Six Scenes from the English Civil War: Vignettes of Colonel John Hutchinson – Roundhead, Radical & Regicide.

Scenes from an unpublished play, ‘Vignettes of Colonel Hutchinson’ written (in typescript) in the early 1960s by Rev Arthur James Chandler, then Pastor of Daybrook Baptist Church in Nottingham, edited with added historical notes by Dr Andrew James Chandler.

The Civil Wars in England, 1642-51, showing battles, sieges & garrisons.

Background: The Outbreak of the First Civil War in England:

On 4 January 1642, Charles I did something that no monarch had done before him. He entered the House of Commons accompanied by armed guards to arrest the five MPs he regarded as being ringleaders of the movement against him. The move failed as the MPs had been forewarned. Noting their absence, the King curtly commented, It seems the birds have flown. But before long, he too was forced to flee the capital. By now parliament had approved the Militia Ordinance establishing local Trained Bands which did not answer to the Crown. Charles began to muster his own supporters in Wales, ‘the Marches’ and the North.

Map of the Start of the English Civil War, by Wenceslaus Hollar, 1642.

When the king set out from York for Nottingham in August 1642, after issuing a proclamation on 12th for troops to rally to his standard ten days later, he himself commanded only about eight hundred cavalrymen and even fewer infantrymen. On 20th May Charles had formed a personal guard at York of two hundred gentlemen volunteers, all from Yorkshire and many of them Catholics, but though he caused his drums to be repeatedly beaten during the three months to his entry into Nottingham, very few volunteers came forward. He had made forays into Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, but while groups of the local gentry in these counties were willing to raise troops and even regiments of horse, using their influence over among their substantial tenants and their yeomen neighbours, at the lower social levels from which infantrymen were drawn the response was miserable.

This was not simply ‘apathy’ or passivity. There was a very widespread reluctance, throughout England and Wales, to accept the war as ‘inevitable’ and there were many pro-active local attempts at pacts of neutrality. It has been argued that that the increasing pressure and self-assertion of the ‘middling sort’, right down to artisans and apprentices, transformed the political confrontation of 1640-41 into a social revolution by 1642 and that, in consequence of this, ‘the royalists’ or ‘the cavaliers’ came into being as a ‘party of order’. But this is to overstate the political initiative and consistency of purpose among the ‘rebelling classes’ and to represent the London area as far too typical. It also oversimplifies the motives of most royalists, but it does help to explain how, by October, the king was able to field an army on equal terms to the parliamentarians in the first major battle of the War. By the time the royalist army assembled at Edgehill in Warwickshire, its prospects had been transformed. Charles’ forces were now more than twenty thousand strong, of whom about fourteen thousand mustered on the ridge in the early morning of 23rd October.

Charles had at first moved swiftly past Nottingham to Coventry, where Warwickshire’s magazine was kept. The Puritan citizens of the walled city kept the King outside the gates, and on the 24th of August, they welcomed the Roundhead recruits and Brooke’s men who had seen off Northampton’s forces in a skirmish near Southam the previous day. Charles chose Nottingham as the place to raise his standard because the city and its castle had been the royal residence in the north since early medieval times. Seventeen-year-old Edward III staged a successful coup d’état at Nottingham Castle (19 October 1330) against his mother Isabella of France, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. He then used the castle as a residence and held parliaments there. Edward IV proclaimed himself king in Nottingham, and in 1476 he ordered the construction of a new tower and Royal Apartments. During the reign of Henry VII, the castle remained a royal fortress but Henry VIII ordered new tapestries from Cornelius van der Strete for the castle before he visited Nottingham in August 1511. By 1536 Henry had the castle reinforced and its garrison increased from a few dozen men to a few hundred. However, the castle had ceased to be a royal residence by 1600 and was rendered largely obsolete in the seventeenth century by artillery. A short time following the outbreak of the English Civil War, the castle was already in a semi-ruined state after a number of skirmishes occurred on the site. So although at the start of the Civil War, in August 1642, Charles I chose Nottingham as the rallying point for his armies, soon after he departed, the castle rock was made properly defensible and thereafter held by the Parliamentarians.

Unknown primary source

Despite these early clashes, when Charles decided to raise his standard over Nottingham on the 22nd of August, the war looked far from inevitable to most with an interest in national events. As yet, he was in no position to do more than wage a symbolic, heraldic war, rather than the real thing. Far fewer counties had produced men, money and plate for him than for parliament. The navy had come out for parliament, and the king had suffered the indignity of being locked out from Hull by its governor, Sir John Hotham. An attempt by Lord Strange to seize an arms depot in the, then, little Lancashire town of Manchester had ended with his troop of cavalry being chased out of town by indignant, armed fustian weavers. But the king had been promised troops and horse in thousands from Wales and Shrewsbury, and he evidently felt confident that the quality of his officers and the rapid training that his professional soldiers, not least the young Prince Rupert, were giving the cavalry would prevail over the superior numbers of the parliamentary army. So the standard was to go up, the Rubicon (or rather the Trent) was to be crossed, and the man to whom this honour was to be given was the fifty-two-year-old Sir Edmund Verney (below).

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It was a ‘heavy’ duty, quite literally, for the thing needed twenty men to get it upright in the field just outside Nottingham Castle. Much of the fashion of the City streamers used at the Lord Mayor’s Show, one antiquarian remembered, several flags were mounted on a huge pole, the top one being the king’s personal arms, with a hand pointing towards the Crown and beneath it, the imperious, optimistic motto, Give Caesar His Due. The flag was paraded around by three troops of horse and six hundred ‘foot’. Just as the trumpets were about to sound and the herald to read the royal proclamation. Charles suddenly asked for paper, a quill and, still on horseback, started to make some last-minute revisions. When he was done and the herald nervously attempted to read the document, corrections and all, the flag went up, along with the army’s hats, high into the air. It was a cheerless and muted ceremony, at which Charles’ melancholy looks betrayed his disappointment. So few came to witness it that he didn’t even have enough foot-soldiers to furnish a round-the-clock guard. The standard was then carried back to the castle and hoisted to be seen for miles about. But that night a powerful storm got up and the flag was blown down. It was two days before the winds and rain abated enough for it to be raised once more. Those (and there were plenty) who were in the habit of searching for omens were not encouraged. For Sir Edmund Verney, though, the die was cast. His charge read…

that by the grace of God they that would wrest the standard from his hand must first wrest his soul from his body.

Charles’ melancholy looks, on a miniature by Van Dyck.

The skirmishes and clashes between the two sides continued across the west and south Midlands until the end of October, when the two armies finally met at Edgehill, near the road from Warwick to Banbury, on the 23rd, for the first ‘staged’ battle of the Civil War.

The battlefield of Edgehill today. The distant Radway tower marks the spot where Sir Edmund Verney raised the royal standard.

At the Battle, …


Owthorpe House, Nottinghamshire on 22 August 1642:

Lucy Hutchinson is present, (the wife of Colonel John Harrison, future Parliamentarian army officer and regicide…) Thomas, a servant is also present:

“Lucy (incredulously): You say that King Charles came to Nottingham today, Thomas.

Thomas (speaking in Nottingham dialect): Yes, ma’am, everybody said it was the king. There were hundreds of soldiers marching with him, and he was in the middle riding on a horse and lots of gentlemen with him too all riding on horses, eight hundred of them they say, I saw them with my own eyes, ma’am.

Lucy: But where did they come from, Thomas, and in which direction did they go?

Thos: I don’t rightly know where they came from, ma’am except they came in along the road from Mansfield and rode right into the Market Place. If I hadn’t had to call at the saddler’s and one or two other places with messages from the master, I’d have stayed round about to see what was up.

Lucy: Well, Thomas, Mr Hutchinson is in Nottingham today and should be back any time now: he’ll know what it’s all about. I do hope it doesn’t mean trouble of any kind. Nowadays we don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to another.

Thos: True, ma’am, and there has been news of fighting in Yorkshire. I hope it doesn’t spread round here (clip-clop of horses’ hooves is heard outside). I hear the master’s horse in the courtyard ma’am. I will go and let him in. (Exit)

(Clip-clop again as the horse is led away to the stable)

Enter John Hutchinson (flings his cape and riding crop down onto a chair or settee and advances to greet Lucy).

Lucy: John! I am glad to see you back safe and sound.

JH: Did you think my horse might have thrown me, Lucy?

Lucy: I’d like to see the horse that could throw you, John. No, Thomas has been telling me about things he saw earlier today in Nottingham.

JH: About the king riding into the City with a regiment of soldiers?

Lucy: Yes, John, what is it all about? I hope he comes peaceably.

JH: Peaceably? No, Lucy, he does not come peaceably. The king arrived in Nottingham this morning from York and called for the Mayor to consult with him. The Mayor wasn’t very anxious to go but he had no choice. He went expecting to receive a rebuff. The King, however, accepted the Mace from the Mayor, but it was noticed that he did not give him his hand to kiss. At six o’clock this evening, Charles erected his standard on the hill just inside the castle gates. He denounced Parliament, branding its members and soldiers ‘traitors’ and called upon all ‘good men and true’ to rally to his colours. It wasn’t a very impressive occasion. It was raining and apart from the men he had brought with him and several hundred infantry from the county trained bands, summoned to the by the sheriff, nobody was very enthusiastic. Some of the crowd threw their hats in the air, gave a whoop and cried, ‘God save King Charles and hang up the Roundheads’. Then the Standard was taken back to the castle where it flies from the topmost tower.

