Civil War and Social Change

Civil War and Social Change

The first two Stuart kings of England were often in Hampshire before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642. In 1603, James I came to Winchester during Sir Walter Raleigh’s trial for treason, and his son, Charles, Prince of Wales, was given a great welcome at Portsmouth in 1623, for the inhabitants were delighted that he had not succeeded in winning the hand of a Spanish princess. Charles stayed in Southamp­ton, as king, in 1625 and in 1627 and was well received, yet there can be no doubt that his marriage with a Roman Catholic French princess, his religious and financial policies as well as his attempt to rule arbitrarily without a parliament made him very unpopular with many of his Hampshire subjects. When the Civil War broke out in 1642, Hampshire, like many of the English counties, had no hard or fast divisions of classes or districts between king and parliament. Winchester was famous for its loyalty to the Crown, yet even in that city there were prominent ‘Puritans’ who disliked the reform of the Church begun by Archbishop Laud, a reform associated in Hampshire with the Dean of Winchester, John Young and Lancelot Andrewes, whom James I made Bishop of Winchester. In Southampton, the Pilgrim Fathers had not been unwelcome when they gathered there to sail from the port in 1620, taking a local youth among the crew; 20 years later that town gave a great welcome to William Prynne the Puritan writer and pamphleteer, on his return from imprisonment in the Channel Islands. There can be little doubt that there were many Hampshire men who felt that they must oppose the king for reasons of religious conscience.

The chief Royalist leader in Hampshire was John Paulet, Marquess of Winchester, whose headquarters were at Basing House, the greatest Royalist strong point in the county. Other county Royalist families included the Tichbornes, the Sandys of Mottisfont and of The Vyne, the Oglanders of the Isle of Wight, and the commander of the Winchester garrison, Sir William Ogle, but amongst the gentry there were many painful divisions. The parliamentarian general, Sir William Waller, was a cousin of the loyal Marquess, and brother-in-law to Sir William Ogle. One of the Tichbornes moved far enough away from the family pattern to become parliamentary lord mayor of London and to sign Charles I’s death warrant. Other county gentlemen who fought against the king included the Flemings of North Stoneham, Colonel Norton of Old Alresford and Southwick Park, and Francis St. Barbe of Broadlands near Romsey.

Map 10 Hampshire in the Civil War
Map 10 Hampshire in the Civil War

In both Southampton and Portsmouth there was strong feeling for parliament. Both had suffered from the burdens of forced loans, from the imposition of ship money, and from the billeting of royal troops. Soon after the outbreak of war both towns capitulated to parliamen­tarian demands, and their loss to the king was a vital factor in the eventual defeat of the Royalist forces. Roughly speaking it is perhaps true to suggest that the western half of the county was more Royalist than the east. Support for parliament was strong in the Isle of Wight, and particularly associated with John Lisle of Wootton and his family, though a number of local gentlemen headed by John Oglander, Lisle’s godfather, were known to be Royalists.

The surrender of Portsmouth and Southampton, a temporary taking of Winchester, and the slighting of Farnham Castle, home of the diocesan bishop, were all early indications of the way in which the war was eventually to go. In 1644 the Royalists suffered a further great defeat at Cheriton. Cheriton was followed by the appearance of Oliver Cromwell on the Hampshire scene, by the surrender of Winchester to him in 1645, and by the fall of Basing House and its almost complete demolition. In 1647 the king became a prisoner in the Isle of Wight at Carisbrooke Castle, whence he was eventually moved to Hurst Castle. On his journey through the county, to his trial at London, Charles was received with courage and with loyalty by the Win­chester Corporation at the Westgate of the city. At nearby Hursley, the squire of the village, Richard Major, was a personal friend of Oliver Cromwell, and Major’s daughter, Dorothy, married the Lord Protector’s son, Richard. It thus happened that after the Restoration Oliver’s grandchildren lived quietly in this Hamp­shire village.

The Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 was undoubtedly a popular event in Hampshire. Many people had lost all for the king or parliament’s sake, and looked forward, in some cases in vain, to a period of restitution and political stability. Sir John Mill, at whose Southampton house the king had dined in 1627, had a son killed at Oxford and was himself ruined by the war, falsely accused of being a Papist, and had his personal property, including the family plate, stripped from him by looting soldiers. He died before the Restoration, with little indeed to leave to his family. The Paulets and the Tich­bornes were temporarily ruined. Amongst the king’s supporters Arthur Cape!!, of Martyr Worthy, was beheaded in Whitehall in March 1649. SirJohn Oglander of Nunwell was almost ruined, was frequently arrested and imprisoned, and his children on the mainland found it impossible to visit him for the double fear of leaving their homes to be rifled by the army or of meeting with soldiers on their way to Nunwell. Between 1642 and 1645 the countryside suffered greatly from the almost constant marching and counter marching of the armies of the Crown and of parliament, the billeting of soldiers and the general ravages of war; a contemporary observer in 1644 describes Hampshire as practically ruined with nothing left in it for man or beast. One, of the saddest aspects of the war was the divisions which it brought into family life. Sir John Oglander had a parliamentarian brother, and his cousin and godson, John Lisle of Wootton in the Isle of Wight (member of parliament for Winchester in 1642) was a Cromwellian. Yet all was not bitterness or loss. The close tie of kinship which bound so many of the Hampshire families had a softening influence. Even such an important Hampshire change as the sale of the Sandys’ great house of The Vyne to Challoner Chute in 1653 had its mitigating factors, for Chute was acknowledged as the most eminent lawyer in England, and though later to be well known as Speaker of Richard Cromwell’s House of Commons he was gratefully remembered in Royalist circles as the advocate who had dared, in 1641 to defend ‘the Bishops of England in their extreme peril’ as well as Archbishop Laud two years later.

Royalist’ military failure, the legislation of the Long and Rump parliaments and the death of the king brought therefore many changes to Hampshire. The Bishop of Winchester’s castles at Wolvesey and at nearby Farnham in Surrey were ‘slighted’; Winchester Castle was virtually demolished and Sir William Waller, who claimed it in his own right, eventually sold the great hail to a group of trustees for the county. The Dean and Chapter of Winchester were abolished, the cathedral left to the preaching and services of ministers, of whom one, Theophilus Gale, a brilliant scholar, eventually founded that Dissenting academy at Stoke Newington which later on had as one of its pupils the most famous of Free Church hymn-writers, Isaac Watts of Southampton. Throughout the county, the Dean and Chapter’s many estates were let out to new tenants, the cathedral became dilapidated and was almost demolished in 1653, and the Close was so ruined that much of it had to be pulled down or rebuilt after 1660. The parliamentarian inhabitants of the Close in 1649 included two ‘ministers’ and John Lisle, the city’s Recorder.

A brief word only need be said of Hampshire in the later years of the 17th century. Both Winchester and Southampton were involved in the constitutional difficulties with Charles II and James II, and both towns lost their charters.

An extravagant scheme begun by Charles II for making Winchester again the royal capital with a great Versailles type of palace designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and actually begun in 1683, was virtually abandoned in the reign of George I, and the building, left uncompleted, became the nucleus of Winchester barracks.

Though Hampshire was not concerned in the Monmouth rebellion, John Lisle’s widow, Dame Alicia Lisle of Moyle’s Court, in the New Forest, was accused of harbouring rebels at her home after the defeat at Sedgemoor. She was tried by Judge Jeffreys, and executed in the Square in Winchester in 1685. At this notorious trial attempts were made to pack the jury, and to terrify the townspeople by billeting soldiers on them. It was a Winchester member of a very famous Hampshire family, Thomas Wavell, who encouraged his fellow citizens to resist James II’s attempts at arbitrary government, though local liberty might have suffered a permanent setback had not the king been forced to flee the country in 1688.

One of the most important results of these failures of royal attempts at arbitrary government was eventually the growth of a strong local . j government based on democratic local responsibility. Much of this local government, in town and country alike, was carried out by Justices of the Peace. Justices supervised the records of the parish ‘overseers of the poor’ who had to collect local poor rates and apprentice poor children they saw, too, that each local parish surveyor kept his roads in fair repair. Meeting at Quarter Sessions, County Justices supervised the repairs of the County Hall within Winchester Castle, provided accommodation for judges and juries, administered the county jail, suppressed poaching, and administered the few national taxes, for example the Land Tax and the better known Window Tax of William and Mary’s reign, which is always blamed for many blocked windows in large houses.

In 1662 a large number of laymen and over 2,000 beneficed clergy­men in England, unable to accept the liturgy of the new Prayer Book of that year, left the Anglican Church. It is significant that it was the justices, all members of the Established Church, who were given the task of licensing the ‘Dissenters’ chapels which soon sprang up all over the county. By the end of the 17th century, Quarter Sessions records show that there was little persecution in Hampshire of either Dissenters or Roman Catholics. An era of difficulties and of political and religious conflict gave way, by the beginning of Queen Anne’s reign, to a period of tolerance and political quiet.