Forest of Dean Local History

The Civil War Around the Forest of Dean


Dean Local History

Civil War 1643

Civil War 1644

Civil War 1645

Civil War 1646

Local Castles

1642 & 1643

The Civil War and the Forest of Dean.  In 1642 civil war broke out between the Royalist supporters of King Charles I and the English Parliament. At that time the Forest of Dean area was dominated by a number of catholic, Royalist-supporting families most of whom were related through birth or marriage to the Lydney family of Sir John Wintour, whose uncle, the Earl of Worcester, held Raglan and Chepstow Castles.

Before 1565, John's grandfather, Sir William, Vice Admiral of England, had built a mansion called White Cross on the western outskirts of Lydney. John's father, Edward, who died in 1619, had married Lady Ann Somerset, sister of Henry, the 1st Marquis of Worcester from nearby Raglan Castle.

Edward Wintour distinguished himself when he and his father, Sir William, fought alongside Francis Drake against the Spanish Armada, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth at Greenwich, on June 18th, 1595. In that year he was High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, and also a Knight of the Garter. 

In addition to his landholdings at Lydney he was lord of the Manor of Awre and, until 1608, Constable of the Castle of St. Briavels. 

In 1604 a Royal licence was granted allowing him to cut timber and make charcoal for the iron works on his own land in the parishes of Newland and Lydney. In that same year he owned the manor of Tucknall and in 1600 built an iron furnace at or near New Mill with a forge at Newerne stream which he dammed to create ponds, as well as other forges and a slitting mill which he maintained with the help of his son Sir John.

When Edward died in 1619 his eldest son John Wintour was only 19 and appears to then have been a ward of King James until 1623. He married Mary Howard, grand-daughter of the Duke of Norfolk.

In 1624 it was claimed in parliament that John Wintour "and other Papists" were storing gunpowder and ammunition at his uncle's fortress, Raglan Castle, and were plotting rebellion against King James.

It was around 1625 that Sir John Wintour became more active in the iron industry. During his lifetime he was the second most important iron master in the realm, and at one point owned six furnaces and eight forges.

In 1627 he completed an agreement with the Crown for the rental of woods in the Forest of Dean to supply fuel for use in his iron furnaces at Lydney and it is recorded that between 1628 and 1634 he produced more than 11000 tons of iron from his furnaces. This was a period when the Forest was changing over from producing iron by the old bloomery method to the new, charcoal-devouring, blast furnaces.

Sir Edward Wintour’s daughter, Anne, married Benedict Hall (died 1668) of the High Meadow estate, near Coleford. The couple were listed as Catholics. He was John Wintour's brother in law, and with his help had fortified the mansion and surroundings, and had exhorted his servants to fight for 'God and the King'.

Following John Wintour's defeat at Lancaut in February 1645, the occupation of Highmeadow by the Parliamentarians, and other reverses of the King's cause, Benedict Hall, like many others of high rank, hastened to change sides and save himself by 'compounding'. He sent his wife to conduct negotiations with the Parliamentary Committee.

If a "delinquent" wished to recover his estate, he had to apply to the Committee for Compounding with Delinquents based in London. In 1643 Parliament had set up the Committee for Compounding with Delinquents which allowed Royalists whose estates had been sequestrated, to compound for their estates. It meant the payment of a fine to recover their estates. They also had to make a pledge not to take up arms against Parliament again. The size of the fine payed depended on the worth of the estate and how great their support for the Royalist cause had been.

Viscount Gage later that century inherited the Highmeadow estate on his marriage to Benedict Hall's grand daughter Maria Theresa Hall.


The iron forges and furnaces of the Forest of Dean supplied arms to both sides in the Civil War. The works at Lydney would have been in production for the Royalist, Sir John Wintour, and those at Soudley and Parkend, under lease to Sir Baynham Throckmorton of Clearwell, another enthusiastic supporter of the King.

Howbrook furnace and forge near Lydbrook, and the furnace at Cannop, were leased by William Dunning. Their owner was Kent gun-founder, John Browne, who supplied the Parliamentarians with their weapons.

There are records showing Soudley furnace supplying a culverin and a large number of cannonballs to the Royalists during August 1643 when they were besieging the city of Gloucester.

'Roaring Meg' an enormous mortar piece which had a 15.5 inch diameter barrel, and fired a 2cwt hollow ball filled with gunpowder, is believed to have been manufactured at Howbrook. Specially cast for the Parliamentarians who were at the siege of Goodrich Castle in June 1646, it was so successful that in the following weeks the giant cannon was used again to bombard Raglan Castle.  see Goodrich Castle

During 1644 it appears that nearly all the Royalist owned forges were the target of attacks by Massey's troops. The burning down of the 22 feet diameter wooden water wheels, with their associated bellows and machinery, certainly seems to have halted production from Lydney, Parkend and Soudley, for several years.

From 1644, Parliament seized Wintour's and Throckmorton's forges and furnaces and leased them to Edward Massey and his assignees while also taking over Howbrook for another popular Roundhead, Gloucester's Thomas Pury.


There was widespread local opposition to Winter's interference with established commoners' rights in the Forest of Dean. His over-zealous clearing of timber to feed those furnaces led to him being called to account in July 1634. He confessed and was fined £20,230. It did not seem to affect his popularity at the Royal Court as he was appointed Secretary to Queen Henrietta Maria in May 1638.