Lucy: Oh John, what does it mean?

JH: War I’m afraid, Lucy, it means War! There have been some skirmishes in Yorkshire, mainly around Hull, but this action of the King’s is going to mean war between friends and neighbours; civil war, that most bitter of all wars. War – as bloody as that flag which demands that we give Caesar his due, as red as the pole from which it was flown!

Lucy: God forbid, John. Perhaps it won’t come to that. Have many people joined him?

JH: Not in Nottingham as far as I can judge, and I don’t think many will. The Mayor will get himself out of his agreement with Charles as soon as the King takes himself away with his soldiers. I don’t think any of the Aldermen will rally to the Crown except, perhaps Alderman Toplady: he’s always been a Royalist. With a few exceptions, the burgesses are solidly behind Parliament. But it’s going to mean war, Lucy, I can’t see anything else for it. Things have gone too far and the differences are too deep for it to be prevented.

Lucy: But the county, John? If war comes, what side will the county take?

JH: The tenants and labourers will follow their landlords, of course, though perhaps not always enthusiastically. Many of the gentry are for the King, though by no means all. The substantial freeholders and the middle sorts generally are for Parliament. The Sheriff, John Digby, is a Royalist, so is the Earl of Chesterfield, likewise Lord Newark. Our neighbour Kingston of Holme Pierrepoint, wavers, I don’t know which side he will take. Sir John Gell of Hopton, surprisingly enough, is for Parliament.

Lucy: Sir John Gell? Why on earth should that man fight for Parliament? He has neither understanding enough to judge the equity of the cause nor piety nor holiness to choose for religion’s sake. Why does he choose Parliament?

JH: No one knows why. Those who fight for Parliament will have some strange bedfellows.

Lucy: And you John, what are you going to do?

JH: A decision must be made, Lucy, but these are desperate and dangerous days. To choose the losing side will mean ruin, death maybe. To choose the winning side hardly more. To choose neither side would save us only for a time, and both sides would consider us traitors. What ought we to do?

Lucy: I have no doubt what you will do, John. Your politics are well known; your religious principles are as well known in London as they are here. John, there’s not a man in the country but knows which side you will choose. Tell me, isn’t that so?

JH: It is so, Lucy. If it has really come to a trial of strength between king and parliament, there can be only one choice for us. The issue at stake is whether the will of the king or the will of parliament is to have final sway in England and we can do no other than support parliament. But the choice isn’t easy. Few of our neighbours will be with us. Parliament itself is far from perfect. Some of its members I trust, some I suspect. There are good and bad among them, honest men and hypocrites. But if Charles has really flung down the gauntlet, then our choice must be for parliament with all its faults. But it’s risky business, Lucy, a risky business and I can only see in it suffering and loss for us. Still, the situation must be faced and may God be with us as we step into a turbulent future.

(John puts a comforting arm around Lucy; they slowly walk out of the room).


An early nineteenth-century view of Owthorpe Hall.

NOTES for Scene II:

A large manor house, Owthorpe Hall was located near the ‘Domesday’ village of the same name on the ‘wolds’ to the southeast of Nottingham until it burned to the ground in a fire in the late 1820s. It was the seat of the Hutchinson family, one famous member of which was John Hutchinson. Owthorpe Hall came into the possession of the Hutchinsons by purchase. Sir Thomas Hutchinson, who was High Sheriff of Notts in the time of James I became the owner of the entire Manor. John and Lucy Hutchinson moved there from London in 1641 with their two children, and a third child was born there soon after. The Hall was situated on rising ground in the Vale of Belvoir, near the Roman road, the Fosseway, at a distance of two miles from Langar, and seven miles from Belvoir Castle. The Rev. Julius Hutchinson, a descendant of the great Parliamentarian, visited the ancestral home about 1775 at the time of its sale by the family. He described it as standing to the east of the village and its church. The house was…

” … large, handsome, lofty, and convenient, possessing all the grace that size and symmetry could give it. The entrance was by a flight of handsome steps into a large hall, occupying entirely the centre of the house, lighted at the entrance by two large windows, but at the further end by one much larger, in the expanse of which was carried up a staircase that seemed to be perfectly in the air. On one side of the hall was a long table, on the other a large fireplace: both suited to ancient hospitality. On the right-hand side of the hall were three handsome rooms for the entertainment of guests. The sides of the staircase and gallery were hung with pictures, and both served as an orchestra either to the hall or to a large room over part of it, which was a ballroom. To the left of the hall were the rooms commonly occupied by the family. All parts were built so substantially, and so well secured, that neither fire nor thieves could penetrate from room to room, nor from one flight of stairs to another, if ever so little resisted.”

The outlook and grounds surrounding the house were described as follows:

“The western side of the house was covered by the offices, a small village, and a church, interspersed with many trees. The south, which was the front of the entrance, looked over a large extent of grass grounds which were the demesne and were bounded by hills covered with woods which Colonel Hutchinson had planted. On the eastern side, the entertaining rooms opened on to a terrace, which encircled a very large bowling-green or level lawn; next to this had been a flower garden, and next to that a shrubbery, now become a wood, through which vistas were cut to let in a view of Langar, the seat of Lord Howe, at two miles, and of Belvoir Castle, at seven miles distance. At the further end of this small wood was a spot (of about ten acres), which appeared to have been a morass, and through which ran a rivulet. This spot Colonel Hutchinson had dug into a great number of canals, and planted the ground between them, leaving room for walks, so that the whole formed at once a wilderness or bower, reservoirs for fish, and a decoy for wildfowl. To the north, at some hundreds yards distance, was a lake of water, which, filling the space between the two-quarters of woodland, appeared, as viewed from the large window of the hall, like a moderate river, and beyond this, the eye rested on the wolds or high wilds which accompany the fosse-way towards Newark.”

Col. Hutchinson’s fishponds

The house, the descendant wrote, had been deserted for near forty years but had resisted the ravages of time so well as to discover the masterly hand by which it had been planned and executed. The family vault under the nave of the church is now sealed off, but when the floor gave way in 1859 it was found to contain seventeen coffins. None of the buildings survives, but there remain a series of fishponds off Swab’s Lane, originally dug by Col. Hutchinson.

The interior of St Margaret’s Church. Source: Wikipedia

Lucy Hutchinson, née Apsley (1620–1681), was a biographer and poet, and the first person to translate the complete text of Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) into English. She also wrote Order and Disorder, arguably the first epic poem written by a woman in the English language, a verse paraphrase of the Book of Genesis, offering parallels to John Milton’s Paradise Lost

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Lucy Hutchinson 1620-81

Lucy was born on 29 January 1620 in the Tower of London, where her father, Sir Allen Apsley, was Lieutenant. She was named after her mother, Lady Lucy St John, and was the second of ten children. At the age of eighteen, she was married on 3 July 1638 in St. Andrew Holborn to John Hutchinson, aged twenty-three. She claimed, in her biography of him, that he was in part attracted to her intellectual and poetic accomplishments. At first, they lived in London where they had twin sons and then moved to Owthorpe at the beginning of the Civil War in 1641 where a third son was born. 

An ardent Puritan, Lucy Hutchinson held fast to her Calvinist convictions to the end of her life in 1681. She has a place in literary history mainly for her biography of her husband, Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson, her works in poetry and translation are also remarkable. In addition, her biography also provides an important historical source since it throws light upon the characteristics and conditions of the life of Puritan families before and during the English Civil War. Intended for her family only, the manuscript was printed by a descendant in 1806, and became a popular and influential account of that period, being republished in 1846. Lucy Hutchinson’s biography of her husband was recently reprinted in 2010. In it, she also revealed her own radical puritan views on marriage when she commented that Edward the Confessor was sainted for his ungodly chastity. Referring to her biography and writings of other contemporary ‘Puritans’, the historian Christopher Hill wrote in his (1972) book, The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution;

Then, as now, sin meant sex for Puritans. The sexual revolution which was an important part of the introduction of the protestant ethic meant replacing property marriage (with love outside marriage) by a monogamous partnership, ostensibly based on mutual love, and a business partnership in the affairs of the family. The wife was subordinate to the husband, but no slave. The abolition of monasteries and nunneries symbolized the replacement of the celibate ideal (‘stinking chastity’…) by the concept of chastity in marriage. The dual standard of sexual conduct in marriage was replaced, at least as an ideal, by a single standard applied to both sexes. … By and large the popular theatre for which Shakespeare wrote was in favour of monogamous wedded love.

John and Lucy Hutchinson’s marriage certainly appeared to be a ‘model’ monogamous puritan one. They had nine children in all. Their son John Hutchinson was born in 1650 at Owthorpe. Of their daughters most is known of Barbara, who married Andrew Orgill. After John’s death at Sandown Castle in 1664, Lucy and her children were able to remain at Owthorpe until her declining income forced her to sell the estate in 1671. Lucy sold the house to John’s brother Charles and returned to London, but she was buried in the nearby Church in the Hutchinson tomb next to her husband a decade later, in 1681. In the first scene of the play, set in 1669, two of his children, John and Barbara, now grown up, find their mother’s manuscript and begin reading about their father:

“He possessed a most amiable countenance which carried with it something of magnanimity and majesty. He had a skill in fencing, such as became a gentleman. He had a great love of music and often directed himself to the viol on which he played masterly.As soon as he had improved his natural understanding with the acquisition of learning, the first knowledge he laboured for was a knowledge of God… Never had a man greater passion for a woman, nor more honourable esteem for a wife. So constant was his love that when she ceased to be young and lovely, he began to show more fondness. He was as free from avarice as from pride and ambition.”

