The English Civil War , Richard Holmes & Peter Young, an early work by one of the country's best known military historians, this is a superb single volume history of the war, from its causes to the last campaigns of the war and on to the end of the protectorate.
History of the Puritans under King Charles I
Under Charles I, the Puritans became a political force as well as a religious tendency in the country. Opponents of the royal prerogative became allies of Puritan reformers, who saw the Church of England moving in a direction opposite to what they wanted, and objected to increased Catholic influence both at Court and (as they saw it) within the Church.
After the First English Civil War political power was held by various factions of Puritans. The trials and executions of William Laud and then King Charles himself were decisive moves shaping British history. While in the short term Puritan power was consolidated by the Parliamentary armed forces and Oliver Cromwell, in the same years, the argument for theocracy failed to convince enough of the various groupings, and there was no Puritan religious settlement to match Cromwell's gradual assumption of dictatorial powers. The distinctive formulation of Reformed theology in the Westminster Assembly would prove to be its lasting legacy.
In New England, immigration of what were Puritan family groups and congregations was at its peak for the period the middle years of King Charles's reign.
Second Creek WarWilliam McIntosh In the decades prior to the conflict, the Creeks and the U.S. government had signed a series of treaties in which the Creeks ceded portions of their land to the United States. These treaties and the inability of the federal and local governments to keep white settlers out of Native lands created tensions among the Creeks and between the Creeks and white settlers in Georgia and present-day Alabama. After their defeat in the First Creek War in 1814, the Creek Nation ceded more than 21 million acres of land in Georgia and Alabama to the U.S. government in the Treaty of Fort Jackson. The Second Treaty of Washington (1826) nullified the 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs as fraudulent, allowing Creeks to keep their land in Alabama but ceded Creek lands in west-central Georgia to the federal government in exchange for a large sum of money and annual payments of $20,000 in perpetuity. Modifications to this treaty in 1827 resulted in the removal of all Creeks from Georgia. Then, in 1832, 90 Creek chiefs signed the Treaty of Cussetta (sometimes known as the Third Treaty of Washington), ceding their remaining lands in Alabama. In return, each chief was to receive a square mile of land, and each Creek family was to receive a half-square mile of land of their choosing. The United States also pledged to pay the Creek nation a total of $350,000, provide 20 square miles of land to be sold to support Creek orphans, and to pay a year of expenses for Creek emigrants relocating to the Indian Territory. This treaty also encouraged the Creeks to move west of the Mississippi as quickly as possible but also pledged to remove all intruders from the ceded land until it had been surveyed. John Gayle The agreement, however, also enabled recipients of land to remain and gain title to the land after five years. Alabama governor John Gayle (1831-35), a states' rights advocate, denounced the treaty as federal government interference in what he saw as a state matter. Although many Alabamians disagreed with him, he was reelected by a landslide in 1833 in the middle of this controversy. Neamathla By 1836, Lower Creek leaders had become outraged over the illegal influx of white settlers onto their lands and the unwillingness of the federal and state governments to help them. Some speculators began to spread tales of a planned Creek uprising. In spring 1836, the Chehaw, Yuchi, Hitchiti and other bands of Creeks launched a campaign to drive out the white settlers. Creek war parties burned homes and farms, killed white families out of vengeance, and disrupted the mail stages. On May 14, 1836, Creek warriors, led by Yuchi warrior Jim Henry and the aging Hitchiti chief Neamathla, attacked Roanoke, Georgia, and killed, burned alive, and/or scalped 14 of the 20 defenders only six managed to escape. The Creek warriors then burned the town to the ground.
Between mid-1836 and mid-1837, as the Army suppressed the Creek uprising, the soldiers started rounding up Creek families and forcing them into concentration camps. The Army eventually drove more than 15,000 Creeks, west from Fort Mitchell, about 10 miles south of Phenix City, to Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, with little more than the clothes on their backs. More than 3,500 Creek men, women, and children died along the 750-mile route, sometimes known as the "Creek Trail of Tears." After arriving at Fort Gibson, the Army gave each Creek family a blanket and essentially abandoned them.
Ellisor, John T. The Second Creek War Interethnic Conflict and Collusion on a Collapsing Frontier. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010.
Bishops' wars, 1639. Charles I assumed, with good reason, that religious diversity was a source of weakness in a state. In 1637, therefore, he ordered the Scottish presbyterian church to use a new prayer book on the English model. This provoked a protest movement which culminated in the drawing up of a national covenant to defend ‘the true religion’. Charles raised an army to enforce his will but his troops were an undisciplined rabble and rather than risk fighting he accepted the pacification of Berwick in June 1639. This brought to an end the first of the so-called Bishops' wars, but in 1640 Charles again took up arms. The outcome was worse. The Scots promptly invaded England, brushed aside Charles's army at Newburn, outside Newcastle, on 28 August, and occupied the north-east of the country. They were now secretly collaborating with the king's opponents and refused to contemplate withdrawing unless and until he summoned Parliament. Charles's policy had collapsed.
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5 August 1600: An attempt is allegedly made on James VI's life by the Gowrie family in Perth during what is known as the Gowrie conspiracy. Others suggest it was a plot by the King to avoid paying the £80,000 owed by the crown to the family.
19 November 1600: The birth at Dunfermline Palace of the future King Charles I.
7 February 1603: The Battle of Glen Fruin takes place near Loch Lomond between Clan Gregor and Clan Colquhoun. Some 200 men of Clan Colquhoun and their allies are killed, while casualties on the Clan Gregor side are very light.
24 March 1603: Queen Elizabeth I of England dies. Two days later the news reaches 36 year old James VI of Scotland in Edinburgh that he is now also King James I of England. He styles himself "King of Great Britain" and the crowns of Scotland and England are unified under the Stewart dynasty, though increasingly the family name is now spelled "Stuart".
3 April 1603: King James VI of Scotland moves south to London to become James I of England. He promises to return every three years, but will return to Scotland just once in the 22 years until his death.
1609: Nine highland chieftains are tricked into captivity on a naval ship and only released from the island of Iona when they agree a programme designed to undermine the Gaelic language and culture.
1609: James I/VI begins the plantation of Scots Protestants into Ulster as a means of pacification.
1611: The growth in use of the English language King James Bible by Scottish Protestants helps weaken the Gaelic language.
1614: John Napier publishes the "Description of the Marvelous Canon of Logarithms": or log tables to everyone using them over the 360 years that follow until the invention of the electronic calculator.
23 August 1614: Forces under the command of the Earl of Caithness land on Orkney to suppress a revolt by Robert Stewart, son of Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney.
6 February 1615 : Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney is beheaded for treason following an uprising by his son in Orkney.
1616: The Scottish church sets up schools in every parish to teach children "godliness and knowledge": and to read and write in English and not Gaelic, which it considers "the chief cause of the barbaritie and incivilitie of the people."
15 March 1617: James I/VI travels north for his first visit to Scotland since he became King of England in 1603.
4 April 1617 : The death in Edinburgh of John Napier, the hugely influential mathematician who invented logarithms, who produced a calculating machine, and who did much to further the interests of the decimal point in mathematics.
2 March 1619: The death at Hampton Court Palace near London of Anne of Denmark, the queen consort of King James I of England and VI of Scotland.
5 April 1623: The death of George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal, the influential Scottish nobleman who founded Marischal College, Aberdeen.
