Oppression and Resistance

Oppression and Resistance: Worcestershire’s Experience during the English Civil Wars

with Malcolm Atkin
Thursday 31 January 2019
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The first talk of the New Year was given by the historian Malcolm Atkin, who has written a number of books on the Civil War in Worcerstershire. As Malcolm pointed out the history of warfare usually concerns the ‘great and the good’ and not the common soldiers, the householders and common people who had to carry on their lives with the war going on around them.

No standing army existed in England prior to the English Civil War, each parish was required to provide and equip a certain Muster of men. And when King Charles insisted that he reign by divine right, and Parliament insisted on involvement, the unexpected and unplanned-for Civil War began. Because Evesham and Worcester were located in strategic positions geographically, both were occupied and the inhabitants suffered from both armies.

Evesham first of all was occupied by the Royalists and money, services and material demanded. The attack by Parliamentary troops was repulsed and the population was then required to build defences. 2d (two old pence) per day was offered for labour – but soldiers considered that the digging of ditches was beneath their dignity (they had been given swords, previously only worn by gentry) and since the men were working at their trades, the work was largely done by women and children.

3000 troops were stationed in Evesham – among a population of 2000 – and it was assessed that about £50 per month would be levied to maintain their occupation, a crippling burden. But in other parts of Worcestershire, for example Kidderminster, both sides could tax the same town – bringing ruin. When the Royalists were chased out of Evesham by Parliamentary forces the town had to pay £1000 – and 1000 pairs of shoes! – as tax and as a penalty for their support for the King, but no looting occurred.

Worcester was the last stronghold of the Royalists and was far from the “Loyal and faithful city” as had been proclaimed, it was weary of war and surrendered. When the Royalist Scottish army reached and occupied Worcester in the so-called Second Civil War there was great enthusiasm by the populace for the Scots to be defeated – which they promptly were.