COLLECTIONS & RESEARCH

Civil War and Rebellion

Cover from one of the contemporary accounts of the Siege of Lyme

The Civil War and the Siege of Lyme…

Mary Tudor called Lyme ‘that heretic town’ and stopped an annual grant for maintenance of the Cobb. The town seems often to have been a thorn in the side of sovereigns: certainly it had a reputation for radical thinking on religious as well as political matters. So it’s no surprise to find Lyme stoutly defending itself again in 1644 against the army of Prince Maurice, nephew of King Charles I. Lyme was staunchly Parliamentarian.

The defence of Lyme was organised by Colonel (later Admiral) Robert Blake and the women of the town played an important part by helping to dig trenches, man earthworks and load muskets. The brave defence was crucially supported from the sea, and after a five-week siege from April till June, Prince Maurice withdrew after heavy losses, defeated by ‘this little vile fishing town defended by a small dry ditch’.
Portrait of the Duke of Monmouth and other protestant martyrs including William and Benjamin Hewling from Lyme, from the Western Martyrology, 1705

Rebellion

When in 1685 James, Duke of Monmouth, illegitimate son of Charles II, sailed from Holland with the purpose of claiming the throne from his Catholic uncle James II, he chose Lyme as his landing place because of its Protestant sympathies. He landed on 11 June 1685, collected an army of volunteers, and began to march towards London.

His untrained army, some 3,000 strong, was defeated at Sedgemoor near Taunton on 5 July. The Government sent the Lord Chief Justice, Baron Jeffreys, to make sharp retribution: in the Bloody Assizes which followed, hundreds were condemned to death or transportation. Ninety-nine men from Lyme were arrested, and twelve of them were executed at Lyme on the beach where Monmouth had landed.

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