Wintour was able to use that position to his advantage when in 1640 he signed an agreement with the Crown binding him to pay £106,000 over six years, and an annual farm fee of £1951 thereby securing the timber and mineral rights to 18000 acres of Royal Forest land. He also agreed to supply a quantity of wood to the King's own ironworks and preserve 15000 tons of ship timber for the Crown.

This lease gave Sir John Wintour control of most of the ore and the iron mines plus timber production in the Forest area. His enclosing and extensive tree felling made him very unpopular locally. Complaints to lydney manor

the Long Parliament' of that time resulted in an inquiry where evidence was collected revealing misappropriation of ship's timber together with a number of other abuses of his grant.

The agreement was cancelled by Parliament in 1642, but fortunately for him the Civil War delayed the cancellation's enforcement. It is however reported that some of the Forest's commoners grabbed their chance to demolish the enclosures that he had erected.

He was not popular with both houses of Parliament. On January 27th, 1640, Wyntour was ordered by the House of Commons to attend.

The two Houses joined on the 16th March in petitioning the King for the removal of all Popish recusants from Court, especially Sir John Wyntour, and two others. They prayed for the removal of Wyntour; secretary of the Queen's Majesty, on the ground that he was  'a person of evil fame and disaffected to the public peace and prosperity of the kingdom-an instrument of jealousy, discontent and misunderstanding between His Majesty and his Parliament, and a busy promoter of those mischiefs and grievances which had produced great dangers, distempers and fears wherewith all his kingdoms were distracted and perplexed." 


Earlier, in 1631, on land granted to another Royal favourite, Sir Edward Villiers, Foresters had shown their solidarity against inclosures on the morning of 25 March when a crowd of at least 500  ‘did march with two Drummes two Coulers and one Fife and in a warlike and outragious manner did assemble themselves together armed with gunnes, pykes, halberds and other weapons’ to the house of Robert Bridges, the local agent for the family of the late Sir Edward Villiers, who, in 1625, had been granted mineral rights in Mailscot Woods, at Hillersland.

After threatening to ‘pull downe Bridges’ howse’, they ‘went into the ground called Mailescott, and there did extreamly beate certain Colliers being in the said Grounds and one other person being a Strainger’. They attempted to pull down the fences erected by Villier's kinsman, the hated and corrupt Mompesson. 'They acted: by sound of drum and ensigns in most rebellious manner, carrying an effigy of Mompesson and with great noise and clamour threw it into the coalpits that the said Sir Giles had digged.'

At the start of the Civil War in 1642 the inhabitants of Dean were divided. Most of the local landowners and inter-married gentry were Catholic and Royalist, while many Foresters were supporters of Parliament, some with a tendency towards Puritanism, and against the corrupt Stuart regime that had signed over large areas of land to greedy and ruthless exploiters.


As was the case in most of Wales and Herefordshire, at the start of the conflict the castles at Chepstow, St. Briavels, Goodrich, Ruardean, Monmouth and Raglan were all held by Royalists.

The local armaments industry was mainly in their control with regular supplies coming from the forges of Sir John Wintour and his uncle's forges and gunpowder mill at Raglan.

Gunn's Mill, near Flaxley, was apparently built by Sir John Wintour. It operated from 1629 and was named after Williamgunn's mill Gunne, the owner of an earlier mill on the site. With its blast furnace it was used primarily for armament production. In 1629, the Crown had ordered that 610 guns were to be made there and sent to the Netherlands, but many finished up being used by both sides in the Civil War. Its furnace was destroyed by order of Parliament in 1650.

King Charles sent his son, Prince Charles, on a fund-raising tour of friendly regions, starting with Raglan Castle in October 1642, and, after making a large donation, Earl Henry was promoted to be the first Marquess of Worcester.

The defences of Raglan were improved after this, with modern earthwork bastions built around the castle, a powder mill created, and a garrison of around 300 men established.

The Earl of Stamford established a Parliamentarian garrison at the then uninhabited Goodrich castle in early October 1642. A thirteenth century stronghold, it stood high on a cliff only four miles from Monmouth and commanded a crossing over the Wye.

The establishment of the garrison was mainly to discourage the Marquess of Hertford and Lord Herbert, with their 900 foot and a troop of horse at Monmouth, from offensive action against Hereford.

Lieutenant Colonel Kyrle from nearby Walford Court was chosen to be the Governor at Goodrich.


Edward Somerset, Lord Herbert, Earl of Glamorgan, Marquis of Worcester, 1601-67

He was a Cavalier who supported the King in Wales, where he raised a regiment of horse for him. After leaving Raglan Castle, apart from the small victory at Coleford, the campaigning in the Westof England and Wales did not go well. He spent only a short time with his force of over 2,000 troops when they were encamped at Highnam near Gloucester in March 1643.

He left them and travelled to meet the king at Oxford. It was during his absence and after savage attacks from the Parliamentarians based at Gloucester and Over, that his entire army surrendered. His military skills were limited but being a more than generous contributor to the Royalist cause he still managed to be rewarded with a peerage in 1644 and created Earl of Glamorgan and Baron Beaufort of Caldecote.  

