Bourne Archive: FNQ: C17 Civil War           Latest edit 9 Feb 2010.   

Interactive version ©2006 R.J.PENHEY

The Bourne Archive


Fenland Notes and Queries. Edited by Rev. W.D. Sweeting, Rector of Maxey.

Part 41. April 1899.

This quarterly periodical took the form of a forum in which people sent in questions about the history, ecology and so on of the Fens and the region’s environs and others replied with some sort of answer. Some ‘answers’ seem to have been spontaneous, so qualifying as ‘notes’.

Seventeenth Century Civil War.

761. Siege of Crowland. – A contemporary account of the fighting around Crowland in 1643 will be read with interest by many who have seen only short accounts of what then took place. The following is taken from a work from which a few extracts were given in our last part. [FNQ 758] The short title is:- “Jehovah-Jireh. God in the Mount. Or, Englands Parliamentary-Chronicle. London: 1644.” This extract begins at p. 322.

“About the beginning also of this instant May [1643] [These events appear to have taken place in April with the town falling on 29th. Holmes pp 165-6. RJP3], most certain and credible information came from Croyland, alias Crowland in Lincolnshire, that one Captain Welbie (a most pernicious and desperate Malignant against the King and Parliament, and a most mischievous mover of rebellion and sedition in those parts) had so far inveigled the Queenes Tenants there in and about the said Town of Crowland, that he got them to adhere unto him, and to declare themselves with him and some other Commanders in open hostilitie against the Parliament, and to fortifie the said Town with brest-works and trenches very strongly:  which being effected, Welbie and his companie (pestilent Malignants) came in the night to Spalding the next neighbouring Town, which at that time was utterly unfurnished of men and armes, and neer about break of day beset the house of one Mr. Ram, a very godly and faithful Minister of that Town, where they also took Mr. John Harington, a religious gent. of the same town, together with on Mr. Horn, and Mr. Slater, a gentleman of above sixty yeers of age. Now the reason of their rage to Mr. Ram the Minister was (as they at least pretended [claimed]) for a letter that he had written in January before to the Inhabitants of Crowland, not to stand out against the Parliament; and now also in the time of these Gentlemens imprisonment; their malicious adversaries quarrelled much with them for praying together in their chamber, which they forbad them any more to do, and threatened to take the Bible from them, saying to them, that twas not for traitors to have or read the Bible; and by no means would permit them pen, ink, or paper.