Writing about the reign of James I, Lucy contrasted her husband’s puritan values with those of the Jacobean court:

“Then began murder, incest, adultery, drunkenness, swearing, fornication and all kinds of ribaldry not to be concealed, but (openly) countenanced vices because they held such (to be) conformity with the court example … if any grieved at the dishonour of the kingdom, or the griping of the poor, or unjust oppression… by a thousand ways invented to maintain the riots of the courtier… if any showed any favour to any godly honest persons, kept them company, relieved them in want or protected them against unjust oppression, he was a Puritan. If any gentleman in his country maintained the good laws of the land… or stood for good order and government, he was a Puritan… and if Puritans, enemies to the king and his government,… hypocrites, disturbed of the public peace, and finally the pest of the kingdom. “

At the end of this first scene, they ask their mother if she thought often of the days when their father was Governor of Nottingham and a leading parliamentary officer. She replies:

“Those days! What days! Dangerous and perplexing days. Civil war, into which King Charles had plunged the country, raging across the land and our fellow countrymen compelled to choose either to fight for the King or for Parliament. John had a great cause. For we risked everything we had – and lost much of it. But were we, or they, wholly in the right?”

Colonel John Hutchinson, 1615-64, from a family painting
PD-US, (copyright expired).

Unlike his Royalist father, Sir Thomas Hutchinson, who represented Nottinghamshire in the Long Parliament, John Hutchinson took the parliamentary side when Charles I raised his standard at Nottingham Castle in 1642. He accepted a commission as lieutenant-colonel in the regiment raised by Colonel Francis Pierrepont and became one of the first members of the parliamentary committee for Nottinghamshire. John first distinguished himself in action by preventing Lord Newark, the lord-lieutenant of the County, from seizing the county powder magazine for the king’s service. His defiant stand in preventing the King’s men from seizing the county’s store of gunpowder eventually secured him the Governorship of Nottingham Castle the following year.

Victorian reconstruction of the likely appearance of the castle in the late medieval period
James Mackenzie (1830-1900) – Mackenzie, James D. (1896) The Castles of England: Their Story and Structure, Vol II. New York: Macmillan.
Public Domain
File: Nottingham castle reconstruction.jpg
Created: 1 January 1896

“SCENE III: A room in Nottingham Castle. It is autumn (November) 1643: War has been in progress for more than a year; John Hutchinson is now a Colonel and Governor of Nottingham Castle. The general atmosphere is that of a fortress.

Present: Captain Palmer and Captain-Lieutenant Poulter. The latter is a nephew of Sir Thomas Hutchinson and therefore a relation of John Hutchinson. He is ‘a stout young gentleman who has seen some service abroad’. Capt. Lieut. is, I imagine what we should now call Lieut-Colonel and Lieut-General. … Captain Palmer is a somewhat bigoted ‘Independent’. … He was the pastor of an independent church in Nottingham and was, I think, the founder of the congregation which is now Castlegate Congregational Church … His people asked him to take the rank of Captain, which he was very ready to do, though against Colonel Hutchinson’s advice. Both are … officers in the Parliamentary Army.

Poulter: Events have moved quickly, Captain, since August last year when the king raised his standard within the grounds of this very castle.

Palmer: They have indeed, Mr Poulter. His ‘ungracious’ Majesty didn’t stay long in Nottingham, I’m glad to say, he and his good-for-nothing courtiers. They scampered off within three weeks and good riddance! I never laughed so much as when his standard blew down. (laughs heartily and rather raucously).

Poulter: Yes, it was amusing – and within a day or two of its being set up. Let’s hope it is a portent for the course of the war.

Palmer: Portent! Of course, it is. When the winds of the Almighty get blowing around His precious Majesty, he’ll fall as quickly as his standard did.

Many important towns, including Newark, York, Bristol, Oxford, Chester, Hereford, Carlisle and Colchester were besieged during the Civil War.
They built bastions, high fortified mounds topped with thick stone walls.

Poulter: I’m not so sure about that, Captain Palmer. He’s strongly entrenched in Oxford and he has garrisons all over the country. You’ve only to look at Newark – swarming with royalist soldiers and Newark Castle is practically impregnable. I’ve seen service abroad, Captain, and I know a fortified town when I see one. He’s fortifying many of the country mansions too.

Palmer: Not all of them, Poulter, not all of them. We have Broxtowe Hall in this district and Wollaton, too, and if Owthorpe’s fortified at all it’s for Parliament, the Colonel will have seen to that.

Poulter: The Colonel’s been too busy fortifying this place – castle and town – to do too much about his own house, what with defence works at the Trent bridges and Sneinton, the cannon mounted and powder and match made for the cannon. Do you know if the Colonel’s lady – Mrs Hutchinson, is still at Owthorpe.

Palmer: She was last time I heard of her but she won’t be for long if the rumours I’ve heard are true. She’ll be in Newark Castle kicking her heels in a dungeon and a mighty useful hostage for the Royalists.

Poulter: (springing up in alarm). Why, what have you heard? Enemy troops abroad?

Palmer: Plenty of them. Mi’lord Chesterfield has several parties ravaging the Vale of Belvoir. They’ve sacked two or three great houses this week and taken everything they could lay their hands on. Once they get wind that Lucy Hutchinson is still at Owthorpe, and unguarded, she won’t stay there another day.

Poulter: But doesn’t the Colonel know? Why doesn’t he get her here into Nottingham Castle? She’d be safe here – at least as safe as anyone can be in Nottingham.

Palmer: I don’t know whether the Colonel knows or not. It’s not my business to enlighten him. It’s his job as Governor of this castle to find out.

Poulter: But it is your business to enlighten him, Captain. You’re an officer under his command. Have you something against the Colonel that you won’t pass on information that comes your way? – especially when it means his wife is in danger?

Palmer: Not really. He’s a good enough soldier, I suppose, though he’s not proved it yet. Poulter, do you consider he’s as reliable as people think?

Poulter: In my opinion, Captain Palmer, for what it’s worth, Colonel Hutchinson is one of the most reliable and efficient officers Parliament has been fortunate enough to find. He’s simply idolised in his own country. I was out there last week with a training squad, we stopped for refreshment at an inn and I heard what they had to say about him, people from his own estate.

Palmer: Oh yes, I know. I daresay he’s treated them well enough…

Poulter: And you know the Colonel’s orders, Captain – whenever we stop with for refreshment the bill’s to be paid. He hands over the cash to the officer-in-charge – and it comes out of his pocket; he gets no allowance for it from the funds.

Palmer: Oh yes, it pays him to keep on the right side of these folks; you never know what the next year or two may bring. Anyway, you’re a relation of his, it’s natural that you should support the Colonel.

Poulter: Captain Palmer, you surprise me. Aren’t you an officer? Aren’t you loyal to Parliament? Weren’t you a minister among the independents before you took up arms? Aren’t you fighting against the enemies of freedom?

Palmer: Yes, I’m all that, Mr Poulter. But what I don’t like about Colonel Hutchinson is that he’s too squeamish over the prisoners. – looks after them as if they were our own men. It’s what makes me wonder if he’s reliable a parliamentary man as he ought to be – seems to be as though he’s keeping well in with both sides. As for the prisoners, let ’em rot in the dungeon. That’s what I say. An eye for an eye, that’s me. Besides, he didn’t want me as one of his captains, neither did his lady. You know my people wanted me to take a commission as their leader, but Hutchinson said ‘No’. He didn’t think a minister of religion ought to take up arms at all. “You join up as chaplain,” he said, “let someone else be company captain”. Why, Poulter? What’s he got against me?

Poulter: Nothing, Captain Palmer, nothing I am sure. I’m one of the Lord’s people as you are – at least I hope I am – and I sway towards the Independents and I consider Colonel Hutchinson one of the finest Christian gentlemen it has ever been my privilege to meet.

Palmer: You haven’t got a holy hatred for the enemies of God, Lieutenant… I shall consider it my duty to instil into you some of these worthy sentiments.”

(Enter Colonel Hutchinson, Governor to Nottingham Castle. Both officers rise briskly and salute – Lieut. Poulter a little more briskly than Palmer. The Colonel returns their salutes.)

JH: Lieutenant, I’ve an important task for you.

Poulter: Yes, sir.

JH: And it must be done tonight without fail.

Poulter: Yes, sir. What are my duties?

JH: At ten o’clock tonight, sharp, you will leave the castle with a troop of horses: a dozen men with a sergeant will be enough. Make your way directly through the City towards the river: make sure nobody is about before you cross the bridge, then go by the quietest routes you know to Owthorpe Hall and bring back my wife with what servant or servants she chooses to bring, and our two children.

Poulter: Yes sir. The best way will be through Gamston and Clipstone?