Sent by the King to Ireland, he negotiated a treaty in 1645 in which the Confederation promised to provide 10,000 troops for the King's use in exchange for his promise to grant toleration for Catholics in Ireland. Following widespread condemnation by both Royalists and Parliament, Charles was forced to distance himself from the treaty and cut off his connection to Lord Herbert. Unfortunately the damage was done. Even more so after the Battle of Naseby, when the King's private papers were captured and revealed his part in the negotiations. Later published by Parliament, they further damaged his claim to be a Protestant monarch.


The Parliamentarians' closest power base to the Forest was the city of Gloucester. By early September 1642, with its citizens mainly sympathetic to the Parliamentary cause, the City's administration had managed to implement the militia ordinance and mobilise the county's trained bands.

After the fall of Cirencester in February 1643, Gloucester was one of the few remaining Parliamentarian strongholds in the West.

Hereford had been taken by the Parliamentarians on 30th September 1642 but they withdrew on December 3rd and the city then remained in Royalist hands until April 1643.

When Lord Herbert's Welsh army was approaching Hereford in an attempt to recapture it, Constance Ferrar, a Major in the Parliamentarian army, received a letter from Major General Sir Richard Lawday who was to later lose his life in the battle at Coleford. They had previously soldiered together in Scotland, serving with the 15th Regiment of Foot, where Lawday was a major and Ferrar a captain.raglan castle

'We shall suddenly approach Hereford with such forces as will (God willing) soon reduce the rebels in it to the Kings mercy. If you, in the meantime, will contrive now to advantage us in this design, his Excellency hath commanded me to offer you five hundred pounds in money, and to assure both yourself and your assistants not only of your pardons, but that you shall be preferred to better charges in his Majesties Army than you have.  Sir, bethink yourself betimes, and return your answer by bearer, that I may confidently stile myself,    Sir,  your most hearty friend to serve you.   R. LAWDY

Ferrar turned down the offer and replied with scorn and anger at what he saw as an attempted violation of his honour. He ended his letter adding, 'For your undoubted power to reduce the rebels in Hereford (as you term them), doubt not Sir, when you come, you shall receive the entertainment of a soldier.' CONSTANCE FERRAR.


The Battle of Coleford. Gloucestershire's first major action was on the 29th of January 1643, when Sudeley Castle fell to Massey's Parliamentarians. That event was quickly over-shadowed by the capture of Cirencester for the King, by Prince Rupert and the Marquess of Hertford on February 2nd.

The first notable confrontation in this part of the county took place on the 20th February, 1643. That day, John Wintour's cousin, Edward Somerset, Lord Herbert, the Earl of Worcester’s eldest son, then the King’s Lieutenant-General of South Wales, and whose power-base was Raglan Castle, marched up from Highmeadow towards Coleford and the Forest of Dean, en-route to Gloucester, with an army of 500 horse and 1500 foot. His brother, Lord John Somerset, commanded the cavalry, and Major General Sir Richard Lawday the foot soldiers.The force had been recruited in Wales, the outfitting and preparation of which is stated to have cost £60,000.

In October 1642, Lord Stamford had been appointed governor of Hereford, and commander of Parliament's forces in Wales. Before moving on to Bristol in December, he authorised the raising of three new Gloucestershire regiments. On 28th November Colonel John Berrow was paid £500 and given the task of recruiting a foot regiment in the Forest of Dean to defend the area against the Hereford and Welsh Royalists. In addition the Mayor of Gloucester subscribed £1,100.

In those days a private soldier's pay was 8 pence a day or £1 (240 old pennies) for 30 days.

There is no record of uniforms being issued to the Coleford volunteers and it is fairly certain that they fought in civilian clothes. Some of their weapons may have been looted during the raid on Sir John Wintour at Whitecross, Lydney.

Berrow's second in command was Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Wintour a relative of the Lydney Wintours. Below him were  Major George Davis and Captain John Brayne.

The Royalist Earl of Clarendon, who was based at the King's court in Oxford, was quite scathing about the new regiment, describing it as -"a rabble of country people being got together, without order, or officer of name." In other words he was saying that the regiment was composed of local people, not very well disciplined, and not commanded by gentlemen of any significance. Seven months after this encounter, on 20th September 1643, it is reported that Colonel John Berrow, who had apparently made his way to the Bristol garrison, was again commissioned to raise a foot regiment in the Forest of Dean.

Lord Herbert from Raglan was in the recently captured Hereford on the 5th of February 1643 when he heard of an attack by Parliamentarians on his cousin John Wintour's home at Lydney. He decided it was now time to secure the Forest of Dean and the city of Gloucester for the King. He placed the new governor of Hereford Castle, Richard Lawday,in charge of his foot soldiers, and his own brother, Lord John Somerset, the commander of the cavalry. The Welsh army of 2000 marched from Monmouth on the 20th of February.

Benedict Hall from Highmeadow, near Coleford, another Catholic and Royalist,was John Wintour's brother in law, and with his help had fortified the mansion and surroundings. He had exhorted his servants to fight for 'God and the King'.

The small parliamentary army at Coleford was armed with only one piece of heavy artillery which was placed in the centre of their defences facing towards Monmouth. Hall had managed to bribe the soldier in charge of the gun by paying him £40 not to fire on the Welsh army.

During the march on the town of Coleford, an affray occurred during which the market-house was burnt down. The Royalists came under attack from marksmen firing from the windows of local houses. It may not have been a coincidence that only senior officers were the main casualties. Although few private soldiers were hurt, three officers, including Major-General Richard Lawday of the Dragoons, who was from Exeter and commanded the foot regiment, his second in command, Captain Lt. Burke, and Lt. Randell Wallinger were shot dead. Also buried at Monmouth after the battle was John Stradling (it just says 'troop' on the burial record) and private soldier Richard Smith.

