A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1957.
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The government's vengeance upon its Wiltshire parliamentary opponents after the dissolution of March 1629 can have done nothing to appease a local situation which was already explosive. Resistance to royal orders and demands gave signs of getting out of hand. An early climax was reached in the autumn of 1631 over the inclosure of Selwood Forest, when a local farmer, Thomas Carr, defying the sheriff's attempt to evict him, provoked a miniature civil war lasting for a week or two and only brought to an end with the aid of cannon fetched from Bristol. An ominous feature of the episode was the marked unco-operativeness of almost everybody whose assistance was called for, from the local magnate, Sir Edward Baynton, downwards: Baynton himself paid for his reply to the sheriff 'that he did not much fancy that service' with temporary arrest. (fn. 1)
What royal inclosures and forest proceedings were to the countryman, royal interference with his industry was to the cloth-maker. In Wiltshire this branch of Stuart paternalism was confided during these years to the meddlesome hands of one Anthony Wither. Wither's first attempt to enforce recent cloth legislation at Bradford so incensed the clothmakers that they pitched him into the Avon. (fn. 2) For this outrage he was empowered by the Council to prosecute his assailants, among them Sir Edward Baynton, in the Star Chamber. (fn. 3) In the following year the Privy Council sent him with instructions in his favour to the Wiltshire J.P.s who, however, proved almost as refractory as the clothiers themselves. (fn. 4) Nothing if not persistent Wither then accused Sir Francis Seymour before the Privy Council of having obstructed him on the bench at the Salisbury sessions, 'as if (said Sir Francis) the Justices of Peace did not best know what were fittest for the good of their country'. (fn. 5) This time Wither had overreached himself. It was not his indictment of them, but an information laid by Seymour and his brother justices against him, which the Privy Council acted upon: and Wither found himself committed to gaol. He obtained his release only by acknowledging his offence and apologizing to Seymour, and Wiltshire saw no more of him. (fn. 6)
Another fertile source of trouble was the activities of the government's 'saltpetremen'. Early in 1630 the ubiquitous Sir Francis Seymour took the lead in complaining of Thomas Hilliard, who held a commission to search for saltpetre in Wiltshire and neighbouring counties. The Privy Council referred the matter to the Star Chamber, where after a delay of four years Hilliard was fined £5,000. (fn. 7) In 1636 trouble blew up again, this time over the compulsory carriage of charcoal to the saltpetre works. (fn. 8) The new saltpetre commissioner, Thomas Thornhill, also reported obstruction from such notables as Sir Robert Phelips of Montacute and the fiery Denzil Holies, while the eminent and influential Rector of East Knoyle, Christopher Wren, joined in with a protest at the undermining of his pigeon-house by Thornhill's digging operations. It was perhaps a consequence of these complications that in 1637 Wiltshire got a new saltpetre-maker, John Giffard. (fn. 9)
The fact that Bayntons and Seymours made common cause with their neighbours and dependents against the 'men from Whitehall' shows the rift which was opening between the rulers at the centre and the magnates in the localities. From the midthirties this rift was widened by the writs of ship-money. First extended to inland counties in November 1635, and repeated every year until 1639, these demands were at once the most efficient form of direct taxation devised by the English government and, as such, the most dangerous threat to the pockets of its subjects. In Wiltshire the first writ, executed during the winter of 1635–6, did not meet with much opposition. The apportionment of the sum demanded, £7,000, was made by the sheriff, Francis Goddard, on his own responsibility, since the J.P.s declined to assist him, (fn. 10) and after some initial difficulties he was able to pay in all but £500 of the total by February (fn. 11) and eventually to discharge the whole sum. (fn. 12) The second writ, issued in August 1636, evidently gave a good deal more trouble. The new sheriff, Sir Neville Poole, could pay only £3,400 of the £7,000 due by May 1637, and six months later could raise his total to no more than £5,800. (fn. 13) As late as June 1639 six Wiltshire constables were called before the Council and required to give bonds for the discharge of their quotas under this writ, but even so nearly £700 was never got in. (fn. 14) Among the punitive measures taken was the putting off the commission of the peace of Richard Seymour as a refuser. (fn. 15)
But it was the fourth writ, issued in November 1638, which really set the county by the ears: and this notwithstanding a reduction of the amount demanded by more than two-thirds. The mere accumulation of hostility to what now stood revealed as a regular tax doubtless contributed to this result. But in Wiltshire this general cause was reinforced by the particular one that the sheriff responsible for executing this writ was Sir Edward Bayntoru For unsought and unpopular as was his task, Baynton applied himself to it with typical high-handedness: his collectors rose to the occasion, and the result was a crop of untoward incidents. One of the collectors, the high constable of Melksham hundred, made the capital error of over-assessing Walter Long, and that hardened litigant soon had him in the Fleet, from which Baynton's petition to the Privy Council failed to rescue him. (fn. 16) Another collector, Baynton's own bailiff Edmund Brunsdon, distrained a horse of Sir Francis Seymour's, (fn. 17) while the bearer of yet another famous name, Edmond Hungerford, forcibly recovered a distress levied upon him. (fn. 18) To have alienated three such men was an achievement in itself: but it was accompanied, and perhaps in part caused, by such handling of the collectors as would goad at least one of them into lodging an official complaint. (fn. 19) What these excesses did not do, however, was to produce a satisfactory yield, for of the £2,200 due from Baynton's writ £1,254 remained uncollected. (fn. 20)
The mounting difficulties—and arrears—of ship-money furnish a rough-and-ready guide to the breakdown of autocratic paternalism which preceded and produced the Long Parliament. It was the events of 1639 and 1640 which clinched the matter. Early in 1639 the government sought to raise men and money in the southern half of the realm for its Scottish campaign by a time-honoured appeal to the loyalty of its noble and gentle subjects. In February the noblemen of Wiltshire found themselves summoned to attend the king at York with all the followers they could raise, or to make a monetary contribution in lieu of service. One or two promised to go and went, like the faithful Hertford; others, like Stourton and Arundell, pleaded poverty or age, but offered £500 apiece; some appear to have done nothing. (fn. 21) The meagre result demonstrated—as the Civil War was soon to confirm—that in Wiltshire at least the nobility was no longer a force to be reckoned with. Two months later it was the gentry's turn. In April the Privy Council dispatched letters to some twenty of the 'best well-affected' men in Wiltshire and other south-western counties calling for a contribution, and at the same time asked Hertford to use his influence with the recipients. (fn. 22) The result was even more disappointing. (fn. 23)
The failure of the campaign of 1639 and the fiasco of the Short Parliament found the government again faced in the spring of 1640 with the two familiar problems of raising fresh forces and the money to pay them. The interdependence of the two soon manifested itself in Wiltshire, one of the counties called upon to furnish troops. In May the deputy lieutenants, Lord Gorges and George Vaughan, reported that they had raised 1,300 men but were in difficulties about paying them. The next news was of serious disorders among the troops, especially at the rendezvous, Marlborough and Warminster. Pembroke, the lord lieutenant, was hurriedly sent for and he managed to restore order sufficiently for the county to see the back of the soldiery. (fn. 24) But the memory must have been fresh enough when a few months later its electors met to choose members of that Parliament which the rout of these undisciplined levies by the Scots made inevitable.
