Hopton and Ruthven, and the latter was so signally defeated that Grenville, writing on the same day to his wife (the Lady Grace Grenville who years before had been so much a friend of Eliot that he had called her his “sister“), felt the news to be so good that he told her that although “the messenger is paid, yet give him a shilling more.” Ruthven fled to Saltash, and Stamford, “receiving quick advertisement of this defeat, in great disorder retired (from Launceston) to Tavistock,”  which he quitted upon the Royalist advance; and, Ruthven having again been beaten, a treaty was entered into between the combatants “whereby the peace of those two counties of Cornwall and Devon might be settled, and the war be removed into other parts.”

The end of the treaty,” says Clarendon, ” was like that in other places.” Solemnly entered into in the February it was broken before the close of April. Each side had felt certain that this would be the case and had made preparation accordingly. In the April many gentlemen of Cornwall sent in their plate to the royal commissioners to assist the cause, and on the 29th an order was given from Launceston to Piers Edgcumbe and his fellows “to take into your hands what is to
be gotten beyond what is already come in and speed it to Sir Richard Vivyan.”  A letter from the county, dated the 23rd of the same month and published in the Mercurius Aulicus, stated that the treaty had been broken off and that the war was likely to be renewed, and the prediction was soon verified. On April 25 the Parliamentarian forces entered Cornwall by way of Polson Bridge.  “The night before the expiration of the treaty and cessation, James Chudleigh, the major-general of the rebels, brought a strong party of horse and foot within two miles of Launceston, the head quarter of the Cornish, and the very next morning, the cessation not being determined till after twelve of the clock in the night, marched upon the town, where they were not sufficiently provided for them. . . . Sir Ralph Hopton and Sir Bevil Greenvil (had) repaired to Launceston the day before the expiration of the treaty, to meet any attempt that should be made upon them . . . (but) all that was done the first day was, by the advantage of passes and lining of hedges, to keep the enemy in action till the other forces came up; which they seasonably did towards the evening ; and then the enemy, who received good loss in that day’s action, grew so heartless, that in the night they retired to Olungton (Okehampton), fifteen miles from the place of their skirmish.

A more particular description of the day’s fighting, and one which shows more clearly the position of Launceston in regard to it, is given by Rushworth. He states that James Chudleigh, who was in command of the Parliamentarians, because of the Earl of Stamford being ill of the gout at Exeter, “having Intelligence, That the Town of Lanceston in Cornwall had but a slender Garison, no great Guns, and that their Ammunition was carrying away, etc., did enter Cornwall, beat the centinels Poison Bridge, and approached near to the Town, which is naturally well fortified with a Hill, called the Windmill, on and near which Sir Ralph Hopton’s Forces lay, having made a kind of Fort there. The Major gave them a Charge, but met with a more vigorous Resistance than he expected ; and niter several hours warm Dispute his Foot were forced to give ground, having no opportunity of bringing on his Horse to assist them, by reason of the many Hedges. Sir Ralph’s forces seeing them shrink, stoutly pusht on their Success, and sent a Regiment of Foot and three Troops of Horse to wheel about and fall on their Rear, and take Pulson Bridge behind them. But this was prevented by the coming in of some broken Companies of Colonel Mericks Regiment from Plymouth under the Conduct of Lieutenant- Colonel Calmady, and 100 of Colonel Northcot’s Regiment, under the Command of Sergeant-Major Fitch, who secured the Bridge, over which the Major Retreated, and brought off his Ordnance Ammunition and Carriages, without any extraordinary Loss, and lay that night at Lifton, and the next Day march’t to Okehampton, where they lay as in Garison.” This was the first blood shed in battle at Launceston from the time of Arundel’s rebellion close upon a hundred years before, but it was by no means to be the last.

The site of the Civil War skirmish at Windmill
The site of the Civil War skirmish at Windmill

*In the Parish Register is entered the burial of one “souldier” on the 2nd April, 1643. And in the sexton’s account against the Mayor are the entries :
24th April. Captayn James Bassett buryed in the Chancell. 25th. John Arundle, an Ensigne, in the Church. 4th May. Lewtenent Fitz-James in the Church. 30th. Henry Mynard, lieu, buryed. The burial of three “souldiers” is also recorded, and some of these entries are confirmed by the Parish Register.
On the 14th April Mr. Kingdon notes that Sir Bevill Grinfild came to towne with his regiment and had for the gard 2 seam wood 1 1/2 li candells. Aprell 17th. The Mayor charges for a gallon of sacke presented to Sr Ralphe Hopton, Sr Bevell Grenvell and others, 4s.; and, more, the 18th April to the law courte 2 quarts sacke 2s. 20th. Pd sending 3 malitia men by a pass into Devon that were scalded 6d. In the bill of disbursements of the Mayor are the following undated items:
Payd for a denner for Mr Coryton, Mr Mannington, Mr Powlle Spickkat (Paul Speccott) and others, wth a quart of sack the same denner 5s. 2d. Payd for a quart of sacke sent unto Mr. Basseat being in towne 14d. Item. I gave Killy for earring of a letter unto Ser Ralf Hopton 12d. Itm. I delyverd unto Mr. Bevell Escott in mach, powder, and bullats to the some of i5d. Itm. I delyved unto Mr Piper, maior, (of the succeeding year), on pown of powder for the King’s server 18d. Itm. Mor to Mr. Bevell Escott on pown of mich to keep sentanell 6d. Itm. Payd for making up of the walls be the dorer in the back lane by order of Capten Pendarvis 27s. (This has reference to the town wall adjoining Northgate on the east.) Item. For mysealf and Nobell to ride to Bodment to apear ther befor my Lord Mowen (Mohun), Ser Ralf Hopton, and other Commissioners, 10s. 22nd April. For 2 seame wood, 1 1/2 li candells ; and at midnight there was a larrum, and had more 4 li of candells. 23rd. They had for the gard 2 seam wood and 5 li of candells, being the day that the melecia was at Winmill. The Capt: of the gard had 2 seame wood to make bulletts. 24th. 2 seam wood, 2 li candells for the gard. At the same tyme ther wher 2 regiments in the Church, and had to buy wood, in mony 2s., and like had 2 li candells is. 13th May. Mr. Stokes notes “a warent to rayse horse, & the sending away of 2 warents for bringing in of provision.” On the 15th Oswald Cornish charges “for riding to Weeke wth provision for the Armye 4s. ; and Henry Bennett “for riden after the army with provisions 2 dayes 4s.”

Chudleigh, when he retreated upon Okehampton closely followed by Hopton’s forces, reported to the House of Commons that he had completely overthrown the
Cavaliers, but this statement was contemptuously disposed of by a Royalist newspaper, which observed that all that the Parliamentarians had done had been “to spend a little of their fury on the walls of Lanceston,” before forced by Hopton “to retreate backe to their owne quarters on the Edge of Devon.” But Chudleigh was nothing if not startling, and in his anxiety to astonish he was not above claiming for himself victories which he had not won. He now represented that in a fight in the early days of May with Hopton’ s men near Okehampton “the Lord sent Fire from heaven, so that the Cavaliers Powder in their Bandaliers, Flasks, and Muskets tooke fire, by which meanes they hurt, and slew each other, to the wonder and amazement of the Parliaments Forces,” it being added that this mystic fire “ so lamentably scorched and burnt many of their bodies, that they sent for 12 Chyrurgions from Launcestou to cure them.” The Earl of Stamford, having recovered from his gout, now took the Parliamentarian command in person, and his forces “being 5000 foote and 1000 horse marched into Cornewall,” and with this information was sent to London the same day a rumour that Hopton had died after a fight on Roborough Down. Stamford advanced upon Stratton, the only part of the count then well affected to the Houses, and detached Sir George Chudleigh to surprise Bodmin. Hopton and Grenville with the Royalist forces (which
were far inferior in numbers to the Parliamentarian) were at Launceston, whence they marched, as Clarendon says, “with a resolution to fight with the enemy upon any disadvantage of place or number.” The two bodies drew within a mile of each other on May 15, and on the next day was fought the battle of Stratton, in which the Parliamentarians (chiefly, as Stamford urged, through the treachery of some of his subordinates, and especially of James Chudleightt) were completely routed with heavy loss.