The Royalists finally overwhelmed the opposition and forced a passage through the town. They captured a Parliamentarian officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Wintour, Berrow's second in command, and a relative of the Lydney family, together with some forty lower rank officers and private soldiers. The remaining parliamentarians and local militia fled into the Forest, some hiding in the mines.  Benedict Hall, who had stood by watching the event, sent his men after some of the fugitives. It is also related that he took a wounded major back to Highmeadow who unfortunately died 3 or 4 days later.

The Welsh then marched on without any further resistance towards Highnam, near Gloucester, to await the expected arrival of Prince Rupert's force. Charles Wintour must have escaped or been released, as he was later killed by a bullet through the head in a fight on Allaston Meend, near Lydney, and interred in the Wintour (now Bathurst) chapel at Lydney Church. 


Highnam. After marching to the outskirts of Gloucester, the Welsh army then took possession of a mansion owned by Parliamentarian supporter Sir Robert Cooke at Highnam only two miles from the city.They were hoping to achieve, with the help of Prince Rupert's forces from Cirencester, an effective blockade of Colonel Edward Massey's main garrison in the West, the city of Gloucester.

Soon after arriving, Lord Herbert left his troops under the command of Sir Jerome Brett, and went to Oxford to join the King.

The sudden proximity of this large Royalist force pushed Massey into occupying the Vineyard, formerly the Bishop's Palace, a moated medieval mansion at Over. It offered an excellent defensive position from which to hold them in check, and, at the same time, guard Over bridge and the western approaches to Gloucester.

Massey's troops had ransacked and plundered the Vineyard at Over, home of the Bishop of Gloucester, Godfrey Goodman, during Christmas 1942. Welsh-born Goodman (1583-1656) was a Court preacher and chaplain to Queen Anne, wife of James I.

His leaning towards Roman Catholicism made enemies for him at Windsor, and he was also reprimanded by the King over his Court sermons, and a few years later, severely reprimanded for having erected a crucifix at Windsor, and for using altar-cloths with a cross design in his own cathedral at Gloucester.

He was also not popular for suspending a minister who insisted on preaching "that all who die papists go inevitably to hell".

When the Vineyard was over-ran he fled back to Wales. After the war ended the good bishop converted to the Catholic faith.  

Massey did all he could, with day and night-time raids, to harass the Welsh troops busy building earthworks around Highnam house to protect themselves. The earthern sconces and trenches, which were soon to surround Sir Robert Cooke's mansion, also commanded the Ross and Newent roads entering the city from the West. It was from those defensive positions that the Welsh now pillaged the surrounding area for much needed supplies.

For over a month the 2,000 Royalist troops were camped at Highnam. After one bloody skirmish in March 1643 with the Parliamentarians from Gloucester, it is reported by two eye-witnesses that five wagons full of maimed Royalist soldiers were sent for medical care to Cirencester and a further eighteen to Oxford.

After the army had  been at Highnam for four weeks, vainly waiting for the the King's forces from Cirencester and Oxford to join them, there was now a deadlock which could only be broken by the arrival of reinforcements for one side or the other.

On 22 March, Parliamentarian General Waller was at Tetbury when a dispatch arrived from Massey and Sir Robert Cooke urging him to come to their assistance against the Welsh at Highnam. He immediately changed course and made an over-night march to Framilode passage, an ancient ferry point on the Severn only five miles below Gloucester. He had ordered Massey to float some pontoons, which had arrived at Gloucester in November, down to Framilode, where his troops used them to cross the Severn and bypass Over bridge. Waller and his force then camped behind the enemy lines at Huntley, only 5 miles west of Highnam. For any reader interested in war games, you might like this   illustrated blog.

 On the morning of the 24th March 1643, to maximise the element of surprise, he ordered Massey to carry out a frontal attack on the earthworks around Highnam to keep the unsuspecting Welsh fully occupied, while Waller, having drawn up his troops to make them appear more numerous, announced himself from behind by firing a warning shot. The resulting pincer movement was fully successful and the Royalists taken completely by surprise. Massey's men stormed one of the earthern sconces around Highnam house, and breached the mansion's defensive perimeter. After a bitter battle in which around 500 Royalists died, the remaining 1500, who had defended the position until their ammunition ran out, laid down their weapons and surrendered.

There had been a number of skirmishes when some of the Royalists attempted to flee westwards. barber's bridge civil war monument

An unknown number of bodies were found during the digging of the nearby canal in the 1790s. In 1868 during excavations near Rudford for the construction of a railway, 86 bodies were recovered buried in a hillside close to the scene of the battle near present day Barber's Bridge.

A monument was erected in 1871 to the Welsh soldiers who died there. The inscription reads: "These stones taken from the ancient walls of the city of Gloucester mark the burial place of the Welsh of Lord Herbert's force who fell in the combined attack of Sir William Waller and Colonel Massey, on their entrenchments at Highnam. March 24.1643."

During the Battle of Highnam the Monmouthshire and Herefordshire Royalists lost 500 men and tons of supplies. 150 officers and 1,444 men with 600 weapons, a cannon, several tons of munitions, a quantity of armour, and around five hundred horses were captured.

