The Crabchurch Conspiracy Commemoration Weekend 2016

cc16 buttonClick for tickets :

Venue .. The Crown Hotel Ballroom, Weymouth Saturday 27th February at 4:45pm – 8pm ….

Part One of this year’s Crabchurch Conspiracy Commemoration Weekend 2016 promises to be the best yet. Once again we have the inimitable Professor Ronald Hutton who will be talking this year on Rupert, The Devil Prince… and to balance the account, we welcome Writer, Broadcaster and Activist John Rees whose talk will be on The Levellers & the English Revolution.

A further new addition to this year’s fare is the ‘Religious Rumble’ a ‘difference of opinion’ between, in the blue corner Bishop Bray, the Royalist Blusterer, and in the red corner, Weymouth’s own Puritan Ranter, Preacher Peter Ince (Jon Dixon).

The two of them will meet in a no holds barred battle of words & wits on the religious and social issues of the day live on stage !

And we are so very blessed to have with us, one of the best people in live theatre today, actor, director, the one and only, Jane McKell who will host the evening.

Part Two of the weekend kicks off at 9:30pm, an hour or so after part one ends, just a few hundred yards away at the Belvedere Hub and features a band of musicians whose reputation grows year on year as they take the big stages of Europe by storm with their electrifying live act. Their Crabchurch gig though finds them in a more mellow and reflective mood as they perform live their acclaimed seminal concept album, The Crabchurch Conspiracy, written as a tribute to those that fought and fell during a cold month of hell in Weymouth during February 1645.

Their concert actually takes place on the same street that thousands of royalist soldiers poured down on that fateful night,  in an attempt to retake the town for their King. A few minutes later, two hundred of them lay dead in the old High Street, victims of the military acumen of the Parliamentarian Commander, Dorset man, Colonel William Sydenham. Accompanying the band will be Diane Narraway and Cap’n Steve Howl.

The concert ends at 11:30pm.

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Part Three of the weekend takes place in Hope Square at Brewers Quay from 10-30am on Sunday 28th February and is a costumed re-enactment of the trial and executions of the Crabchurch Conspirators. This is an entirely free event.

The executions are a faithful representation of the true events of the time in Weymouth and will involve depictions of executions by hanging, so parental discretion is advised.

Following this, the re-enactors and any members of the public who wish to accompany us, will make their way around the town laying wreaths at pertinent locations where the greatest and most poignant losses of life occurred.

We will also have re-enactors with a display etc situated inside Brewers Quay at the Brewers Tea Cafe in the week leading up to the Crabchurch weekend. So why not wander in and have a chat to Colonel Sydenham and Preacher Ince !

Please buy your tickets online by following this link ..  http://cc16.co.uk/about/

They’re selling fast so don’t be disappointed.

Crabchurch 16cmyk

The Executions of the Crabchurch Conspirators Upon The Nothe Headland.

After a Council of War, attended by the Captains of the Garrison and Vice Admiral William Batten on the 1st March 1645, William Sydenham convened a court of enquiry and soon most of the plotters names and the parts they played in the conspiracy were known to him. The arch-plotter, Fabian Hodder, had already made good his escape but was arrested near Poole and thrown in to the jail there to await the time that William Sydenham came to get him. Most of the others who had not fled or perished in the fighting, were put safely into the hold of Batten’s ship to await their fate, a fact that he remarks upon in his wide-ranging correspondence. He wrote of his prisoners that they were “in a posture, speedily to be hanged” and later:

“Tomorrow we shall shorten the number by hanging some of the townsmen on board us and were the betrayers of the town”.

In the two days leading up to the trials, several depositions were recorded from various people in and around Weymouth and from their evidence, eventually, confessions were made by two of the leading Crabchurch Conspirators, Captain John Cade and the former Weymouth Town Constable, John Mills. Those depositions can be read later in this book.