The general elections of March and October 1640 gave Wiltshire, in common with the rest of the country, its last taste of electioneering on the old lines. (fn. 25) Of the 32 Wiltshire members of the Short Parliament—the return for Marlborough is missing (fn. 26) —20 were returned for Wiltshire seats to the Long Parliament, 18 of them for the same places as before: it is clear that success in March was a strong recommendation in October. (fn. 27) The composition of this joint contingent conformed to the traditional pattern. The 'proprietary' interests were all represented: for not only was there a small group of resident burgesses (fn. 28) but Seymour and Herbert followings were also in evidence. In March each of these families provided a knight of the shire, and while Seymourites occupied both the Bedwyn seats (fn. 29) there were two Herbert nominees at Wilton, one at Old Sarum, and (the city's ancient rule notwithstanding) one at Salisbury. In October the balance shifted in Pembroke's favour: for whereas the Seymours had to be content with one seat at Bedwyn and one at Marlborough, the three Herbert clients reappeared in their former places and in addition the earl's second son, William, secured a seat (which he would not need) at Downton. (fn. 30)
Court pressure at elections, first extensively applied in the earlier years of Charles's reign, was heavy in 1640. (fn. 31) Of the Wiltshire members returned at either election only one is known to have been a royal nominee: this was the Solicitor General, Edward Herbert, who sat both times for Old Sarum, presumably by arrangement with his kinsman Pembroke. (fn. 32) But a number of others must be regarded as Court candidates. We know that as early as December 1639 Hindon had offered its two seats to Lord Cottington, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Master of the Court of Wards, who had been settled at near-by Fonthill since 1633: and the appearance of Cottington's colleague Miles Fleetwood and his secretary George Garrett as Hindon's members of the Short Parliament shows that the offer was accepted. (fn. 33) Then there was Thomas Windebank, whose political opinions may perhaps be deduced from his 31-adjective description of the Covenanters, (fn. 34) and who certainly owed his single appearance for Wootton Bassett in April less to his domicile in the county than to his kinship with the secretary of state: (fn. 35) or William Ashburnham, member for Ludgershall in both Parliaments, who had a Wiltshire connexion by marriage but who was also an intimate of the king's. (fn. 36) While these names are proof that the government was not wholly unsuccessful in its intervention, their fewness shows that Wiltshire was no exception to the rule that Court candidates fared ill in the elections of 1640.
Taken together, the members returned in virtue of municipal, aristocratic or governmental connexions accounted, at the two elections, for exactly one-third of the seats, 22 out of 66. The remaining two-thirds went almost without exception to local men whose candidature answered to their own standing in the county. They included representatives of the parliamentary dynasties of the last half-century—Hungerford, Baynton, Poole, Thynne, Hyde and Ludlow were all there—as well as of other longestablished but less eminent families like Norborne, Nicholas and Pleydall. But alongside these names, whose familiarity bespeaks the permanence of county society, must be set some new ones which reflect its changing composition. Such a name is that of Edward Ashe, who sat for Heytesbury in the Long Parliament, and who was to do yeoman service in its cause. A London businessman of Somerset origin, Ashe purchased the manor and hundred of Heytesbury in 1641 from Thomas Moore, his fellow member for the borough. (fn. 37) Their ownership of the borough was to establish the Ashes as a leading parliamentary family for the next hundred years, (fn. 38) while a marriage alliance with the Pophams of Littlecote enhanced their social standing. Another newcomer of the same type was one of the two members for Cricklade, Robert Jenner. (fn. 39) A Wiltshire contingent which brigaded such men with Hungerfords and Bayntons could claim a share in welding what was brand new with what was respectably old in Wiltshire society.
The roll of Wiltshire members of the Long Parliament was not settled for good at the election, for as was to be expected from the vigorous competition for seats there were some disputed returns. (fn. 40) One of the members challenged was Robert Hyde, Recorder of Salisbury, who was returned with Michael Oldsworth, Pembroke's secretary, for the city. The recorder, a cousin of the future chancellor, had from his appointment in 1638 identified himself with Court and Church (his brother Alexander was at this time SubDean, and was to die Bishop of Salisbury) and thereby incurred the enmity of the strong Puritan element in the city. His opponents had made an unsuccessful attempt to prevent his election in March. (fn. 41) In October they went farther. When the mayor and corporation again chose Hyde and Oldsworth, they organized a rival election and chose two of their own leaders, John Dove and John Ivie. This return they backed up with a petition against Hyde, which was read in the Commons on 30 November and was referred to a committee which included several Wiltshire members. (fn. 42) An order of 13 January 1641 for a speedy report produced no result, and it was not until 3 March that the matter came back to the House. There it was hotly debated, with expert opinion divided, Selden supporting the return of Hyde and Oldsworth and D'Ewes opposing it with an appeal to the history of burgage tenure. Carried to a division, the question was settled in favour of the sitting members by 216 to 133: but we have D'Ewes's word for it that many votes were cast in their favour out of deference to Oldsworth's master, Pembroke. (fn. 43) Hyde was soon to forfeit his hard-won seat.
The Chippenham election was challenged in not dissimilar circumstances. The member involved, Sir Edward Baynton, early became the centre of parliamentary controversy in consequence of the revelations made in the Ship-Money Committee about his misdeeds of 1638–9. When early in January 1641 Sir Edward Hungerford reported the committee's findings to the House, it was ordered that Michael Tidcombe, Baynton's under-sheriff, Edmund Brunsdon, his bailiff, and two of his collectors should be sent for as delinquents. (fn. 44) As for Baynton himself, the House evidently considered that he should be left to face the challenge to his election already lodged by Sir Francis Popham. Popham had sat regularly for Chippenham in former Parliaments. (fn. 45) The grounds of his complaint do not appear, but its hearing involved bringing witnesses up from the town. (fn. 46) The decision has likewise to be inferred from the fact that Baynton continued to sit.
The county's third election dispute arose at Downton, where William Herbert's decision to serve for Monmouth county created a vacancy. The by-election, held in December, resulted in the double return of Richard Gorges and Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper. It was not the first time that a Gorges of neighbouring Longford had sat for the borough which, since the extinction of the bishop's interest, the earls of Pembroke had all but annexed. But his opponent's candidature, based upon the recent acquisition of a tenement there, (fn. 47) marked the advent in local politics of one who was to dominate the scene for the next 40 years. A youth of nineteen, Ashley Cooper was still subject to the wardship which had so plagued him and his property. This circumstance was adduced by some as a reason for excluding him, but condoned by others on the ground that many members were under age. In the end the House shelved the question, and neither claimant was awarded the seat. (fn. 48)
The settlement of disputes was quickly followed by the filling of vacancies. These occurred successively at Old Sarum (January), Marlborough (February), Hindon (April), and Ludgershall (December): the first three were occasioned by two promotions and one death, the last by William Ashburnham's disablement on his being charged with treason. (fn. 49) The four by-elections brought in a mixed bag of new members. At Old Sarum a stranger was returned in the person of Sir William Savile, a nephew of the Earl of Strafford; at Marlborough Philip Smith, a local lawyer; and at Hindon Thomas Bennett of Pythouse, son of a local squire; (fn. 50) while Ashburnham's place was filled, by an act of poetic justice, by Walter Long, whose Star Chamber fine of 1630 had been assigned to Ashburnham's brother John. (fn. 51)
These changes completed the list of the 33 Wiltshire members who were to make their contribution to the momentous decisions of the next eighteen months. Their counterpart in the House of Lords consisted of the seven or eight peers who could be regarded as belonging to the county, either by origin or by affiliation, and who took an active share in the work of their House. The Earl of Hertford had given proof of his parliamentary outlook both by his conduct in the Short Parliament, (fn. 52) and by his share in persuading the king to summon its successor: he had not only signed the petition of 28 July in this sense but had tried to win over support for it in the Council. (fn. 53) The confidence which Hertford thus inspired in the Commons was to last to within a few months of the outbreak of war. It survived the successive marks of favour—a privy councillorship, a marquessate, and the governorship of the Prince of Wales—with which the king sought to confirm Hertford's loyalty. It was the last of these honours which gave the marquess his chief importance during the winter of 1641–2, for both Houses looked to him to ensure that nothing impolitic should be done with the prince, such as sending him abroad. (fn. 54) But the most striking testimony to the Commons' trust in him was their nomination of Hertford as Lord Lieutenant of Somerset in February 1642. (fn. 55) When a month later Hertford declined the nomination, on the ground that the king had not accepted the Militia Bill, it was for him the parting of the ways. (fn. 56) Soon afterwards he joined the king at York and threw himself into preparations for war.