12 February 1624: The death in London of Goldsmith and philanthropist George Heriot.
27 March 1625: King James I/VI dies at the age of 58. His eldest son, Prince Henry, had died in 1612, so James is succeeded by his younger son, Charles. Charles I is aged 24 and knows little about being a king: except, he believes, that it comes with a Divine Right to rule direct from God.
6 May 1625: The death of Sir George Bruce of Carnock, the early industrialist who developed a highly innovative system of coal mining at Culross in Fife.
13 June 1625: King Charles I marries Henrietta Maria, daughter of King Henry IV of France.
29 May 1630: The birth in London of the future King Charles II.
1633: Charles I comes to Scotland for his coronation as King of Scots, using full Anglican rites to the dismay of many in the Church of Scotland.
24 April 1633: A royal warrant is issued to Sir John Hepburn to raised a body of men in Scotland for service in France. This regiment becomes known as the Royal Scots.
18 June 1633: The Scottish coronation of King Charles I in St Giles Cathedral is accompanied by an Anglican service, a sign of the conflict to come.
23 July 1637: A riot erupts in St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, when when a street-seller called Jenny Geddes thows a stool at the Dean after he tries to use the Book of Common Prayer as newly imposed by King Charles I for use throughout his United Kingdom.
28 February 1638: The National Covenant is signed, eventually by thousands of Scots. It seeks to preserve distinctive Scots cultural and religious practices against the increasingly arbitrary and Kingdom-wide approach of Charles I.
21 November 1638: The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland begins a month-long meeting in Glasgow despite the efforts of the King's Lord High Commissioner in Scotland, the Marquis of Hamilton, to dissolve it. By continuing with the meeting, the Assembly members effectively declare themselves as rebels against the King.
May 1639: The Wars of the Covenant begin with the First Bishops' War. Fighting is focused in the north east of Scotland. The Marquess of Montrose for the Covenanters takes Aberdeen, and captures the royalist commander, the Marquess of Huntly. Huntly's son is beaten at Brig o' Dee on 19 June. Promised support from Charles I's forces in England and Ulster fails to materialise.
18 June 1639: King Charles' English army reaches Berwick-upon-Tweed but when confronted with a much larger Scots army he agrees a truce, the "Pacification of Berwick".
September 1639: The Scottish "Free Parliament" confirms the decisions of the General Assembly the previous year.
Elliott, J. H. The Count-Duke of Olivares. New Haven, 1986.
— — . The Revolt of the Catalans: A Study in the Decline of Spain 1598 – 1640. Cambridge, U.K., 1963.
Lynch, John. The Hispanic World in Crisis and Change 1598 – 1700. Oxford, 1992.
Merriman, Roger B. Six Contemporaneous Revolutions. Oxford, 1938.
Parker, Geoffrey. Europe in Crisis, 1598 – 1648. London, 1979.
Stradling, R. A. Spain's Struggle for Europe, 1598 – 1668. London, 1994.
Has history been unfair to Charles I?
In early October 1640 Charles I, based temporarily at York following defeat at the hands of the Scottish Covenanters, sat down to a game of chess with the Marquess of Winchester. As Charles pondered how to play his bishop, Winchester quipped: “See, Sir, how troublesome these Bishops are?” Charles said nothing, but “looked very grim”.
Defeat in the second of the two Bishops’ Wars – in which a power struggle over the future of the Scottish church led to violent clashes between the king’s forces and his opponents in Scotland – was the beginning of the end for Charles I. Having fallen out with his parliaments in the late 1620s, he had embarked on a period of personal rule from 1629, and pursued an ambitious policy of reform in church and state in all three of his kingdoms: England, Scotland and Ireland.
The stalemate of the first Bishops’ War finally led him to recall parliament in the spring of 1640, but he dissolved it after only three weeks rather than agree to its demands for reform. Defeat in the second Bishops’ War forced Charles to call what became known as the Long Parliament and to negotiate with it.
In October 1641, as Charles worked towards a settlement with the Scots, the Catholics in Ireland decided to launch a rebellion of their own. Disagreement over who should control the army needed to put down the Irish rebellion led ultimately to both parliament and the king raising their own forces and going to war with each other in 1642. Defeat in the ensuing civil wars – there were two – resulted in Charles being tried and executed for treason (a crime that can only be committed against kings) in January 1649.
What went wrong for Charles I?
Why did things go so disastrously wrong for Charles? Few would now accept the older characterisation of him as a tyrant whose personal rule was a high road to civil war and revolution. Some even regard the personal rule as a period of constructive and welcome reform in England, arguing that his regime was toppled only as a result of the prior revolts in Scotland and Ireland.
Must revolutions have great, long-term causes? Was Charles’s fall an inevitable consequence of his political inheritance? Or was it the result of bad luck, political miscalculation, even accident? Do we blame Charles or the situation in which he found himself?
Charles’s father, James VI of Scotland, had united the crowns in 1603 when he succeeded Elizabeth I to the thrones of England and Ireland as James I. England had its problems – a seriously under-financed crown and deep-seated religious tensions dividing various types of Protestants among themselves (Calvinists and anti-Calvinists, Puritans and anti-Puritans).
James now also found himself ruling three kingdoms with different religious complexions: Anglican England, Presbyterian Scotland and Catholic Ireland (albeit that the church establishment in Ireland was Protestant and the Catholic majority were divided ethnically between the native Gaelic and the Old English). Ireland posed further security problems as a Catholic island off the coast of Protestant England that had the tendency to rebel against English rule. During Tyrone’s rebellion of the 1590s, which was only finally put down in 1603, the Gaels of Ulster had even offered the crown of Ireland to the king of Catholic Spain.
James VI and I is normally seen as a skilful politician who managed this problematic multiple-kingdom inheritance reasonably well. He calmed religious tensions in England, and under his rule Scotland and Ireland were quieter than they had been for a long time.
Yet James stored up a hornets’ nest of problems for his son. He had enraged many Scots by reviving episcopacy (a hierarchical structure in which the chief authority over a local church is a bishop) north of the border. It was also James who had first moved to introduce a more Anglican style of worship into the Scottish Kirk, thereby upsetting the Presbyterians. It is true that he took care to work through the general assembly of the Kirk and the Scottish parliament. But he used a considerable amount of bullying and intimidation to force his reforms through and Scottish Presbyterians never accepted the assemblies that had backed James’s initiatives as legitimate.
James’s solution to the security problem in Ireland was to declare the land of six of the counties of Ulster forfeited to the crown and to plant the province with Protestants from England and Scotland. Both the Scottish Covenanters of the late 1630s and the Irish rebels of 1641 traced the roots of their grievances back to his reign.
Nor did things always go smoothly for James in England. He had disagreements with his parliaments over revenue and foreign policy, and himself ruled without parliament from 1610 to 1621 – the assembly that met for nine weeks in 1614 was deemed not to have been a parliament because it enacted no legislation.
James never solved the problem of an under-financed crown. He encountered severe problems with the Puritans towards the start of his reign, and whatever peace he brought to the church in his middle years seemed to be breaking down by the early 1620s as he turned against the Calvinists for criticising his policy of appeasing Spain following the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War in Europe (1618–48) and began to look for support from the anti-Calvinists.
When Charles succeeded his father in 1625 there was general rejoicing everywhere, for “the uncertainties of the late rule had wearied all men”. Charles had served his political apprenticeship in the parliaments of 1621 and 1624 where he had emerged as a popular patriot hero for supporting parliament’s calls for war against Spain.