Besides Philip Ashe, at least two other Crabchurch conspirators lost their lives during the fighting. They were Leonard Symonds and William Philips, who owned the house beneath the Chapel Fort where the plotters met for the last time on that fateful night of the 9th of February 1645. Amongst those being held on the ship were Walter Bond, the Hope Fisherman, Thomas Samways, the Melcombe Tailor, John Mills, the Weymouth Town Constable and John Cade, the ex-Royalist sea-captain.

The court of enquiry continued and ordered the arrests and questioning of all of those villagers who had waited in vain in Radipole Meadow for Sir Lewis Dyve on the first night of the conspiracy. However, after being given a severe reprimand by William Sydenham, they were eventually allowed to go free, probably due to the fact that they had not physically taken part in the assault.
Others though were not nearly so fortunate.

On the 3rd of March 1645, just four days after Lord Goring’s over-confident and disastrous attempt to take the twin towns, the first of the plotters to feel the wrath of Colonel William Sydenham met his end upon the Nothe Gallows. Captain John Cade was hanged by the neck, as Ince put it “after making a full confession of his crimes”.

Next to appear before the assembled Roundhead garrison and the equally ragged townspeople were Walter Bond and Thomas Samways.
The pair stumbled unsteadily past the foot of the scaffold where Cade’s body still swayed; limp in the cold March breeze and the charges were read to them. At that point though, the nerves and dignity of both these men deserted them and they fell to their knees and began to beg for mercy before Sydenham and the court. Possibly seeing a chance to win over the local populous once and for all, Sydenham eventually relented and the two men were once more taken back to jail to, as the Parliamentarian propaganda paper, Mercurius Britannicus, put it “make a further discovery of their partners”.

Last up was the Weymouth town Constable, John Mills, a very brave man who was made of sterner stuff. A contemporary Pamphlet describes how this resolute soul managed to perform one last defiant gesture before his watching accusers.

“He most desperately, without any sign or token of sorrow or repentance, when he was upon the ladder, desperately threw himself off not showing any signs of humiliation or calling upon God, for mercy on his soul, but carelessly, in a most desperate manner died, not so much as praying to God to receive his soul”.

Ince finished his account of the executions by saying:

“There be not many of the villains left, as their sin hath found them out, divers of them are slain, Fabian Hodder and others are in prison at Poole and other places, not yet tried, and some are run away”.

The Battle Of Weymouth 27th February 1645 : (Excerpt from ‘The Crabchurch Conspiracy’ by Mark Vine)

William Sydenham had no idea when or indeed where the attack would come, he only knew that it was inevitable, and he made such preparations as he could to strengthen the defences of both towns in whatever time he had left to him. On the morning of the 27th February 1645, the ever reliable Vice Admiral Batten once again sailed in to Weymouth Bay and landed a further one hundred men to add to Sydenham’s twelve hundred souls, but this would still leave the Roundheads outnumbered by almost six to one. It is unlikely that the small three hundred strong, predominantly Irish, Royalist garrison of Lord Inchiquin’s at the Nothe Fort would have fired it’s cannons at Batten’s vessels, as they were probably feeling rather isolated since the fall of Weymouth and therefore would not be over keen to draw attention to themselves until relief came.
In the early evening of the 27th of February 1645, a troop of Sydenham’s cavalry who were patrolling at Upwey, a couple of miles north of Melcombe, to watch for any signs of Goring’s army, came across an escaped Parliamentarian soldier. The man, who had been captured about three days before and held in Dorchester gaol, was trying to make his way to the twin ports with a devastating tale to tell. The cavalrymen quickly transported him to Colonel William Sydenham, and the escapee anxiously told him of a conversation he had overheard between two guards, a conversation about an imminent attack upon Weymouth and Melcombe, that very night. This gave the Roundheads only a matter of hours to speed up their preparations for defence and Admiral Batten readily agreed to stay and fight in the ensuing battle. As midnight approached, the beleaguered garrison of the twin towns prepared themselves for a fight to the death and wondered who among them would live to see the dawn.