Battlefield of Stratton
Battlefield of Stratton

In a letter dated the day before the battle, a certain J. T. (who was probably none other than the Jeremiah Trivery) communicated to a Puritan friend in London a relation of  “the places and Garrison towns of the Cornish Forces, with the number of souldiers therein.” In this he stated that the Royalist army lay at Liskeard, Saltash, Launceston, Bridgerule, Stratton, “and other Parishes neer the river.” “At Launceston M. Trevanian his Regiment is quartered, consisting of about 700 foot“; and in the list of officers appended to the letter occur some names which sound familiarly in Launceston ears. There is first “Sir Bevill Greenvile (Colonell of one Foot Regiment),” there is a Sergeant-Major Mannington and a Captain Mannington, a Captain Estcott, and two Captains Piper, one of these last-named not improbably being Hugh (afterwards Sir Hugh) Pyper, of whom much is later to be heard. In the same letter is a hesitating denial of the rumour of Hopton’s
death—a rumour which, with Chudleigh’s story of the thunder-and lightning victory, and the Parliamentarian defeat at Stratton, inspired Sir John Denham, a Royalist poet, to write ” A Western Wonder,” the opening verses of which may be quoted:

Do you not know, not a fortnight ago,
How they bragg’d of a western wonder?
When a hundred and ten slew five thousand men,
With the help of lightning and thunder?
There Hopton was slain, again and again.
Or else my author did lie ;
With a new thanksgiving, for the dead who are living,
To God, and his servant Chidleigh.
But now on which side was this miracle try’d,
I hope we at last are even ;
For Sir Ralph and his knaves are risen from their graves,
To cudgel the clowns of Devon

Sir William Waller
Sir William Waller

The Royalists lost no time in following up their victory. Sir William Waller (“William the Conqueror” as he was fondly called by the Parliamentarians) marched from London towards the West, and the Cornish forces, now joined by Prince Maurice, the Marquis of Hertford, and the Earl of Carnarvon, advanced from Stratton through Devonshire into Somersetshire, to meet him. After many skirmishes a battle was fought at Lansdowne, near Bath, on July 5, which with severe struggle the Royalists won, but their success was dearly bought. “That which would have clouded any victory,” observes Clarendon, ” and made the loss of others the less spoken of, was the death of Sir Bevil Greenvil.” “Bravely behaving himself ” said Sir John Hinton many years later in a memorial to Charles the Second, the old member for Launceston “was killed at the head of his stand of pikes,” within a fortnight of his friend of the Eliot days, John Hampden, having died from a wound received on Chalgrove Field.

On endeavouring to form some conception of what Launceston was like in this period of wars and rumours of wars, let us picture a trooper of Rebellion days standing on the ramparts of the Castle. Not only the great natural objects—the Cornish tors, the Devonshire moors, and the valleys of the Tamar and the Kensey—but the church of the Magdalene at his feet, of St. Thomas in the hollow, of St. Stephen on the other hill, and of South Petherwin among the trees, as well as the South Gate with its Dark House above, would be as visible to him as to us. But the fort on Windmill, the North and the West Gates, plain then, have gone now;
and the Guildhall and the Gaol, the Bridewell and the Wall, St. Leonard’s Hospital and the Priory ruins, have similarly been swept from sight into remembrance.
And when we imagine our trooper descending from the keep and strolling into the town, the differences between the Launceston of two centuries ago and the Launceston of to-day become even more striking. Passing through the western archway of the Green, he would cross the draw-bridge over the castle dyke, a name not limited then as now to a portion of the old moat, and would proceed through Dockhay to the West Gate. By this he could go into the town, or, if he
chose, could climb the hill to the military post on Windmill, or skirt the wall under Mount Madford and enter by the South Gate. Through whichever portal ho passed he would soon find himself in Broad Street, a name familiar to him as to us and a thoroughfare then as now the business centre of the town. There before the Guildhall he would see the pillory, lately devoted to the sufferings of offenders against the Star Chamber and now being used for the punishment of words spoken against Crown or Parliament as either was for the moment uppermost, and he would read, if his culture had reached that unusual point, the latest proclamation of the King or the Houses according as Royalist or Roundhead then held the walls. As he glanced around his eyes would rest upon a dwelling, erected in the time
of Elizabeth and still in existence, and as he looked towards the West Gate he would observe some houses of refreshment the names of which have descended even to us. If he turned his steps towards St. Mary Magdalene’s, the carvings upon which had not yet lost their sharpness, he would take High Street or Church Street on his way, and in the latter would walk by the old shambles where the sale of meat was carried on, and beneath the overhanging stories of many a gabled residence, only one specimen of which remains. Passing the entrance to Blindhole, by which he might again have sought the South Gate, and turning from Fore Street, with the North Gate at its foot, he would by Castle Street gain the eastern gate of the Green, then surmounted by the residence of the Constable of the Castle.

Doomsdale, Launceston Castle.
Doomsdale, Launceston Castle.

And the portcullis, the grooves of which are still plain to view, having been raised, no enemy being near, he would pass Doomsdale (above) on the one hand and the old gaol on the other and again reach his quarters. It is probable, however, that although the Castle would be the scene of the trooper’s military life it would not be his abiding place by night, the sleeping-accommodation being of necessity limited, and he would, therefore, be billetted upon one of the inhabitants. The frequent changes in the occupation of the town from Royalist to Parliamentarian and from Parliamentarian to Royalist must have been a great embarrassment to those taverners who wished to keep upon good terms with the often-moved soldier-inmates of their houses. For the borough scarcely knew at any hour what force would command it the next. A drum-beat in the direction of Polson Bridge would announce the approach from Exeter of a tide of Royalists, and the road to Ridgegrove would be lined with spectators as these swept through the South Gate into the town. No sooner would they be settled into quarters than a hasty order from Hopton, borne at a gallop down Race Hill and through the same gateway, would call them away, and all the windows beyond the wall on that side the town would again be filled with gazers as the troops marched out towards Saltash. Shots from the Stratton side would next announce that hot work was being done in that quarter, and Fore Street would be filled as the Parliamentary forces with steady stride climbed St. Thomas Hill, and passing through the North Gate took possession of the Castle. And a day’s halt would be called, a Council of War held, and through Dockhay and by the road from the West Gate the Puritans would take their departure for Bodmin, there to yield to the Royalists or become masters of the West. The whole changing circumstances of this period are more like a dream than anything we can imagine as occurring in a sober far-from-the-world town like Launceston. We have seen in how many ways the borough was a participator in the events which
led to the great struggle, have noted the wrangle at the assize- court in which both parties, already armed for the encounter, professed their strict regard for the law, and have followed the course of Grenville and Hopton, Ruthven and Stamford as political dissension developed into civil war. There is yet to be unfolded a series of
scenes in which the clang of arms is again and again to be heard, amid the disputes of the Corporation ending in the expulsion of a Puritan alderman ; amid the visits of Essex, of Fairfax, and of Cromwell, of Charles the King and Charles Prince of Wales; and amid all the confusion of successive Royalist and Parliamentarian occupations of the town, with street-fighting in the streets and at the gates, with the Church despoiled of its lead for the casting of bullets and the Castle of its woodwork for the better embarrassment of the next besieger. It was not only in matters of warfare that Launceston was closely connected with the origin, the progress, and the outcome of the Great Rebellion. It was a centre of opposition to the King when taxation was first sought to be illegally imposed ; one of the country
—squires whose seats were within sight of the Castle, Richard Gedie of Trebursye, was father-in-law of the stoutest opponent of the loan, while two others, Nicholas Trefusis of Landue and Ambrose Manaton of Trecarrell, were joined in support of Eliot at the most critical period of the patriot’s career. And although Grenville and Manaton and Coryton, each member at some time for Launceston, fell away from the side they first adopted in public life, Leonard Treise of Tresmere, the borough’s Recorder, and Robert Bennett of Hexworthy and Thomas Gewen of Bradridge, two other of the neighbouring squires, were prominent in their devotion to the Parliament, the services of the first being rewarded by the Houses with a pension, those of the second being recognised by Cromwell appointing him to a seat in his Council of State, and the third proving himself so devoted to the Protector that he proposed the crown should be conferred upon him. And just as Bennett and Gewen, both members for Launceston, showed themselves staunch adherents of the Parliament, so Sir John Grenville, son of Beville, and Sir William Morice of Werrington, both members for Newport, approved themselves friends of the monarchy by being the principal intermediaries between Monk and Charles the Second
when the one was plotting to bring the other to the throne. The whole story of the Great Rebellion falls, in fact, within the period bounded by the first return for Newport of Sir John Eliot, earliest leader of the opposition against Charles the First, and the last return for the same borough of Sir William Morice, first Secretary of State to Charles the Second.

Battle of Stratton Monument
Battle of Stratton Monument with the tablet “In this place ye Army of ye Rebells under ye command of ye Earl of Stamford, received a signal overthrow by ye valor of Sir Bevill Grenville, and ye Cornish Army on Tuesday ye 16th of May, 1643.”

The completeness of the Royalist victory at Stratton, with its necessary consequence of freeing Cornwall from the Parliamentarian forces, might have been expected to have brought peace to the county for some time to come. But the departure of the King’s supporters to encounter Waller left the shire exposed to attack, and in August, 1643, “it is informe out of Devonshire, that the Inhabitants of Barnstable, Beddyford, and Terrington, in the North part of that County, are joyned in a body, and are gone into Cornwall, and that they intend to seize upon the houses, estates and goods of such of the Cornish Cavaliers as now besiege Excester”; but theso worthy gentlemen had speedily to retire ” without effecting much to their purpose, because the whole power of the County of Cornwall rose against them, so that their numbers being farre unequall to the Cornish strength, they were forced to give over their designe, and returne to their own homes againe.”