This ‘Prince bred in Parliaments’, however, soon fell out with parliament once king. The main bone of contention was money. Charles felt that since parliament had pressed for war against Spain they had an obligation to fund it properly. Yet, as the conflict went badly – and England simultaneously got sucked into hostilities with Catholic France – parliament demanded the impeachment of the king’s leading minister, the Duke of Buckingham, before it would vote further taxation.
Charles opted to stand by his favourite and tried to raise the money by means of a forced loan. Politically, this proved a costly move, for it led to parliament’s Petition of Right of 1628, condemning arbitrary taxation. However, it was more evidence of an inexperienced king panicking when he found himself at war with Europe’s two major powers without adequate financing than of a desire to subvert the constitution.
By 1629, Buckingham had been removed from the scene by an assassin’s blade but still parliament continued to criticise the crown’s fiscal and religious policies. When Charles decided to break with parliament that year, he did so because he felt parliament was preventing him from fulfilling his divinely ordained duty to rule for the public good.
Having broken with parliament, Charles moved quickly to end the wars with France and Spain, promoted social and economic reforms at home (to help the poor and boost trade and industry), and set about reforming the militia and navy. Compared to what was going on in Europe at the time, during the height of the Thirty Years’ War, or the turmoil that England, Scotland and Ireland were to experience during the following decade, the 1630s in England seemed to be a time of relative peace and prosperity. The policies Charles pursued were undoubtedly controversial. He financed the government through a series of fiscal expedients – grants of monopolies, forest fines and distraint of knighthood.
He also enforced prerogative levies such as ship money, an emergency measure to supply the navy at times of national danger. However, these were neither illegal nor unprecedented: the king’s right to impose ship money was upheld in a test case of 1637–38, and 90 per cent of the returns actually came in, an extraordinary achievement by 17th-century standards. Moreover, extended periods of rule without parliament were neither unconstitutional nor necessarily unwelcome, given that one of parliament’s main jobs was to vote taxation.
Charles’s most controversial policies were, however, reserved for the church. He advanced so-called Arminians (men who challenged Calvinist teachings on predestination and who favoured a more ceremonialist style of religious worship) to all the leading episcopal sees. Under his archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, Charles encouraged the repair and beautification of parish churches, with stained-glass windows and a railed-in altar at the east end – before which parishioners would have to kneel to receive communion – and clamped down on Puritan dissent.
Critics complained that Charles was taking the church back towards Rome. Yet the rise of the Arminians had begun under James, and people had long been predicting that if something were not done to solve the Puritan problem there would be civil war. And, although many opponents of Laudianism complained of persecution, Charles deprived only about 30 Puritan ministers during his reign. James, by contrast, had deprived about 80 at the beginning of his.
It is true that the prerogative court of Star Chamber meted out brutal punishments – branding, mutilation, heavy fines and perpetual imprisonment – to Puritan critics such as Leighton, Burton, Bastwick and Prynne. These men were, however, extremists, guilty of stirring up sedition against the government. The fact is, less than half a per cent of the population upped sticks and headed to the New World to escape Charles’s regime.
This is not to say that Charles’s initiatives did not provoke opposition. But Charles’s policies had their logic. The king set out to confront problems that needed to be addressed and both his diagnoses and his proposed solutions seemed not unreasonable at the time. All heads of government who embark on a policy of radical reform are bound to ruffle some feathers – James VI and I certainly did – but most do not succumb to revolution. Discontent does not mean a regime is bound to fail. Politics is about managing that discontent.
What personality traits contributed to Charles I’s downfall?
Why, then, did things fall apart under Charles? The story is a complex one but a number of broader explanations suggest themselves. Charles lacked his father’s ability to back down graciously when under pressure. James could inflame tensions with parliament by his overdrawn rhetoric and confrontational style, but he also knew when to retreat. Charles had a tendency to tell his parliaments off when they did not back him.
Charles failed to let others take the blame when things went wrong – a trait we might find admirable today, but which was disastrous in a personal monarchy, when the conventional wisdom was that “if any thing be done, not justifiable, or unfit to be allowed,” kings were “to lay the blame upon the minister.” James let Attorney General Francis Bacon and Lord Treasurer Middlesex fall in the early 1620s. Charles stuck by Buckingham in 1625–28, even when continuing to back him was clearly counterproductive. When parliament pressed Charles in 1628 to get rid of the Arminian clerics Richard Neile and William Laud, Charles responded by promoting them at the earliest opportunity to the two archiepiscopal sees of York and Canterbury!
Charles created opposition on too many fronts at the same time, and his policies had the tendency to unite his critics in a common cause. Not everyone disliked all of his policies, but he ended up upsetting a whole range of people for different reasons – and, crucially, he alienated the middle ground, as well as extremists.
Take the example of ship money. Even those who were willing to support Charles voluntarily resented the legal adjudication that it was a levy the king had the right to collect. Meanwhile, Charles’s policy towards the church might have drawn support from some, but particular aspects of his ecclesiastical reforms offended a broad cross-section of the population – moderate as well as radical Puritans, not to mention mainstream Protestants. He even managed to alienate those who didn’t hold particularly strong religious beliefs by demanding that they pay for the refurbishment of parish churches and by attempting to enforce stricter church attendance on the Sabbath (which, ironically, the Puritans would have supported).
What made matters worse was the fact that the Laudians were so effective in enforcing their reforms, something only made possible in the first place because they did carry some support in the localities. This tendency to unite in opposition people who were not natural political bedfellows was exacerbated by the fact that Archbishop Laud had his finger in so many pies. He not only oversaw the reforms in the church, but also sat on Star Chamber, was involved in monopolies, and advised Charles on many other policies during the personal rule.
We find examples of people conscripted to fight against the Scots in 1639–40 who in the past had been in trouble with the church courts for immorality. They cannot be thought in any way of being inclined to Puritanism, yet nevertheless identified with the Puritan and Scottish Presbyterian opposition to Laud because they resented conscription.
A similar pattern can be discerned in Scotland and Ireland. Charles upset the Scottish nobility by his Revocation scheme of 1625 (the crown’s attempt to recover lands that had been alienated during royal minorities) and by his blatant bullying of the Scottish parliament in 1633. He also enraged the Scottish Presbyterians by trying to foist on them new canons and a more English-style prayer book in 1636–37 without consulting with the general assembly or the Scottish parliament.
Even those Scots who did not identify with the Presbyterians resented the way Charles was treating Scotland. In Ireland, Charles’s lord lieutenant, Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, made enemies of Catholics and Protestants, Gaels and English alike through his extension of the policy of plantation and the promotion of Laudianism.
Perhaps most seriously, Charles boxed himself into a corner over finance. Having failed to build a working relationship with the English parliament, and without having solved the problem of a structurally under-financed crown, Charles had left himself limited options for raising the money he needed to put down the Scottish revolt. It’s not so much that the Covenanter rebellion destabilised an otherwise well-functioning regime in England. Rather, it exposed problems that already existed and highlighted just how fragile the regime was.
One final point. It has been suggested that Charles ran into trouble because he failed to see the need to appeal to public opinion or to explain his policies properly to his subjects. In fact, Charles’s regime was quite sophisticated in its approach to the politics of spin. The problem was that people in the 1630s did not buy into that spin.
Things changed in 1641–42, when the Long Parliament overplayed its hand. Having addressed what it saw as the abuses of the personal rule, it now began to call for more far-reaching reforms in church and state, including the abolition of episcopacy and radical curtailments to the royal prerogative. Outside parliament, radical Puritans, frustrated by the slow pace of reform, began destroying altar rails and stained-glass windows and disrupting prayer book services.