As foretold, Goring, with his vastly superior force appeared in the vicinity of the towns at around midnight and immediately split his force into two factions. That portion of his men, who were given the task of attacking Melcombe, somewhat inexplicably did little more than sit behind a bank and almost half-heartedly fire a few shots at the defences, but the fighting across the water in Weymouth where William Sydenham had positioned himself was of a very different calibre indeed.
Behind the Town gates which were situated near the western end of Boot Hill, just past the Boot Inn, the Parliamentarians had hastily erected a barricade stretching roughly from the bottom of Chapelhay Street, in front of the old Tudor town hall and across to the Boot Inn. (both buildings happily still exist today)
Realising that the Town Gate and this barricade would soon be overwhelmed through sheer weight of numbers, Sydenham had set up another defensive position at the other end of the narrow old High Street which led up to Boot Hill. At the far end of this street were seventy stone steps dating from medieval times that led straight up to the Chapel Fort should they be needed as an escape route, and always assuming that the fort had not fallen to the enemy by then, as it too was under attack from Goring’s soldiers.
As expected, the gate and the first barricade soon fell, and the Parliamentarian defenders duly melted away into the darkness of the bitter winter night and took up their positions with others at the eastern end of the old High Street almost opposite the present day lifting bridge, deep inside Weymouth town. Goring’s jubilant cavaliers swarmed over the abandoned obstacles and rushed headlong down the narrow, unlit High Street, baying for blood and convinced that an easy victory and welcome revenge would soon be theirs.
On they came in their hundreds and as they approached the second position, Sydenham gave the order to fire. Several concealed cannon, together with countless musketeers who were stationed at every window, rooftop and doorway, poured a withering wall of deadly lead shot and iron ball in to the Royalist ranks. Confusion reigned in the enveloping darkness and the stench of black powder and blood hung thick in the chilled night air. The numerous Royalist dead and wounded at the front of the advance were trampled underfoot by their stumbling comrades, who were still streaming down from the other end of the street in large numbers, if not oblivious to what had occurred then certainly not realising the extent of the disaster and slaughter. Not content with this carnage, Sydenham’s Dorset soldiers then drew their swords or upended their muskets to use as clubs and rushed out to get to grips with Goring’s men at close quarters. A deadly hand-to-hand struggle developed as the Royalists fought desperately to extricate themselves from the trap. Eventually, Goring’s men broke and ran, Sydenham’s troops chasing them back up the old High Street and all the way out of Weymouth town.
Elsewhere though, the battle was far from won. Above, the Chapel Fort was also under fierce assault and the contest there could still go either way and now, the reluctant Irish garrison at the Nothe had suddenly found new heart and was fighting its way into Weymouth from the east at Hope (Ope). Their efforts were rewarded and soon they had attacked and occupied a small fort in the heart of Weymouth, situated on the quayside near the bridge which led to Melcombe.

Sydenham had ordered that the bridge be destroyed in case one of the towns fell and put the other in jeopardy. The fort taken by the Irish troops was commanded by a Captain Thornhill, who is thought to have been an uncle of the celebrated Weymouth-born artist, Sir James Thornhill, who was in fact, one of William Sydenham’s grandsons and the first ever artist to be knighted. He painted the ceilings of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Greenwich Hall and Blenheim Palace and was reputed to have been born in what is now the White Hart Inn, in Melcombe which still survives today (2013) though in a much altered state.