JH: Perhaps so, I leave the route to you. The moon rises at two. You must be back at the Castle at all costs by then.

Poulter: Yes sir.

JH: You know the reason for this mission?

Poulter: I think so, sir.

JH: The Earl of Chesterfield is abroad with a party of horsemen. He will raid Owthorpe at any time. I can’t spare the men to make an open sally by day, we are too weak. You must go tonight.

Poulter: I will notify the men at once, sir.

( JH nods in agreement, then turns to leave)

Palmer: One moment, sir?

JH: Yes, captain?

Palmer: Why am I not sent on this mission, Colonel?

JH: It’s a lieutenant’s job, Captain. Only a dozen men are to be involved. Besides, Mr Poulter knows the countryside well. He practically grew up on the estate.

Palmer: (ungraciously): Very well, sir, but I thought this mission might have been entrusted to me.

JH: You are likely to have as many important missions entrusted to you as you can carry before this war is ended, Captain Palmer, and you will carry them out worthily, I trust.

Palmer: I hope so.

JH: You are on duty tonight Captain Palmer?

Palmer: I am, Colonel.

JH: Very well, I bid you goodnight.

Palmer: Good night, Colonel. (Exit Col. Hutchinson)

(Palmer settles himself to sleep on a bench. Poulter enters suddenly, dressed and armed for his mission.)

Poulter (in a loud voice): Good night, Captain! (he exits at once; Palmer jumps up at once, startled)

Palmer: Er… Good night… pleasant journey. (muttering) What’s he mean by that, disturbing an officer when he’s on the watch? Hope he doesn’t take too long; he’s supposed to be on duty here, tonight, too.

(settles himself down to sleep again. Lights dim. Sounds of shouting and fighting outside. Palmer sits up, rubs his eyes, seizes his sword and cloak and goes out. Lights dim and then brighten again to show the passage of time.)

A Parliamentarian ‘trooper’.

(Lieutenant Poulter enters with Lucy Hutchinson and Thomas, dressed as they have fled from Owthorpe)

Poulter: Well, here you are, madam, safe and sound, and your children already having supper in the maid’s room by now, I guess. The Colonel will be delighted to hear that our mission has been successfully accomplished.

Lucy: I am grateful to you and your brave men, Mr Poulter. I knew it was getting more dangerous to remain at the Hall. I was sure the Colonel knew about it and would take what action he could. I didn’t know you were coming but I wasn’t surprised to see you.

Poulter: I am delighted to have been of service to the gracious lady of Owthorpe Hall and I am grateful to God that you have been brought here in safety. But I must let the Colonel know you have arrived.

Lucy: Please do. I am longing to see him, but don’t wake him if he is asleep. I am sure he needs all the sleep he can get.

(Enter JH: Lucy rushes over to greet him)

John! I am so glad to be with you again!

JH: Lucy, thank God you have arrived safely. Well done, Mr Poulter. I congratulate you on your efficiency.

Poulter: The mission went without a hitch sir. Your lady was ready in a matter of moments and we encountered not a soul until we reached Nottingham.

JH: Excellent. And our children, Lucy? They are here?

Lucy: Having a meal! They were taken over by one of the women as we came in.

JH: Now, did meet any trouble in Nottingham itself, Mr Poulter?

Poulter (surprised): No, why? Has there been any trouble here?

JH: Nothing much, but there’s been something. A slight skirmish. I suspect Toplady was behind it. He’s behind most royalist ventures in Nottingham.

Poulter: It’s a pity we can’t arrest him, sir.

JH: It most certainly is. I have suspicions but no proof and my authority does not extend over the City at present. Palmer’s out; he went out when it began and I think he’s taken some prisoners in charge.

Poulter: It’s a mercy we didn’t run into the fighting on our way.

(Noises off. Palmer coming in with some prisoners; door clangs; noises of swords and muskets knocking on armour and Palmer’s voice ordering them about roughly)

Palmer: Get along there you royalist dogs. You there! Move quickly or you’ll feel my sword point on your dirty papist heels.

(Poulter goes out to see what is happening – Palmer continues)

Palmer: Morning, Poulter; Colonel there? Ask him if I’m to bring the prisoners in. (Enter Poulter)

Poulter: It’s Captain Palmer, Colonel, with some prisoners: he asks if he’s to bring them in.

JH: Yes, I ought to see them at once. You don’t mind Lucy?

Lucy: No, not at all, John. My presence here must not be allowed to interfere with your duties.

JH: It won’t, ma’am. Now, Captain Palmer, bring your prisoners in.

(Palmer marches in two to three prisoners. They are wounded and very crudely bandaged with blood-stained rags. Palmer treats them roughly, barking orders and prodding them with his sword. There are occasional groans from all the prisoners)

JH: Now men, where are you from? Which garrison are you from? Out with it quickly! (silence) Is it Newark?

Palmer: Their equipment suggests so, sir.

JH: Alright. We take it you are from Newark. How did you get into Nottingham? Speak up! How did you get into Nottingham? (one of the prisoners collapses in pain, groaning).

Lucy: They’re injured, Colonel. I don’t think they are fit to answer questions tonight. Let them rest until morning and then you may get more information out of them.

JH: You’re right, Lucy. They are flesh and blood after all even if they are, for the time being, enemies. Right, Captain, keep them secure but let them rest tonight.

Palmer: Right. Up, there, you beasts, Satan’s dupes, foul exhalations from the nethermost pit! I’ll find you a place where you can lie and bring forth fruit meet for repentance. Out of that door, quick!

JH: Where are you taking them, Captain?

Palmer: To the ‘Lion’s Den’ of course, Colonel. Where else?

JH: Ah, yes, the dungeon. but see they have bedding, sacking or something to lie on and coverings of some kind – and give them something to eat.

Palmer: Something to eat, by heaven, I’d let these enemies of righteousness starve if I had my way.

JH: You heard what I said, Captain. You will see that my orders are carried out. (Another prisoner collapses)

Lucy: They’re badly wounded, Colonel. They must have immediate attention. See, Thomas, I brought my medicine chest with me from Owthorpe. Bring it, I will attend to them myself. Mr Palmer, stay with me and keep some of your men handy in case I need them.

(She goes over to the prisoners and commences unwinding the dirty bandages. Thomas brings the medicine chest)

Palmer: Colonel, my soul abhors to see these favours done to the enemies of God. It goes against my godly principles to see them treated like… like the soldiers of the Lord. Forbid your lady to waste her time on them, sir, and let me drive them to the dungeons.

JH: While I am in command at Nottingham, Captain Palmer, enemy wounded will receive what attention we can give them, just as if they were our own men. They may be fighting on the wrong side, Captain; they may be sorely misled; we may have to inflict wounds; we may have to take life, but wounded prisoners will be treated humanely. My wife is skilled in medicine, as her mother, and these soldiers shall have the benefit of that skill. Now take them off to the ‘Den’ and do as I have said.

Palmer (reluctantly): Very well. sir.

(Prisoners now taken off by Palmer, followed by Colonel and Mrs Hutchinson; Palmer returns after a few moments)

Palmer: There you are, Mr Poulter, what did I say?

Poulter: What did you say, Mr Palmer?

Palmer: Squeamish over prisoners? They’re positively sentimental, both of ’em; “wounded prisoners will be treated humanely”. Did you hear that, Poulter?

Poulter: It means nothing, Captain Palmer. I admit they’re a bit more concerned about the health of the prisoners than I would be myself but it means nothing.

Palmer: Means nothing does it? Then tell me why both the Colonel and Mrs Hutchinson have gone along with them? What are they going to talk about when she’s supposed to be dressing their wounds? Latest news from the king’s camp! Latest news! And it’s going to be valuable – to Colonel Hutchinson if not to Parliament.

Poulter (doubtfully): But you’ve no real grounds for your suspicions.

Palmer: We shall see, Mr Poulter, we shall see!


NOTES on Scene III:

The Castle Gate House shows the medieval architecture of the bridge and lower towers against the Victorian renovation of the upper towers and gatehouse. low angle shot from the former moat now grassed overlooking up at twin stone towers with an arched bridge accessing entrance to the right

On 29 June 1643, at the order of the committee and of Sir John Meldrum, Colonel Hutchinson undertook the command of Nottingham Castle and was finally appointed by Parliament as governor of both town and castle the following autumn; he received a commission to raise a foot regiment from Lord Fairfax the following November. The town was unfortified, the garrison weak and ill-supplied, with the committee torn by political and personal feuds. Soon after becoming Governor moved his family there for their safety. Commanded by John Hutchinson, the garrison repulsed several Royalist attacks, and the parliamentary forces held the castle until its decommissioning at the end of the wars in 1651.

The war in the north of England began in earnest towards the end of 1642 and was prosecuted for the King by the 1st Earl of Newcastle, and for Parliament by Ferdinando, 2nd Baron Fairfax, who relied on the military talents of his eldest son, Thomas. The strength of Parliament lay in the West Riding of Yorkshire and the fortress of Hull. Lord Fairfax over-reached his resources, however, and was obliged to fall back after a brief engagement at Tadcaster, after which Newcastle was able to garrison the town, along with Pontefract Castle and Newark, thereby splitting the areas controlled by Parliament into two pockets, threatening Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, and securing a line of communication with the south. Sir Thomas Fairfax succeeded in securing Leeds in January 1643, but a Parliamentarian attack on Newark was driven off in February.