Battle of Stratton Monument
Battle of Stratton Monument

*The Launceston Borough Accounts contain no record of the battle, but they amply disclose the unsettled condition of the town. On the 22nd May, 1643, 2 warrants were issued for bringing in of horses, and on the 24th two more for bringing in of oxen. On the same day a messenger took a post letter to Bodmin, by order of Governor Pendarves. Many warrants were issued for raising money, and others without stating their purpose; but it may be inferred that some of them at least were for supply of army material, while messengers were also despatched to Callington, Liskeard, and Bodmin. The mayor for the year 1643, Arthur Piper, provided the
following arms for the town: “Six musketts at 10s. per muskett ; six payer bandeliers at 2s. per payre ; five corsletts at 1 3s. 4d. per corslett ; fower pikes at 3s. per
pike; eight pounds of gunpowder at 20d. per li, wch powder was delivered at an alaram heere by night.” Mr. Charles Kingdon charges 2s. 6d. “for ridinge to
Liskeard to informe Sr Ralph Hopton the Londoners were gone out of towne ;” and at another time “to inform him of the departure of the militia neere Camelford, 2s. 6d.”  “George Jackson, ensigne, prayethe the worsl Arthur Piper, maior and captaine of this towne and St Steephens Company, to be allowed for himself and his horse on day at Kellington, at a mowster there, and staied all night, from thence to Saltashe too dayes on night 12s. Allsoe for a jorney att Bodman sissions last past too dayes and on night 7s.” Mr. Degory King claims 12d. “for a letter to Mr Recorder, for staying the towne band from goinge to Saltash;” and 4d. “for a note under Ser Ralfe Hopton’s and Sr Bevill Grenvile’s hands for the towne’s amuniton.

Cornwall, therefore, remained true to the King, and Charles marked his sense of its devotion by a special letter of thanks, “given at our camp at Sudeley Castle, the 10th of September, 1643,” recognising to the full the zeal which had been displayed, “and commanding copies hereof to be printed and published, and one of them to be read in every church and chapel therein, and to be kept for ever as a record in the same ; that, as long as the history of these times and of this nation shall continue, the memory of how much that county hath merited, from us and our crown, may be derived with it to posterity.” A copy of this letter, painted on a wooden tablet, was placed and is still to be seen in most churches in Cornwall ; in Launceston it is in the vestry-room (which, until the erection of the new Guildhall, was the Council Chamber (1881)), and only a few years ago it was repaired and re-painted. Immediately the Parliamentarians knew what the King had done they protested against it, and declared that the letter would’ ” instead of being a Monument of Honour to that valiant Countrey in subsequent ages, remaine as a blemish and dishonour upon them, That they should be so seduced as to spend their strengths and lives and estates not in asserting their Liberties, and in defence of the King, joyned with his highest and best Councell the Parliament (as all good Patriots ought to doe) but in taking part with the King misled by evill Councellors who would (might they obtaine their wished ends) introduce popeiy and slavery upon them and the rest of the Kingdome, and will deserve no other Character than of being, The most infamous and industrious betrayers of the true Religion, and their owne Liberties.” The year ended without further fighting in the neighbourhood of Launceston, but it was a most fatal one for the inhabitants of the town. During its course the appalling total of 116 deaths, nearly double that of the highest number recorded for over a century, was filtered in the Parish Register. There were three in January, two in February, and three in March, and then there was a sudden leap to seventeen in April. In May there were twenty-three deaths, in June nineteen, in July sixteen, in August fifteen, and then another eighteen for the remaining four months of the year. That the war, in addition to being the cause of many of these by reason of the privations and alarms of the inhabitants, was the direct cause of several is shown by the number of soldiers buried in the town that year. The first was interred on March 22, another followed on April 2, “CaptainJames Bassett” on April 24, “John Arundle an Ensigne” on April 25, ” James Fithams Lieutnt ” on May 3, and “Henry Mynard a Lieutenant ” on May 30, besides three privates in May, one in June, one in July, and one in August ; while in the next year (in which there was a total of 42 deaths) ” Richard Jonas a souldier ” was buried on April 25, “John Millott a lieut ” on August 13, and “Alexander Winchborow a souldier ” on September 10.

*The Parish Register records the burial of a “souldier” on the 1st June, 1643, and of another on the 4th June. On the 22nd June ” Captaine Powlwhelle was buryed in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.” On the 26th and 27th are charges for journeys with soldiers ” to be inrolled, including meat and beer for the men.” On July 3rd a warrant was issued for raising of horses. On the 4th another soldier was buried at St. Mary Magdalene.

The mention of these interments suggests the question whether all the soldiers who died or were slain in Launceston during the progress of the Rebellion were
buried in the churchyard. Rather more than twenty years since (1860), when the Castle Green was being made more level, many human bones were found a little below the surface, and it has been thought that these were of persons killed in the course of the Civil War or of prisoners who had died in the gaol. There may have been cases of both, seeing that the Register contains no reference to the death of prisoners for many years about this period, and in 1646, for instance, has no entry of a military funeral, though, as we shall afterwards see, at least two soldiers were killed here in that year. Early in 1644, the Commons determined to expel those members who could be accused of “deserting the service of the House, and being in the King’s quarters, and adhering to that party, ” and among those so dealt with were Manaton and Harris, members for Launceston, Piers Edgcumbe, a former member for Newport, and Richard Edgcumbe, the sitting member for that borough. Manaton and Piers Edgcumbe certainly, and the others probably, being deprived of their seats at Westminster, joined the “Mongrel Parliament” which met at Oxford, the head-quarters of the King on the very day of the expulsion, and on March 21 the honorary degree of D. C. L. was conferred upon the two former.

The siege of Plymouth by the Royalists was meanwhile proceeding, not without great difficulties in the way of the besiegers, one of which is shown in the record that the Cavaliers threatened to hang all those in the district who would not join their forces,”and having pressed six in Lifton Parish . . . they were compelled to send a guard with them to Exon.” But soon Launceston was again to bear the brunt of battle. The Earl of Essex, contrary as some assert to his own judgment, made a descent upon our county. On June 26, says Eushworth, the Earl “entered into Cornwall, Sir Richard Greenvile at Newbridge, the Passage into that County, maintaining an hot dispute for some time but at last the Parliaments Forces, with the loss of about forty or fifty Men gain’d the Pass and so passed on to Lanceston the Shire Town, where they took divers Barrels of Powder.” In a list of the Parliamentarian victories, published as a broadside in 1646 for popular circulation, this encounter is named as the one hundred and fifty-second success of the Puritan army, it being placed “in the moneth of June, 1644,” and described as “Launceston with four more final Garrisons taken by the E. of Essex, with al the ammunition.”  While this was passing on the borders of Cornwall, Queen Henrietta Maria was in sore trouble at Exeter. “Here is the woefullest spectacle my eyes yet ever looked on,” said Sir Francis Bassett to his wife (writing at Exeter but directing his letter from Launceston after Essex had evacuated the town) ; ” the most worne and weake pitifull creature in ye world, the poore Queene, shifting for one hour’s liffe longer.” The Princess Henrietta had been born at Exeter on June 16, and, according to tradition, it was a Launcestonian who was of great help to her Majesty in her time of need. For “when the beautiful Queen, Henrietta Maria, was fearful for want of the rare thing—gold, she should bring a royal infant into the world with a state and ceremony as bare as its own nakedness, Sir Hugh Piper’s silver dishes, plates, caudle drinking- cups, and ladles, all went to the melting-pot, to furnish forth royal bedding and baby clothes, fees for wise women, possets for nurses, and spoons for godmothers and gossips, at the royal Exeter lying-in of the Queen.” According to the inscription to his memory in Launceston Church, Sir Hugh was born in 1611, and as this was one of the years during which the Register was imperfect it is not possible to tell from that source whether he was of Launceston birth, though there is not a doubt that he was of Launceston descent. The name of ” Hugh Piper, gent.” occurs in the Register in the earliest years of the century, both marriage and death being entered within the space of six months, thereby precluding the possibility of this being Sir Hugh’s father ; and the next entry of the name (which, were it not that the fact that Sir Hugh was at this time a Plymouth merchant prevents it from being a certainty, would appear to be that of the knight himself) is in 1641, when on “the 22th of August was bapt. Arthur the son of Hugh Piper gent.,” “Mary, wife of Hugh Piper gent.” being buried nine days later, and the child itself in November of the next year. But whether of Launceston birth or not, we shall find afterwards how closely connected with the town was he of whom it is stated on his monument that “he served in the Civil Wars as an Ensign, Lieutenant, and Captain, under Sr. Richard and Sr. Beville Granville, Knts., at the siege of Plymouth, at the battles of Stratton and Lansdowne, where he was wounded in the neck, thigh, and shot through the shoulder. His estates were sequestered by the Rump Parliament for his loyalty to his Master and injured Sovereign, King Charles the First,” whose Queen he now assisted in her escape through Cornwall to France. Essex evidently did not stay long in Launceston, for when the King joined Prince Maurice at Exeter and marched into Cornwall, ” some of his horse and foot entered into Landson (July 31), all Essex his army being gone thence and no resistance.”  On that day Charles, who remained on the Devonshire side of the Tamar, received a message from Sir Richard Grenville desiring his majesty to hasten towards the West, and ” the King bid the fellow tell him he was coming with all possible speed with an army of 10000 foot, 5000 horse,and 28 piece of cannon.” The next day the King and the remainder of his forces crossed Poison Bridge, passed through Launceston, and ” marched to Trecarel in the psh of Lysant and lay there at the house of Mr. Manaton in com. Cornubia,” while ” the whole army lay this night round about this house in the field,” the men having been cheered on their way from Poison by the fact that “a fellow that was carrying letters from Essex was taken and hang’d below the rendezvous that all the army might see him as they marched by.” The King did not remain at Trecarrell more than one night, proceeding the next morning to Liskeard, whence he advanced towards Lostwithiel, and the greater part of the month was occupied with skirmishing, Essex refusing to treat because he had no authority from the Houses to do so. On August 31, the Parliamentarian horse began to retreat from Cornwall, and ” the King supposing they would go through Liskerd and Launceston sent 2 messengers of our troope, Mr. Brooke and Mr. Samuel West, with a letter to Sir Fr. Donington (who hath a 1000 horse in Devon) to stop their march. But the enemy went not near Liskerd this day, but went right to Saltash to ferry their horse over into Devonshire.” On the same day, the King gave battle to the Parliamentarian forces at Lostwithiel and completely defeated them, but Essex had fled with the horse, leaving Major-General Skippon to negotiate a surrender. Charles, a few days later, withdrew to Liskeard and thence from Cornwall, not again passing through Launceston, however, but proceeding direct from Liskeard to Tavistock. It was not much wonder, after such a severe reverse to the Parliamentarians, that Cromwell was moved to exclaim “We do with grief of heart resent the sad condition of our Army in the West, and of affairs there. That business has our hearts with it ; and truly had we wings, we would fly thither! So soon as ever my Lord (Manchester) and the Foot set me loose, there shall be in me no want to hasten what I can to that service.”  But it was eighteen months before his aspiration could be realised, and for twelve of these, as far as Launceston was concerned, there was cessation of active strife.