Charles’s response was brilliant: to position himself as a king who stood for the traditional constitution, the rule of law, and the church of bishops and prayer book, against the threat of political and religious extremism. In the process, he succeeded in turning a lot of people against parliament and the Puritans – not everyone, of course, since England became a divided nation, but enough to make it possible for him to contemplate fighting a civil war.
Ironically, the civil wars didn’t erupt because Charles was no good at the politics of spin they erupted because he was.
Tim Harris is professor of history at Brown University in Rhode Island, USA, who specialises in the British revolutionary period. His book, Rebellion: Britain’s First Stuart Kings, published by Oxford University Press, will be available in paperback from 1 October 2015.
1603 Mountjoy completes the conquest of Ireland. Death of Elizabeth.
1603 James the First, died 1625.
1604 Parliament claims to deal with both
Church and State. Hampton Court Conference.
Bacon's Advancement of Learning." 1610 Parliament's Petition of Grievances. Plantation of Ulster.
1613 Marriage of the Elector Palatine.
1614 First quarrels with the Parliament.
1616 Trial of the Earl and Countess of Somerset. Dismissal of Chief Justice Coke. Death of Shakspere.
Proposals for the Spanish Marriage. The Declaration of Sports.
1618 Expedition and death of Ralegh.
1618 Beginning of Thirty Years' War.
1620 Invasion of the Palatinate.
Landing of the Pilgrim-Fathers in New England.
1621 Bacon's "Novum Organum." Impeachment of Bacon.
James tears out the Protestation of the Commons.
1623 Journey of Prince Charles to Madrid.
1624 Resolve of War against Spain.
1625 Charles the First, died 1649. First Parliament dissolved. Failure of expedition against Cadiz.
1626 Buckingham impeached. Second Parliament dissolved.
1627 Levy of Benevolence and Forced Loan. Failure of expedition to Rochelle.
1628 The Petition of Right. Murder of Buckingham. Laud Bishop of London.
1629 Dissolution of Third Parliament. Charter granted to Massachusetts. Wentworth Lord President of the North.
1630 Puritan Emigration to New England. 1633 Wentworth Lord Deputy in Ireland.
Laud Archbishop of Canterbury. Milton's "Allegro" and "Penseroso." Prynne's "Histrio-mastix." 1634 Milton's "Comus." 1636 Juxon Lord Treasurer.
Book of Canons and Common Prayer issued for Scotland. Hampden refuses to pay Ship-money.
1637 Revolt of Edinburgh. Trial of Hampden.
1638 Milton's "Lycidas." The Scotch Covenant.
1639 Leslie at Dunse Law. Pacification of Berwick.
1640 The Short Parliament. The Bishops' War.
Great Council of Peers at York Long Parliament meets, Nov. Pym leader of the Commons.
1641 Execution of Strafford, May Charles visits Scotland. Hyde organizes royalist party. The Irish Massacre, Oct.
The Grand Remonstrance, Nov.
1642 Impeachment of Five Members, Jan. Charles before Hull, April. Royalists withdraw from Parliament. Charles raises Standard at Nottingham, August 22. Battle of Edgehill, Oct. 23. Hobbes writes the "De Cive".
1643 Assembly of Divines at Westminster. Rising of the Cornishmen, May. Death of Hampden, June.
Battle of Roundway Down, July.
Charles negotiates with Irish Catholics.
Taking of the Covenant, Sept. 25.
1644 Fight at Cropredy Bridge, June. Battle of Marston Moor, July 2. Surrender of Parliamentary Army in Cornwall, Sept. 2.
Battle of Tippermuir, Sept. 2. Battle of Newbury, Oct. Milton's "Areopagitica".
1645 Seif-denying Ordinance, April. New Model raised.
Battle of Naseby, June 14. Battle of Philiphaugh, Sept.
1646 Charles surrenders to the Scots, May.
1647 Scots surrender Charles to the Houses, Jan. 30. Army elects Agitators, April. The King seized at Holmby House, June. "Humble Representation" of the Army, June. Expulsion of the Eleven Members. Army occupies London, Aug. Flight of the King, Nov.
1647 Secret Treaty of Charles with the Scots, Dec.
1648 Outbreak of the Royalist Revolt, Feb. Revolt of the Fleet, and of Kent, May. Fairfax and Cromwell in Essex and Wales, June - July. Battle of Preston, Aug. 17. Surrender of Colchester, Aug. 27 Pride's Purge, Dec. Royal Society begins at Oxford.
1649 Execution of Charles I., Jan. 30. Scotland proclaims Charles II. King. England proclaims itself a Commonwealth. Cromwell storms Drogheda, Sept. 11.
1650 Cromwell enters Scotland. Battle of Dunbar, Sept. 3.
1651 Battle of Worcester, Sept. 3. Hobbes's ""Leviathan".
1652 Union with Scotland. Outbreak of Dutch War, May. Victory of Tromp, Nov.
1653 Victory of Blake, Feb.
Cromwell drives out the Parliament, April 20.
Constituent Convention (Barebones Parliament), July.
The Instrument of Government.
Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector, died 1658.
1654 Peace concluded with Holland. First Protectorate Parliament, Sept.
1655 Dissolution of the Parliament, Jan. The Major-Generals. Settlement of Scotland and Ireland. Settlement of the Church.
Blake in the Mediterranean.
War with Spain and Conquest of Jamaica.
1656 Second Protectorate Parliament, Sept.
1657 Blake's victory at Santa Cruz. Cromwell refuses title of King. Act of Government.
1658 Parliament dissolved, Feb. Battle of the Dunes. Capture of Dunkirk. Death of Cromwell, Sept. 3. Richard Cromwell, Lord Protector, died 1712.
1659 Third Protectorate Parliament. Parliament dissolved.
Long Parliament again driven out.
The "Convention" Parliament. Charles the Second,landsat Dover, May, died 1685.
1660 Union of Scotland and Ireland undone.
1661 Cavalier Parliament begins.
1662 Act of Uniformity re-enacted. Puritan clergy driven out. Royal Society at London,
1663 Dispensing Bill fails.
1665 Dutch War begins. Five Mile Act. Plague of London. Newton's Theory of Fluxions.
1667 The Dutch in the Medway. Dismissal of Clarendon. Peace of Breda.
Lewis attacks Flanders. Milton's " Paradise Lost".
1668 The Triple Alliance. Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle.
Ashley shrinks back from toleration to Catholics.
Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress " written 1671 Milton's "Paradise Regained" and " Samson Agonistes." Newton's Theory of Light.
1672 Closing of the Exchequer. Declaration of Indulgence. War begins with Holland. Ashley made Chancellor.
1673 Declaration of Indulgence withdrawn. The Test Act.
Shaftesbury dismissed. Shaftesbury takes the lead of the Country Party.
1674 Bill of Protestant Securities fails. Charles makes Peace with Holland. Danby Lord Treasurer.
1675 Treaty of mutual aid between Charles and Lewis.
1677 Shaftesbury sent to the Tower.
Bill for Security of the Church fails. Address of the Houses for War with France. Prince of Orange marries Mary.
Oates invents the Popish Plot.
1679 New Parliament meets. Fall of Danby.
New Ministry with Shaftesbury at its head. Temple's plan for a new Council. Habeas Corpus Act passed. Exclusion Bill introduced. Parliament dissolved. Shaftesbury dismissed.
1680 Committee for agitation formed.
1680 Monmouth pretends to the throne. Petitioners and Abhorrers. Exclusion Bill thrown out by the Lords. Trial of Lord Stafford.