If Hertford veered from opposition to allegiance, Pembroke moved in the reverse direction. Less disposed both temperamentally and by reason of his office—he was Lord Chamberlain—to oppose the Court, Pembroke played little part in the early work of the Long Parliament. It was his stand against Strafford which first raised his stock in the Commons, where it stood his secretary in good stead in the Salisbury election case. (fn. 57) In July 1641 Pembroke was dismissed from office. The ostensible reason was an affray between him and Lord Maltravers, but it was an open secret that his real offence was political, and the opposition was quick to hail him as an ally. (fn. 58) A month later he was nominated by the two Houses for the vacant post of Lord Steward. The king's ignoring of this suggestion did nothing either to smooth Pembroke's feelings or to weaken the Commons' support of him, and when in February 1642 it came to nominating lords lieutenant Pembroke was given two counties, Wiltshire and Hampshire. His acceptance was as much a gauge of his intentions as Hertford's refusal was of his. Thus by the spring of 1642 the county knew that its two leading noblemen would be opposed to each other in the coming struggle.
Meanwhile, the Wiltshire contingent in the Commons was being split along the same line of cleavage. It had early been deprived of one of its leading figures. This was Sir Francis Seymour, who had begun by living up to his reputation as a great House of Commons man. (fn. 59) But in February 1641 he was created Lord Seymour of Trowbridge. His elevation, announced on the same day as Hertford's privy councillorship, was a move in the campaign to wean the Seymours from their disposition to oppose: and it succeeded in its object, for the new peer was to accompany his uncle into the royal camp. His place on the important Committee of Twenty-Four was filled by Sir Edward Hungerford, who thus succeeded to the unofficial primacy of the Wiltshire group. (fn. 60) Next in importance came Sir Neville Poole and Sir John Evelyn. All three were sturdy, but moderate, members of the opposition. More radical opinions were voiced by Sir Henry Ludlow, whose anti-royalism was eventually to incur the censure of the House itself, (fn. 61) by Denzil Holies, the Wiltshireman who sat for Dorchester and who was to be one of the Five Members of January 1642, and by that survivor of an earlier punitive episode, Walter Long. These were the men of the county who took the lead in debate, committee, and conference. (fn. 62) Of the remainder we hear little. Two who might otherwise have loomed larger were handicapped by personal disabilities, Sir Edward Baynton by his temperament and record, and Sir James Thynne by a family inheritance-suit which obtruded upon the weightier business of the House. (fn. 63)
When it came to the breaking-point the Wiltshire members showed themselves overwhelmingly opposed to the king. Out of the 29 of them who belonged to the county or its immediate neighbourhood, 21 signified their attachment to the parliamentary cause by retaining their seats at Westminster. The number and quality of their names—Ashe, Baynton, Evelyn, Hodges, Edward Hungerford, Jenner, Long, Ludlow, Moore, Nicholas, and Poole were among them—make a striking contrast with the few and unimportant names on the other side, among which only those of Robert Hyde and Sir James Thynne stand out. (fn. 64) Great as was this disparity, it probably did not exaggerate the division of opinion within the county itself, to judge from the petitions and reports which came in. (fn. 65) Thus when in the spring of 1642 the Houses took steps to secure the country, Wiltshire promised to give little difficulty. The appointment of Pembroke as lord lieutenant was followed by that of a number of deputies, among whom were Walter Long and Denzil Holies. (fn. 66) Early in July two other local magnates, Sir Edward Hungerford and Sir John Evelyn, were sent down to execute the Militia Ordinance and to organize the collection of money, and before the month was out the powder magazine at Marlborough had been secured. (fn. 67)
The fortunes of Wiltshire in the Civil War were to be shaped, like those of other counties, by two circumstances, the local balance of power 'and the position of the county relative to the larger strategy and principal forces engaged. Of the two, it was the local setting which was the more important at the outset, the impact of the second being felt increasingly as the war went on. (fn. 68)
In Wiltshire the local situation was initially almost wholly in favour of the parliamentary cause. Hertford and his nephew certainly lost no time in starting to execute the king's commission of array among their tenants and neighbours in Somerset and Wiltshire, where they made their appearance before the end of July. (fn. 69) But in Wiltshire they made little or no headway against the rising tide of anti-royalism. (fn. 70) Soon after his nomination as the king's lieutenant-general in the west (12 August), Hertford and his following were hemmed in at Sherborne Castle (Dors.), whence in September he withdrew to Minehead and crossed the Bristol Channel into Wales. He was to make only one further brief incursion into Wiltshire in the course of the war. Of the other royalist noblemen in the county the 2nd Baron Arundell of Wardour had succeeded in 1639 to a heavily encumbered patrimony, (fn. 71) and his service to the royalist cause was necessarily limited to his own and his wife's gallantry; the young 3rd Earl of Marlborough rode in arms for a short time with his kinsman, Seymour of Trowbridge, but then embarked upon his life-long career at sea; (fn. 72) the Earl of Berkshire was taken prisoner at the outset of the war and spent his time in and out of parliamentary custody; and William, Lord Stourton was able to contribute little more than a son who died in the king's service at Bristol.
With no leader in the county round whom to rally the few active royalists rode out of it to join the main royal forces. Two who bore famous county names and were to render the king notable service were Sir George Vaughan of Falstone (or Faulston) and Sir James Long of Draycott Cerne. Sir George Vaughan commanded a regiment of cavalry, was wounded at Lansdown, but recovered and took the field again in 1644 and 1645. Sir James Long was to serve as the king's sheriff in Wiltshire and in that capacity worked tirelessly until his capture in 1645. Among others who took up arms were Richard Goddard, a Salisbury lawyer who raised a troop of horse in Wiltshire; William Kent of Boscombe, who served with Vaughan; Thomas Sadler and John Windover, both of Salisbury and both cavalry officers; John Spencer of Quidhampton (in Wroughton): and John Duckett, of the well-known Calstone (Calne) family, a colonel. Not all royalists who quitted the county fought for the king: the Penruddocks of Compton Chamberlayne, for example, appear to have confined their services to the political field. Then there were the royalist members of Parliament, like Sir Walter Smyth of Bedwyn or George Lowe of Calne, who obeyed the king's summons and sat in the Oxford Parliament. (fn. 73)
Almost the sole exception to this general admission of the county's loss was the attempt made by Robert Hyde to secure Salisbury. Towards the end of July 1642 (perhaps to synchronize with the coming of Hertford) Hyde prevailed upon the mayor to publish the king's proclamation and commission of array. Shortly afterwards he refused to report the committal of a royalist, to whom he then gave bail. Hyde got no further, for a peremptory summons brought him back to the House, where the mayor, who had already confessed and been committed, was brought in to testify against him. Thereupon Hyde was pronounced guilty of a crime, disabled from sitting and sent to the Tower. He was left there for a fortnight and then discharged. The mayor had been freed a week before. (fn. 74) With the exposure of Hyde's manoeuvres the control of Salisbury passed to his enemies, (fn. 75) and a company of volunteers was formed which turned out to welcome the Earl of Pembroke upon his arrival there three weeks later. (fn. 76)
With Hertford in retreat, Hyde foiled, and royalists everywhere lying low or leaving the county, the outlook for the parliamentary cause in the autumn of 1642 was bright indeed. When Pembroke went down in August to complete the organization of the militia he found the situation everywhere under control, and he was soon back at Westminster. (fn. 77) It was his sole military mission to the county. In October he was, indeed, appointed General of the Western Parts with a commission similar to Essex's in the centre. But he was soon superseded by Denzil Holies and thereafter confined himself to political missions. (fn. 78) Pembroke's unfitness for command was to deprive the Wiltshire parliamentarians of their natural leader as the royalists had already been deprived of theirs. For the moment the loss was not felt: but it was soon to cost the parliamentarians dear.