The Welsh prisoners were held under guard in Gloucester's St Mary de Lode and Holy Trinity churches.

They were quite a burden on the city whose administrators allowed a total of £18 and 19 shillings for bread to be distributed among them. One of those Welsh prisoners, 16 year old Welsh Thomas from Carmarthen, later recalled in 1717 that while in captivity 'he was fed on turnip tops, cabbage leaves, or any such things.'

The officers were given the choice of paying a ransom or being imprisoned at Bristol.

After 10 days those private soldiers who would not agree to join the Parliamentarian army were released after swearing an oath not to fight against Parliament again. Young Welsh Thomas, like many of his countrymen, took the oath, but did not keep his promise. He rejoined the Royalist army and later served at the siege of Gloucester.


The burning of Taynton Church. The village of Taynton lies 2 miles north of Huntley.

Shortly after the siege of Gloucester, Colonel Massey and his troops were out in the Newent area harassing the local Royalist strongholds.

When they were near Cole's Barn, contact was made with a large force of Royalist troops led by Captain Whiffin. There was a brief skirmish. The fighting moved down close to Taynton Manor and it is believed that the Parliamentarians were forced to retreat and take refuge in the local church.

One Royalist account relates they quickly turned the chancel into a stable for their horses and were tearing out sheets from the prayer books to light their pipes. It was also claimed that some of them, mockingly, put on the surplices over their armour. The church was then turned into a fortress as it came under a sustained attack from the Royalists. Allegedly, the besiegers successfully fired the church despite the efforts of the puritan minister who was taking pot shots at them from the rectory window apparently while Massey's men were managing to escape with both their lives and the communion plate.

After the conflict, the ruined church and priest's house were not rebuilt on the same site.

In 1647, the parishioners requested a new church in a more convenient position.

Thomas Pury served as a captain during the siege of Gloucester, and with his father had done "great work" for the Parliamentary cause. He was also a member of Parliament for Gloucester, and the Long Parliament, during the Civil War. 

After the conflict he went to live at 'the Grove' in Taynton and it was with his help that the new Presbyterian church was built. Following puritan principals, he rejected all 'Catholic superstitions' and had the new building aligned North and South.


After the victory at Gloucester, Waller, who was based at Bristol, spent a week in Gloucester assessing the forces at his disposal and the general strategic situation.

Massey became one of Waller's leading staff officers. He was now in command of a large association of Parliamentary forces from territories that included the Severn valley, Northern Wiltshire, and parts of Dorset and Somerset.

Taking advantage of his recent success, Waller now took around 2000 men and three guns into Herefordshire and Monmouthshire in an attempt to stem the influence of the Royalists. On Sunday April 2nd he occupied Ross where he stayed overnight. On the next day he passed through Goodrich to Monmouth from where he sent out parties levying contributions. On April 6th he reached Usk where he released some prisoners, and then went on to Chepstow where he took 'a Ship called the Dragon of Bristol, in which was a great store of Wealth'.

Because of his lack of manpower, the parliamentary General  was unable to leave garrisons in the towns he had occupied, and it was only days later that they were back in the hands of the Royalists.

Waller then received intelligence from Massey at Gloucester that Prince Maurice was deploying horse regiments in a wide arc between Ross and Newnham, in an effort to cut off his return to Gloucester.

Prince Maurice had marched from Tewkesbury through Ledbury to Ross. His army consisted of 26 cavalry officers and Lord Grandison's brigade, a total of over 2000 men. He made his headquarters at Little Dean and posted troops at Ross, Mitcheldean, and Newnham. He also sent Sir Richard Cave with a detachment of 80 cavalrymen and 100 dragoons to occupy Monmouth.

Waller now decided to double back, and sent most of his foot soldiers and all the heavy artillery across the Severn from Beachley to Aust, to achieve a safe return to Gloucester via Berkeley.

On April 11th 1643, he deployed his cavalry from Chepstow in an attempt to force his way through that heavy Royalist presence in the Forest of Dean under the cover of darkness. Unfortunately while circumventing the Royalist garrison at Newnham, he had to slow down near Little Dean to wait for an officer who had fallen behind with the main body. Daylight was breaking when they were discovered there by the enemy.

His force was involved in a heavy skirmish when attacked from the rear by the Prince's troops. He succeeded in breaking through but a number of his men were killed or captured.

Fearing that his commander might be having problems, Massey drew some troops out of Gloucester to go to his aid.

He met Waller on the road between Highnam and Churcham. The General and his troops had made it through enemy lines only two miles away.

Massey then suggested to Waller a plan to surprise Tewkesbury with a force of soldiers transported up the Severn by boat. They both knew that Prince Maurice had drawn many men out of that town to intercept Waller in the Forest, and the small Tewkesbury garrison might well be under the illusion that the Prince's operations there had placed them out of any immediate danger.

Waller agreed to Massey's plan and the amphibious expedition was sent up the Severn.

The garrison at Tewkesbury, under the command of Sir Mathew Carew, was as careless as Massey suspected, and on 11th April, the town, and its strategically important crossing point at the confluence of the rivers Severn and Avon, was easily seized by the Gloucester Parliamentary forces.