1681 Parliament at Oxford. Treaty with France. Limitation Bill rejected. Shaftesbury and Monmouth arrested.
1682 Conspiracy and flight of Shaftesbury. Penn founds Pennsylvania.
1683 Death of Shaftesbury. Rye-house Plot.
Execution of Lord Russell and Algernon Sidney.
1684 Town charters quashed. Army increased.
1685 James the Second, died 1701. Insurrection of Argyll and Monmouth. Battle of Sedgemoor, July 6.
The Bloody Circuit. Army raised to 20,000 men.
1685 Revocation of Edict of Nantes.
1686 Test Act dispensed with by royal authority. Ecclesiastical Commission set up.
Expulsion of the Fellows of Magdalen.
Dismissal of Lords Rochester and Clarendon.
Declaration of Indulgence.
William of Orange protests against the Declaration.
Tyrconnell made Lord Deputy in Ireland.
1688 Clergy refuse to read the new Declaration of Indulgence. Birth of James's son. Invitation to William. Trial of the Seven Bishops. Irish troops brought over to England. Lewis attacks Germany. William of Orange lands at Torbay. Flight of James.
Root and Branch Petition
What is the best form of church government? Should there be bishops ruling in a hierarchical order, should each congregation be independent, should councils and synods establish church policy, or should a church be organized along some other lines? These issues were being fiercely debated in England in the seventeenth century. On December 11, 1640 , the citizens of London presented a petition with 15,000 signatures to Parliament. Known as the "Root and Branch Petition", it sought to sweep away the existing church hierarchy with its "roots and branches."
The petition listed dozens of reasons for being rid of the existing system. Its second point can be taken as an example of the whole document. The evil it complained of was "The faint-heartedness of ministers to preach the truth of God, lest they should displease the prelates [churchmen of high rank] as namely, the doctrine of predestination, of free grace, of perseverance, of original sin remaining after baptism, of the Sabbath, the doctrine against universal grace, election for faith foreseen, freewill against Antichrist, non-residents, human inventions in God's worship all which are generally withheld from the people's knowledge, because not relishing [ie: not pleasing] to the bishops."
The Parliament which received the "Root and Branch Petition" became known as the Long Parliament. It was called by King Charles I out of his desperate need for money and lasted for twenty years. Once called, the Parliament took measures to destroy the absolutism of the King in both civil and religious affairs. The House of Commons accepted the "Root and Branch Petition" and passed the "Roots and Branch Bill." A majority of the members believed the office of bishop and the policies of Archbishop Laud should be destroyed, but they were not sure what form of church government to put in their place. As one member, Oliver Cromwell said, "I can tell you, sirs, what I would not have, though I cannot what I would."
There were several options available once the old hierarchy of rule by king-appointed bishops was abolished. Some wanted a state church with a commission chosen by Parliament replacing the bishops some wanted a form of Scottish Presbyterianism. Others wanted an independent church, with each individual congregation controlling its own affairs. In the end, the House of Commons favored Presbyterianism while the Army favored the Independents. The House of Lords (which included many bishops), opposed the Root and Branch Bill entirely. They resented any pressure from the people to reorganize their House. Ultimately, the Bill was rejected by the House of Lords, and the episcopal organization of the Church of England remained in place.
None were sorry to see the back of 1939, but those wishing for a peaceful and happy new year were in for a rude awakening. On 1 January conscription was extended to all men aged between 20 and 27, and on 8 January food rationing was introduced – starting with butter, sugar and bacon. Other foods were soon to follow, as was the rationing of fuel and clothing. Also of little cheer was news that since the start of blackout regulations *4,133 people had been killed on Britain’s roads, 2,657 of which were pedestrians. 30,000 had been injured.
*At this time road fatalities were nearly twice as many than had been killed by enemy action.
The snow and freezing conditions that affected Britain and Europe in December, continued into January – the end of the month proving to be this country&rsquos coldest since 1894. The British people, who only a few months earlier had prepared themselves for annihilation from air attacks, now found themselves having to endure the petty miseries of the blackout, burst water pipes, milk freezing on doorsteps and no coal supplies. The Thames froze over, 1500 miles of railtrack was impassable, villages were cut off, and shops were bare of vegetables because they couldn’t be dug from the frozen earth.
On 6 February the ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ campaign was launched on 22 February two IRA bombs exploded in London, and on 11 March all meat was rationed.
But still no attack came and as the long, cold winter finally gave way to Spring, thousands more evacuees returned to their city homes. Then on 9 April, in a surprise attack consistent with their Blitzkrieg tactics, German Forces stormed into Norway and Denmark. Their successful invasion marked the end of the so called Phoney War and the start of war in western Europe. On the Home Front, however, the public remained largely unaffected by all this for another month.
17 April: The film ‘Gone With The Wind’ starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, was released in the UK 23 April: Budget Day. Tax on beer raised by 1d a pint, whiskey up 1s. 9d and postage up 1d
On 9 May the age for conscription in Britain rose to 36, and on 10 May German Forces turned their attention towards Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. That same day Neville Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister and Winston Churchill took his place. Hitler’s formidable invasion of the Netherlands and subsequent push into western Europe now made war a stark reality for the British people.
On 11 May the King signed a proclamation cancelling the Whitsun Bank Holiday, and on 13 May (Whit Monday) Churchill addressed the House for the first time as Prime Minister. He told assembled MPs he had nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat, that his only policy was to wage war and his only aim was victory.
There followed on the evening of 14 May an urgent appeal from the British foreign secretary Anthony Eden, broadcast by the BBC, asking all men aged between 17 and 65 and not already serving in the armed forces, to become part-time soldiers. The response was astonishing. Within 24 hours of the appeal, over 250,000 men had applied to become Local Defence Volunteers.
15 May: Holland surrendered to Germany 20 May: Germans were on the coast of France looking across the English Channel 22 May: The entire British fighter force of 300 planes was withdrawn from France
That same month there was some concern about the activities of the supposed *Fifth Column in Britain, and rumours of German Fifth Columnists being parachuted in to help undermine the war effort. The threat was real, but true to form the British sense of humour shone through – political cartoonists and satirists having a field-day with the subject. It was even parodied by the H&E Observer’s gardening expert, Roy Hay. In his column dated 25 May, under the headline ‘Look out For Parachute Troops’, he wrote ‘This is the time of year when all sorts of ‘fifth columnists’ of the insect world try to wreck all the good work you have put in during the winter months. The worst offender is the Flea beetle.. ‘
*Fifth Columnist is the term used for a group within a nation that sympathises with and secretly works with the enemy
Nazi Germany’s surprise invasion of the Low Countries and France, outnumbered and so overwhelmed the British Expeditionary Force that they were forced to retreat back to the small Channel port of Dunkirk where they remained trapped on the beaches. The subsequent evacuation by the Royal Navy, starting on 26 May, of over 338,000 Allied troops back to England also owed much to civilians in their ‘little boats’, but all of the expeditionary force’s military hardware was lost. The rescue of so many was hailed by the government and press as a victory, though it was in fact a humiliating defeat.
German bombing of Paris on 3 June prompted the British Government to pass a law requiring all householders in possession of an Anderson shelter to have them erected and earthed-up by 11 June. On 10 June Italy declared war on Britain and France, and on 17 June France surrendered to Germany. With the enemy now camped 30 miles across the Channel, war was suddenly a lot closer to home and a second evacuation moved over 200,000 school children away from the most vulnerable areas of possible invasion in southern and eastern England. The Germans consolidated their positions and the British prepared for invasion – the first such threat since the days of Napoleon in 1804.