The two developments which were to overthrow their control of the county were the king's establishment at Oxford and the formation of Hopton's army in the west. Between December 1642 and February 1643 royalist detachments from Oxford captured Marlborough (fn. 79) and Malmesbury, as well as Cirencester just across the Gloucestershire border. These were damaging blows, not only in themselves—and the pillage which accompanied them sent a thrill of horror throughout the county and beyond (fn. 80)— but because they were designed to bring the surrounding country within the area of 'contributions'. More serious still was the untimely quarrel which they helped to provoke between the two parliamentary commanders in Wiltshire, Sir Edward Hungerford and Sir Edward Baynton. In January 1643 these two in turn arrested one another and then escaped from the other's clutches. The affair being referred to Parliament, Hungerford was upheld, and on 31 January he replaced Baynton as commander-in-chief of the new county force of two regiments of horse and 1,000 dragoons which Wiltshire was to support. (fn. 81)
It was upon a county more than a little demoralized that there fell the much heavier blow of Hopton's advance in the spring of 1643. Hungerford proved himself an incompetent local commander, and the defence of the county devolved upon the army which Sir William Waller brought into it in March on the first of his many campaigns in the region. Moving from the east by way of Salisbury, Waller first recaptured Malmesbury (23 March), which, however, when he handed it over to Hungerford, the latter swiftly abandoned, (fn. 82) whereupon it was reoccupied for a short time by the royalists. In May Hertford and Prince Maurice led a cavalry expedition from Oxford and captured Salisbury. They then moved westwards and effected their junction with Hopton at Chard, and it was the combined force which Waller met and worsted at Lansdown on 5 July. A few days later Waller shut Hopton up in Devizes. Forced to raise the siege by the return of Maurice and Wilmot with reinforcements, Waller gave battle at Roundway Down and had his army destroyed. (fn. 83)
Roundway Down ushered in a period when the parliamentary fortunes in Wiltshire sank to their lowest point. To military disaster was added desertion, intrigue, and treachery. Hungerford took himself off to Somerset, Baynton and Evelyn were both put under custody for scandalous behaviour, which, in Baynton's case, included secret overtures to the king. It was at this time of despondency that the young Edmund Ludlow conducted the first of the defences of Wardour castle. For three months he held out, and only on 18 March 1644, when the place had become utterly indefensible, did he surrender. (fn. 84)
With the surrender of Wardour Wiltshire passed entirely under royalist control. But the royalists were to find, as their enemies had found earlier, that purely local forces would not avail to check inroads. In May 1644 Colonel Massey, the bold defender of Gloucester, made the first incursion by recovering Malmesbury, which thus changed hands for the sixth and last time. During the summer months Edmund Ludlow, again in the field after his release by the royalists, undertook some scattered operations in the south of the county, but with little result. But in September and October Wiltshire was entered by large armies from outside. First, Waller passed through with a parliamentary army on his way to relieve the Earl of Essex in Cornwall. Then he recrossed the county in retreat before the superior forces which the king was bringing back from his victory at Lostwithiel. On 15 October Charles reached Salisbury and planted garrisons at Longford castle and Wilton. He then pursued Waller into Hampshire, and Wiltshire was again left to the small battalions. Ludlow again operated with little success in the Salisbury area: and in December and January another royalist force under Goring moved first eastwards and then westwards across the county.
The winter of 1644–5 saw both sides resort to the establishment of numerous small garrisons. The king had his in the south and west, from Devizes to Salisbury, and Parliament replied with a group in the north-west, based upon Malmesbury. (fn. 85) The royalists were the more aggressive and succeeded in taking a few of the parliamentary posts. But, as before, the fate of the county as a whole depended upon the movement of larger forces. The first of these to enter Wiltshire in 1645 was the army, including Cromwell and his regiment, which Waller brought in March 1645 and with which he captured Sir James Long, the royalist sheriff, and 300 men. Having first advanced into Dorset and then retired to Salisbury, where he awaited a royalist attack which did not materialize, Waller had his army broken up and largely incorporated in the New Model.
It was the New Model Army which was to finish the war in Wiltshire, as in the country at large. In June and July 1645 Fairfax brought it, fresh from its victory at Naseby, down through the county on its way to fight Goring's western army. While Fairfax was engaged in taking Bristol, the royalists scored their last success in Wiltshire with Sir James Long's capture of Chippenham (12 August). But Fairfax's decision, after he had taken Bristol (13 September), to clear the enemy garrisons between himself and London spelled the end of the king's cause in the county. Beginning with Devizes on 23 September, the royalist garrisons were speedily reduced, the last of them, at Longford House (in Britford), falling on 18 October. The sole remaining threat to Wiltshire now came from the king's forces to the north based upon Oxford, and these undertook a final raid as far as Marlborough in January 1646. When in the following April Fairfax returned through Wiltshire on his way to reduce Oxford the county saw the last of marching troops.
It was not a moment too soon, at least for the ordinary folk over whose farms and homes the conflict had swayed for four long years. There had been some popular disturbances, particularly in the Selwood area, in 1643 and 1644. (fn. 86) But during the winter of 1644–5, with its multiplication of hostile garrisons, the long—smouldering resentment was fanned into a flame which, with the coming of spring, swept headlong across three counties. By May 1645 the Clubmen, as these angry multitudes were called, were to be numbered by thousands in Wiltshire alone. Drawn from both town and country—the Salisbury contingent alone totalled 700—and disposing of a simple but effective organization based upon regional assemblies, the Clubmen proclaimed as their immediate object self-protection from the demands and depradations of the military and as their final goal the cessation of all hostilities. The first aim they tried to achieve by a curious combination of appeasement and sanctions, the second by counselling both king and Parliament to come to reasonable terms. To Fairfax, as he advanced against Goring, the Wiltshire Clubmen presented a considerable, if momentary, menace. Convinced as he was that they leaned towards the king's cause—a view which gained colour from the presence among them of royalist gentlemen and clergy (fn. 87)—he could not ignore their threat to harass his rear while he manoeuvred with the enemy. But he handled them with an exemplary blend of tact and firmness, and was able to move on unmolested to his victory at Langport. A month later, however, he and Cromwell felt compelled to seize a group of leaders (fn. 88) and then to break up an assembly of followers near Shaftesbury, and their decision, after the taking of Bristol, to clear Wiltshire of the enemy doubtless reflected their anxiety to draw the teeth of the opposition in that direction. With the completion of this task in the autumn of 1645 the Wiltshire Clubmen dwindled in numbers and importance, although the movement was kept alive by the deplorable behaviour of Massey's brigade based upon Malmesbury. (fn. 89)
What its share of the war had cost the county it is impossible to say. Material destruction had been both limited and localized. Among towns, Marlborough had suffered most severely: the sack of December 1642 is said to have destroyed over 50 houses and goods worth £50,000 (fn. 90)—figures which were cast into the shade ten years later when the luckless town was almost obliterated by fire. No other town, not even the much-disputed Malmesbury, seems to have been much damaged. It was otherwise with the mansions and manor-houses which had been the target of so many minor operations. Wardour castle had been demolished, Longford reduced to a state which would exact a heroic effort of rehabilitation from its new owner, Lord Coleraine, (fn. 91) and Stourton partially burnt: but Wilton and Longleat had escaped serious harm. Among smaller houses, Calstone, the home of the Ducketts, perished; Sir John Glanville's was burned by its owner to deny it to the enemy; and many others were more or less damaged. Plundering had increased in scale and severity as the war went on, with marked men on both sides being victimized in turn. The double stripping of Sir William Button's house at West Tockenham by parliamentary troops had its counterpart in the royalists' pillaging of such parliamentary stalwarts as Hodges and Jenner, the members for Cricklade, and John Dove of Salisbury. But such depradations were quantitatively of little account compared with the burden of taxation and the dislocation of industry and trade. As a disputed territory for the greater part of the war, Wiltshire had not only been laid under tribute alternately or concurrently by both parties (fn. 92) but had also seen them slow down its productive mechanism and block up its channels of trade. How serious and widespread was the accumulated distress is to be gauged from the outburst of 1645. The county had certainly paid dear for its initial solidarity and subsequent exposure.