As Thornhill’s soldiers were ousted by the Nothe Irishmen and made their getaway, they were met by Sydenham and his triumphant troops coming up from the battle in the nearby High Street. He persuaded them to turn and fight and eventually, together they managed to eject the Irish contingent from the Town Bridge fort.
The Irishmen retreated in some disorder back the way they came; hoping to get to the comparative safety of their own fort upon the Nothe headland. But here also the rout was to turn into another disaster for the unfortunate King’s army.
The now rampant Colonel William Sydenham and his men mercilessly forced the Irishmen back along Weymouth quayside. But, in those days, the area which is now solid ground beyond Trinity Street near the Old Rooms Inn through to Hope Square at Brewers Quay, was then nothing more than an inlet filled with cold, deep water, known as ‘The Hole’. In the frosty darkness of the small hours, and gripped with blind panic due to the ferocity of Sydenham’s charge, most of the luckless Nothe men blundered in to, or else were driven straight over, the quayside and into the icy February waters below, where those that didn’t immediately drown were easy prey for the Roundheads. As many as two hundred and fifty souls perished in a few grisly minutes. Colonel Sydenham’s horse was literally shot and killed beneath him as the chase ensued and turned to carnage for the men from County Clare.

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With Melcombe hardly being challenged by the Royalists at all and the Parliamentarians defending the Chapel Fort of St. Nicholas finally succeeding in repelling their assailants, the Battle of Weymouth was all but over. Colonel William Sydenham had achieved a near “miraculous” victory against overwhelming odds and Lord Goring and his surviving soldiers took themselves off to the small village of Wyke to lick their many wounds and ponder the fortunes of war.
The almost annihilated Nothe garrison, together with another small Cavalier garrison in a fort at nearby Bincleaves, made good their escapes, not even bothering to “spike their guns”, so as to make them unusable to the Parliamentarians, nor caring to take their colours with them. Sydenham’s victory over Goring and Dyve was total and complete, with only the Isle of Portland still remaining in Royalist hands locally.
Excellent written evidence exists of the amazing events of the night of February 27th 1645 in old Weymouth. Both Sydenham and Batten composed graphic letters in the days directly after the battle and these correspondences demonstrate wonderfully what occurred there. First, Sydenham wrote the following account two days after the battle (March 1st) in a letter to the Parliamentary Committee of the West. He begins with how he first regained Weymouth.
“Having now some few hours of freedom, from those continued sallyes, alarms, firings and batteries which almost these three weeks have kept me from the least leisure to do anything, but attend the enemy, I think it my duty to give you an account of God’s miraculous dispensations towards us. All (as you have formally received) being treacherously delivered in to the hands of the enemy except Melcombe.
On Tuesday last, February 25th the enemy having drawn out many of their foot to relieve a party of their horse, being in danger to be engaged by a party of ours which I sent out to discover the enemy. I fell presently upon Weymouth, which town (together with the Chapel Fort) was in an hour regained, where we took prisoners, one Lieutenant Colonel, one Major, three Captains and one hundred of inferior officers and soldiers, which so enraged the enemy that upon Thursday last about midnight they furiously stormed us at several places in both towns. Out of all Weymouth we were not able to keep them, and therefore resolved to make good so much of it as might let us, upon any occasion, to and from the Chapel Fort.
The enemy came in great multitudes through the streets and backsides at both ends of the town, and disputed with us very hotly about three hours for that small part of it, which we were willing to keep. The Chapel Fort, and Melcombe being likewise stormed at the same time from all which places God enabled us to repel them. In all this time they wounded but one of my men.
What execution is done upon the enemy, I am not certain, they carrying off as many as they were able before day, amongst whom (as the people of the town have since informed me) were divers in buffe coats and velvet jackets. They left much blood behind them in the streets and slain men upon the place, they carried (as it is reported) many wounded men into one village a mile from the town” (Wyke).
During the whole 17 days of fighting, Sydenham maintained that he actually only lost about ten men killed and, if this is true, then he may have had some justification in claiming that God was indeed on his side, though how many more subsequently died from their wounds is not known. However, he still expected Goring to make another assault and near the end of his letter describes the enemy as “still blocking us up as before”, and “what they mean to do next I know not, but do expect some further design upon us.”