Such depressing events are usually synonymous with grey, cold wintry weather, but June heralded the start of a truly glorious British summer. Clear blue skies were the norm every day and a top temperature of 90 degrees F (32C).
One reader of the H&E Observer wrote that he was worried by the suggestion in the national press that church towers should be used as lookout posts for home defence, reasoning they could then be termed as ‘military objects’ and therefore vulnerable to attack and destruction. Winston Churchill, in his speech to the nation on *18 June, put things into perspective for the concerned gentleman ‘..the Battle of France is over – I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin.’
Perhaps in response to Churchill’s speech, that night the Luftwaffe sent 120 bombers to attack eastern England, which included Cambridge. Nine people were killed when a row of houses was destroyed there.
In fact, Britain was now extremely vulnerable to attack by the Luftwaffe. The battle for France had left Fighter Command with just 768 planes in operational squadrons, of which only 520 were fit for operations. Matters weren’t helped by replacement aircraft from North America taking so long to produce, forcing Britain to fight with only what its own factories could produce.
Government finances were also stretched to the limit, so at the end of June the newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook, who was also Minister of Aircraft Production, instigated the *’Spitfire Fund’ – a fund into which individuals, companies, organisations or towns could donate money to buy replacement fighters. A nominal sum of £5,000 was quoted as the cost of a Spitfire, though the true cost was more like £15,000. Nationwide, the fund raised an astonishing £2.5 million in the first six weeks, although Bishop’s Stortford’s objective to raise £7,500 proved too optimistic. When the fund closed on 31 January 1941, donations from public collections and private donations amounted to just £3,084. 10s. 6d.
*Most of the money raised through the fund went to build Spitfire Mark IIs that were introduced in late 1940, early 1941
In the meantime, preparations to repel a full-scale invasion of the British mainland were hastened on 30 June when German troops landed on the Channel island of Guernsey. In towns and cities, iron in any form of gates and railings was removed for salvage and in rural areas pillboxes were built and anti-tank traps put in place. All signposts and milestones were removed or defaced.
In order to save roughly a thousand tons of copper a year, essential for munition making, June also saw the government suspend the minting of pennies. Pennies were made from bronze, which were nearly all copper. More economical to make was the twelve-sided threepenny bits, which people were urged to use instead.
Locally the RAF chose a former First World War airfield on the outskirts of Mathams Wood at Thorley as a suitable landing ground for No 2 (Army Cooperation) Squadron – within months extending it to 77 acres. It then became RAF Sawbridgeworth for the duration of the war. (For a brief history of the airfield see Thorley) An ammunition dump was sited in the spinney at Henley Hearne spring, Thorley.
Haymeads hospital became an annexe for the London Hospital, caring for walking wounded soldiers, at the same time being expanded to take casualties from any future bombing. The chance of London hospitals being bombed at this time was extremely high, so to protect expectant mothers the War Office requisitioned many large properties outside of London for use as maternity hospitals. Locally, this included *Twyford House at Pig Lane, where it is said 693 babies were born between 1940 and the end of the war (See Thorley Guide).
Most women were evacuated when nearing the end of their pregnancy, those sent to Stortford being first accommodated either on local farms or at No 50 Hockerill Street until the time came to enter Twyford House and give birth. Locals with their sense of humour still intact renamed Pig Lane, Pudding Lane.
Norwich had its first raid on 9 July, the Coleman’s Mustard factory being hit and several workers losing their lives.
On 23 July, more than 1,300,000 Local Defence Volunteers had their name changed to Home Guard – the headquarters of Bishop’s Stortford’s Home Guard being the Drill Hall at Market Square (See Market Square – Guide 2). Thorley&rsquos Home Guard headquarters was at Oxford House, White Posts in Stortford, with nearby Twyford Mill used as a base for one of its platoons commanded by Tom Streeter. Later promoted to Major Streeter and Company Commander he was ably assisted by Lieut. George Wilson, an ex naval man and signals expert who at that time owned a tobacconists in South Street.
Also announced on 23 July was the third War Budget: income tax increasing by 1d to 8s. 6d. (42 1/2p) in the pound, beer going up 1d a pint, and a 33% purchase tax introduced on luxury items.
July: Tea and margarine rationed
August Bank Holiday was officially cancelled this year but on 8 August, British Forces pay was increased by 6d per day putting a private’s wage up to 17s 6d a week.
For Hitler’s invasion of Britain – code-named ‘Operation Sea Lion’ – to succeed, German control of the air was vital to protect their invasion fleet. To this end, starting 10 July, the Luftwaffe probed for weaknesses, relentlessly attacking convoys in the channel, coastal towns, RDF stations, airfields and factories. Then on 8 August they implemented phase two of their strategy – to destroy the aircraft of Fighter Command on the ground or in the air.
Airfields in South East England including nearby Duxford and North Weald were constantly targeted, the daily wail of Stortford’s air-raid sirens and the drone of approaching German bombers becoming an all too familiar sound to local people.
The bishop of Chelmsford at the time was Dr Henry Albert Wilson, a colourful and outspoken man whose strong opinions regularly featured in the monthly Chelmsford Diocesan Chronicle and also in the H&E Observer. He was of the opinion that the way in which the warning of an air raid was given was a psychological blunder. The old saying ‘Whistle to keep your courage up is a scientific truth’ he said, ‘but the depressing wail of the air-raid siren was like the cry of a lost soul.’ He thought its affect was profoundly bad on the individual, and though admitting to getting used to the wailing siren himself, he thought a warning which had a note of cheery defiance would save many people a great deal of unnecessary distress. To this end he suggested that a ‘gay cock-a-doodle-do’ repeated half-a-dozen times would be in the nature of a whistle to keep up the courage of the people. Needless to say his suggestion was ignored and the familiar wail of the sirens continued, as did German raids and air battles over Britain.
Vital to the public’s safety at this time was the building of public air raid shelters, though in the town their provision by Bishop’s Stortford UDC was always a contentious issue. The government may well have subsidised construction costs, but the council was always hard-pressed to find its share of the cash. The only solution was to take out a loan or increase the general rates, the latter option being chosen when £600 was needed towards the total cost of £1,710 for nine public shelters. This resulted in a twopence in the Pound increase on the half yearly rates.
To keep expenditure to a minimum the council later bought 200,000 second-hand bricks with which to build more shelters, but even then construction proved an ordeal. One proposal by the council for two communal shelters at the station was constantly delayed because, first and foremost, a site had to be determined in conjunction with the railway authorities. Design was also an issue but when two sites were finally agreed upon it was then found that a shortage of materials [other than bricks] meant that only one shelter could be built.
All public and communal shelters were brick-built surface type with concrete roofs. This design wasn’t favoured for safety reasons and townspeople didn’t want them, but they were quick and easy to construct so that’s what they got. Public shelters were built at various points in the town including Market Square, Bridge Street and Portland Road – the latter being the largest with a reinforced concrete roof, three entrances, electric lights, and seating for up to 700 people. Waterside school at Water Lane, and Hockerill girls and boys schools at London Road were both fortunate enough to have a cellar converted for use as a shelter by pupils and staff. All other schools n the town had brick-built surface type shelters.
In the sky the battle for air supremacy continued, with dogfights between British and German fighters often taking place over Thorley. Bombs were also dropped on Thorley, sometimes randomly, including one night a Molotov basket of incendiary bombs that landed near to Moor Hall Cottages and lit up the sky for miles around.