For the county's royalist minority their share of these war-time misfortunes was but the prelude to the penalties of defeat. No Wiltshireman suffered death as a warcriminal, and only a few, like Cottington, the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, had their property confiscated: Cottington's estate at Fonthill was given to Bradshaw, the President of the Council of State. (fn. 93) For surrendered royalists there was devised the system of composition-fines. These were of two kinds, those levied locally upon personal property and those levied in London upon real estate. In Wiltshire the first was the business of the so-called Falstone House Committee, the body sitting at Sir George Vaughan's sequestered house of that name. (fn. 94) The weightier task of assessing and collecting fines upon land was entrusted to the Committee for Compounding established at Goldsmiths' Hall. The records of this committee contain material relating to 47 Wiltshire royalists, who between them were called upon to pay £37,500 in fines. (fn. 95) Since nearly all of them were allowed to compound at one-tenth of the capital value of their land (which was calculated at twenty years' annual value), their combined properties amounted to more than a third of a million and in annual value to close on £20,000. Two-thirds of the total were accounted for by six individuals with incomes of £1,000 a year or more. The list is headed by the two Seymours, Hertford with over £4,000 a year and Seymour of Trowbridge with £1,850, and continues with Sir James Thynne (£1,550), the Earl of Danby (£1,355), Sir William Button (£1,190) and Thomas Bennett of Pythouse (£1,000). Among a second group of twelve persons with incomes of between £250 and £1,000 we find two peers, Berkshire (£546) and Arundell of Wardour (£356), alongside the two Penruddocks (£500 and £300), James Long (£357) and Edward Toppe (£250). Two groups with smaller incomes—nine individuals with between £100 and £250 a year and seventeen with less than £100—complete the series. While the fines inflicted doubtless varied considerably in terms of individual hardship, it cannot be said that the Wiltshire royalists suffered heavily. For one or two recusant families—the Gawens, for instance (fn. 96)—the severer penalties meted out may have been crushing to the point of disaster. But most of them seem to have surmounted their troubles; in Wiltshire, as elsewhere, the Civil War therefore appears as not much more than an incident in the gradual process by which the old governing families were supplanted by new.
In so far as that process was reflected in the personnel of the House of Commons, the years immediately following the war were a time of rapid change. The nine Wiltshire members who had gone over to the king were in course of time all disabled. (fn. 97) The 23 whom they left behind played a variety of parts during the war. Two of them, Sir Edward Baynton and Sir Edward Hungerford, wielded military command with results already noticed: while John Francklyn of Marlborough had the ill fortune to be captured there in December 1642 and to die a prisoner of war. (fn. 98) Others, notably Sir Neville Poole, John Ashe, Thomas Moore, and—until his fall from grace—Sir John Evelyn, were active in the county in a civilian capacity. But perhaps the most important services were those rendered by the moneyed members, by Robert Jenner and William Wheeler, and John and Edward Ashe. In 1643, especially, Waller's campaign was dependent upon their advances. In the same year John Ashe became chairman of the Committee for Compounding. (fn. 99)
It was in the autumn of 1645 that the House began to fill the gaps in its ranks. After a further fruitless attempt to reach a decision about Ashley Cooper, (fn. 100) new writs were issued for the ten Wiltshire vacancies created by the disablements and the two occasioned by deaths. (fn. 101) To hold elections was a hazardous business, not only because they might give royalists a chance to raise their heads again but also on account of the risk of military interference. (fn. 102) In the circumstances candidates were likely to be chosen with discretion and steps taken to secure their election. (fn. 103) Of the first batch of Wiltshire returns, one indeed smacks strongly of sharp practice. At Downton Alexander Thistle thwaite junior, who was in process of being chosen by the Houses as sheriff of Wiltshire, got himself returned on 27 October, the very day on which his appointment was settled. (fn. 104) Compared with this, Alderman John Dove's election for Salisbury (in place of Robert Hyde) looks like a legitimate piece of retribution, (fn. 105) as does Sir John Danvers's for Malmesbury. (fn. 106) Only at Hindon did matters not go according to plan: for after the bailiff and burgesses had chosen Edmund Ludlow, uncle of his celebrated namesake, the general body of inhabitants, or, as the younger Edmund Ludlow called them, 'the rabble of the town', replied by electing George Grobham Howe, a prosperous local parvenu. (fn. 107) The new sheriff evidently played for time before making the double return, but when, early in February, it was considered in the Commons, the House first decided that the certificate was not a good one and then sent it to join the five-year-old Downton dispute in the limbo of the Committee of Privileges. (fn. 108)
The rest of the Wiltshire elections followed in the spring and summer of 1646. They included the election of two knights of the shire, at which young Edmund Ludlow was rewarded for his valiant services by being returned with James Herbert, Pembroke's second son. (fn. 109) Bedwyn, adrift from its Seymour mooring, returned, with a Hungerford, a future regicide in Edmund Harvey, Calne a City magnate in Alderman Rowland Wilson. At Marlborough Charles Fleetwood secured the seat which his grandfather had had nearly a century before, (fn. 110) and at Old Sarum Roger Kirkham enjoyed a brief occupancy before giving place to Sir Richard Lucy. Finally, Wootton Bassett returned Colonel Edward Massey, whose election owed perhaps less to his splendid war-record in north Wiltshire than to his command of the brigade which was still stationed there.
