the dispute between King Charles I and parliament
intensified, Herefordshire remained a deeply
conservative county and royalists greatly
outnumbered the supporters of parliament.
There were eight members of parliament representing
the county at that time - two members for
the county, and two each for the boroughs
of Hereford, Leominster and Weobley. The two
county MPs, Fitzwilliam Coningsby and Sir
Robert Harley were to take prominent parts
in the coming war on opposing sides, and in
the Spring of 1642 Harley began strengthening
his castle at Brampton Bryan.
appointed the Earl of Essex lieutenant
of Herefordshire but his authority was
ignored and commissions issued by the
king raised such military force as existed
in the county in the Royalist cause.
The county magazine, in St Owen's Gate
in the city was seized and the leading
local Royalist, Lord Scudamore, collected
materials of war at his seat at Holme
Essex occupied Worcester on 24th September
1642 and dispatched a force of just
900 horsemen to Hereford. In a panic
the mayor surrendered the city and two
days later parliamentary infantry arrived
to form a permanent garrison. With resources
overstretched the occupation proved
to difficult to maintain and on 14th
December parliamentary troops left the
city. Hereford reverted to the royalists.
Owen's Gate, Hereford, in the late 18th
century - from the inside. The county
magazine was stored here in the time
of the civil war.
Street, Hereford. Once called Cabbage
Lane, this had been the site of the
vegetable market. The name was often
gentrified to Capuchin Lane as early
as the 18th century
opportunity to organise the city's defences
was missed however and in April 1643
the Parliamentary commander William
Waller marched north from Gloucester
and easily occupied Hereford on the
25th. Leading local Royalists including
Lord Scudamore and Fitzwilliam Coningsby
Waller occupied Leominster on the 27th
but lacking sufficient strength to maintain
his position was forced to withdraw
from the county, marching out of Hereford
on 20th May. Again, Hereford reverted
to the Royalists, who began to reorganise
the local defences.
The only parliamentary stronghold remaining
in the county was Robert Harley's castle at
Brampton Bryan. On 26th July the Royalists
laid siege to it. For seven weeks the siege
continued and the village of Brampton Bryan
was reduced to rubble. The garrison, commanded
by Harley's capable wife Brilliana, held out.
The Royalist gave up the siege but Brilliana,
exhausted died shortly after. Brampton Bryan,
the only Parliamentary stronghold in the county,
remained a problem for the Royalists and they
returned in Spring 1644. The Royalist commander,
Michael Woodhouse, had just taken nearby Hopton
in Shropshire, where he had executed the garrison
for defending a hopeless cause for too long.
This may have served as a warning to the Brampton
garrison. After three weeks of resistance
they surrendered On 17th April and the castle
was completely destroyed.
The Royalist position was not secure. The
Parliamentarians at Gloucester grew stronger
and they occupied the Herefordshire town of
Ledbury in April, levying money from the countryside
and raiding as far as the gates of Hereford.
Prince Rupert's advance drove them from Ledbury
but shortly afterwards they occupied Ross-on-Wye
for a week.
Royalist now placed the county under military
control and set about impressing men and horses.
More contributions to the war effort were
demanded, and those suspected of not supporting
it were imprisoned without trial. In November
1644 Prince Rupert became commander of the
Royalist armies and his brother Maurice was
placed in charge of the counties of Monmouthshire,
Worcestershire, Shropshire and Herefordshire.
Soldiers brought from Ireland were posted
in the county and their behaviour caused added
resentment. The Royalist garrison at Canon
Frome was particularly disliked and in north-east
Herefordshire youths composed satirical ballads
at their expense.
Bye Gate in the 18th century. The gate
would shortly be demolished but the
left side would remain as the city prison.
'Clubmen' as they were known, were opposed
to the demands made upon the country
to pay for the war. In other parts of
the country this resentment was directed
at the Parliamentary authorities but
in Herefordshire the de facto authority
was Royalist and it was against this
the country people rebelled. Money,
recruits and quarters were refused and
those who furnished them were threatened
that their houses would be burnt. About
15,000 of the discontented appeared
before the gates of Hereford. This time
the town gates remained shut. Although
many of the protesters were well-armed,
they were not really an army and no
assault was made.
The Parliamentarians took advantage of the
situation and re-occupied Ledbury, inviting
the Clubmen to join them. The Clubmen refused
however, objecting to paying for either of
the armies equally. Prince Rupert drove the
Parliamentarians out of Ledbury in a fierce
night-time action on 22nd April 1645.
the 18th June 1645 King Charles arrived
in Hereford. He attempted to raise more
troops in the county but these just
deserted as soon as they could. Charles
left for Raglan on 30th after raising
money in the area.
Siege of Hereford
Meanwhile a Scottish army in the service
of Parliament was moving south. On 22nd
July they stormed the Royalist position
at Canon Frome and killed almost the
entire garrison. The following day the
Scots entered Ledbury on their march
south. Turning again they laid siege
to Hereford on 31st July.
The site of the Bye Gate
today. The 'Kerry' stands on the site
of an earlier pub called the 'Pack Horse'
which is visible through the gateway
in the previous illustration.
The commander of the Hereford garrison had
plenty of time to prepare. The houses of the
suburbs were dismantled and the trees of the
surrounding orchards chopped down. Men and
women worked at moving earth for the defence
of the city.
Not all locals were staunch loyalists. A local
lawyer, Miles Hill, was appointed to organise
feeding and paying the army. Nonetheless there
were many complaints of plundering and considerable
damage was done to the county.
The siege was hard-fought. The Scots guns
played on the city and shells (hollow containers
containing explosives) were used as well as
solid shot. Over 200 years later, workmen
discovered an unexploded Scottish shell as
a butcher's shop in Union Street was being
demolished. Two of the city's churches - St
Owen's and St Martin's - were destroyed in
1st September, just as the final assault was
being prepared, news reached the besiegers
that the king was approaching with a relieving
force. The Scots army withdrew towards Gloucester
and Charles entered the Bye Gate of the city
on 4th September.
The siege was commemorated by the addition
of a border to the city coat of arms consisting
of ten Scottish flags of St Andrew, white
crosses on a blue background, representing
the ten divisions of the Scottish army. However
in December that year Hereford was captured
again for Parliament by means of a trick.
Colonel Birch disguised some soldiers as workmen
breaking the ice in the ditch at the Bye Gate.
He hid a small force in the ruins of St Guthlac's
Priory. While the disguised soldiers grappled
with the guards, the group from the priory
charged up to, and through, the Bye Gate.
Birch was made governor of the city and in
the whole county only Goodrich Castle remained
in Royalist hands.
the west in 1721. Behind the bridge can be
seen the mound from which the keep of the
castle had recently been removed. Friars gate
is on the left.
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