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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
"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
Viscount Gage later
that century inherited the Highmeadow estate on his marriage to
Benedict Hall's grand daughter Maria Theresa Hall.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 William 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
Lieutenant Colonel Kyrle from
nearby Walford Court was chosen to be the Governor
Lord Herbert, Earl of Glamorgan, Marquis of
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
They were quite a burden on the city whose
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
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
rejoined the Royalist army and later served at the siege
The burning of Taynton Church.
The village of Taynton lies 2 miles north of
Shortly after the siege of Gloucester,
Colonel Massey and his troops were out in
the Newent area harassing the local Royalist
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
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
the forces at his disposal and the general strategic
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Their second eldest son was Walter Kyrle, a
barrister and MP. He was the father of
(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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
error with their date. It should read 1643.
Robert Kyrle died in 1669 aged fifty-one,
and was buried in the family chapel at
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
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
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
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,
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
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
One quote relates ' he had been secretly
strengthening against attack for some time, storing
it with arms and ammunition, and collecting
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
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
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.
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
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
Should you have any corrections or additions we
would gratefully welcome and acknowledge any input.