But though there was no fighting in the neighbourhood for this period, political warfare raged keenly within the borough’s walls. The majority of the Corporation was Royalist, but one of the aldermen at least, Thomas Bolitho by name, was not afraid, even though the town was held by the King’s forces, to stand up in behalf of the Parliament, and he suffered for his temerity. According to a petition presented by him to the Lords on June 19, 1646, he went to Plymouth two years before “and took up for the service of the Parliament,” for which act he was indicted at the Town Court as a rebel, and was on February 3, 1645, deprived by the Corporation of his place as alderman of the borough. As long as the Royalists still triumphed he held his peace, but when they were overthrown he prayed the Lords that he might be restored to his aldermanship and might receive reparation for the wrongs inflicted upon him. And the Lords, impressed with the justice of his plea, immediately ordered “that the said Bilithoe shall be restored to be a Burgess of the said Town of Launceston, and enjoy his Privilege.”  *At a borough court, held 7th September,
1646, before Thomas Hicks, mayor, and five aldermen, it is recorded that “Thomas Bolithoe is admitted to his former place of alderman of the borough, and Charles King is deposed from his place of alderman, to which he was lawfully elected.” Two days later Mr. Bolithoe was made mayor, and on the 19th day of the same month of September, he convened a special meeting at the Speech House. There he triumphantly led the humiliated aldermen to pass the following resolution :

*Uppon consideration had how that about the begynnyng of the late unnaturall warre, leavied and mayntayned by a malignant party in this K’ingdome agaynst the Parliament and their adherents, when as Sr Ralfe Hopton and his forces, in a hostile manner, were entered and contynued in this county, and some forces were alsoe raysed and brought into this towne by order and direction of the Parliament for the necessary defence and preservation thereof agaynst the said Sr Ralfe Hopton and his army, Ambrose Manaton, Esquire, then Recorder of this towne and justice of peace of this county, and alsoe a member of the house of Comons, with the assistance of some other Justices of Peace who joyned with him therein, by color and pretence of their authorite as Justices of the peace, caused and required the then Sheriffe of this County to rayse the power of our County; which being don accordingly, and joyned with the said forces of the said Sr Ralfe Hopton, by meanes thereof the said Sr Ralfe Hopton grewe soe potent that the said forces of the Parliament then remayning in this Towne were unable to make resistance and stand agaynst him, but were enforced to disband and leave this Towne : Whereuppon the said Sr Ralfe Hopton entred thereinto, and thereby, as well the said Towne and the inhabitants thereof, as this whole County were subdued and brought in subjection to the power and tyranny of the enemy (the King) by reason whereof (besides the manifold pressures and grievances under which they lay for a long tyme after, even untill the comyng in of his Excellency Sr Thomas Fayrefax and (his army), the whole kingdom hath byn putt into great hazards and danger : And likewise that the said Mr Manaton, being Recorder heere, was also chosen to be one of the burgesses of this Towne to serve in the present Parliament, and was thereupon admitted to be a member of the house of Comons accordingly, nevertheless, contrary to the trust reposed in him by this Borough, he hath deserted -the Parliament, and adhered to their enemyes and joyned himselfe with an unlawfull assembly of malignants at Oxford, and was one of them who did usurpe the name and power of a Parliament, and voted both kingdoms to be traytors, and hath soe misbehaved himselfe towards the kingdome and Parliament that the said house of Comons hath adjudged him unworthy to contynue any longer to be one of the members thereof, and by their vote and comon consent, have given order that a writt shal be issued for the elecion of an other burgesse for this Towne in his roome ; and for diverse other waightie matters and causes, the said maior and aldermen, with an unanimus consent, have agreed and resolved to put out and remove the said Mr Manaton from the said place and office of Recorder of this borough, and dyd instantly remove and putt him out of the same : And afterwards, at the same meeting, the said Maior and Aldermen, with one unanimus consent, did elect Thomas Gewen, Esquire, to be the Recorder of the sd borough; And the said Thomas Gewen afterwards the same day, before the sd Aldermen and the Towne Clarke of the said borough, tooke the severall oathes of supremacy and alleageance, and likewise the oath specially appointed to be taken for the due execucon of the said office of Recorder of the said borough.

The autumn and winter of 1645 will be ever memorable in the annals of Launceston because of the sojourn of Charles Prince of of Wales in the town. “When the prince,” says Clarendon, “came to Launceston from Exeter (which was about the middle of September) after the loss of Bristol, and the motion of the enemy
inclined westward, it was then thought fit to draw all the trained bands of Cornwall to Launceston (under the command of Sir Richard Grenville;) . . . The day after the Prince came to Launceston, Sir Richard Greenvile writ a letter to him, wherein he (re) presented the impossibility of keeping that army together, or fighting with it in the condition it was then in.” Dissensions, in fact, filled the royal force ; Lord Goring, the commander of the King’s forces, who had been defeated by Sir Thomas Fairfax, thought himself badly served, and Sir Richard Grenville was at variance with several of the other officers as well as with the Cornish gentlemen, who through their commissioners (of whom Coryton was one) presented to the Prince “a sharp complaint against him in the name of the whole county, for several exorbitences and strange acts of tyranny exercised upon them.” It was immediately after Goring’s rout that the Prince visited Launceston, from which town his royal highness addressed a letter to the defeated general on July 26, regarding the heavy pressure of the military upon Cornwall and Devon. As soon as the Prince entered Cornwall, his mission was so referred to by the Parliamentarians as to show how little they feared he would succeed. “Observe,” said one of the Puritan newspapers “how they hurry poor Prince Charles from place to place, by his presence to raise the better supplies, and now at last to his Tenants in Cornwall: they will make him spend and adventure all his Interest before they have done with him.” The earliest effort the Prince made in the county was evidently at Launceston, where first he stayed, and where without doubt it was that “hee lately made a speech to the Countrey-men, wishing them, That as they had
formerly, so they would still continue to stand for their Prince, and that they would raise all the strength they could to oppose the Rebels.” But the old difficulty arose once more, for “the Cornish promised, That they would assist him with their lives and fortunes in their owne Countrey, but would not be perswaded to stir out of it.” “The truth is,” sadly observed a Royalist newspaper a fortnight later, “the Cornish men are unwilling to come out of their County, and many of them begin to imbrace an indifferent good opinion of Sir Thomas Fairfax Army.” Just at the same time as this was published, “Prince Charles with Hopton, Greenvile and the rest kept his Rendezvouz at Launceston in Cornewall; they cannot raise in all above 5000 horse and foot at most . . . The Prince cannot raise above 1500 to bring out of Cornewall the Trained-bands absolutely refusing to stir.” Goring then resolved that the whole of his army (including his foot quartered at Okehampton, his horse at Lidford, and Sir Richard Grenville’s men at Tavistock) should rendezvous at Launceston, preparatory to a march into Devonshire. The result was a disappointment, and the Prince, writing from Launceston on September 1, dwelt upon the small attendance of the trained bands at the day appointed, and adjourned the muster until the 24th of the same month.