His concern was, in the end, unfounded. A large Parliamentarian army under Sir William Waller was rumoured to have entered the County and further proof of Goring’s intentions are provided by Vice Admiral Batten in a letter written soon after Sydenham’s. It confirms that Goring and his men had eventually fled off towards Taunton in Somerset, “in a very confused manner”.
He also reported that:
“I have two of my own company, one hath lost a leg, the other dangerously wounded and will hardly escape. And three of Captain Jordan’s men scalded by a mischance, by the firing of some powder”.
Batten wrote another letter on the morning directly after the battle (28th February), whilst on board his ship ‘The Reformation’, moored in Weymouth Bay. Here, he refers to the great losses inflicted upon the Irish Royalists who had held the Nothe Fort, and also makes a deserved reference to Sydenham’s character and qualities of leadership. He wrote;
“At night a prisoner of ours ran from them, who gave us notice that they would storm the town that night, in all places that they could, which was performed accordingly, the enemy getting within our works near to Weymouth Bridge, but were gallantly repulsed by our men with the loss of some hundreds of the enemy. The Governor (Sydenham) himself behaving himself like a gallant man as he hath done in all the siege”.
With the Royalist threat finally gone, it was now to be a time of vengeance for Colonel William Sydenham. Vengeance upon those who had hatched the Crabchurch Conspiracy and in doing so caused him to lose a much loved brother and comrade in arms.
Now those people would have to pay the price.

Colonel William Sydenham & the Re-taking of Weymouth.

At about mid-day on the 25th of February 1645, two weeks after the siege began, Sydenham was informed that a party of Royalist horse was escorting several wagon loads of supplies into Weymouth, and he decided to send out a troop of his own horse to attack the convoy in the hope of capturing a wagon or two of much needed food. It is possible that the wagons were sent by Goring himself as a gift for Dyve, and the two groups clashed somewhere near the little village of Westham, to the west of Weymouth.

Incredibly, Sydenham’s horsemen succeeded in completely routing the entire royalist escort, who fled in disarray off towards their comrades in Weymouth, leaving the Roundhead victors to try and turn the wagons about and head for the comparative safety of Melcombe with their prize. Sir Lewis Dyve had been observing this lamentable turn of events from high up in the Chapel Fort and was so livid that he immediately dispatched more than a hundred of his infantry from Weymouth off towards the scene of the disaster to try and remedy the situation.
This understandable, but ill-conceived, reaction proved to be the turning point of the whole campaign, for as soon as Dyve’s men were far enough away, Sydenham immediately ordered that the drawbridge separating the two towns be lowered. He then sent one hundred and fifty of his own musketeers, led by a Major Wilson and a Captain Langford, charging headlong across the bridge and onto Weymouth quayside, sweeping all before them in an unstoppable wave of musket balls and bravado. Storming onwards and upwards through the outworks and on into the Chapel Fort of St. Nicholas itself, they soon defeated the weakened Royalist defenders who, possibly believing that the Roundheads had more men than they actually did, broke and fled in the face of this fierce brand of hand to hand fighting that Sydenham’s men had taken to their very doors.

Within half an hour it was all over and the powerful Chapel Fort of St Nicholas, regained by the parliamentary side and with it, all of Weymouth. At least six Royalists were killed during this action, among them one of the original ‘Crabchurch Conspirators’, Philip Ashe, and upwards of a hundred prisoners taken, including “a Lieutenant Colonel, a Major, three Captains and three Lieutenants, the rest being inferior officers and common soldiers”.

One of the Captains was a local man named Alexander Keynes, who owned Radipole Farm and whom Preacher Ince describes as “a Papist having in his portmanteau a parcel of holy beads, and a commission for a ship to play the pirate with at sea which lay blank at Dunkirk”.
William Sydenham was later granted the use of Keynes’ farm and all produce from it for one full year, after it was ‘sequestered’ (confiscated) by order of Parliament. It also appears that Keynes may have had more than a little to do with organising the villagers who gathered in Radipole to meet Dyve on the night of the initial Royalist attacks upon the two forts, as they were known to have been at Radipole Dairyhouse which he owned, earlier that evening.