The Wiltshire members, brought up nearly to full strength (fn. 111) with these so-called Recruiters, had to share in decisions scarcely less momentous than those of 1641–2. The earlier division of the House between those for and against the king was soon overlaid by one between those for and against the army. The first issue at stake, the disbandment of part of the army and its transfer to Ireland, was represented in Wiltshire by the discharge of Massey's notorious brigade in the autumn of 1646, an operation in which Edmund Ludlow took a leading part. (fn. 112) But the rest of the army was not so easily disposed of, and in July 1647 its officers impeached the eleven members most obnoxious to them. The eleven included two Wiltshire members, Walter Long and Edward Massey, as well as Denzil Holies. (fn. 113) They first tried to make a fight of it: but in the face of mounting pressure from the army they gave in, and on 20 July they sought and were given six months' leave and permission to retire abroad. Ten days later most of them were back in their seats, borne there on the wave of London's anger at this military dictation. The army replied by occupying the capital, and within a fortnight Long, Massey, and Holies had all fled overseas. Shortly afterwards, Cromwell's intervention in the House resulted in the withdrawal of a large body of Presbyterian members, among them several Wiltshiremen. A count taken early in October showed eleven Wiltshire members, in addition to Long and Massey, absent unexcused: the absentees included Sir Edward Baynton, Sir Edward Hungerford, and John Ashe. (fn. 114)
More than a year was to pass before the army procured a second and more drastic purge of the House. During that time the long-drawn-out negotiations with the king dissolved into the second Civil War. From these hostilities Wiltshire enjoyed a welcome immunity. Towards the end of May 1648 Ludlow, Dove, and James Herbert were sent down 'to provide for, preserve and settle the peace of that county'. (fn. 115) A fortnight later the first two were instructed to investigate an alleged plot to raise 1,000 horse in and about Salisbury and to send up any notability involved. (fn. 116) Sir Edward Hungerford also had to undertake to keep his Somerset house, Farleigh Castle, from being seized by the enemy. (fn. 117) But if nothing came of all this in the county itself, the rebellion did affect the fortunes of the Wiltshire members of Parliament, for many of the absentees among them took advantage of the crisis to re-enter the House. On 3 June the eleven members were exculpated and restored to their places: in the case of Walter Long, since he had been formally disabled and a new writ issued for his seat, it was also necessary to rescind these measures. (fn. 118) With the self-excluded members also showing their faces again, the Wiltshire contingent once more approached its full strength: a count of 26 September 1648 showed only two members absent without excuse. (fn. 119)
But on 6 December Pride's Purge revolutionized the situation. The 143 members forcibly excluded included 13 of the 26 Wiltshire members then probably in actual attendance, among them Massey, Sir John Evelyn, Sir Neville Poole, Sir Henry Vane, and old Sir Benjamin Rudyard. Since all but two of the 13 had sat in the House since before the outbreak of war, the Purge meant a further drastic reduction of the original band of Wiltshire members, whose number now shrank to eight. (fn. 120) These pre-war members combined with an equal number of Recruiters to make a total of 16 Wiltshire members of the Rump, a figure representing one-twelfth of the nominal but one-quarter of the effective strength of that body. (fn. 121) The two outstanding figures among them were Edmund Ludlow and Sir John Danvers. Of the eight Wiltshire members who sat in judgement on the king, they alone signed the death warrant: (fn. 122) and when, two weeks after Charles's execution, the House established a Council of State, both were elected to it. (fn. 123) Their influence was at its height during the next twelve months, after which it underwent a decline. In the case of Ludlow, this decline coincided with his removal from the centre of the political stage. Re-elected to the Council of State in February 1650, (fn. 124) he accepted some months later the appointments of Commissioner and Lieutenant-General of Horse in Ireland. He crossed over in January 1651 and remained there for nearly five years, a hostile but helpless observer of the transition from Commonwealth to Protectorate. Danvers for his part forfeited his place on the Council of State by his impatience of parliamentary longueurs (fn. 125) and had ceased to be of account before his death, at 82, in 1655. But the Wiltshire politician who came most markedly to the fore during the reign of the Rump was one who was not a member of it, Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper. Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1647–8 and a justice of the peace and militia commissioner for Wiltshire and Dorset, Ashley Cooper had already established himself as a local magnate; (fn. 126) and his appointment in January 1652 to membership of the commission on law reform was the first step towards a similar prominence in national politics.
The Rump Parliament, during its final phase, was preoccupied with the problem of its own future. A committee appointed in May 1649 had reported in favour of a reduction of the number of seats to 400 and of their redistribution over the country. Under this plan Wiltshire 'and all places within it' would be allotted 13 seats, and the county fall from second to eleventh place in the size of its representation. (fn. 127) The committee's further recommendation that the existing members should retain their seats as 'part of the said proportion' would have meant that the Wiltshire members, now 13 in number, would have remained and that there would have been no new election in the county. But this device for perpetuating itself was not to save the Rump. An elections bill based on these recommendations was still under discussion when in the spring of 1653 the army's patience was finally exhausted and on 20 April Cromwell expelled the Parliament. There followed the experiment of the Nominated Parliament. In the first week of May 1653 Cromwell and the Army Council dispatched letters to the congregational churches in every county asking for nominations of persons worthy to sit in a new representative assembly. From the names submitted, and from others of its own choosing, the Army Council selected the 129 English members of the Nominated Parliament. In this unique assembly Wiltshire had three members. Two of them, Nicholas Greene and Thomas Eyre, were probably nominated by the local Independents: the third, Ashley Cooper, must have owed his place to the Army Council. (fn. 128) It was in this anomalous way that Ashley Cooper achieved the parliamentary status which had so long eluded him. He came at once to the fore. He was made a member of the Council of State which the Parliament established. He also took a leading part on the committee for law reform and introduced its bills. But it was as one of the leaders of the 'moderate' party in the struggle over tithes that he made his chief mark and commended himself to Cromwell. Thus the dissolution of the Nominated Parliament on 13 December, far from interrupting his political progress, helped him forward. With the promulgation of the Instrument of Government he became a member of the Council of State and one of the leading civilian supporters of the new semi-monarchical government. (fn. 129)
The establishment of the Protectorate was to bring parliamentary life, after the aberration of 1653, back to a more normal course. But in Wiltshire it had a result of a different kind—the royalist rising of 1655. (fn. 130) There, as elsewhere, the first year of the Protectorate saw royalist resistance stimulated by the hope of rallying all shades of opposition to the new regime. Since their share in Charles II's escape after Worcester (fn. 131) the Wiltshire royalists had relapsed into inactivity. But in 1653–4 they began to be drawn into the revived Western League. One of its leading spirits was Hertford's son and heir, Henry, Lord Beauchamp, whose untimely death in March 1654 was a blow which may help to explain the fiasco of the following year. (fn. 132) Another Seymour, Sir Edward Seymour's son Henry, was an active intermediary between Charles and the Western royalists. Thus, even though Hertford himself held aloof, the Seymour interest was partially engaged. The Penruddocks were brought into the centre of the picture by Edward Penruddock, the former six clerk. (fn. 133)
It was after the dissolution of the first Protectorate Parliament in January 1655 that both royalist and republican opponents of the régime made attempts at its overthrow. Wiltshire provided the setting for both efforts. It was at Easton, near Marlborough, that John Wildman was arrested on 10 February while dictating a manifesto against Cromwell. Wildman had settled in Berkshire and he was later to sit in Parliament for Marlborough. But it is doubtful whether his action was connected with the royalist movement in the county. (fn. 134) It is true that a general royalist insurrection had been planned for 13 February, and that in Wiltshire it included a plan for the seizure of Marlborough. This was nipped in the bud by Major Butler, the commander of the local garrison. (fn. 135) Elsewhere in the country the projected rising came to nothing. But in Wiltshire the real blow was struck a month later. The intervening weeks were filled with royalist activity, especially at the fox-hunts which, after horse-racing was banned on 26 February, afforded the best cloak for political gatherings. (fn. 136) The arrival of Sir Joseph Wagstaff, the jovial cavalier who had been dispatched by the Earl of Rochester to command a western rising, gave the Wiltshire royalists a leader and a programme, and the opening of the Salisbury assizes on 12 March fixed the date of their venture.
On the night of Sunday 11 March Wagstaff was met by 60 horsemen in Clarendon Park. There they were joined by John Mompesson with 40 men from Salisbury and, after they had moved westwards to the Blandford Road, (fn. 137) by another 80. It was thus with a total force of 180 men that Wagstaff entered Salisbury in the early hours of Monday morning. His first act was to seize the two judges, Rolles and Nicholas (the latter a Wiltshireman and member for Devizes in the Long Parliament), and the sheriff, John Dove, a man peculiarly obnoxious to royalists. These three Wagstaff would have hanged but for Penruddock's protest against such wanton cruelty: (fn. 138) instead, the judges were released on parole and Dove was carried along as a hostage. (fn. 139) After burning the judges' commission and proclaiming Charles II, breaking open the gaol, recruiting another 200 followers and seizing all the horses they could find, the rebels moved off at eight o'clock along the road through Blandford and Sherborne. By night fall they reached Yeovil, whence on the following morning, all hope of gathering a large force having vanished, they set free the sheriff and hastened westwards upon what was rapidly degenerating into a flight. For two more days the 'Tories', as the Somerset folk dubbed them, (fn. 140) their numbers shrinking through desertion, hurried westwards until on the night of 14 March they were attacked and routed by a troop of horse at South Molton in Devon. Of the leaders only Wagstaff and Mompesson escaped capture: of the rank-and-file about 150 were taken prisoner.