Madford House, Launceston
Madford House

The Prince continued to make Launceston his head-quarters, and on October 14 sent a letter hence to Col. P(iers) Edgcumbe ordering him to bring up more troops.  But his mission had failed, and although one Parliamentarian newspaper could in this same month positively assert that ” The Prince was Munday the 20 instant at
Launston,” other journals gave most conflicting accounts of his movements, one even inserting a rumour (while the Prince was still in all probability located in Madford House, the finest dwelling then in Launceston although Richard and Otho Peter believe he possibly lodged at the assize hall, within the Keep Court of
the Castle.
) that he had fled to France. Through most of the winter his royal highness remained in the town, endeavouring to heal the differences between Goring and Grenville, but his efforts were in vain, and the latter proved so insubordinate that the Prince had no alternative in the beginning of 1646 but to cast him into prison in Launceston Castle. The cause thus divided against itself did not long stand. “The imprisonment of Greenvill hath caused some distractions & mutinies amongst them,” we are told in the February, “the Greenvillians who are most mutiners being much displeased at it, and unwilling to be commanded either by the Gorians or Hoptonians.” Launceston was in fact the scene of many Royalist distractions. “From the Enemies Quarters,” says a Parliamentarian journal, “we have advertisement by some prisoners who came about Exchange from Lanceston, That many of the Cornish Souldiers which were taken at Dartmouth, upon their comming into Cornwal, much boasted of the clemencie of his Excellencie Sir Thomas Fairfax, who had not only spared their lives when he had them at mercy, but also gave them their liberties, and two shillings apeece. These comming to Lanceston, were questioned by Hopton’s forces whether they would serve the Prince or no, which they refusing, about thirty of them were clapt up prisoners.” The Prince left Launceston on Friday, 29th August, and went thence to Exeter. A

Despite these differences, the neighbourhood of Launceston continued to be well guarded against a surprise, as Major Seely, of the Parliamentarians, found when he ” was opposed by the Cornish, as he would have gone over Ponstor (Polson) Bridge, whereupon he retreated back to Leyton (Lifton), where he quarters“; but the
Prince discovered, soon after he had imprisoned Grenville, that his position was fast becoming untenable. He had not only to contend with quarrels among his generals but with mutinies among his troops, and now desertions were frequent. In the last days of January he accordingly “retreated further into Cornwall, and his Forces quitting Launceston, carrying what Provisions they could out of that Port of Devon (sic) into Cornwall.” Of this movement, Sir Thomas Fairfax gave a striking account in a letter to Speaker Lenthal, written at Chudleigh on February 2.

Tuesday last,” he says, “divers ploughs and horses, all laden, some with provisions, have been sent out of Launceston Westward ; there was also great store of Bread baked, the Bread was brought in flaskets from a Bakehouse in that town, where it was baked by the Princes Baker, and was immediately sent away Westward; six or seven ploughs more were drawn out of Launceston on Wednesday night Westwards, also further into Cornwall, much of their Lading was Musquets, Pikes, and other Ammunition ; the rest of the Lading was Victuals, as poudred Beef and Cheese, with them were about fifty horse, laden with Powder, Match, and Bullets, and Lead which they had taken off from the Castle, so that, it is all unleaded ; much of the Ammunition was loaded out of Guild-hall, which is their main Guard ; on Thursday night neer fifty more horse laden with provisions, as Bacon, Pork, and such like, were sent the same way, all reported to be for the Princes Court . . . Thursday also the prisoners in Launceston were turned over from Greenvile’s Marshal to the Lord Hopton’s Marshal; fifty Souldiers ran the same day out of one Regiment; those that they gather out of the country run away daily : Friday, six ploughs more were drawn into the castle green to be loaded, with them were forty horse, with pack-Saddles, Crooks and Paniards ; these were all reported to be sent after the rest : That day thirty Hogsheads of Syder were brought into Launceston from Merrington (Werrington), which were likewise to be sent Westward for the Prince ; and the Marshal gave order this day, that the prisoners in Launceston should be carried to Truro . . . The Trained-Bands of the town of Launceston get others for money to serve in their rooms ; the Trained-Bands further West will not rise at all. There is now but one Iron Gun in Launceston, which is an Iron piece planted between the Princes Quarters and Guild hal ; the poor people pull down the Works about the town to get away the Wood, none hindring them; the Prince and Hopton were Saturday, Jan. 31, both in Launceston.

The Prince had returned to the town a day before the date mentioned, only to hear that on the Thursday (Jan. 29) there had been “a mutiny in Launceston between some of Hopton’s men and some of Greenvills, which made many of the common Souldiers crie home, and accordingly some ran towards Greston (Greystone), some towards Braston (Bradstone), and some to other places.” His royal highness (who was accompanied by Hopton, the Earl of Berkshire, and Sir Edward Hyde, afterwards the Earl of Clarendon) “took much pains “on the Saturday, then the Launceston marketday, “to appease the souldiers and the Countrey-people.” The Prince remained with Hopton in the town for some days, and during his stay the Royalists are reported to “have defaced much the Castle of Launceston, by taking away the Lead, and giving the Timber to the people to burn, who pull down the Works. “His royal highness then proceeded to Holsworthy, the head-quarters of Goring’s horse (a portion of which lay at North Petherwin), and next by way of Truro to Pendennis and thence to France. Before departing, the Prince commanded the trained-bands ‘ ‘ to keep guards on the river day and night,” and a party of Royalist horse was posted at Lifton to cover the way to Polson Bridge and thence through Launceston into Cornwall.

Dartmouth had been taken by storm in the middle of January, and on February 16 Fairfax advanced on Torrington, where he defeated Hopton. The latter, who was wounded in the fight, fled on the night of the battle to Launceston, and, leaving Colonel Bassett to defend the town, went into the West. Fairfax remained at
Torrington for a week and then, having despatched a force to occupy Stratton, advanced into Cornwall by way of Holsworthy, the townsmen of which “shewed much cheerfulnesse” at sight of the Parliamentarians. On the morning of Wednesday, February 25, the Army marched from Holsworthy towards Launceston, “which place was reported to be strong, and to have 1000 in it of mercenaries and Train-men.” On the way some fifty prisoners were captured, and “when we came within two miles of Launceston our forces took divers of the Enemies Scouts, and some straggling Parties, who were most of them drunk; those who were best able to expresse themselves boasted, That Col. Basset was resolved to maintaine the Towne against our Forces ; whereupon our forlorn hopes of Horse and Foot were sent to enforce entrance, the Enemy having shut the (North) Gate, and the Towne very strong, made some opposition, but Sir Thomas Bisset Generall of the Horse, and Col. Blits Governour of the Towne, with Col. Strevaticans Regiment of Foot, in all about 500 Horse and Foot, having quitted the Towne about an houre before we came, and left it onely to some few of the Trained Bands, they after some resistance retreated; our men entred, tooke some Prisoners, and
killed onely two, it being now dark the rest escaped : we seized upon the Armes and Magazine in the Towne, the inhabitants seemed generally to be much revived at our comming, being sensible that they were formerly but deluded with the blandishments of the Kings Party, pretending what they did was in defence of the King, when indeed it was chiefly to the destruction of the Subject. Our Souldiers notwithstanding the opposition they received at the entrance, did not then nor 6ince plunder any one house that I know of, but demeaned themselves very civilly.” This is Curtis’s narrative of the capture of Launceston, and Rushworth’s letter does not add many details, while it corroborates the statements that the Launcestonians were glad at the coming of the Parliamentarian forces and that these latter behaved well after they had taken the town. The only point to be noted in another contemporary account of the fight is that after the Cavaliers had been put to flight in great disorder “by the darknesse of the night, narrownesse and steepnesse of the wayes, most of them escaped.”

“The Horse and Foot,” wrote Rushworth in a postcript on the morning after the battle, “have been put to hard duty upon the march, and Guards, and going out upon parties, so that I beleeve we shall not heare (? leave) this day.” The prediction proved correct, for until the Saturday “the head Quarter continued at Launceston, the Foot being much wearied out with the two dayes martch before.”