Waller knew that Prince Maurice was unlikely to suffer the loss of a town that was his principal base of operations without an attempt to retake it. He was afraid that the Prince would try to cross the Severn further up river, and attack Tewkesbury from the North. That fear proved well founded. Maurice did march North from Ross to Upton bridge, the only decent crossing point between Worcester and Tewkesbury.

Waller and Massey's forces attempted to bar his southward advance on Tewkesbury, but they suffered a defeat at Ripple Field, a few miles north of Tewkesbury, on the morning of 13 April 1643, when Prince Maurice with 2,000 men, outnumbered Waller's 1,500.

Having gained the upper hand, and with the Roundheads in retreat, the Royalists pursued them for three miles towards Tewkesbury until they were met by Massie's reinforcements. The Royalist attack was checked and driven back by heavy musket fire as the remnants of Waller's army retreated into Tewkesbury.

The timely arrival of Parliamentary reinforcements prevented Prince Maurice from recapturing Tewkesbury. He was now unable to press his advantage in the Severn valley being suddenly recalled to Oxford to help repulse Cromwell's main field army, which had advanced up the Thames valley and was now posing a threat to Reading and the King's headquarters at Oxford.

In the face of this danger, the Royalists withdrew from their garrisons at Cirencester and Malmesbury. The immediate threat to Gloucester from the East was removed, and Waller and Massey, for a time, had undisputed military control in the region.

They had destroyed Edward Somerset's Welsh army, held back Prince Maurice, and were now in a position to exploit their strength and security. On April 25th Waller captured the City of Hereford.

He appointed Sir Robert Cooke to be Governor of Tewkesbury. Cooke had been knighted in 1621, was Deputy Lieutenant for Gloucestershire during the 1630s, a Commissioner of the Forest of Dean in 1639 and at the outbreak of the War was Lord of the Manor of Highnam. He had received his Colonel's commission from Waller, with whom he had worked closely before the battle of Highnam.

Immediately after taking Tewkesbury, Cooke and his newly formed regiment took up residence and guarded Gloucester's northern approaches.

Cooke's new regiment was probably intended as a replacement for that of Colonel Berrow, which was destroyed at Coleford. His recruits are believed to have been mainly from the Forest of Dean.

When Sir Robert Cooke died in October 1643, Massey ejected his widow from Highnam Court to make room for a garrison.

In April 1643 a troop of Colonel Waller's troopers were out searching for supplies in the Forest of Dean when they intercepted a letter from Sir John Wintour to a Mr Moss (Morse?) of Mitcheldean. It concerned an amount of £910 in taxes being collected in the area by Mr Moss for the maintenance of the Royalists garrisoned there. Waller went to Moss's house pretending to be a Royalist officer and demanded the money. Moss protested that he had only managed to collect £700 but Waller persuaded him to hand it over for safe-keeping. The Colonel then identified himself and arrested the unfortunate Mitcheldean man.

There were two battles between the Royalists and Parliamentarians in July 1643. The first was at Lansdown, near Bath, when the King's army made several cavalry charges and sustained heavy losses. Waller was finally forced to retire, as he was outflanked by attacks through the woods on either side. The second, a few days later,was mainly a cavalry battle, that took place on the flat top of Roundway Down, near Devizes.

The Royalists, led by Lord Wilmot, Lieutenant General of Horse for King Charles, totally hammered Waller's men as they were chased across the downs. Many apparently fell to their deaths down the steep gullies of Oliver's Camp, the site of an ancient iron-age hill fort. The total Parliamentarian losses during the Battle of Roundway Down, from an original force of 2000, was around 600. 1000 were taken prisoner. Some of that number had originally been moved from the garrison at Bristol and the city's defences were now weakened.

With all effective opposition now removed, that success enabled General Hopton, with some help from Prince Rupert's reinforcements, to turn westwards and capture both Bath and Bristol for the King.

At Bristol on 27th July the Royalists secured immmense amounts of booty, in particular, munitions of war. Eight armed merchant ships had been captured, later forming the nucleus of a Royalist fleet, and of even more importance, the workshops of Bristol went on to re-equip the entire Royalist army with muskets and ammunition. The gunsmiths of Bristol eventually produced a steady supply of three hundred muskets a week, leading to the gradual abandonment of pikes in the Royalist regiments.

The remainder of the western counties quickly fell into the King's hands and, with the exception of the city of Gloucester, the Royalists were to remain in effective command of the western counties for some time.


Walford Court, situated between Lydbrook and Ross, was the home of the Kyrle family who had held the manor of Walford in Herefordshire since the late 1400s. James Kyrle born in 1595, was a Justice of the Peace, and High Sheriff of Herefordshire. He had married Anne, the sister of Edmund Waller the poet. Her maternal uncle was John Hampden, the distinguished Parliamentarian leader who received a fatal wound to his shoulder at Chalgrove Field during an attack on Prince Rupert's forces in June 1643. James, a supporter of Parliament, spent most of the Civil War at Gloucester.

Their second eldest son was Walter Kyrle, a barrister and MP. He was the father of John Kyrle

(1637–1724)  a very popular philanthropist, famous for a lifetime of good works at Ross-on-Wye. The poet Alexander Pope praised him as the ‘Man of Ross’, the name by which he has been known ever since.