The most vivid account of what the hapless Cavaliers were up against on the 25th of February 1645, comes from one of their own men and could be considered an unbiased account. Richard Wiseman was a surgeon with Lieutenant Colonel Ballard’s Regiment and tended the Royalist wounded in Weymouth during the fifteen days that the King’s army held it after the conspiracy.
In the years after the war he would carve out a commendable niche for himself in the annals of British medical history, becoming known as the ‘Father of English Surgery’.
He wrote:

“As Sydenham’s troops attacked I was dressing a wounded man in the town almost under Chapel Fort and hearing a woman cry, “fly- the Fort is taken”, I turned aside a little amazed towards the line not knowing what had been done, but getting up the works I saw our people running away, and those in the Fort shooting at them. I slipped down this work into a ditch and got out of the trench; and as I began to run hearing one call ‘ Chirurgeon’, ( surgeon) I turned back and seeing a man hold up a stumped arm, I thought it was an Irishman whom I had absolutely dismembered, whereupon I returned and helped him. We ran together, it being within half a musket shot of the enemies Fort, but he outran me quite”.

Proof then of the rapidity with which William Sydenham lifted the siege of Melcombe and regained the Chapelfort and town of Weymouth.attack

The Dorset Trained Bands & the ill-fated Scottish Expedition :

The great thing about the Crabchurch story, is that many of those who fought and died during the course of its twists and turns, will have descendants still living in the County and that is why I decided to list many of them at the back of the book. One sure way to engender interest in history, especially local history, is to personalise it and the following little story is a case in point.

Before the English Civil Wars (1642-1651) each English county was obliged to fund and maintain a force of fighting men called The Trained Bands. They were led more often than not by a local landowner who, if the men were lucky, had served in the continental wars and actually knew what he was doing. Many had not though and therefore the bands’ fighting quality was very often, an unknown quantity and most didn’t even want to leave their home county to fight. It was the nearest thing that England had to a standing army however as the country had not been at war for decades. But in 1640, that was about to change.

The Dorset Trained Bands marched north to fight the Scots, but the expedition was fraught with mutiny and dissent from the start. At Faringdon in Berkshire an officer named Lieutenant Mohun virtually severed his drummer’s hand with a sword after they quarreled.
This so incensed his soldiers that they chased him and two other officers, a Captain Lewknor and an Ensign, into the upstairs of an inn. The three men were forced to flee out of a window and onto the swinging inn sign outside, where they tried to defend themselves with their swords. Lewknor and the Ensign jumped down and escaped, but Mohun was eventually dislodged with stones and fell heavily to the ground. The soldiers then seized him and “smashed his brains out” before throwing him in an open sewer. This still did not quite finish him though and upon seeing him attempt to get up, they then dragged him out and hung him upon a pillory where he finally succumbed to his injuries. Two men were eventually hanged for their part in the murder. Other officers on the ill-fated journey included Troilus Turbeville and Bullen Reymes.
Of the known ‘trained bands units, few individual soldier’s names are known, however many of them would probably have joined their officers’ when they formed proper fighting units as the war began in earnest. One man that is known is Captain Gould’s clerk, John Daniell.
Another Company which was either a trained band or possibly a Dorset volunteer unit was commanded by a Captain Churchill. This could possibly be the Royalist William Churchill, who was Deputy Governor of Dorchester and was captured by Captain Francis Sydenham in December 1643.

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*** = Christian name not known
The names of some of this unit are known:
Lieutenant William Paty, Ensign William Whiteway and Sergeant *** Bale
Common Soldiers: Thomas Poole, John Bragge, Joseph Culfe, John Lobb, Richard Scobile, Samuell Bushros(e), William Lasilburie, Benjamin Gould, William Cleark, William Polden, Richard White, Joseph Underwood, Lidrid Baylie, Philip Suds, Thomas Coulsons, John Strong, Ellis Eursitt.
***

Is your family name among these old soldiers ?

