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’.
“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”.