The Course of The First Civil War: Royalist support was strongest in the poorer, more peripheral north and west. The Scots initially remained neutral, then took the field against the king in 1644. Ireland had divided three ways between the royalist towns, Scottish Ulster and the rebel Catholic countryside. The Three separate struggles became one as a result of Charles I’s strategy of using forces after his 1643 truce with the Kilkenny Confederation and Montrose’s royalist Scots to try to revive his fortunes across the north of England. Covenanter intervention led to his defeat.

The Parliamentarian position to the south continued to deteriorate throughout 1643. Fairfax suffered further defeats and a further Parliamentarian attempt on Newark had to be abandoned in May. Bradford and Leeds fell to the superior royalist forces, and Fairfax was obliged to take refuge in Hull. Newcastle marched south, taking Gainsborough and Lincoln before laying siege to the port. Parliament’s conduct of the war had reached a critical stage. Devon, Somerset and Dorset (with the exception of garrisons in Plymouth and Lyme) had been lost, Bristol had fallen and Gloucester was under siege. At the end of the campaigns of 1643 in late September, Parliament concluded an agreement with the Scottish Presbyterians for an incursion in the north in return for it adopting the Solemn League and Covenant i.e. a system of Presbyterian Church government.

“SCENE IV: The Same Room in Nottingham Castle in Autumn 1643. Present: John and Lucy Hutchinson. JH looks rather burdened and depressed. Things are not going so well for the parliamentary armies. The King has gained control over a larger part of the North and West. The royalist garrison at Newark is controlled by the King.

After a time of silence, Lucy speaks.

Lucy: You are depressed tonight, John. Is it the news?

John: Perhaps I am, Lucy. Things are not going too well with the parliamentary forces.

Lucy: You mean the King’s victories in the North?

John: And in the West, too, and all around us. He controls more than half the country. Lincoln, Gainsborough, Sleaford are all gone and with Lord Newcastle’s royalist army in Derbyshire, Nottingham is almost surrounded. Lucy, we are in the front line of battle and the least we can expect is a siege. I’ve called in the detachments from Broxtowe and Wollaton but they are not enough. I wish Nottingham could be more strongly defended. And to think one of the enemy regiments facing us is commanded by my old friend Dacre. Oh, how this war divides a friend from friend, a brother from brother, a father from son. Colonel Dacre has asked for a safe-conduct through our lines to come and visit me.

Lucy: And have you granted it?

JH: Yes I have. He may have something interesting to say.

Lucy: You’ve worked wonders, John, in raising troops and fortifying the City and castle. We have faced more than one determined attack by the Cavaliers and have repulsed it. With God’s help, we will face more to come. Besides, parliament is strong, too; she controls London and the main ports and many of the manufacturing districts. All told, Parliament controls the wealth of the country.

JH: Parliament is potentially strong, Lucy, but weak if she doesn’t use her strength wisely.

Lucy: In what way do you think she may be unwise?

JH: Dissensions, Lucy, dissensions. I myself am suspected by some people because religiously I do not conform to the ways of the Presbyterians any more than I conformed to the ways of the Episcopalians. There are too many these days who would press all men into their own mould. They risk the success of our cause.

Lucy: I know it too well, John, and it may be that God will not give to either side final and complete victory for that reason. We are not to be trusted with it.

JH: True, Lucy, we are not to be trusted with it. Yet we must fight for the right as we see it, come what may. But I wish all who say they are for Parliament and purity in religion were sincere and trustworthy. There are traitors among us, Lucy. I don’t mean like Alderman Toplady who is openly for the King, but men who pretend they are for Parliament and the reformed faith yet who would go over to King Charles the moment he looks like winning. They serve themselves, not God, nor the cause of liberty. We’d do better without them, but we can’t touch them.

(Enter Thomas)

JH: Ah, Thomas, what do you want? Is there some message for me?

Thos: Yes sir. A soldier has presented himself, sir, at the gate of the castle with Colonel Dacre, Commander of the enemy regiment at Wilden Ferry and he says that the Colonel comes under a safe-conduct from yourself and desires to be admitted.

JH: Colonel Dacre comes by special permission of myself. Show him in.

(Thomas goes to the door and returns a moment or two later with Colonel Dacre, a typical cavalier officer. Exit Thomas)

JH: Dacre, my dear friend. I wish I could say I am glad to see you. How bitterly I regret that this war finds us in opposite camps.

Dacre: I too, friend Hutchinson. I greet you and your lady in the remembrance of our old friendship, and now that the King is likely to win this war I would wish even more that you were on our side.

JH: Whatever may be the outcome of this struggle, Colonel Dacre, I could never take my stand beside Charles Stuart and I am by no means certain that he is going to win as you would appear to be. We who fight for Parliament are determined men.

Dacre: Well, Colonel, be that as it may, I am not here to discuss in theory the outcome of this war. I have come with a purpose.

JH: As I had supposed, friend Dacre. Let me hear what you have to say. May I take it that you have no objection to Mistress Hutchinson remaining with us?

Dacre: None at all. In fact, this concerns your wife at least as much as it does you.

JH: Then proceed.

Dacre: Nottingham is an important town. At this juncture, Nottingham is the key to the country. If the King should take Nottingham his final victory is certain. And his Majesty is determined that Nottingham shall be taken.

JH: Indeed?

Dacre: Now, Hutchinson, my good friend, I would spare you and yours the loss of your estate, perhaps even the loss of your lives. I have a proposal to make.

JH: Speak on.

Dacre (looking around suspiciously): It’s for your ears only, Colonel, and those of you lady. Is it quite certain that no one else is within earshot? (crosses over quickly to the door and opens it to see if anyone is listening at the key-hole)

JH: Quite certain. Now, what is your proposal?

Dacre (in a stage whisper): It’s from the King himself; a princely offer. Surrender the castle, my lord Governor, and you shall have it back as yours – your very own – for you and your heirs in perpetuity – confirmed in the King’s name. And in addition, the sum of ten thousand pounds – and a title – the best in the County. What do you think of that, milord Hutchinson? And your brother, too, the Lieut. Colonel – let him withdraw his forces from the Trent bridges, quietly, secretly of course – and three thousand pounds for him and any command in the King’s army he cares to ask.

JH: It’s a tempting offer. That I am compelled to say, coming at this stage, especially.

Dacre: It is indeed, Colonel. Let me speak. Hitherto forces have been fairly evenly matched, but now things are moving in the King’s favour. It’s only a matter of time before he wins, and with Nottingham garrisoned for the King. …

JH: Ten thousand pounds! And a knighthood!

Dacre: Knighthood, Colonel?! Nonsense, nothing less than a barony.

JH (to Lucy): And Lucy, Lady Hutchinson! How would you like that?

Lucy: Lady Hutchinson of Owthorpe Hall, Nottinghamshire!

(Enter Thomas with a letter)

JH: Yes, Thomas?

Thos.: A letter, sir, from the Committee, left by their messenger.

Dacre: If you will excuse me, Colonel, I will go now, and with your permission, I will return again for your reply – in due course.

JH (a little absent-mindedly, anxious to open his letter): Oh – ah yes, Colonel Dacre.

Dacre: Good day, sir.

JH: Good day

(Exit Dacre; JH opens the letter, reads it)

JH: What a distasteful duty to perform.

Lucy: Another order from the Committee?

JH: Yes, another unnecessary order from an interfering Committee.

Lucy: Soon you will be able to find release from this problem, and from the other problems of Governorship.

JH: I fear Dacre spoke the truth. It can hardly be long before this protracted civil war comes to an end, though the problems of peace will be no less serious than the problem of war.

Lucy: But you spoke of distasteful duty. What is it?

JH: Breaking up a religious meeting.

Lucy: The members of the Committee are religious men themselves.

JH: They are, or some of them are, but they are resolved to make everybody Presbyterian. They dislike me because I disagree with that policy.

Lucy: I know. But what meeting is it you have to disturb?

JH: That of a group of Baptists meeting in the cannonier’s room.

Lucy: How foolish! I understand half the army are Baptists.

JH: Not quite, my dear, though very large numbers in the army are Independents of one kind or another. This particular group has been meeting for some time and I’ve done nothing to prevent it. It seems I shall have to do so today.


NOTES to Scene IV:

The neighbouring royalist commanders, Hutchinson’s cousin (Sir Richard Byron), and William, Marquess of Newcastle, attempted to corrupt Hutchinson. Newcastle’s agent offered him £10,000, and promised that he should be made “the best lord in Nottinghamshire”, but Hutchinson indignantly refused to entertain such proposals (see Scene V below).

The Puritans did not all share the same beliefs. Some were Anglicans, though not Episcopalians. Their aim was to replace the episcopalian structure with a system of presbyteries, something like local church committees. Their brand of Protestantism was derived from the teaching of Jean Calvin, the French-Swiss reformer. Presbyterianism was very strong inside the House of Commons and its adherents hoped to use Parliament to enforce its doctrine upon the Church of England and the whole population. Opposed both to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians were the Independents. They had strong views about ‘liberty of conscience’ and certainly did not believe that the ‘state’ and its ‘magistrates’ should dictate how they should worship. They were ‘Congregationalists’, believing that local congregations should decide local forms of worship, and Baptists, practising believers’ baptism rather than infant baptism.