*Mr. Sprigge, who was a chaplain in the army of Fairfax, and personally witnessed the occurrences which he describes, states that it was twelve o’clock at night on the 25th February before the rear of the army arrived at Launceston. He adds :
Within two miles of the Towne, three scouts were taken, who informed of Colonel Basset being in the towne, with five hundred foot of Colonel Tremayne’s, and some horse. A forlorn hope was sent before to demand the towne. The gates were shut upon them. The enemy (Royalists) resisted. Two of them were slaine, about an hundred taken. At last the enemy was put to flight in great disorder. By the darknesse of the night, narrownesse and steepnesse of the wayes, most of them escaped ; and our men possessed the towne which had been garrisoned by them. Thursday, 26th. The headquarters continued at Launceston, the foot being much wearied out with the two dayes martch before. The General (Fairfax) viewed the ancient Castle of Launceston, scituated upon a mount, raised very high, but not
fortified. The works and mounts on the top of the hill the enemy left standing undemolished. Many Cornish were taken prisoners in the towne the night before, who, being brought before the General this day, had twelve pence a peece given them, and passes to goe to their homes. The towne’s people in Launceston were much affected with such mercifull usage. The army in their martch into Cornwall, thus far, had much cause to observe the people’s frights, quitting their habitations in feare of the army; the enemy having insinuated such an ill opinion of it into them, endeavouring to make them believe, by oaths and imprecations, that no Cornish was to have quarter at our hands j of which prejudice and misprission, after the people were undeceived, they frequented the markets again as in former time. This day (26th) a letter was sent to Plymouth for the Cornish gentlemen there to hasten to the General to Launceston. The rear guard of our horse were appointed to quarter along the river Tamar, the better to prevent the breaking through of the enemie’s horse, an evill which his Excellency had ever a watchfull eye upon to prevent. . . . 
Friday, the 27/h. The headquarters continuing still at Launceston, the Plymouth regiments of foot were sent unto to come from Tavistock thither, and the residue to lye on the passes upon the river, the more effectually to interrupt the enemy, if he attempted to break through.

*The borough accounts disclose that on this day the town presented to the Parliamentary General (the recording angel discourteously calls him ” Sr Thomas Feare Fox “) “2 suger loafts,” at a cost of 15 s. 2d. Poor Richard Carou, whom we lately found serving the town arms, required a shroud on this same 27th February. He may have been one of the two who ” were slaine ” in the attack at midnight of the 25th.

*Sprigge continues :
Saturday, the 2&th. His Excellency (Fairfax) had intelligence that Saltash was quit by the enemy, and their works left undemolished. That the Governor of Mount Edgcombe was resolved to conclude upon a treaty negotiated by Master Peters. (This was the celebrated Hugh Peters, a native of Fowey, who at this time was distinguished as a zealous Parliamentary partisan.) The army was ordered this day to quarters, and advanced four or five miles towards Bodman. . . . Zord’s-day, March 1st. It happened to be a bitter cold frost. The randezvouz of the army was that day about six miles from Launceston, upon the moores. A party of horse being sent out, discovered the enemies scouts, and not farre from Saint Blisland took eight of them, belonging to a guard of three hundred horse, which they kept but a little before our army. … In the meantime Captains Farmer and Woggan, with a company of dragoons, had engaged the enemy as they were marching from a house which they had taken near Camelford to the army. Whereupon a party of two thousand horse were commanded under the Lieutenant-General (Cromwell) to fetch off our dragoons, but before the horse came up, they had acquitted themselves well. The enemy was retired, and they were coming on to the army. . . . This night (March 1st) his Excellency had intelligence, that the enemy had quit Bodman about ten at night, horse and foot retreating yet further West, and that Lord Hopton (otherwise Sir Ralph Hopton) brought up the reare, most of the men (poore creatures) being drunk when they went away, to mend their hard fortune. . . .Fairfax and the army for a while lay at Bodmin, and then continued their march after Hopton.

On the Thursday, Sir Thomas Fairfax (who immediately upon his taking the town the previous night had communicated with the House of Commons) “viewed the ancient Castle of Launceston, situated upon a Mount, raised very high, but not fortified: the Worksand Mounts on the top of the Hill (? Windmill) the Enemy left
standing undemolished. Many Cornish were taken prisoners in the Towne the night before, who being brought before the General this day, had twelve pence apeece given them, and Passes to goe to their homes: The Townes people in Launceston were much affected with such mercifull usage “—they were, in fact, so impressed by the good behaviour of the Parliamentarians that “they frequented the Markets again as in former time.” Fairfax, after visiting the Castle, and after seeing that none of the houses were plundered, “not so much as the Governour’s,” directed his rear-guard “to quarter along the River Tamar, the better to prevent the breaking through of the Enemies Horse,” and sent on a company of dragoons “to possesse a House near Camelford, to gaine intelligence, and the more to
amuse the Enemy.” On the Friday the Plymouth foot regiments were ordered from Tavistock to Launceston, and on the Saturday “the greatest part of the Army marched from Launceston to Lowenrick (Lewannick), but three miles, in regard there could be no conveniency of Quarters between that and Bodman,”  while “on the Lord’s day March 1. the Generall and Lieutenant Generall advanced all the whole army towards Bodman.

Fairfax seems to have detained some prisoners in Launceston, although he acted mercifully with those who were Cornishmen. That he also left some sick soldiers
here is certain ; for, on the 2nd March, 1645-6, the Mayor paid for a shroud ” for a shouldeer wch died at Jone Riders,” and gave “to the prissoners wch weere at Nicholas Gynns, in breade and flesh 10s.” Again, on the 4th, the Mayor paid for ” dowies for a souldeer wch died at Wm Hamblyes, and for a shrowde for a shouldeer wch was found dead bye the Northgate.” On the same day he expended is. 4d. in “2 peare of treases fech by Mr Bennett to drawe awaye the gt gowne ” (gun). This great gun has become famous in story. In a letter which Fairfax wrote while at Chudleigh, on the 2nd February, 1645-6, a few days before his visit to Launceston, he tells the Speaker of the House of Commons that “there is now but one iron gun in Launceston, which is an iron piece planted between the Prince’s quarters and Guildhall.” Fairfax’s letter is further interesting, in that it mentions incidents which had attended the Prince on his departure from Launceston
in the latter part of January, 1645-6. He says that a great store of bread, baked by the Prince’s baker in the town, had been sent westward ; that on one day six or seven ploughs (which we assume to mean wains, or carts), were drawn out of Launceston, their lading being muskets, pikes, ammunition, powdered beef, and cheese; about 50 horse laden with powder, match, and bullets, and lead, which they had taken off from the Castle, “so that it is all unleaded.” Then he says that on the next night 50 more horse, laden with bacon, pork, and such like, had been sent the same way, and 50 soldiers had run away out of one regiment, adding, “those that they gather out of the country run away daily;” that next day six more ploughs were drawn up into the Castle Green to be loaded, and 40 horse, with pack saddles, crooks, and panniers, were all sent after the rest ; and on the same day 30 hogsheads of cider had been brought into Launceston from Werrington, to be sent westward.

In the House of Commons on the next Saturday morning, Curtis, who had hastened back from the front, “being asked by Master-Speaker (before the House) what he had to say concerning the Army, and where he left them, and when . . . made this Answer. Master Speaker, this Honourable House being already sufficiently informed concerning the proceedings of the Army about Launceston, I shall therefore omit that, and apply my selfe to acquaint you with what hath been done since. Master Speaker, The Generals Excellencie advanced from Launceston on the last Lords Day, earely in the Morning, part of his Army being gone the night before, and had marched about 4 miles in the way to Bodnian ; On that morning there was a generall Rendezvouz on a Moore by a Village called Atternoone (Altarnun), 6 Miles beyond Launceston, 12 Miles on this side Bodman ; from thence the whole Army marched in Batalia towards Bodman,” which after some skirmishing was seized on the Monday.

Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell

The ” Lieutenant Generall ” who advanced with Fairfax from Launceston on this eventful Sunday morning, was Oliver Cromwell. From the time when, in September, 1643, he wrote to some friends that “the King is exceeding strong in the West” and when, twelve months later, in a letter previously quoted, he did “with grief of heart resent the sad condition of our Army in the West, and of affairs there,” Cromwell had hoped to do something to secure Cornwall to the Parliament, and his opportunity had now come. Being, however, placed second in command to Fairfax, it is more of the General than of the Lieutenant-General that the chroniclers speak, with the result that Cromwell’s biographers have dwelt but little upon his share in this western campaign. All that Carlyle can spare on the subject is that ” Cromwell returned to Fairfax ; served through the Winter with him in the West, till all ended there “; and Mr. Picton, the latest of the Protector’s biographers, is scarcely more detailed in his account of this immediate period.  A local tradition, which was still to be heard a few years since, was to the effect that Cromwell stayed during his rest at Launceston with Col. Bennett at Hexworthy; and although there appears no direct evidence upon the point, the fact that that staunch Parliamentarian was, as will later be seen, one of Oliver’s trusted advisers in the days of his power gives colour to the story.

