' JULY 5. - BATTLE of LANSDOWN, 1643.
GREAT FIRE AT MINEHEAD, 1791.
On the 5th July, 1643, was fought the battle of Lansdown, in which the Royalists, with great loss to themselves, defeated Waller, who retired to Bath. The attack was made by Lord Hoptoii, a Somerset man, his father's seat being at Stratton, between Wells and Frome. Hopton's force was checked by a sweeping rush of Parliamentary horse soldiers. But the Royalist force soon rallied and drove the enemy from the hill. In the night the Parliamentary army retired, leaving behind them a great store of arms and ammunition. The triumph of the Royalists was dearly purchased in the death of Sir Bevil Grenville, felled by a stroke on the head from an axe while valiantly opposing a charge cf the Parliamentary cavalry. It was on the Gloucestershire side of Lansdown that Grenville died, and there a monument was erected to his memory, in 1720, by his kinsman, Lord Lansdown. Clarendon, in his " History of the Rebellion," says in this battle, on the King's part, were more officers and gentlemen of quality slain than private men.
W. G. Willis Watson.
THE GREAT FIRE OF MINEHEAD.
Like many places in the West of England, Minehead has in its time suffered grievously from fire. Worst of all, perhaps, was that cf July 5th, 1791, which laid the greater part of the town in ashes. It originated in the centre of Lower Town, near what is now Wellington Square, a miller's carelessness in burnicg pitch causirg the outbreak. There being a high wind, and the houses being mostly thatched, the fire spread with great rapidity and fury, and before the next morning upwards of 72 houses, comprising almost the whole of Middle or Lower Town, were reduced to blackened ruins. Nearly 500 people were rendered homeless, and damage amounting to about £18,000 was done. There were two fire engines in the town, but not having been used for many years they were useless, and the fire practically took its own course. Only one life was lost, that of a poor imbecile—who, one account states, was chained up in the house. At any rate, he was so confined that it was difficult to effect his rescue. Southey, who visited Minehead not long after the fire, recorded in his diary this incident of the one victim of the fire,, and says :—" He might have been saved, but his mother said "Let 'un stay ! Let 'un stay ! What shall us do wi' 'un if we do save 'un ? " A heartless view to take of the situation, but not unreasonable, perhaps, in the minds of folks of those days. It is as well to record here that back in May of this year, when trenches for gas mains were being dug in the centre of the town, the workmen, at a depth of about three feet, cut through a strata of burnt matter. It consisted of stone and other materials ran together in one mass, and those lumps broken out with the pick were found to be bristling with the old-fashioned brass pins. It was suggested that a shop stood on this site, and that the stock of pins had been melted into the debris of the building, but it is believed that a pin factory, of which there were one or two in Minehead, might have stood at that spot. It is more reasonable to suppose this, as the pins existsd in this strata in very great numbers.
H. W. Kille.
JULY 6.-OLD MIDSUMMER DAY.
KING JOHN at WEDMORE, 1204, BATTLE of SEDGEMOOR, 1685. DUKE of MONMOUTH FUGITIVE
at DOWNSIDE, 1685. SOUTH PETHERTON FAIR.
Somerset will long be famous because it was the scene cf the last battle fought on English soil—the Battle of Sedgemoor. So much has been written about this grim struggle between the labourers of our country armed with picks and scythes against an English Army- — Macaulay has dealt fully with it in his " History of England " — that little more than a passing reference to it need be given in this Calendar, and those who are especially interested in the event can still see a few relics of the fight preserved in Taunton Museum, such as battered weapons, spent cannon balls, and discarded military equipment. There, too, is the medal struck in honour of the victory by the merciless and triumphant King, the spy glass used by the scouts on Chedzoy Church, the large dish of " Persian " ware which adorned Feversham's mess table at Weston Zoy-land, and, most pathetic of all, the bockle of the tell-tale ribbon of blue which Monmouth threw round the neck of a child when he exchanged hia spent horse at Chedzoy for a fresh mount as he hurried from the strnken field. It was a terrible melee. Conan Doyle, in " Micah Clarke," gives a very vivid description of the scene of the carnage which followed: " As the cannon roared out, men were mowed down as though, death with his scythe were among us..... '
Back to the Top
Copyright © Ambra Books 2003. All rights reserved.