The most illustrious ‘member’ of this grouping of religious ‘independents’ was Oliver Cromwell, one of many leading officers in the army who were motivated by independent beliefs. To state it simply: Royalists tended to be Episcopalians, Parliament was increasingly Presbyterian, the Parliamentary Army was Independent. But there were Puritans who supported the King, and there were Episcopalians who opposed him, mainly for political reasons. Much depended on which social ‘class’ they came from; the aristocracy (the biggest landowners), the ‘gentry’ (gentlemen farmers like Cromwell and Hutchinson), merchants from the City of London and other major ports like Hull, small tradesmen, tenant farmers or ‘yeomen’, and landless labourers and servants.

The ‘youthful’ Baptist churches (the first of them founded just thirty years before the outbreak of the Civil War) were at the centre of the debate about the relationship between church and state, or, as they put it then, ‘the magistrate’.  They sought guidance from the scriptures about proper Christian obedience. At the same time, the Presbyterians within the Church of England were growing in strength and becoming more vocal in their opposition to Charles I’s reactionary changes in church worship. They also found their political voice in Parliament, Charles’ dissolution of which and his attempts to impose his new Prayer Book on the Presbyterian Scots, was what had led ultimately, in part, to the Civil War. But they were equally opposed to what they saw as heretical views among the radical ‘dissenting’ sects. However, many of the officers in the Parliamentarian army were drawn from Independent and Baptist congregations, as were the increasingly professional rank and file. As ‘separatists’, they were determined not to have any system of church government forced upon them by the state.

SCENE V: The same room at the Castle. some days later. Present: JH and Lucy, who have been “reading books and pamphlets taken from the Baptist group and discussing them with “a Presbyterian Minister … Mr Foxcraft.

“… (Enter Thomas)

Thos: Sir, the royalist officer, Colonel Dacre, is at the gate again with a safe conduct from you, sir. He says you will admit him immediately.

JH: Back again, Thomas? I will go and speak with him. Pardon me Mr Foxcraft.

(Exit Lucy; enter Palmer and Poulter)

Palmer: Now are you convinced, Mr Poulter. Colonel Dacre is at the gate again and Colonel Hutchinson has just gone off to meet him. There’s something going on, I tell you.

Poulter: It surprises me, Captain Palmer. The Colonel is the last person in the world I would have suspected of having anything to do with the enemy in this way.

Palmer: It’s been clear all along. First, he makes up to royalist prisoners – obviously wants to keep in with the other side as well; they escape and report back to the enemy that he’s only half-hearted as a parliamentarian; he does everything he can to stop me taking a commission with my troops – me, mind you, whom not even the Pope himself would suspect of being a papist. I, who hate the very sight of these enemies of the gospel, these sons of Belial, and now he has truck with that cacodemon, Dacre, from… Oh, Mr Foxcraft, I beg your pardon, I didn’t see you.

Foxcraft: That’s alright, Captain Palmer, you obviously didn’t, nor did I catch the drift of your remarks.

Palmer: Mr Poulter, acquaint Mr Foxcraft with our suspicions.

Poulter: I find it very difficult, Mr Foxcraft: Colonel Hutchinson is a respected relative of mine. But to come at once to the point, Mr Palmer feels we have reason to suspect the Colonel’s loyalty.

Foxcraft: Never, Mr Poulter. Colonel Hutchinson, of all people, and at this stage of the war. I simply don’t believe it ….. and yet …

Poulter: Yet what, Mr Foxcraft?

Foxcraft: It is in the interest of the King that seeds of discord be sown and that dissensions should arise in the parliamentary forces ……

Poulter: Yes.

Foxcraft: If that be true, then the Colonel now stands even less wholeheartedly with the Committee than ever. And he never did stand altogether with us. He has become a Baptist … Can it mean that the King is sowing dissension…?

(Enter JH, Lucy with Dacre)

Dacre: Yes, Colonel Hutchinson, the offer still holds, and I have come back for your decision (starts at seeing the room occupied). Oh, I didn’t know you weren’t alone.

JH: That’s quite alright, Colonel Dacre. Will you kindly repeat your offer in front of these gentlemen?

Dacre: You are quite sure, Colonel?

JH: Quite sure. They are all my friends.

Dacre: His majesty the King invites you to surrender to him the City and the Castle of Nottingham, in return for which he will receive you into royal favour, will create you the first lord in the County, will bestow the castle upon you and your heirs forever, and in addition will present you with the sum of ten thousand pounds.

(Foxcraft, Palmer and Poulter hear in shocked silence)

Poulter: Colonel Hutchinson!

Palmer: I told you so!

JH (turning to Dacre): Colonel Dacre, you have not the slightest hope of persuading me to betray my trust.

Dacre: I implore you, think again. Do you believe that His Majesty looks on Squire John Hutchinson of Owthorpe Hall with a kindly eye! What do you suppose is going to happen to John Hutchinson and his estates when the King is returned to power. Mistress Hutchinson, you are convinced; show your husband where his interests lie.

(Lucy turns away disdainfully)

To be received back into royal favour is reward enough to ask for a man with your record – but to be enriched and ennobled as well …

JH: Ennobled, Colonel Dacre! Where did you learn that treachery ennobled a man?

Dacre: If you have any doubt about it whatever, I have it here in writing.

(Pulls a letter and pushes it under JH’s nose)

The offer is genuine, Colonel Hutchinson.

JH: That I can believe. But it had been an employment more becoming of you to have come with ten thousand men to assault our well-defended walls than with so many pieces of contaminated gold to lay your siege against an honest heart.

Dacre: You mean my mission is unsuccessful?

JH: Totally unsuccessful.


Dacre: I’ve known John Hutchinson a good many years, first as a friend, and now, sad to say, as an enemy. I have carried out my instructions and made my offer. Now I may speak freely. There is no man in the whole of this kingdom…

JH: Kingdom! Colonel Dacre?

Dacre (smiling): Yes, ‘kingdom’ to me, Colonel, ‘Country’ perhaps to you. There is no man in the whole of this realm who would have been more surprised had you accepted this offer than Colonel Dacre in the service of His Majesty, King Charles. I bid you a good day, sir.

JH: Good day, Colonel. We shall meet again, please God, in happier times.


FURTHER NOTES, Covering 1644-63:

On 19 January 1644 a Scottish army of eighteen thousand foot soldiers, three thousand cavalry and five hundred dragoons crossed the River Tweed into England. The royalists were now faced with a war on two fronts. While hurrying north to meet the Scots in Northumberland and Durham, the Earl of Newcastle had still to retain his hold on Yorkshire against Parliamentary forces who could only be encouraged by this latest development. To aid him the Marquess of Montrose, the King’s Lieutenant-General for Scotland, launched a small counter-invasion, and the Royalists strove to form a northern army under Lord Byron. With reinforcements from Ireland, Byron made some progress in Cheshire but was soundly beaten by Fairfax at Nantwich on 25th January. Prince Rupert was sent north to restore the situation and he began by relieving Newark in a hard-fought battle on 21st March.

The Battlefield of Marston Moor, showing the deployment of the rival armies.

Newcastle held back the Scottish advance, but in the middle of April had to fall back to York which was threatened by Fairfax. The Scots joined forces with the latter and laid siege to York on 22nd April. Rupert set out from Shrewsbury to relieve York, increasing his army to fourteen thousand by collecting recruits from Lancashire on the way. Newcastle had about seven thousand troops in York, but the Allied army besieging the city totalled approaching thirty thousand, though these troops were of varying quality. However, the army of the Eastern Association commanded by the Earl of Manchester had marched north with four thousand infantry and an equal number of cavalry under Oliver Cromwell, the pick of the Parliamentarian troops. On the 2nd of July, the various armies met on Marston Moor.

In the region of six thousand men were killed or mortally wounded during the battle and pursuit. The loss of life was particularly important for the Royalists since the death toll included a high proportion of their most experienced officers and soldiers. Newcastle’s veteran infantry was finished as a fighting force and the Royalist grip on the north had been broken. York quickly surrendered and the Royalist threat was limited to a scattering of beleaguered garrisons.

The Siege of Newark (1645), Col. Hutchinson and the Storming of Shelford House:

Richard Clampe’s Plan of the Siege of Newark, 1645.

In her Memoirs of him, Lucy records that John Hutchinson had many notable victories in the Civil War, including that at Shelford Manor on 4th November 1645 when he took the garrison of Shelford after heavy fighting. The storming of Shelford House was a confrontation that took place from the 1st to the 4th of November 1645, beginning the Siege of Newark. A dense line of earthworks, fortifications and redoubts encircled the town, as shown on the plan of the siege by parliamentary forces (above). Newark was one of the last Royalist strongholds and its fall, choked by the steady tightening of the siege, marking the beginning of the end of Charles I’s hopes of keeping his throne. The Plan was drawn up by Richard Clampe, an engineer working for parliament, towards the end of the siege. With the keen eye of a military draughtsman, he sketched out the ‘Line of Circumvallation’, a system of earthworks punctuated by strongpoints that had steadily encircled the town, and the star-shaped redoubts that the besieging forces constructed: to the west, at the bottom edge of the map, was ‘London’, where parliament’s troops (seven-thousand strong) under Colonel-General Poyntz were based; and to the east ‘Edinburgh’, the headquarters, soon to be occupied, of the Scottish contingent led by the Earl of Leven.