Professor Ronald Hutton & The Crabchurch Conspiracy :

Professor Ronald Hutton talks to Weymouth’s ZZipp Media/TV about the Crabchurch Conspiracy Weekend of two years ago.(2013) and being born in India.

See him again this year at the Crabchurch Conspiracy 370th Anniversary Concert, live on stage at the Ocean Room, Weymouth Pavilion, where he will be re-telling blood-thirsty tales like this and many others from Weymouth’s dark, desperate days during the English Civil Wars.

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Buy your tickets here online or, directly from the Weymouth Pavilion Box Office.

http://www.weymouthpavilion.com/page24.html

After the Siege of Melcombe was Lifted & Before the Onslaught.

Colonel William Sydenham was beginning to feel more confident now and on CWSSunday 16th of February 1645, even ventured out of Melcombe with a troop of horse and succeeded in routing a unit of Royalist cavalry near Radipole, killing some and capturing forty five prisoners and eighty horses. He then “chased the little remnant that remained up to the gates of Weymouth”. Soon after, Dyve, with a detachment of Sir Thomas Austin’s and Cleveland’s horse and some companies of foot, tried to blockade the Roundheads in at the north end of Melcombe, but still Sydenham’s raiders managed to break out on several occasions. Once they returned with nine hundred sheep to feed the town and also a rather bewildered and no doubt embarrassed Cavalier captain, who had mistaken the Roundheads for his own side and rode up to greet them!
These halcyon days were but a brief respite though and soon enough the Parliamentarians’ luck began to take a downward turn once more, with the dire news that the infamous and much feared Royalist General, George, Lord Goring was approaching Dorchester. He was the typical Cavalier of fable, a loud, flamboyant ‘peacock’ of a man, but nevertheless a very experienced officer of national renown who had an ego every bit as big as his reputation. His soldiers were dreaded by all, due to their unfortunate habit of heartlessly plundering and vandalising every town that they entered. Once in control of Dorchester and true to form, they were duly let off the leash and ran riot, destroying among other things the ‘brew-house’ run by one Benjamin Devenish.
Goring’s force was made up of three thousand cavalry and fifteen hundred infantry and, once he had established himself in Dorchester, he headed straight for William Sydenham at the head of three thousand troops. Panic rang through the war ravaged streets of Melcombe as Sydenham’s garrison, already outnumbered by two to one, looked out upon the massive body of soldiers now marching to join those already encamped outside their walls.
Goring paraded his men up and down in a great show of strength with drums beating, trumpets blowing and flags waving, but, astonishingly, did little else. Instead of the expected onslaught, Sydenham and his men watched with some relief as Goring eventually marched off again towards Weymouth, where he spent the night as Dyve’s guest, leaving only a token force behind to dig an artillery position about two hundred yards from Melcombe, possibly somewhere between the present library and the northern end of Great George Street.
Sydenham, making the most of this reprieve, decided to provide a little show of his own and early the next morning, bombarded Goring’s newly dug ‘works’ and, in the true family tradition, followed this up by throwing open

the town gates and personally leading a cavalry attack upon it, killing several of the defenders and capturing many arms and tools.
A further two days passed but still Goring did not attack. Probably convinced in his own mind that the town could be taken at leisure, he had apparently returned to Dorchester with most of his number, having made his first mistake, that of underestimating Colonel William Sydenham and his men.

charlie

Ending the Siege of Melcombe & help from Poole :

After the Royalist commander in Dorset, Sir Lewis Dyve had given his curt reply to Colonel William Sydenham’s request to “cease this useless burning” with the answer of “We refuse to parley with you and shall do as we please” … Sydenham knew that he had to do something whilst he still had a town to defend.