The Royalist forces in Cornwall were speedily brought to a surrender; Goring fled to France, Hopton agreed to a treaty by which his troops were disbanded, and on March 21, Fairfax began his return from Truro. Four days later he and Cromwell went on to Plymouth, “whilest the Army martched another way by Launceston “; and on the 27th, while the General and Lieutenant-General proceeded by way of Tavistock to Okehampton, the army departed from Launceston for its bivouac five miles from the latter town. The campaign in Cornwall was thus at an end, and there probably now returned to Launceston one who could scarcely have remained there during the Prince’s stay, seeing that for his services to the Puritan cause the Parliament had granted him a pension while the town was still held for the King. On January 12, 1646, upon his “humble petition,” the Lower House ordered “That the Committee of Lords and Commons for Advance of Money, at Haberdashers Hall, do weekly pay unto Leonard Treise Esquire the sum of Forty Shillings per Week for the present Subsistence of him and his Family.” Ten days later the Lords’ concurrence was asked for the grant,|| and on the next day this was given. Six months previously, Leonard’s son John (who was born at Launceston in March, 1613), a captain of foot in the Parliamentary service, had been summoned before a court martial at Plymouth, whence he appealed to the Houses asking for a speedy
decision that he might “ return to his Command being at present as his Livelihood,” It was thus evident that the Treises at this period were not in flourishing circumstances, a conclusion borne out by the fact that the Commons, in addition to voting forty shillings weekly to Leonard, ordered that he should be “recommended to the Committee of the West, to bestow upon him the Sum of Fifty Pounds for his present Subsistence. ” It may be believed that this Committee
did as it was desired, for during its sittings at Launceston in this same year it seized upon various estates belonging to adherents of the King and forced their owners to make composition for them.

*War had, of course, left its footprints at Launceston. Some troops were maintained there, at the partial cost of the town, from the moment of Fairfax’s departure, until long afterwards. Thus we find that “otten strawe” was supplied to the guards on the 5th March. On the 6th the market-house was repaired for their use, and wood and candles were for many subsequent months regularly delivered to them. A sum of £5 10s. was imposed on the town as the cost of a horse. William Noble “desireth to be (and he was) allowed for readinge proclamations and warrants, and for setting and warninge the watches.” On the 6th March a shrowd was supplied “for a sholdeer wch dyed att Thomas Abrams 6s. 0 1/2d.” 16th. Dewance Alexander was paid 3s.”for keepinge and attending of a sicke souldeere,” and ” John Winnocott’s wife for the like 2s.” And then the sexton intervenes with his claims “for making 5 soulgers graves 3s. 4d., for making a grave for a solder that was kild downe in Tinckes’ garden 2s.;” and “for a grave for a souder that dyed att Mr Edgecomb’s 8d.” The “quarteringe of shouldeers,” and “shows (shoes) for a shouldeere,” form other items of expenditure. It is recorded, in a scarce pamphlet, that on the 21st March, 1645-6, Master Peter ( Hugh Peters) delivered the following message from Sir Thomas Fairfax to the Houses of Parliament : “Divers small skirmishes we had with them. Lieutenant-Generall Cromwell himselfe, with some of his horses, in setting out parties and guards, and attending their motions, adventured himselfe according to his wonted manner.”

Not long afterwards the House of Commons, apparently satisfied that the Royalist resistance had been crushed, ordered new writs for various constituencies which had years before been deprived of their members for siding with the King. On July 23, 1646, writs were issued for Cornwall in the room of Sir Beville Grenville and Sir Alexander Carew, on August 12 for Launceston in the place of Ambrose Manaton and on February 9, 1647, for Newport in that of Richard Edgcumbe and John Maynard, all these members, except the last, having been disabled by order of the House. For Launceston there was returned on January 4, 1647, Thomas Gewen of Bradridge, and for Newport on May 19 of the same year were chosen Sir Philip Percival and Nicholas Leach.

The two members originally elected for Launceston to the Long Parliament,  William Coryton and Ambrose Manaton, were meanwhile suffering for their Royalist zeal. On February 15, 1647, a report was made to the Commons from the Committee of the “West concerning these and other gentlemen of Cornwall, and it was resolved that they should be” admitted to their several and respective Compositions, at Two years full Value, for taking off their respective Delinquencies, and the Sequestration of their Estates.” Coryton, it appears from a later entry in the Commons Journals, had petitioned the House in March, 1646, the month of the Royalist
collapse in Cornwall ; and it would seem that while he had been intriguing for the King, his daughter, a Mrs. Philippa Coryton, had been helping the other side, for, her claim being supported by Cromwell, she was ordered to receive over eight hundred pounds out of her father’s estate “in regard of her extraordinary good Affections and Service to the Parliament,” the Committee of the West having previously taken from her, by the way, nearly double that amount. On January 3, 1648, Coryton, having been fined in this sum of £828, was “cleared of his delinquency” and pardoned for “having been in arms against the Parliament“; and on October 7 of the same year Manaton was similarly dealt with. With one more mention both disappear from our page ; they died within a month of each other,
Coryton being buried at St. Mellion in May, and Manaton at South Petherwin in June, 1651. Of the two men, Manaton, who was probably the less affected in his political principles by personal considerations, had the simpler monument; it is characteristic that Coryton should have been described on his tombstone in adulatory terms, f and that sixteen turgid lines should have been placed upon it in order to persuade the reader that
Words may not set his Prayses foorth,
Noe Prayses comprehend his Worth.”

The disturbed state of society in the Civil War period can be seen from a petition of a French doctor, one Peter Le Royer, presented to the House of Lords on July 13, 1647. In this Le Royer stated that he had been doctor to the King of France, and that about nine years previously he had been sent into England to the then French
Ambassador. Going into the West during the Rebellion he was imprisoned by the King’s forces for holding correspondence with the Parliament, the Mayor and Minister of Launceston certifying to this fact; subsequently, when bound for France, he was stopped at Dartmouth, his trunks broken open, and himself obliged to flee for his life; and, when living in Cornwall by licence from Sir Thomas Fairfax, he was plundered by the mayors of Launceston and Bideford and by the sequestrators for the county ; therefore, as a stranger who had thus lost his small fortune and was without the means of returning home, he prayed the Lords for redress and recompense. The House thereupon ordered the question to be referred to the Commons with recommendations. On March 1, 1648, new writs were issued for Newport in the room of Sir Philip Percival and Nicholas Leach, who had been elected only the previous year, and both of whom were now deceased.
For one of the seats thus vacant (though the fact is somewhat characteristically not recorded in the Official List) William Prynne, of the “Histrio-mastix,” was returned, and, according to his own account, freely and unanimously without either his knowledge or seeking, He took his seat in the House on November 7, and on December 4 he delivered a speech “touching the King’s answer to the propositions of both Houses upon the whole treaty, whether they were satisfactory or not satisfactory,” which speech he published, and placed upon the title-page the text (singular as coming from this author) “Blessed are the peacemakers.” According to Prynne himself it was simply his endeavour, in order faithfully to discharge the trust Newport had reposed in him, “to put a speedy and happy period to our unnaturall long-lasting bloody Wars, and settle a firm well-grounded peace, upon such terms of honor, freedome, safety, and advantage, as no’ Subjects under Heaven ever yet enjoyed from the Creation to this present“; but the General Council of Officers held a different view, and two days later commenced “Pride’s Purge,” Prynne and forty of his colleagues being seized by the soldiery and marched to a neighbouring tavern,  where, according to Carlyle, the member for Newport showed himself “louder than any in the question of Law.” Gewen, the member for Launceston, shared this fate of exclusion by Col. Pride a few days later; and Prynne, during his seven weeks imprisonment, appealed from “these usurpers . . . unto you alone who elected me, and are best able to know and judge of your
owne trust . . . from whom I shall humbly request so much right and justice, upon the perusall of the enclosed Speech and Papers (which I desire may be read openly before all my Electors at the next publique meeting) as to certifie to the world under your hands and seals (which you set to the returne of my Election) your own judgments and opinions whether I have betraid or broken the Trust you reposed in me or not.” The letter, which is dated ” From the Kings Head in the Strand Jan. 26, 1648 [1649 N.S.],” (three days before the remnant of the House decided to exclude him and his colleagues for having voted the King’s concessions a ground for peace) is addressed “To his honoured Friends the Vianders and Free Burgesses of the Borough of Newport in Cornwall” by their ” most affectionate
Friend and faithful Servant and Burgesse, William Prynne.” Whether this letter was discussed at “the next publique meeting” of the electors of Newport is not known, and even if it were, and if the result were according to the member’s own request transmitted to him “with all convenient speed,” little service was effected. Rather over ten years later, and just before Richard Cromwell resigned the Protectorate, Prynne (who in the meantime had not been allowed to sit) went down to the Lobby intending to demonstrate to the House that “their New Common Wealth (or Good Old Cause) was originally projected by the Jesuites, and other foreign Popish Enemies,” that the Long Parliament was absolutely dissolved by the King’s beheading, that the Commons sitting since that date had sat illegally, and that the monarchy ought to be speedily restored. Prynne published “a true and perfect Narrative of what was acted and spoken” in the Lobby on the seventh and ninth of May, 1659, dedicating it to the whole English Nation, but “especially those Yianders and free Burgesses of the Borough of Newport in Cornwall (who without Mr. P. his Privity or liking, unanimously elected him for their Burgesse.“) But Prynne was never again returned for Newport, and with this pamphlet his connection with the borough ceased.