The eldest son of the house was Robert Kyrle (1618-1669). He matriculated from Lincoln College, Oxford in 1636. After serving with the army in Germany and Holland, he joined the Parliamentarians as a Lieutenant and was soon promoted to captain. Made commander of the 68th Troop, Kyrle distinguished himself as an exceptional, and sometimes ruthless soldier during the seizing of Hereford and the fighting in Herefordshire, and was, for a short period, in charge of the garrison at Goodrich Castle. It was during that time his troops ransacked and pillaged the home and possessions of the vicar of Goodrich, Thomas Swift, grandfather of the author Jonathan Swift, on at least five occasions.
After the Battle of Coleford in early 1643, Kyrle seems to have had an attack of conscience when he changed sides and joined the King's forces at Oxford.
He may have been influenced in that decision by the fact that his father's estate at Walford was in a county at that time completely controlled by the Royalists, but one reason he apparently gave, was his revulsion at the Roundheads' behaviour towards the Established Church, and in particular, his disgust with the zealous excesses encouraged by the puritan chaplain of the regiment he had been serving with.
The Royalists appointed him as a Lieutenant Colonel at the Monmouth garrison.

In August 1644 Kyrle appears to have realised the hopelessness of the Royalist cause. The family property at Walford was in Parliament's hands, and it was generally accepted that, should Parliament be the victor, he would most likely be tried and imprisoned at the end of the war for his earlier treachery.

Helped by the fact that his father James was still a resident there, he began secret communications in which he negotiated with Governor Massey at Gloucester about changing sides once again.

In September 1644, the two met at Highmeadow and hatched a plan to take Monmouth. He would ride in front of some Parliamentary troops and gain access to the town.

Kyrle appeared from the Forest of Dean at the Wye Bridge Gate and demanded admission for himself and 100 prisoners. Colonel Holtby was persuaded to allow the drawbridge to be lowered and Kyrle with a small number of the 'prisoners' admitted. They quickly overpowered the bridge's guard. The ruse had worked and Monmouth fell to the Roundheads.

As a reward Kyrle was given the Governorship of Monmouth and all earlier charges against him were dropped.

Unfortunately the garrison at Monmouth soon fell back into Royalist hands during the period that Kyrle was with Massey fighting at Beachley and involved in the pursuit of Royalists that followed.

He did, however soldier on to take part in further victories including the Battle at Stow, the surrender of Chepstow Castle in October 1645, the recapture of Monmouth in November, the capture of Cardiff in February 1646, and the siege of Goodrich.

On March 30th 1647 Kyrle arrived at Monmouth to supervise the slighting of the castle. The townsmen and soldiers then began to pull down the round tower and demolish the works.

He was married to Mildred, daughter of Sir William Maxey of Bradwell Hall, Essex , and after her death in 1662, to Elizabeth, the daughter of John Brayn from Little Dean.

Official Pardon of Robert Kyrle.  Ordered, by the Parliament, that Mr. Attorney General be, and he is hereby, required and authorized to prepare a Bill, containing a Pardon unto Colonel Robert Kyrle, of Walford in the County of Hereford, Esquire, for all and all manner of Treasons and Offences committed by him since the Twentieth Day of May 1642*, in relation to the War; together with a Grant and Restitution to him, his Heirs and Assigns, of all his Lands, Tenements, and Hereditaments, Goods, and Chattels (except Advowsons), and all Mesne Profits thereof, forfeited or incurred by reason of the Offences aforesaid, and not levied, or already disposed, to or for the Use of the Parliament, according to an Ordinance of Parliament of the Eighteenth of March 1646, in common Form, as hath been usually granted to Delinquents: And the Lords Commissioners for the Great Seal of England are hereby required and authorized to pass the said Pardon under the Great Seal of England.  House of Commons Journal 2nd July 1651. * an error with their date. It should read 1643.

Robert Kyrle died in 1669 aged fifty-one, and was buried in the family chapel at Walford Church.


The Siege of Gloucester

On the 10th of August 1643, the Royalist Army was now ready to attack Gloucester and gain complete control of the west of England.

That day, a huge force of around 30,000 men arrived in front of the city, and demanded that Colonel Edward Massey and his 1400 men surrender. The King firmly believed that Gloucester would quickly capitulate. He was soon disappointed.gloucester city 1620

Prince Rupert wished to launch a major assault, hoping to repeat his recent success at Bristol. He was overruled by Charles, who ordered the city to suffer a fierce bombardment of grenades and incendiaries.

The King asked the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, Sir Baynham Throckmorton of Clearwell, to send warrants throughout the county to ensure that all workmen and materials needed for the siege were assembled. The Forest of Dean was to provide 40 miners 'who were to repair to our Train of of Artillery before Gloucester by tomorrow night with such tools as they use.' (to undermine Gloucester's defences.) The men chosen were given no choice but to attend 'under pain of death'.

A  supply of 400 cannon balls to be used at the siege came from the Soudley furnace in the Forest of Dean.

The Royalist forces began digging in and setting up artillery batteries around the South and East gates of the city. The defenders burned houses and any other obstacles outside the city walls.

The bombardment of the city began. Over the next few days the defenders fought back carrying out several raids from the gates, attacking and disabling Royalist artillery, and capturing prisoners and tools. Damage to the city wall was filled with cannon baskets and wool sacks. The Royalists then made attempts to drain the city moat and fill it in, and on 24 August after two weeks in which their engineers had been under-mining the walls of the city, Massey was given one more chance to surrender before those walls were destroyed. Fortunately for the defenders, the weather broke that night, and the mines and moat were flooded.