By the middle of August, relentless attacks by the Luftwaffe had the RAF firmly on the back foot, and even more so when they switched to nighttime bombing of airfields and aircraft factories to delay repair and production. The turning point, however, came on the night of 23/24 August when bombs were accidentally dropped on London civilians – something Hitler had strictly forbidden. Bomber Command replied the following night by bombing Berlin, though the fear then was that British cities would now suffer even more raids. School children were once again evacuated to the safety of the countryside, including many of those who had returned home during the Phoney War period.
The first high explosive bomb to fall on Hertfordshire was at London Colney in June 1940. Bishop’s Stortford experienced its first aerial bombardment on 31 August: several incendiaries causing damage to one house in the area but with no casualties. This isolated incident was probably the action of a marauding bomber.
Mass attacks on airfields and factories continued until 7 September, when Hitler, enraged by the bombing of Berlin and by the Luftwaffe’s failure to destroy the RAF, turned his attention to London and other major cities in an attempt to demoralize the population and force Britain to come to terms. This was the beginning of the Blitz (short for Blitzkrieg), massed bombing raids that continued for the next consecutive 57 days and nights. *Civilians were constantly in the front line and casualties were high, but Hitler’s change of tactics did give the RAF time to rebuild airfields, regroup, and deploy their own tactics that during daytime raids dealt heavy losses on the Luftwaffe.
*Between 7 September and 12 November, 13,000 tons of high explosive and about 1 million incendiary shells fell on London. 13,000 civilians were killed and more than 20,000 injured.
On 15 September, massive German air raids took place on London, Southampton, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool and Manchester. The market town of Bishop’s Stortford was somewhat more fortunate with just two isolated bombings this month. Local people would have been fully aware of where the bombs dropped but because censorship forbid newspapers to specify where war related damage or casualties occurred, newspaper reports of enemy action were always ambiguous. In reference to the local raid on 16/17 September, the H&E Observer (dated 21 September) reported the following: Lone German raiders were flying almost continually over one district in Eastern England throughout Monday night and the early hours of Tuesday morning. Bombs were scattered over a wide area but damage was confined to two villages.
The local ARP report of the same bombings was a little more succinct: 17 Sept 1940: Several High explosives in fields east and west of Bishop’s Stortford, no damage, no casualties.
On 20 September, Viscount Hampden officially opened the town’s new police station in High Street, to which provision had been made (by an electrician) to install an additional siren for the town on its roof at a cost of £47. Half of this amount would be met by government grant.
That same day ARP recorded: 1 High explosives north of Bishop’s Stortford, no damage, no casualties.
The H&E Observer, dated 21 September, carried all the general local news including fund raising events, local sport reports and details of Petty Sessions hearings. It also included the following rather amusing report:
A German pilot gave a five-mark note on Sunday 7 September 1940 to the mayor of Chatham’s Spitfire Fund. The pilot, who had been shot down by RAF fighters of Kent earlier in the day, was being escorted under armed guard by train through Chatham. The train pulled up with the pilot’s compartment opposite the refreshment buffet. A waitress held out her Spitfire Fund collecting box, and the pilot, who was made to understand what the box was for, obtained his wallet from one of the escort and smilingly pushed a note into the box. It has been suggested that the note should be auctioned for the fund.
The last major bombing raid on Britain in daylight hours was 30 September
To instill fear in the wider population, towns and villages around major cities were often subjected to attack by lone German aircraft, and to random bombing – especially at night. Pilots unable to reach their targets due to anti-aircraft fire, bad weather or damage to their aircraft, regularly jettisoned their bombs wherever they thought damage might be caused. Never was the need to adhere to blackout regulations made more clear than when one captured German pilot told how they were ordered to drop bombs wherever they saw a glimmer of light.
This being the case it would seem that Bishop&rsquos Stortford was extremely lucky not to be bombed more frequently. For despite vigilant ARP wardens barking the order to &lsquoPut that light out&rsquo, many residents took no heed. Testimony to this is the large number of fines regularly imposed by Magistrate on individuals who didn&rsquot comply with *blackout regulations.
*In 1940, 300,000 people nationwide were taken to court for blackout offences
Even so, the town was a veritable haven when compared to London&rsquos war-torn East End and soon became a popular destination for firms wanting to get away from the Blitz. One such firm was a cork making factory that had been resident in London’s East End since the 1800s. Owned by a Mr T Briggs of Portland Road, and before him his father, he not only moved his business to Stortford but also his employees and their families, setting up a factory at Anchor Yard (See Guide 11 – Riverside).
Also to arrive here from London’s East End at that time was a small processing plant, absolutely vital to the war effort. This was the London Hospital (Ligature Department) Ltd, responsible for the production of catgut used for suture after operations and for wounds. Demand for the product greatly increased when war broke out, so to protect the costly equipment used for the final process both plant and staff were moved here for the duration of the war and production continued in the club-house of Bishop’s Stortford Golf Club (See Guide 10 – Brooke Gardens).
British civilian casualties for the month of September: 6,954 dead, 10,615 injured
On 3 October Neville Chamberlain resigned from the War Cabinet, and on 7 October German troops entered Romania. Winston Churchill became leader of the Conservative Party
Safe haven or not, with ever more German bombing raids on Britain it was clear that those residents of Bishop&rsquos Stortford with no domestic shelter of their own would need protection. The council&rsquos response was a community shelter scheme costing an estimated £11,640, of which the council was expected to contribute £2,000. But as work on the project began so too did the bombing, marking October as the most memorable month in Bishop’s Stortford&rsquos war. ARP, who was required to record all bombing incidents, filed more reports this month than any other. The following (in bold type) are some of them.
8 October 1940: 3 high explosives at Foxdells Farm, half a mile NW of Bishop’s Stortford, no damage, no casualties.
It may well have been this incident that prompted Tresham Gilbey, who lived at Whitehall, to build an air raid shelter in the middle of a field at nearby Dane O Coys. The remains of the shelter are still visible (See Guide 5 – Dane ‘O Coys).
9 October 1940: 5 high explosives couple of miles WNW of Bishop’s Stortford, no damage or casualties.
10 Oct 1940: 3 high explosives in fields at Wickham Hall, no damage or casualties
3 high explosives in Bishop’s Stortford, 2 in Girls Training College, 1 house demolished, 3 girls killed, road blocked .
The latter incident caused Bishop&rsquos Stortford’s only recorded deaths by direct bombing during the entire war. Reports since that time have varied as to exactly what happened that night. Some suggest it was random bombing, while others believe a marauding aircraft was trying to destroy a train travelling on the nearby branch line. Three bombs were dropped, the first hitting the Dunmow Road outside the college causing a large crater and damage to gas and water mains. Of the two remaining bombs, one exploded in open ground but the other made a direct hit on Menet House – accommodation within the college grounds used by students and staff. Three girl students were killed instantly. Rescue services worked through the night to free seven other students and a ecturer trapped in the rubble. One member of the rescue services, John Jarvis, later told how the building had imploded and that the bodies of the three girls were found sitting in armchairs completely grey from the blast.
16 Oct 1940: 5 high explosives one mile north of Bishop’s Stortford, no damage or casualties 8 high explosives in northern outskirts of Bishop’s Stortford, no damage or casualties.
18 Oct 1940: 1 high explosive south side of Bishop’s Stortford, damage to72 houses, no casualties.
21 Oct 1940: 1 oil incendiary at Bishop’s Stortford, no damage or casualties 1 high explosive at Woodside Green, Bishop’s Stortford – 2 houses and outbuildings damaged, no casualties.
