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Woburn During the English Civil War

During the English Civil War between King Charles I (1625-1649) and Parliament Woburn was staunchly Parliamentarian in its sympathies. J. D. Parry wrote of this turbulent period in his History and Description of Woburn and Its Abbey in 1831.

"Accounts of some events having occurred during these disastrous timeswhich have reference to the history of this town, have been communicated to us, but as they are taken from the party Journals of that day, in the interest of the Parliament, they must be received with a degree of reserve. "In June, 1644, the King passed through this town in his way from Aylesbury, and he slept at Bedford House (i.e. Woburn Abbey, as it is now termed), the Earl of Bedford being then, as is supposed, absent. The King's route was designed for Bedford, but he removed to Leighton. Sir William Waller [a noted Parliamentarian general] at that time occupied Brickhill; and Major-General Browne, and Sir Samuel Luke, with 200 of the "Newport Dragoons" pursued his rear, but were repulsed. Excesses and depredations are attributed on one or two occasions to the king's troops; but if these were not exaggerated, the reader will absolve the ill-fated, but not remorseless monarch, from countenancing or conniving at them. On the 26th of August, 1645, the king again  passed through the town, on his route from Wales to Oxford; and as before, slept at Bedford House. At the end of the year 1645, this town was elevated into the distinction of a military post, having previously suffered in the following manner. "On Wednesday, November 26th, a numerous body of horse (Royalists) camed from Oxford to Leighton, where they remained for the night, and left at three in the morning for Woburn. At the news of their approach, four young men mounted their horses, and rode out to reconnoitre, but falling in with a detachment of the Royalists, exchanged shots and retired. No place could be in a worse condition of defence than the town, the people being unprepared, and their fire arms amounting only to eight muskets. The king's troops manifested no hostile disposition at first, and entered the town in good order, udner Major - and Captain Bridges; but provocations ensuing, the townsmen attacked the soldiers (about 150 in number), and compelled them to retreat. Being reinforced however, to the amount of 500, they bore down the people, who were driven into the shambles [in the area of today's Town Hall], and finally dispersed.; unfortunately the death of the major, who fell in the engagement, put a stop to all discipline, and a gang of desperate fellows in the neighbourhood, whose number was estimated at 100, seized the opportunity to plunder the inhabitants and set fire to the town; so that no less than 27 houses, being all that side of the town which lies towards Newport Pagnell, unto the church (the steeple whereof was burnt, but quickly quenched) were destroyed. The townsmen lost but one man [there are no burials recorded at the end of November in the Woburn parish register but Lionel, son of Simon Teler was buried on 1st December]; but, if the accounts can be believed, the Royalists lost their commander, and eight men; many women were engaged in the contest  who proved Viragos, and four of them lost their lives [no women are recorded as buried by the parish register until March 1646]. Birchmore House, then in the occupation of Robert Staunton, was plundered, and had been more than once plundered before. The enemy proceeded from Woburn to Brickhill, where they are said to have committed excesses, and at length returned to Oxford. Immediately after their departure, Major Shelbourn arrived at Woburn, with a party of Bedfordshire horse, and pursued the, but without success"".

"The inhabitants soon after presented a petition to Parliament, praying for relief, to be obtained by a public collection: their petition was referred to a committee. They also with laudabe activity set themselves diligently to work at fortifying their own, gby digging trenches, and erecting a barrier at the entrance of the town; (from Brickhill, we presume, which is believed to have been the most usual route to London). A body of 100 horse was raised in the neighbourhood; and 1,000 more were sent to Woburn, which for about two months they occupied as their head quarters; these were commanded by the notorious Colonel Whaley ... one of the King's judges, and signed the warrant for his death. He was a man of bravery, and favoured by Cromwell; but being afterwards deputed to treat with General Monk, he refused to hold any communication with him. At the Restoration he escaped to America, where he lived and died in wretchedness; whether deserved or not, we will not too boldly determine. Early in January, however, 1646, the Royalists are said to have been "about Brickhill, Owbourne, Stratford, and Leighton". "Latters dated the 12th brought intelligence to London, that the quarters at Woburn had been mach harassed, and that the commander had not rested for two night together in any place. On the 5th, he was alarmed by a communication from the Governor of Newport (D'Oyley), that the king's horse had been drawn out of their respective garrisons, and held their rendezvous at Bicester; that their design was either to relieve Chester, or to plunder the country; which induced him to move as far as Towcester, and send scouts to Banbury. One of whom was taken prisoner, and carried to Oxford, where he was kindly treated, and released upon his parole". Colonel Whaley stayed at Banbury, till the end of the week, when the inclemency of the weather obliged him to concentrate his forces at Woburn. He left it before the end of January, and joined the army at Banbury, where he remained; "but some troops continued in Bedfordshire, to repress any private irruption of Royalists".

"On the 20th of July, 1647, the unfortunate king, whose fortunes had a few days before been ruined by the battle of Naseby [sic Naseby occurred on 16th June 1645], passed through Woburn a third time, and stopped at the Earl of Bedford's - a nobleman who had then left the service of the Parliament for that of his Sovereign, and who, with an anxious interest in the welfare of both, used his best efforts to promote peace and reconciliation. The Earl of Cleveland being there to receive him with other noblemen, and Doctor Hammond ocfficiating as his chaplain, one of his most disinterested and faithful followers to the last, and a man of such solid goodness and erudition, that his name, unconnected with party, forms a pleasing object in this list of calamities - Here (at the Earl of Bedford's) "the proposals of the army were submitted to his perusal previous to their being offered to him in public". After a short stay, he removed to Latimers, in the county of Northampton".