Cromwell was to describe the Wiltshire rebels as 'a company of mean fellows, alas, not a lord, nor a gentleman, nor a man of fortune, nor this, nor that, amongst them'. (fn. 141) This social stigmatization was only partly justified. Of the 70 Wiltshiremen who had been taken prisoner, (fn. 142) 17 could be labelled 'gentlemen' and 7 were household servants. Husbandmen and yeomen together numbered 14, and the remaining 42 represented a variety of rural and urban crafts—a wagoner, a carter, a warrener, and a gardener appearing alongside four tailors, two carpenters, a soap-boiler, a turner, a barber, a cloth-worker and a cordwainer. (fn. 143) The importance of individual example and leadership suggested by this occupational analysis is confirmed by a geographical one. All but a few of the men concerned came from Salisbury or from the valleys radiating north and west from that city. Salisbury itself accounted for 20 of them, including most of the industrial craftsmen: another 13 hailed from the neighbouring villages of Enford and Chisenbury (in Enford), where dwelt two of the leaders, Henry Clarke and Hugh Grove, and 10 more from Compton Chamberlayne, the home of the Penruddocks. This, then, was the venture of a handful of royalist gentlemen, mostly young, supported by some of their household servants and tenants and by a sprinkling of urban working-folk. It drew exclusively on the south-east of the county, and even there it failed utterly to win popular support—compare its puny strength with the Clubmen's a few years earlier in the same region. The abstention of some important figures, and above all of Hertford, undoubtedly conduced to this meagre result, but it is unlikely that their support would have made much difference. Wiltshire was not prepared, any more than the rest of the country, to fight for a Restoration. (fn. 144)
Happily, this forlorn hope was to cost a minimum of bloodshed. The rebel prisoners were tried at three assizes, held at Salisbury, Exeter and Chard. Of the twenty Wiltshiremen indicted of treason, seventeen were sentenced to death, but only six were executed. Two of the ringleaders, Penruddock and Grove, were beheaded, and the remainder—three innkeepers and a yeoman (fn. 145)—were hanged. The only Wiltshireman condemned at Chard, Thomas Hunt of Enford, was smuggled out of Ilchester gaol by his two sisters and made his way abroad. (fn. 146) Most of those reprieved were transported to Barbados, where their sufferings afterwards attracted public attention. (fn. 147) But that, out of perhaps 200 Wiltshiremen involved in the rising, so few should have suffered death or transportation for it is a tribute to the Protector's clemency and also perhaps to his disdain for the 'company of rash fellows, that were at the undertaking of this'. (fn. 148)
The rising was, it is true, to have an aftermath, the rule of the Major-Generals. (fn. 149) In this system of military government Wiltshire was placed, with Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, and Gloucester, under Desborough, who had been charged with the suppression of the rising and whose local powers were made permanent by a commission of 28 May 1655. Six months after that Desborough issued his instructions to the eleven commissioners who were to act under him in Wiltshire, (fn. 150) and in January 1656 the new arrangements for the county militia were put into force. (fn. 151) The men thus vested with supreme authority over the shire were all staunch adherents of the new régime in Church and State. With scarcely an exception they were also men thrown to the surface by the upheavals of the last decade: it was political parvenus like John Dove, the Salisbury brewer turned sheriff and colonel of militia, Nicholas Greene and Thomas Eyre, two of the Puritan 'Saints' of 1653, or Edmund Ludlow's cousin William, now appointed to command the militia, who took the place of the Bayntons, Hungerfords and Longs. They went about their work, and in particular the 'decimation', or penal taxation at 10 per cent., of royalists for the support of the militia, with a zeal which brooked no evasion or resistance. Within a month or two of their appointment, two of them, Holton and Hely, were chiding Cromwell himself for his mistaken tenderness to some of their prospective victims. (fn. 152)
The parliamentary history of the Protectorate is memorable for two things, its shortlived experiment with a new system of representation and the contesting of its elections on party lines. The Instrument of Government had adopted the Rump's proposal, itself borrowed from The Agreement of the People, for a scheme of representation which gave the House 400 English members, two-thirds of them sitting for counties and one-third for boroughs. Wiltshire's quota of members was fourteen: ten were to sit for the county, two for Salisbury, and one each for Devizes and Marlborough. The franchise also underwent partial revision. In county elections the 40-shilling freehold was replaced by the possession of £200 worth of property, real or personal, as the qualification, but the corporation and borough franchises were left unchanged.
The simultaneous election of ten members by the entire propertied population, at a time when that population was deeply divided in its political outlook—this was a novelty calculated to encourage party-electioneering. That it did so in Wiltshire we know from the interesting, if one-sided, account of the election there in 1654 left by Edmund Ludlow. (fn. 153) There were two rival lists of candidates. The first, sponsored by the conservative and governing groups, Cromwellian, Presbyterian, and even Royalist, in the county, was headed by the name of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper. The opposition list, put forward by Republican and Independent elements, began with Edmund Ludlow (who, still in Ireland, was unaware of his nomination) but went on to name Baptists and Fifth Monarchy men of the type which had sat in the Nominated Parliament. The concourse at Wilton on 12 July, the day of the election, was so vast that the rendezvous was transferred to Stonehenge, and it was there that, after speechifying by Ashley Cooper and his ardent supporter, the Puritan divine Adoniram Byfield, (fn. 154) the 'orthodox' decemvirate was elected. At Salisbury and Devizes the election had taken place a few days earlier, at Marlborough it was held on the day the county voted. A by-election for one of the county seats followed early in January 1655. (fn. 155)
The composition of the Wiltshire contingent of 1654 throws an interesting light on the political groupings of the time. Only three of the men elected had been sitting in the Rump at its expulsion—Edward Baynton, William Eyre, and Charles Fleetwood (fn. 156)— but they were joined by four who had been secluded in December 1648—Alexander Thistlethwaite, Thomas Grove, Francis Holies, and James Ashe—and by one member of the Nominated Parliament, Ashley Cooper. (fn. 157) Three other Wiltshire members of the Rump were returned elsewhere, but the other nine dropped out of the ranks, some by reason of age or preferment, (fn. 158) some, like Ludlow, on political grounds. It was the six new members, however, who were most revealing. Salisbury returned, although not without opposition, (fn. 159) its Presbyterian recorder, William Stevens, and Cooper's cousin Edward Tooker: while of the four new county members two were lawyers who had fought for the King, John Norden and William Yorke, (fn. 160) and John Ernie was connected through his mother with the Hoptons. Thus the Wiltshire members were overwhelmingly Presbyterian and conservative, with a distinct flavouring of royalism.
