|During the Civil War many people from the surrounding areas were so fed up of their land, livestock and crops getting trashed by the Cavaliers and the Roundheads that they got together as the 'Clubmen' to oppose both. At one point they encamped on Hambledon Hill, about 3000 of them apparently. Also they'd been assembled at Badbury Rings. Unfortunately Cromwell was easily able to oust them, calling them rather patronisingly 'poor silly creatures'. At least they were standing up for what was important to them.
Here is an excerpt from a letter from 'your most humble servant' Oliver Cromwell, to Sir Thomas Fairfax (the commander in chief of the Parliamentarian army). It reminds you that Hambledon is not always quiet and windswept.
We marched on to Shaftesbury, where we heard a great body of [Clubmen] was drawn together about Hambledon Hill; - where indeed near two thousand were gathered. I sent 'up' a forlorn-hope of about fifty Horse; who coming very civilly to them, they fired upon them; and ours desiring some of them to come to me, were refused with disdain. They were drawn into one of the old Camps, upon a very high Hill: I sent one Mr. Lee to them, To certify the peaceableness of my intentions, and To desire them to peaceableness, and to submit to the Parliament. They refused and fired at us. I sent him a second time, To let them know, that if they would lay down their arms, no wrong should be done to them. They still (through the animation of their leaders, and especially two vile ministers) refused; I commanded your Captain-Lieutenant to draw up to them, to be in readiness to charge; and if, upon his falling-on, they would lay down arms, to accept them and spare them. When we came near, they refused this offer, and let fly at him; killed about two of his men, and at least four horses. The passage not being for above three a-breast, kept us out; whereupon Major Desbrow wheeled about; got in the rear of them, beat them from the work, and did some small execution upon them; - I believe killed not twelve of them, but cut very many, 'and put them all to flight.' We have taken about 300; many of which are poor silly creatures, whom if you please to let me send home, they promise to be very dutiful for time to come, and will be hanged before they come out again. The ringleaders which we have, I intend to bring to you...It's interesting how he refers to the 'work' and 'passage', so the Clubmen were clearly using the prehistoric earthworks for defence.
From p174 of Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches: with elucidations By Thomas Carlyle, published 1845, online at Google books.
Another account of the same event, from 'Anglia Rediviva', by Joshua Sprigge (1647) says:
At the bottom of the hill we met a man with a musquet, and asked whither he was going; he said to the club-army; we asked what he meant to do; he asked what we had to do with that. Being required to lay down his arms, he said he would first lose his life, but was not so good as his word, for, although he cocked and presented his musquet, he was prevented, disarmed and wounded, but not killed. Then we marched up the hill, which had been an old Romane work, deeply trenched. The lieutenant-general sent before a lieutenant with a party of horse to require an account of their meeting. He was answered with half-a-dozen shot, and could get no other answer...I think this writing brings to life the fight - and perhaps has echoes of previous fights that went on at the site?
... the club-men shot from the bank of the old work, and kept the passage with musquets and other weapons, which was no broader than for three horse to march abreast. Upon this attempt we lost a man or two, had eight or nine wounded, six or seven horses killed. Upon this, Major Desborough, with the general's regiment, went round about a ledge of the hill and made a hard shift to climbe up and enter on their rear; which they no sooner discerned but after a short dispute they ran, and the passage formerly assaulted was opened, and all the clubmen dispersed and disarmed, some slain, many wounded; the rest slid and tumbled down that great steep hill to the hazard of their necks. There were brought away 400 of them to Shrawton, of which number 200 were wounded in this skirmish.
Posted by Rhiannon
27th January 2007ce
Edited 26th May 2009ce