The siege of November 1645 was the third that the Nottinghamshire town had endured in as many years. The trials which its inhabitants suffered – around a third of whom died before the war was over – were the result of their loyalty to Charles I which left Newark exposed when the tide of war turned against him after the Battle of Naseby. Although the war had been going well for him in 1643, the intervention of the Scots in 1644 and the reorganisation of the parliamentary forces into the New Model Army the following year tipped the balance against the royalists, so that they steadily lost ground until they were confined to a narrow band of territory between Oxford and Newark.

Following his heavy defeat at the Battle of Naseby in June 1645, King Charles retreated to Newark in October with 2,400 cavalry, which he then billeted in the surrounding area. Shelford House was given the Queen’s Regiment of Horse, a regiment originally made up of French and Walloon Catholics that had escorted the Queen to England in February 1643. By the time of its arrival at Shelford, the regiment had been severely depleted through action, having gained an ugly reputation for vicious crimes and attacks during events such as the sack of Leicester earlier that summer, which took place before the Battle of Naseby. Combined with their ‘foreign’ Catholicism, the regiment was well known and heavily disliked by the Parliamentarians. Royalist raids from Newark into the parliament-held Midlands, including nearby Nottingham, in the late summer of 1645, proved too much of a nuisance for parliament, and they despatched a contingent to capture the town once and for all. On 24 September 1645, Poyntz’s Parliamentarian army defeated a Royalist army at the Battle of Rowton Heath in Cheshire, after which the remainder of the royalist army sought refuge in Newark.

Hearing of the approach of the parliamentarians, the town’s governor, Lord Belasyse ordered the digging of further earthworks, but by the beginning of November Poyntz’s men had arrived and the trap began to close. The Parliamentarian forces commanded by Colonel John Hutchinson first attacked the Royalist outpost of Shelford House, which was one of a group of strongholds defending the strategically important town. The house was owned by Philip Stanhope, 1st Earl of Chesterfield and controlled by his fifth son Sir Philip Stanhope. Its garrison was made up of mostly Catholic soldiers, and was overwhelmed by the Parliamentarian forces after calls for submission were turned down by Stanhope. Shelford is situated nine miles east of Newark. Newark’s location at the crossroads between the Fosse Way and Great North Road meant it was known as the “Key to the North”, and this strategically important location had been quickly secured by the Royalists in December 1642 when Sir John Henderson was sent to fortify the town. As part of his plans for fortifications, Henderson set up a series of mutually supportive defensive locations that would act as a buffer between Newark and Parliamentarian attacks. Shelford House was chosen as one of these strongholds, along with Belvoir Castle, Wiverton Hall, and Thurgarton House. The four stately homes now made up the first line of Royalist defence against attacks from the Parliamentarian towns of Nottingham, Derby, and Leicester.

Wary of the Royalist forces now congregated around Newark, Poyntz’s force of three thousand cavalry and five hundred infantry was reinforced by a brigade of a thousand cavalry from London. The regional Parliamentarian commanders in the area supplied him with a further 4,500 infantrymen. As part of this Hutchinson provided a group of four hundred men from Nottingham to join Poyntz, but the force was still not of sufficient size to compete with the main Royalist formations. Ordered to get closer to Charles to ensure he could not escape before larger Parliamentarian armies reached Newark and in need of action to fend off a possible mutiny from his underpaid and underfed soldiers, Poyntz went on the offensive. Shelford House, with its large garrison of cavalry, would be a dangerous thorn in an army’s side if left alone to attack the supply lines of the advancing Parliamentarians, and so Hutchinson urged Poyntz to choose it as his first target. After waiting to receive some more reinforcements from Lincolnshire under Colonel Edward Rossiter, the Parliamentarians arrived at Shelford on 1 November with an initial force of two thousand.

Hutchinson was a cousin of Stanhope, and he received permission to attempt to talk him into submission. Despite their connection, Stanhope replied to Hutchinson’s mission in a scornful manner, mocking Hutchinson and declaring that he would “lay Nottingham Castle as flat as a pancake”. Stanhope had himself commanded a particularly brutal raid on a fort guarding the bridges to Nottingham over the River Trent in April, and his callous response to the request for a peaceful surrender caused great resentment among the Parliamentarians who were urged to look for revenge for Stanhope’s previous attack. This combined with a hatred for the Catholic troops that were known to be part of Shelford’s garrison, because of their notoriously violent conduct. With this high level of tension throughout the Parliamentarian force, Poyntz began the initial stages of his assault on the house.

Colonel-General Sydnam Poyntz was an army officer who fought in the Thirty Years’ War and the English Civil War. Cornelius Brown – History of Newark-on-Trent; being the life story of an ancient town, Newark: Whiles, p. 99

Poyntz first sent Hutchinson to capture the nearby village of Shelford, where Stanhope had a group of men garrisoning the church tower. The men had drawn the ladder in the tower up but were eventually smoked out by a fire set beneath them and captured; one boy was recognised as a turncoat from Nottingham’s garrison. In fear for his life, the boy revealed all he knew about Shelford House’s improved defences and disclosed where the palisades were weakest, which had previously been only vaguely known to the Parliamentarians. With this knowledge now available, Poyntz made a final formal offer for Stanhope to surrender on 3 November. Poyntz emphasised that if his offer was refused, his men would be allowed free rein in the attack per the rules of war at the time that agreed that a garrison that refused to surrender peacefully gave up its right to be protected after the assault was complete. Despite receiving this warning, Stanhope declined the offer, saying:

“Sir, I keepe this garrison for the King, and in defence of it I will live and die, and your number is not so great, nor you so much master of the field, but that I am confident soon to lessen your number and see you abroad; and for relief, we need none. Therefore I desire you to be satisfied with this answer from Your Servant, Phil. Stanhope.”

View of Shelford village, showing the church tower garrisoned by some of Stanhope’s men.
Shelford by Richard Croft, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Fearing any further delay at Shelford would allow the Newark and Belvoir garrisons to come to the house’s aid, Poyntz launched his assault at 4 p.m. on the same day, with Hutchinson given direct command of the attacking party. The attack took the form of two prongs, with one assaulting the east ramparts and the other the western ramparts. The men threw faggots of wood into the moat so that they could climb over it, and then raised their scaling ladders against Shelford’s walls. However, the ladders were found to be too short and the defending Royalists were able to throw logs down on the climbing Parliamentarians, making the climb up almost impossible. A force of Londoners had been tasked with attacking the west ramparts but it was beaten back at first, allowing Stanhope to send more troops to defend the east. The defence of the east ramparts was stout, with the Parliamentarian Colonel Richard Sandys later conceding that they were “defended galiantly [sic]”, but after half an hour of bitter close-quarters fighting, the attackers, under Hutchinson, succeeded in taking the east ramparts from their defenders, though taking heavy casualties themselves in doing so.

Hutchinson led his Nottingham men over the taken position and into the ground below, only to find that the Queen’s Regiment, fighting dismounted, had retreated into their half-moon earthworks. The Parliamentarians took the house’s stable block but were attacked by musket fire from Shelford House and from more reinforcements sent from the western ramparts. Hutchinson was trapped inside Shelford’s walls; Sandys and Hutchinson’s brother George, also a colonel, made a concerted effort to force the house’s gates open to relieve him. Finally, a group of dismounted cavalry under the command of Major Christopher Ennis succeeded in breaking into Shelford’s gatehouse, opening the drawbridge over the moat and allowing Poyntz to reinforce Hutchinson’s beleaguered men inside. While it was already expected that no quarter would be given to Stanhope and his men, Poyntz now faced the added possibility of a Royalist relief force arriving while his soldiers were still fighting inside Shelford House, which would have left them cornered. He, therefore, whipped his men into a frenzy and coerced them into fighting more savagely, which quickly and violently ended the resistance of the defenders of the house and earthworks. The majority of the defenders were killed in the resulting sack by the Parliamentarians. Lucy Hutchinson’s authentic account of these events at Shelford suggests that she may have even witnessed her husband’s initial attack with her own eyes, especially as their estate of Owthorpe was only a few miles away. However, as far as we know, she remained mainly resident at Nottingham Castle throughout 1645.

Around a hundred and sixty of the defenders, or eighty per cent of Stanhope’s original force, were killed in the ensuing attack before Poyntz halted his men; most of the dead were from the Queen’s Regiment who had received little mercy. The Parliamentarians had lost around sixty men killed. They buried their casualties at Shelford by rolling them into large mass graves and then sent the wounded back to Nottingham to be tended to. Lord Chesterfield claimed in 1647 that during the attack the Parliamentarians had killed a number of children, slashed women with knives and mutilated the dead afterwards. However, there is no corroborating evidence for this. Sir Philip Stanhope himself had survived the battle but had been badly wounded towards the end of it. Unable to move, he was looted by Parliamentarian troops and possibly then thrown on a dung heap. He was discovered in this state by Sandys and/or George Hutchinson and was taken to his bedroom in the house. Here the Hutchinson brothers stayed with their cousin until he died of his wounds, despite the efforts of a surgeon. Clifton of the Queen’s Regiment was also among the dead. The surviving forty or so Royalists were taken as prisoners of war and in the night the house was burned down after being comprehensively looted. The Parliamentarians completed the destruction by pulling down the charred remains with grappling hooks and ropes.