Their political principles did not prevent them from signing the Recognition which the Protector exacted from all members as a condition of their sitting. (fn. 161) That done, they engaged in the business of the session with varying degrees of activity. Those with parliamentary experience were naturally prominent; they all sat on the important Privileges Committee, and to this they added other committees up to 23 in number. (fn. 162) Among the newcomers two lawyers, Yorke and Stevens, quickly came to the fore. (fn. 163) Of their alignment in the debates on the Instrument of Government we catch only occasional glimpses: thus until near the close of the Parliament Ashley Cooper is found on the government side in divisions, (fn. 164) whereas Edward Baynton's vote against giving the Protector a veto on the constitutional bill was clearly hostile to it. (fn. 165)
The seventeen months which separated Cromwell's dissolution of this Parliament from the meeting of his second were to see, at home, the rising of 1655 and the appointment of the Major-Generals, and abroad the onset of the Spanish War. It is therefore not surprising that the election of 1656 was ordered differently from that of 1654. This time the government stepped in and, through Desborough, had its say in the nomination of 'sober and good men' (fn. 166) instead of royalists and crypto-royalists. And when it came to the election the sheriff, Robert Hippesley, struck a shrewd blow by shifting the shire court from Wilton to Devizes, (fn. 167) while at Salisbury the Presbyterian element was swamped by the enfranchisement of its opponents. (fn. 168) How far these measures answered their purpose has to be gauged from the new roll of members. (fn. 169) The royalists were certainly swept away, as were some other opponents of the government. (fn. 170) But neither those of the former House who came back, nor those who now joined them, could have been wholly to the government's liking. 'Decimation' commissioners and militia officers like Hely, Scotton, and William Ludlow, and the new Mayor of Salisbury, these could be relied on, and neither Sir Walter St. John nor Richard Grobham Howe was likely to give trouble. But Alexander Popham, John Bulkeley, and Henry Hungerford were all in different ways suspect or obnoxious. The 'purge' thus only partially successful at the hustings the government decided to complete by refusing admittance to some of those returned: and the four Wiltshire members excluded, with about a hundred from other counties, were Ashley Cooper, Popham, Bulkeley, and Hungerford. Ashley Cooper had fallen from grace at the end of the previous Parliament, when he had registered his disapproval of Cromwell's constitutional failure by withdrawing from the Council of State. Popham was a suspected conspirator, (fn. 171) Hungerford an unrepentant Secluder, and Bulkeley a consistent anti-Cromwellian in 1654. (fn. 172) Their exclusion probably caused more than one of their fellow-members to withdraw in protest. We know that Thistlethwaite did so, and both Thomas Grove and Sir Walter St. John may have supported him. (fn. 173)
These absentees reduced the Wiltshire contingent of 1656 to half its size and robbed it of most of its quality. Not until the reappearance of Grove and Thistlethwaite at the end of the year did Wiltshire members play much part in the House. But on his return Grove threw himself into its business both as a debater and as a committee-man. (fn. 174) In a discussion of the validity of parliamentary ordinances he mixed a review of recent history with a kind of political apologia.
I have [he said], as great an opinion of the Long Parliament as any man, especially till violence was offered them, but they were not infallible. They were the representatives of the people, but many of them were kept out, and others brought in, not by the people. (fn. 175) Some things they did, such as giving £1,000 a year, and £500 to one another; and the High Court of Justice I cannot give my consent to, and I think a great many here will not. Divers suffered by that court, whose death I would be loth to have a finger in. I mean not of the king. (fn. 176)
Among the measures which Grove and his fellow Wiltshiremen had to consider in this session were two of local interest. The first, a bill to pardon John Dean and others still in custody for their part in the rising, passed without difficulty. (fn. 177) More contentious was the bill to transfer the shire court from Wilton to Devizes. This attempt to confirm by statute the change already made by the sheriff did not get beyond the committee stage, (fn. 178) and since all the Wiltshire members had been appointed to the committee its opponents presumably contrived to kill it there. (fn. 179)
The first session of this Parliament ended in June 1657 with Cromwell's acceptance of the revised Humble Petition and Advice, which provided for the restoration of an Upper House. Thus when Parliament reassembled in the following January it did so, for the first time since 1649, in two Houses. The new Upper House nominated by the Protector included one of the Wiltshire members, Charles Fleetwood: a second, Alexander Popham, declined to take his seat. (fn. 180) But Popham, with his three fellows excluded in 1656, benefited by the terms of the Act of Adjournment in being once more free to sit in the Commons, and the Wiltshire contingent thus returned to nearly its full strength. Its reunion was to be brief. The attack which the returned members, notably Ashley Cooper, launched upon the 'Other House' infuriated Cromwell, and within a fortnight of its reassembly he dissolved the Parliament. (fn. 181)
When the next one met, a year later, the Protectorate itself was in process of dissolution: Oliver was dead and his son Richard had been installed in his place. Richard Cromwell's Parliament, elected on the old franchise and system of representation, belongs more to the Restoration than to the Interregnum: (fn. 182) thus nearly half its Wiltshire members were to be returned again in 1660 or 1661. But the return to normal parliamentary life was to be first interrupted and then ensured by the recall of the Rump, an assembly whose constitutional impeccability was qualified only by its unrepresentativeness. Of the sixteen Wiltshire members who had been expelled with their fellows in April 1653 thirteen were still alive in May 1659, and all of them took their seats. (fn. 183) They included three of the key-figures, Ludlow, Vane, and Fleetwood, all of whom, together with Robert Reynolds, became members of the new Council of State. Ludlow's reappointment to the command in Ireland removed him from the scene before the reexpulsion of 13 October, the act which forfeited Fleetwood's authority in the House, and Vane was expelled in January 1660. The eclipse of these personalities was, however, offset, when the Rump reassembled in December 1659, by the admission, at long last, of Ashley Cooper as member for Downton: and six weeks later the forcible return of the secluded members reinforced the Wiltshire ranks with four veterans in Edward Baynton, Sir John Evelyn, Henry Hungerford, and Alexander Thistlethwaite. It was thus rather less than half the Wiltshire members of 1648 who took part in the parliamentary moves leading to the Restoration.
These successive changes in the county's representation at Westminster had their counterpart within its borders. Wiltshire escaped serious implication in the troubles of 1659 which issued in Booth's rising. The royalist emissary in the west was Edward Massey, who laboured throughout the early summer to foment a rising in Gloucestershire. But the two men upon whom he built his hopes, Alexander Popham and John Grobham Howe, both shrank from committing themselves, (fn. 184) and his own attempt of 1 August to seize Gloucester was foiled. (fn. 185) During these critical months Wiltshire was kept under close surveillance. Throughout the summer the county was policed by the militia, (fn. 186) and in July and August there was a crop of arrests and seizures of horses and arms. Among those taken into custody were Popham, Denzil Holies, and Edward Penruddock, (fn. 187) while towards the close of August the tireless Major Dewy, commanding the Dorset militia, arrested Ashley Cooper on suspicion of corresponding with Booth. Cooper succeeded in clearing himself before the Council of State, and his fellow suspects were all eventually released.
The crisis which preceded the second restoration of the Rump had a sharp repercussion in the county. In December 1659 four troops of cavalry assembled at Warminster, where, under the leadership of Major Unton Croke—the officer who five years before had sealed Penruddock's fate at South Molton—they drew up a declaration calling for the reassembly of the Long Parliament. They then marched off towards Portsmouth to join Haslerig and Morley, who had already seized that town in the same interest. (fn. 188) They left behind them a populace which showed much sympathy with their demands and which two months later greeted the news of Monk's declaration in favour of a free Parliament with bell-ringing and bonfires. (fn. 189) Against the rising tide of popular emotion the few champions of the 'Good Old Cause' struggled in vain. Ludlow's attempt of April 1660 to win support in the county for Lambert's projected rising was a forlorn hope which did not survive its hero's arrest, (fn. 190) and within a few months Wiltshire's great Republican was driven into an exile which would last until the Revolution. A tumult among the sectaries on the Gloucestershire border at the time of Venner's rising in London (fn. 191) was the last fling against a government which was soon to take effective measures against such irreconcilables.