“Now they having thus continued about three weeks, most unworthily used in prison, the honest inhabitants of Spalding assembled themselves into a prettie competent strength, and so advanced to Crowland to relieve and redeeme (if it might be) these worthie gentlemen out of their harsh imprisonment. Whereupon about 8 of the clock that first night all these prisoners were carried down to the bulwark upon the North side of the Town, and were there kept almost all that night among the rude Souldiers, but their friends forces not falling on, that night, they were all carried back about midnight or later, into an Alehouse till the next day, and then carried to prison again; but immediately after Spalding forces approaching neer the Town, they were all brought forth again and carried to that part of the Town where the first onset was given, being all of them fast pinioned and forced to stand in an open place, where canons might and did play on them. But before the assault, a Drummer was sent to summon the Town, at whom they shot divers times before his entrance, and then took and detained him prisoner, contrary to the law of armes, till the Town was taken. Shortly after this, all these gentlemen were set upon the top of the Brest-works, where they stood at least three houres, their dear and faithful friends tat came to relieve them shooting fiercely at them a great part of all that time before they knew who they were: yea Captain Harrington took one of his souldiers Muskets, charging it with pistol-powder, and himself made three shots at his own father, not knowing who he was, and all the rest of Spalding souldiers on that side (supposing that they had been Croylanders, and that they stood there to out-beard and brave them) shot at them very angrily, till at last they perceiving who they were, quickly left firing on them, and began to play more to the right hand; Whither, instantly, Master Ram, and Serjeant Horn, were by the Croylanders  most wickedly removed, which also their friends again discerning, they held their hands and forbare to shoot, so that little could be done on that side of the Town, that day; for, their works were very strong, and well lined with Muskettiers, and these also were backt with a weapon called Hassock-knives [A hassock was a large and firm tussock of grass, rush or the like. [OED]  It is nowadays a firm cushion for kneeling on in church but it originally, it was stuffed with a hassock of straw, hay or rush.], long Sythes, and such like Fennish weapons. But as the furie of the fight abated in these parts; so it increased on the North side, whither, presently, Mr. Ram, and Mr. Horn were posted, and there also set upon the bulwarks, for the Spalding forces to play on them with their shot, who indeed plyed it very fiercely both with great and small shot for a great while together, they verily supposing that Mr. Ram had been the vapouring Priest of Parson of the Town (one Mr. Styles, a most irreligious roarer and railer against all goodnesse, and a most audacious and speciall personall actor in this rebellion) and many of their dear friends (as they acknowledged afterward, when the Town was taken) shot many times and very vehemently and eagerly as their godly Minister and Mr. Horn who stood by him; but the Lord of hosts, that numbers the hairs of his childrens heads, and preserved the three Children of Israel in the midst of the fierie furnace, so guided all the bullets still that all the multitudes of shot which continually, and most fiercely, and frequently flew about their eares, and many of them within half Musket shot of them, yet not one bullet small or great had power to touch any of them. And was not ten that old adagie or Christian proverb, here, most clearly verified. They are well kept whom the Lord doth keep? O who then is so unwise that would not most willingly commit his soul into the hands of such a merciful Creator and Redeemer, who is so able and willing to save that which is committed to him? But to go on. After these gentlemen had thus continued three houres of more on this North side of the works, Spalding forces began to retreat there also, and the gentlemen were taken down and guarded to their prison, together with Mr. Harrington and the two other prisoners which had continued all that while in the West works; but the Forces on the North side beginning again to fire on the Croylanders, they were carried back again and set on the works as aforesaid: whereupon Spalding forces most honestly retreated again on both sides. Now this the wicked Crowlanders took as a victory, and one Jackson a Balaams priest, in the town, a right son of Belial, brought the Croylanders to Church, and read certain Collects (out of his Idol the Service Book) by way of thanksgiving for their good successe, as they impiously called it; and spending the rest of the day and night following, in drinking, revelling and railing on the Parliament.

“Not long after Spalding forces assaulted the Town againe in three severall parts thereof at once; Collonel Sir Miles Hobert, Collonel Sir Anthonie Irbie, and valiant and active Collonel Cromwell being now come to their assistance, who all being now neer the Town, good Mr. Ram was again called for, and brought out of his lodging, and carried with all speed to the North bulwark, and there being very straitly pinnion’d, was most inhumanely laid within the work on the wet ground, where he lay for the space of five houres, often entreating to be set up on the bulwark, by reason of the extreme numbnesse of his limbs, and exraordinarie wearinesse with lying so in that posture and condition, but they would not suffer it. In Brief, within two or three dayes after, not sooner, the besiegers so plyed the work, that the Spalding forces, with the aid of those brave Commanders took the Town, but some of the chief actors in those pre-mentioned villanies, got away, divers were taken in the town and clapt up in prison at Colchester, Ipswich & other prisons. This much I have thus particularly related of the falling of this Town, principally to let the Reader see both the horrible villany & more than Turkish crueltie of our ordinarie atheisticall and ignorant Protestants at large, whose greatest Divinitie is their Dunsical Service-book, and in their most loose and lazie hedge-priests frothie (preaching shall I call it, nay rather prating, or babling, and) rayling against Gods choisest children, and the precious power of godlinesse; As also, and above all, to set forth the glorious praise of our still wonder-working God ins o admirable and almost incredible deliverances of his people from such clearly evident and eminent danger and distresse, which men who have quite put off even meer humanity, do divellishly and desperately endeavour to bring his Saints and servants into.”

It would be interesting to compare this account with any that could be found written from the Royalist point of view. From a paper read by the late Canon Moore at a Meeting of the Lincoln Diocesan Architectural Society in 1861, we find that the Parliamentary forces were commanded by Colonel Edward King, of Ashby, on the Lincoln Heath, the High Sheriff for the county; the very man who afterwards proposed in parliament the restoration of Charles II.


Chronology, Civil War in Lincolnshire