Monmouth Martyrs

The last pitched battle on English soil was fought at Westonzoyland on the Somerset Levels and Moors. The Battle of Sedgemoor was the catastrophic final act of the doomed Monmouth Rebellion, the attempt by the Protestant Duke of Monmouth, the eldest illegitimate son of King Charles II, to raise the country against the Catholic King James II.

Monmouth landed at Lyme Regis on 11th June 1685, aiming to raise an army in the (largely Protestant) West Country. The rebellion attracted a good deal of support, and Monmouth crossed Somerset, including making his headquarters briefly at the historic George Inn at Norton St Philip.

With his ill-equipped and largely untrained soldiers, he faced the King’s army at Sedgemoor on 6th July. The defeat was followed by what came to be known as the Bloody Assizes, conducted by the notorious Judge Jeffreys. Across the region, from Taunton to Norton St Philip, the rebels were hunted down, put on trial and most were subject to the horrible traitor’s death – to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Monmouth himself was beheaded on 15th July in London.

Among those were six “martyrs” who were executed as traitors at Wincanton – Thomas Bowden of Bampton, Richard Harvey, Hugh Holland of South Petherton, William Holland of South Petherton, John Howell of Rode and John Tucker of Allington.

Image: The Morning of Sedgemoor, oil painting on canvas by Edgar Bundy, 1905, Tate Britain. By Wmpearl – Own work, CC0,

Going to The Dogs

Following the failed Monmouth Rebellion, King James II survived on the throne for a few more years, but was deposed in 1688 after the “Glorious Revolution.” This was the short campaign led by the Dutch prince, William of Orange, Protestant nephew of King James and married to the Catholic king’s Protestant daughter, Princess Mary.

There are Wincanton connections with what is sometimes known as the “bloodless revolution.” William landed in Devon on 5th November and the deposed king went into exile on 23rd December. Between those dates there was an event that is known as “the Wincanton Skirmish” on 20th November when a small English Army patrol led by an Irish officer, Patrick Sarsfield, clashed with a detachment of William’s Dutch army. The Dutch soldiers were actually Scots, led by Lieut. Campbell, who was one of the 12 killed in the fighting.

The Wincanton Skirmish was one of only two actual battles during William’s progress to London and the throne – the other was the Battle of Reading on 9th December.

After the skirmish, William, who would become King William III, but is more generally known as half of ”William-and-Mary,” stayed at Wincanton en route to London. He spent a night at The Dogs, the Grade I listed, 1650s manor house – the room where he slept is known as the Orange room.

Glorious Revolution 1