This snub only served to infuriate him and the very same evening under cover of darkness, he sent a small raiding party across the water in boats. They set alight several vessels and houses on the Weymouth side and caused great damage and mayhem in the Royalist camp. The next day Sir Lewis ceased the bombardment for good.

The following week offered some hope to Sydenham’s men in the shape of two hundred sailors from Poole who were landed on Melcombe beach by none other than William Batten, Vice Admiral of the Parliamentarian fleet, in his ship ‘The James’ and one other man o’ war. Batten described the Poole seamen as “some of the toughest fighting men in Dorset”. Also, by land, came another reason for hope. Lieutenant Colonel James Heane (or Haynes) managed to break through the surrounding Royalists with his one hundred strong troop of horse. Heane was a good professional soldier, but had for several months been held prisoner by William Hastings in Portland Castle. His ‘host’ had tried hard to persuade his captive to change sides, realising that Heanes’ superior military skills would be a real bonus to the King, but to no avail. Heane, a staunch Parliament man, eventually escaped with the help of Hastings’ own servant and now returned to once more defy his jailer.

Dr Thomas Sydenham … Soldier & Physician.

A small wing of Dorchester County Hospital has been named after one of the ‘fighting Sydenham brothers’, the third born, Thomas.

He was a Cornet in his older brother, Francis’ regiment of horse after leaving his medical studies in Magdalen College Oxgford at the outbreak of hostilities to fight along side his older siblings in the Parliamentary cause.

Wounded in the fight to re-capture the Chapel Fort on the 9th February 1645, he would have been one of the soldiers carrying Francis’ stricken body back down into Weymouth where he died a few hours later.

Later in the wars, Thomas was attacked one night in his quarters by a drunken soldier who put a pistol to his face and pulled the trigger. But the weapon mis-fired and only succeeded in badly damaging the man’s hand.

This was a fortunate thing, for after the wars, Thomas resumed his studies and became a doctor of such repute, that he was known as the “English Hypocrites’.

A fellow physician, John Brown wrote of him, “He is the Prince of Practical Medicine, whose character is as beautiful and as genuinely English as his name”.
Thomas Sydenham believed that nature had a cure for all of man’s ailments and that physicians were merely nature’s assistants. One of his few recorded quotes was “Of all the remedies it has pleased almighty God to give man to relieve his suffering; none is so universal and so efficacious as opium.”

Among his many achievements was the discovery and identification of a disease which became known as ‘Sydenham’s Chorea”. We know it today as St Vitus Dance. In 1659, he was nominated for Parliament, but not elected.

A memorial to Dr Thomas Sydenham, which was erected in the 19th century by the now defunct ‘Sydenham Society’, can be found halfway up a staircase in St James Church, Pall Mall. The staff there being completely unaware of who this great Dorset man of medicine was.
After a brilliant career, he died of gout, aged 65, at his home in Pall Mall, on the 29th December 1689. He is buried in St James Churchyard, Piccadilly.

This great Dorset family, whose sons gave so much for their County and Country, have for too long now been forgotten, lost in a side alley of English History.

This book, Blog and the Crabchurch Weekend, seek to reverse this fortune and

we will do so !dorch 007

Naive, but charming portrait of Thomas, with a small bio situated in the Dr Thomas Sydenham block of Dorchester Hospital.

The continuing Siege of Melcombe :

The siege of Melcombe by the 2000 strong Royalist forces of Sir William Hastings and Sir Lewis Dyve, continued unabated from the 10th February. For about 5 days, they pounded the beleaguered parliamentarian garrison of about 900 souls across the water.

Gazing out upon the awful damage that the more powerful Royalist artillery, with it’s massive height advantage was wreaking upon the town of Melcombe, Colonel William Sydenham sent Dyve a message saying “Let us cease this useless burning”, but Dyve believing he had the upper hand for once against his old adversary answered “We refuse to parley with you and will do what we please”.

Two days later, Dyve would learn a harsh lesson about taking Colonel William Sydenham seriously. ……………………

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