In London, news of the siege had been received with alarm. The City of London soon reacted. All shops were ordered to be closed until Gloucester was secured.  Lots were drawn by the men of the different trained bands which should go on the service. On August 24th a general muster was held on Hampstead Heath of the men to go on the expedition, and on the 26th, with an army of 15,000 men, Essex set out on his march to relieve the city.  Writing, on 30th August, to the Committee of the County of Northampton, he says : —" I am marching for the relief of Gloucester, and shall go to-morrow, God willing, to Bicester, where I desire those horse and foot of my Lord of  Denbigh's which are with you may be, and they shall have money from me, and when that business is done they may go their intended way, which will be but little out of their way. . . If the foot cannot come timely, I desire the horse only may come."

The Royalist forces withdrew on September 6th 1643, having sustained heavy casualties, and the loss of several cannon disabled, as a result of sallies made by the city's defenders. At the end of the siege, Colonel Massey had only three barrels of gunpowder left.queen henrietta maria

Gloucester soon proved to be a thorn in the king's side and the main centre of resistance in the west. From the summer of 1643, its governor, Colonel Edward Massey, began to make raids on royalist strongholds in both Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. Between May and November he captured Beverstone Castle, Sudeley Castle, Malmesbury, Tewkesbury, Chippenham and Monmouth - not to mention a number of smaller garrisons which had been established at churches in the Forest of Dean such as those at Newnham and Westbury.

When the Earl of Essex and his troops were returning to London after the ending of the seige, they were intercepted by the Royalist army at the First Battle of Newbury (20 September 1643) and were forced to fight. The Parliamentarian forces inflicted heavy casualties on the Royalists, who soon ran out of ammunition, and Essex was able to continue to London. Parliament saw this as their first real victory.

Not much had been heard from Sir John Wintour during the period of the Gloucester seige and he had not intervened earlier when Colonel Berrow was recruiting for the Parliamentarians at Coleford in December 1642.

One quote relates ' he had been secretly strengthening against attack for some time, storing it with arms and ammunition, and collecting soldiers.'

It is recorded that around that time, his home at Lydney was attacked and looted by Parliamentarian 'soldiers' from Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, and his servants tortured. Those soldiers were probably local volunteers and members of the militia from the Forest settling old scores after years of frustrating disputes with his family.

He appears at this stage to have kept his head down and was offering no immediate military threat to the Parliamentary forces. He spent some of that time fortifying his home and assets at Whitecross and probably organised the manufacture and supply of weaponry for the Royalist garrisons. It has also been suggested that he was waiting till his rival, Sir Baynham Throckmorton from Clearwell, who had almost single-handedly organised the Royalist war effort and recruiting in the Forest before the siege of Gloucester, ceased to be the County's Sheriff.westbury court 18th century

The siege of Gloucester was raised on the 6th September, 1643, and within a week of that event Wintour sent a troop of horses to Newnham to protect a ship from Bristol laden with munitions for the Royalists. It was, however, captured without fighting by a superior body of Parliamentarians, and safely conveyed to Gloucester. 

On 20th September he received his commission from the KIng making Wintour Governor of Lydney and authorising him to fortify his home and to raise and maintain a 'convenient number of soldiers.' As governor of Lydney he was responsible for liasing with Bristol and guarding the Aust to Beachley crossing.
Wintour's next step, with the help of his brother in law, Benedict Hall from Highmeadow, was to occupy Newnham as a strong garrison under Colonel Congreve from which to annoy Gloucester. The church was fortified and major earthworks, mounted with four cannon, were put in place.

His cavalry on one occasion made a raid within three miles of the city and captured a quantity of cattle. Massey, hearing the news, set out in pursuit with 70 horse, but failing to overtake the raiders before they reached Newnham, he turned back. On his retreat five troops of Lord Herbert's horse fell on his rear.

Corbet records that Massey drew up his men in a narrow lane to receive their charge, fired a volley and put them to flight. An officer and twelve men pursued the Royalist force of over 60 men, capturing a horse, their colours and some men, and killing a cornet and quartermaster. Sir John Corbet, who was Massey's chaplain, relates that this event made Wintour quit the area "with much distraction."

During the winter of 1643 Massey, Parliament's governor of Gloucester, and Wintour the Royalist governor of Lydney, were both active in the Forest area.

The Roundheads were threatened on three fronts. As well as Wintour's strongly defended Lydney and Newnham garrisons, the army of Sir William Vavasour, who was appointed by the King as commander in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, had occupied Tewkesbury in October, and Colonel Nicholas Mynne, having brought a regiment of troops from our army in Ireland, was establishing strongholds at Newent, Taynton and Highleadon.

To counter those forces Massey placed his garrisons at Littledean, Westbury, Huntley and Westbury.


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Sources -
The Battle of Coleford 1643 by Stuart Peachey (1993)
Memorials of the Civil War by Rev. John Webb 1879
The Castles of England, Scotland and Wales, Paul Johnson, Harper & Row, New York, 1989.
The Personalities of the Forest of Dean by Rev. H G Nicholls

The contents of this page are from a number of sources, not all completely reliable. Corbet, from whom we have often quoted, was Massey's chaplain, and obviously biased, and a number of the reports from the Reverend John Webb's book are often very one sided, depending on their source.
Should you have any corrections or additions we would gratefully welcome and acknowledge any input.


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