28 Oct 1940: 20 high explosives south and SE of Bishop’s Stortford, damage to farm property and Haymeads Emergency Hospital and to wall of South Mill Lock on Stort Navigation – 1 man seriously injured, 5 men slightly injured.
30 Oct 1940: several high explosives north east of Bishop’s Stortford near Stansted Road, damage to telephone wires, electric cable and house, no casualties.
British civilian casualty figures for October: 6,334 killed and 8,695 seriously injured
During September and October, two German aircraft crashed in the Bishop’s Stortford area: one at Thorley Wash the other on the very edge of town, close to St Michael’s church.
The following details of the Thorley Wash crash are taken from ‘WAR-TORN SKIES – Hertforshire’ by Julian Evan-Hart.
The crash occurred at 23.40 hrs on Thursday 19 September. Whilst flying over its London target, a Heinkel He 111 is thought to have sustained damage by anti-aircraft fire. The pilot flew on, but the aircraft lost height and disintegrated in the air just before impact in marshy ground at Thorley Wash. Three crew members were killed and one was seriously injured. He survived. On crashing, the plane’s tail broke away and landed at Latchmore Bank, the wings and fuel tanks lay at the side of the main A11 road (now the B183), and the engines and cockpit came down near the river Stort. The bomb load was still on board when the plane crashed and up until the 1960s the tip of a propeller blade could still be seen protruding from the marsh during winter when the reeds died away.
Even now evidence of the wreckage can still be seen at the crash site, since an oily patch shows through when the field floods. The remains of the three bodies were among the first to be buried in the newly constructed cemetery at Havers, but after the war were removed and laid to rest in Saffron Walden cemetery. To this day the plot of land in which they were buried at Havers has never been used and remains a gap between between gravestones. The only reminder of the three airmen is in an entry in the Bishop’s Stortford cemetery register.
The second crash occurred on Wednesday 16 October. A general report in the H&E Observer of enemy action ‘in the Home Counties’ that week, did mention the crash but gave no details of the location. Local people, however, certainly knew where the aircraft came down. The newspaper’s report was as follows:
On Wednesday, for the second night in succession, people in a Home Counties town witnessed the end of a German raider. About 7 o’clock in the evening soon after the ‘alert’ siren had sounded, a ‘plane was heard flying very low across the town. Seconds later terrific sheets of flame lit up the whole town as the ‘plane, a Junkers 88, crashed by the side of a road, splitting into pieces. The local fire brigade attended and for over an hour flames leapt into the sky, while over-head could be heard the roar of night fighters. The crew perished with their machine, and it is known that at least three were blown to pieces. A burnt parachute was found in a nearby tree, but it is not known whether anybody had attempted to make a parachute descent. Official reports state that the bomber was brought down by anti-aircraft fire.
Julian Evan-Hart’s research has since revealed further details of the crash.
The crash occurred at 19.50 hrs on Wednesday 16 October 1940. A large explosion was seen and heard in the sky above Stortford, followed by a second explosion as a Junkers JU88A-5 crashed into the ground in the vicinity of St Michael’s church, near Great Hadham Road. The cause of the explosion in the air is unknown as no local anti-aircraft (AA) fire or sounds of attack by a night fighter were heard in the area. It appeared more likely the aircraft was hit by local AA fire some distance away and any damage later caused it to explode. Much of the debris was spread across Cable Field (now College Fields) and land bordering the Great Hadham Road. The remains of some crew members were found in a large Chestnut tree, along with shredded and partly deployed parachutes. The tree still remains, though the site of the crash has since disappeared under a housing estate built in the 1990s.
By the end of October, as the weather worsened, the Germans finally realised that the RAF couldn’t be defeated. Hitler postponed his invasion of Britain indefinitely, turning his attention to Russia instead. The Battle of Britain was over but the bombing of London and other major cities continued until 11 May 1941, as did random bombing and enemy attacks by lone marauding German aircraft, locally.
ARP report for 8 Nov 1940 records: 25 high explosives at Woodside Green, two miles west of Bishop’s Stortford, no damage or casualties.
Also that month the H&E Observer reported ‘Dogfight Over Town After Daylight Raid’. No specific detail was given but we can assume the ‘town’ was Bishop&rsquos Stortford. The report told how a hospital in the Home Counties was the victim of a lone bomber who came out of low clouds from the direction of London. Prior to releasing 10 high explosive bombs, the plane sustained damage from an attacking patrolling fighter aircraft. Nine of the bombs fell in an adjoining field, while the tenth demolished part of a new hutment that was being erected. Several workmen received light injuries, including one who was temporarily buried in the ditch he was digging. His friend who was standing within a few feet of where the bomb exploded wasn’t even scratched but was more concerned about his lunch, which had been buried under a pile of debris. Hospital staff who had rushed to their aid, stood bemused as the workman let out a volley of expletives at the loss of his sandwiches.
Not reported in the paper was the crash of a Hawker Hurricane in Bishop&rsquos Stortford on 24 November, though whether caused by accident or enemy action is unkown (by me).
Since the start of war, evacuees had increased the town’s population by 50 percent, with 2,700 extra people arriving since July of 1940. This raised concern that not enough public shelters were available for the town’s growing population, though complaints were counteracted by the publics indifference to air raids. Despite the danger a great many people didn&rsquot bother to take cover during daytime warnings, leaving shelters almost empty. This lack of concern was also shown by the town&rsquos *cinema goers. The slide caption &lsquoThe Air Raid Siren has just been sounded, the show will continue for those wishing to stay&rsquo became an all to familiar interference and most people continued to watch the film they had paid to see.
*Matinees for children at special charges were introduced on Thursdays and Saturdays and later in 1940 on Wednesday afternoons also. One of the most popular films shown in 1940 was &lsquoThe Wizard of Oz.&rsquo
Nighttime air raid warnings were a little different, many people taking cover in shelters and then sleeping in them all night. This included entire families from London who travelled here by train or by car – a practice that had been going on since the start of the Blitz in September. Another issue was the disgusting state that shelters were left in after the public had used them, and vandalism to fittings.
Despite all this, seven public shelters were now to have sleeping accommodation while no fewer than 108 extra communal shelters were to be built at a cost of not less than £16,000. The argument against surface shelters continued though, one council members suggesting that an underground shelter be built at South Lawn in South Street to accommodate people living in that densely populated area. When it was pointed out that the sub soil in Stortford wasn’t suitable for the construction of such a shelter, it was then suggested that unemployed miners should be hired to excavate the site. Needless to say, deep shelters were finally ruled out.
British civilian casualty figures for November: 4,588 killed, 6,202 injured
There were no public shelters in Thorley but each household had its own shelter, be it Anderson or Morrison. The problem was, the town&rsquos air-raid siren couldn&rsquot always be heard at Thorley Park so residents suggested that Featherby&rsquos in London Road sounded their factory hooter whenever a raid was imminent. Whether or not this option was in place by 8 December is unknown but at 5.40 that evening, Stortford&rsquos air-raid alert sounded and not until thirteen-and-a-half-hours later was the all-clear given.
Local ARP report for 9 December 1940: 1 high explosive 550 yards north of the station at Bishop’s Stortford, no damage or casualties.
Christmas Day was celebrated as normal but Boxing Day Bank Holiday was officially cancelled. The night of 29/30 December saw the most devastating raids to date on London’s East End and docks.
British civilian casualties figures for December: 3,793 killed, 5,244 injured