To obtain some idea as to what was passing in Launceston itself during the years immediately succeeding the close of the Civil War, it will be needful to turn to the Parish Register. This record shows that when once the storm had passed the death-rate fell rapidly, but this indication of better times was somewhat neutralised by the lessening number of births and marriages, there being only twenty baptisms in either 1647 or 1649, and only two weddings in 1648. In 1649 there were six marriages, the first of these, between “William White and Mary Corke wid.,” being celebrated on January 30, and the contrast between the scene presented on the same morning by the execution at Whitehall and this quiet wedding in St. Mary Magdalene’s cannot escape notice But Launceston, like all other towns of the Kingdom, was soon called upon to realise what this thirtieth of January had brought forth, for, on the very afternoon of the royal execution, the Commons ordered that all Sheriffs and Mayors should notify by sound of trumpet that whosoever proclaimed a new King, either Charles the Second or any other, without
the authority of Parliament, should suffer death as a traitor; and to Oswald Kingdon (whose arms as chief magistrate in that year are in the Guildhall window, and representatives of whose family have ceased only within the last few years to be prominent in local affairs) fell the task of making this declaration in the market-place of Launceston.

The Aftermath

The Register of St Mary Magdalene’s also affords some glimpse of the ecclesiastical controversies of the time. Up to May, 1610, when some of the records were lost, each child was stated to be “christened,” but after the resumption of registration, and when a higher Church doctrine was being preached, although the heading of
each page was still “christenings,” the word used in all the separate entries was “baptised.” This was invariable until 1651-52, in the entries of which years there were various instances of the use of “borne,” but these were evidently written in later. In 1653, for the first time, this word was used at the period of entry, though for some months “baptised” was still the regular form. But after July, 1653, the heading was “Birthes” and “borne” was used in each case (except three, two of which are in a later hand), this continuing until March, 1657, when the heading became ” Birthes and Baptismes,” and after August of that year there was affixed in many cases the date of christening as well as that of birth. It was thus evident that the more strictly Puritan rule was breaking down, and in July, 1660, when Charles the Second had received ” his own again,” the heading “Birthes and Baptismes” was taken from the page, and the latter word resumed its old monopoly. But it is concerning the marriages of this period that the Register affords perhaps the best indications of ecclesiastical dispute. After the execution of Charles, and when Church affairs were to a great extent in a state of chaos, many marriages which would ordinarily have been solemnised in the country districts had to be celebrated in towns, and to Launceston flocked couples from South Petherwin and St. Stephens, St. Gennys and Stoke Climsland, St. Minver and Great Torrington, and even (which is difficult to account for) Plymouth and Bodmin. This influx from the outer districts commenced in 1653 and was at its height in 1655 (when, of thirty weddings at St. Mary Magdalene’s, sixteen were from outside the borough boundary), there having been passed by the “Barebones Parliament” on August 24
of the former year an Act for solemnizing marriages by justices of the peace. Two months later, “Thomas Eeese being before this tyme duly chosen to bee Parish Eegister within this borrough in obedience and according to the late act of this present Parliament in yt behalf made & provided was this present day (October 11) approved allowed of and also sworne before mee Richard Grills gentn. maior of this Borrough and one of ye Justices assigned.” The St. Mary Magdalene’s
Register further contains an entry that the same Thomas Reese was, on November 9, “dulye chosen and sworen Eegister of St. Thomas by Mr. Leanerd Trease.” This was almost the last public duty performed by Launceston’s then Recorder, for on March 19, 1654, “was buried Mr. Lenerd Trease Esqre in the Chancell ” of St. Mary Magdalene’s.

*The triumphant Parliament soon began to make inquisitions into the royal property. On the 10th September, 1650, the Commissioners appointed to enquire into the revenues of Launceston Castle (Edward Hore, George Crompton, George Gentleman, Gabriel Taylor, and George Goodman) made the following return :          A survey of the Honor of Launceston Castle als Dunhevit, with the Rights, members, and appurtenances thereof, situate, lying, and being in the Countys of Cornwall and Devon, pte of the auntient Dutchy of Cornwall, and pcell of ye possessions of Charles Stuart, late Duke of Cornwall, but now settled on Trustees for ye use of ye Comon Wealth, held of ye Mannor of East Greenewch in free and comon soccage, by fealty only. Launceeton Castle ale Dunljetottt Castle. The sd Castle is built of lime and stone, but much out of repaire ; ye hall and chappell quite levell wth ye ground : There is onely now standing one old Tower in reasonable good repaire, ye same being soe kept by the County for a prison. Ye lead that covered it was taken away by the soldiers in ye time of Warr. Besides the said prison or tower, there is no p te of ye Castle but ye Gatehouse remayning habitable, in wch one John Sorrell ye psent Constable of ye Castle liveth, wch said house conteynes Two Roomes in reasonable good repaire. The Cortes of the said Castle, and ye Ruines thereof wth in ye walls conteyne about three acres. The scite of ye said Castle without ye walls, viz., ye castle ditches, conteyneth one acre and a halfe, in pte of which Ditches towards ye Towne, are divs Houses and gardens wtl1 other necessary houses wch are in the possession of divs persons, who hold the same, and dureing their naturall life.

*The levelled hall mentioned in this survey was the old Assize Hall ; the Tower then recently stripped of its lead was the Watch Tower ; and the habitable gatehouse was attached to the existing North-eastern Gateway, which we have already described. The curious statement that houses and gardens occupied the Castle ditches proves that these ditches were no longer maintained for purposes of defence. In a manuscript, without date, but evidently written two or three years after the Survey, we have direct confirmation of the Commissioners’ record. The MS. is intituled, “A p’ticuler of the Lands & Tenemts of the Castle ditch att Lanceston, sett for one yeare from Michaelmas last, and of the Rents thereof; Togeather wth the composicons for the tyme since Mr. Sorrell dyed.” And the first entry thereon is, “John Hicks of Lanceston, Barber, hath taken a tenem already in his possession, conteyning one ground roome, one chamber, & one garden, for the rent of 14s. p. annum, & hath payd for composicon since Mr. Sorrell’s death 5s., and is to keep itt repayred.”

The “composition,” or rule of apportionment of the rents, leads to an inference that the Constable Sorrell died about the preceding May. The manuscript itself shows, first, that the Commonwealth did not admit the claims of the occupiers to a life-interest in their tenements ; and, secondly, that Mr. Sorrell was dead. Among the Mayor’s disbursements in the year 1654 is the following: “Paid J no. Bownesall’s wife for keepeinge of Sorrell’s childe 33 weekes before shee was placed to a master, 6d. a weeke.” Was this a child of the deceased Constable ?

Oliver Cromwell, having dissolved the Long Parliament on the 20th April, 1653, was made Lord Protector of the Commonwealth on the 12th December of the same year, and we find that the Mayor of Dunheved on the 27th of that month “bestowed att the proclaymeinge of the lord protector att Mr. Bolythoe’s, wth the rest of the aldermen, 5s. 2d.; and, later, that hebestowed at the proclaiming of the second proclimation of the lord protector is. 8d.” Oliver honoured “Launceston alias Dunheved” with a warrant to return one member to his Parliament, summoned to meet at Westminster 3rd September, 1654. He did not so honour every borough. The Mayor thus records his grateful acknowledgments : “Gave to a messenger that brought the warrnt for chuseing of a burgishe (burgess) for the Parlymt, 6d. ! !
! ” The electors chose Robert Bennett, Esq., of Hexworthy. The same mayor spent another 6d. on the constables Blagdon and Midleton “for openeinge of the grave in wch the wich (witch)was buryed.” He has omitted the date of this lavish expenditure.

On the 24th October, 1657, the jury to inquire for his Highness the Lord Protector and the Commonwealth of the borrough, presented “a parcell of wast ground wch sometyme was a dwelling howse adjoyning to the Southgate of this borrough, & customary land, sometyme in the tenure of one Richard Estcott, gent, decd, to bee now & for many yeares heeretofore in decay, and so become forfayted to the maior & Comalty of this burrough in regard the said house hath not beene rebuilt, nor any the rents, suites & services due to this burrough for the same, payd for the space of fifteene yeares laste paste. Md ye 26th of Oct. 1657 Mr- Maior & Aldermen entered on the premisses to the use of the Borrough.” Mr. Robert Bennett was again elected to the Parliament which met during Richard Cromwell’s protectorate, 27th January, 1658-9. He purchased the Castle and Deer Park from the Commonwealth.

At the restoration of Charles II, there was much rejoicing in Launceston. The people kept the 29th June, 1660, as a thanksgiving-day ; and, on subsequent unnamed
days “when the kinge was proclaimed,” the Corporation gave away “2 hogsheads beere & syder,” and “six seames of wood for bunfires.” The lucky Mr. Bolythoe received £6 14s. 10d. for his supplies. The king, on his restoration, conferred the Constableship of the Castle upon Sir Hugh Piper, who held it until his death in 1687. Sir Hugh was a native of the borough, and had been actively loyal to both Charles I and Charles II. An elaborate monument at the east end of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene preserves the memory and the deeds of this worthy knight.

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