Despite the clear victory at Shelford, Parliamentarian writers did not emphasise it because they wished to avoid drawing comparisons to the Royalist massacres of foreign forces that had also taken place, which would have damaged their image of being morally better than their opponents. Chesterfield had pamphlets made to highlight the barbarous nature of the attack on his house, but these were not very successful. However, although Hutchinson made the original assault on the house, breaching its defences, the order for the ‘massacre’ (as it has been recently described) came from Poyntz and there is no evidence to suggest that Hutchinson, his brother and their Nottingham men were directly involved in it. Otherwise, the support he later received from royalist commanders and local gentry in getting him ‘spared’ for his role as a regicide would be difficult to explain, as would his election to the Convention Parliament in 1660 to represent the county once more.

The reality was that when the Stuart Restoration occurred in 1660, the story of Stanhope and his contemporaries was forgotten in the haste to memorialise the ‘martyrdom’ of Charles I. The Storming of Shelford House has been researched more in recent years, with the historian David J. Appleby arguing that it should be held on the same footing of violence as the royalist siege of Leicester earlier in 1645. Certainly, whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular action as compared with others during the wars which continued throughout the British Isles, it played a significant role in the final defeat of Charles Stuart in the first civil war. The Scots, under David Leslie, Lord Leven, reached Newark three weeks later, having destroyed the Scottish royalist at Philiphaugh, near Selkirk, in mid-September. Although the siegeworks around Newark were complete the following March, Belasyse refused to yield the town. Poyntz even tried to dam the River Trent to silence the royalist corn-mills and starve out the town. In the end, however, Newark was betrayed by the king himself, undertaking secret negotiations with the Scots. On 27 April, as the New Model Army drew close to Oxford, the king fled to the Scots camp at Newark (shown on the right of the contemporary plan). There he surrendered to Lieutenant-General Leslie. Part of the price for his safe conduct was the giving of the order for Newark’s surrender. When Belasyse received it, he is said to have wept, but he had no choice but to obey, and on 6 May 1646 he marched out of the ruined town with his surviving troops.

Relations between Charles and his captors, the Scottish Covenanters, soon became fraught and in January 1647 they handed over the King to Parliament in a deal involving a hefty payment to them. Even in captivity, Charles continued plotting, engineering a new alliance with the Scots in December 1647 by which he agreed to the establishment of a Presbyterian system in England. But this was brought to an abrupt halt in August 1648, when the invading Scots royalist army was defeated at Preston. The Royalist commander Marmaduke Langdale, fleeing after his defeat in the Battle of Preston, was captured and held in Nottingham Castle, but he managed to escape and make his way to Europe. Still deluded that he could somehow argue or command his way out of trouble, the King was tried by a parliamentary commission that included Colonel John Hutchinson. Charles’ last hope, though, had died long before that, in that cheerless, desolate fight around Newark.

The Trial and Execution of the King & The Reluctant Regicide:

By 1649 the battles and sieges were over and Colonel Hutchinson sat in the House of Commons of England from 1648 to 1653. As an MP, he was called upon to witness the trial of Charles Stuart, ‘that man of blood.’ His was the thirteenth signature on the King’s death warrant (see below). In her Memoirs of him, Lucy wrote of her husband’s agonising over his decision:

.… As for Mr Hutchinson, although he was very much confirmed in his judgment concerning the cause, yet herein being called toextraordinary action, whereof many were of several minds, he addressed himself to God by prayer; … and in finding no check, but a confirmation in his conscience that it was his duty to act as he did, he, upon serious debate, both privately and in his addresses to God, and in conferences with conscientious, upright unbiased persons, proceeded to sign the sentence against the King… and therefore he cast himself upon God’s protection.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 006.jpg
The Death Warrant of Charles I. John Hutchinson’s signature is the thirteenth, the third in the third column.
Top: The Death Warrant called for Charles to be ‘put to death by severing the of his head from his body.’
Below: The inset shows Charles, ‘wearing the uniform of melancholy’ at his trial.
The main painting is An Eyewitness Representation of the Execution of King Charles I by Dick Weesop, c. 1649.

John Hutchinson must have been in the House of Commons soon after the execution of Charles I when Henry Marten declared:

“Whatever our forefathers were, or whatever they did or suffered, or were enforced to yield unto, we are the men of the present age and ought to be absolutely free from all kinds of exorbitancies, molestation or Arbitrary Power.”

All over the country in the early months of 1649, acts of obliteration, big and little, got underway. In the weeks following the king’s execution, the remnant of the purged parliament lopped off its own head by abolishing the House of Lords as useless and dangerous. The monarchy as an institution followed the peerage onto the scrap heap, denounced as unnecessary, burdensome, and dangerous to the liberty, safety and public interest of the people. The Great Seal, which gave acts of parliament the force of law and which bore the likeness of the monarch, was defaced and replaced by the stamp of the House of Commons, bearing the optimistic inscription, In the First Year of Freedom by God’s blessing restored 1648 (which due to a later calendar change became in part, retrospectively and historically, 1649). Writs, which had formerly required acts to be carried out in the name of the king, were now issued in the name of the Keepers of the Liberty of England. Thus, there was now a ‘Commonwealth’, but this only covered up a general confusion and uncertainty as to where sovereignty now lay. There was no shortage of possible solutions being offered to these problems, as Lucy Hutchinson commented:

” … every man almost was fancying forms of government.”

The problem was who was to judge the merits and demerits of the various proposals. To look for arbitration was to stare into a void, and to many among the traditional governing classes, even those who had fought under the standard of parliament, the purged single-chamber assembly of 1649, known derisively as ‘the Rump’, bore no resemblance at all to the representative institution that had taken to the field in defence of the nation’s liberties in 1642. Those who had been ‘excluded’ in 1648 for their known opposition to the trial of the king never regarded the Rump and its executive Council of State as anything more than an illegitimate usurping power.

Oliver Cromwell, by an unknown artist, c. 1650.

Having come thus far with his General, Colonel Hutchinson agreed to serve on the Council of State which, without Sir Thomas Fairfax, soon became Oliver Cromwell’s government. For many radical puritans like himself, however, now free to speak their minds in the void left by a bishopless England and Wales, the only proper successor to King Charles was King Jesus. Prophecies abounded that a ‘new millennium’ was at hand and that the destruction of the ‘Antichrist’ and the coming of ‘the Last Days’ was imminent. To those gripped by this ecstatic fervour, the execution of the king had not just been a political necessity but a sign from God that he had chosen England as his appointed instrument for universal redemption. The freshly sanctified country would look like no other realm, for its mighty would be laid low and its humble raised up. Under the rule of the saints no creature comfort, no outward blessing would be denied to the faithful. Since it was the ‘New Model’ which effectively won the War for Parliament, the views of these religious radicals had to be taken into account in the shaping of church and state without the King and ‘Supreme Governor.’

The Great Seal of the Commonwealth of 1651 was distinctly Republican in design, depicting the House of Commons on one side.

But, for the time being, England remained an armed camp, due to the threats posed by Royalists in Ireland and Scotland. Hutchinson continued to serve until 1651 when he resigned in protest against the assumption of supreme power by Cromwell. That same year, a further Scottish royalist invasion led to Parliament itself ordering the razing of Nottingham Castle to prevent it from being used again, so Colonel Hutchinson and Lucy were free to retire to Owthorpe Hall with their growing family.

SCENE VI: Back at Owthorpe. 1663. Friday night, October.

Present: John & Lucy Hutchinson (about twenty years later)

Lucy: I have just been remembering John, that it’s now twenty years since the night you sent a detachment of soldiers to carry me to Nottingham Castle.

JH: Twenty years! Let me see (calculates), 1643. Yes Lucy, twenty years, years of warfare, a dozen years of happy peaceful life here at Owthorpe and now, since the Restoration of the King three years ago, troublous times again.

Lucy: But surely now after your monarchy arraignment at Westminster and your acquittal we shall be allowed to live here in peace.

JH: I wish I could think so, Lucy. I am too well known as a parliamentarian both in war and in the years of peace for them to leave me alone for long. With this hand, I signed the warrant for the execution of Charles the First, and though I have been acquitted on that score, I have many enemies, Lucy… many enemies… (goes on musing). I don’t know whether we were right to execute the King, Lucy, the Lord’s anointed to so many, yet I know how we all felt at the time… he had led the country into war, yet when it was over he might have lived and reigned, not as he reigned before, exerting full power, but subject to parliamentary law. We thought for a time that he would… but the duplicity of the man! The duplicity of the man! It seemed that there would never be peace in England while he remained. Yet, were we right? Were we right? I wish I could answer that question.

Lucy: Oh why cannot the happenings of twenty years past, done under the stress of war, be forgotten? Why cannot we live together in peace, with tolerance to all men?

JH: That can’t be, Lucy, that can’t be.

(Enter Thomas, also twenty years older)

JH: Yes, Thomas?

Thos.: Master, George the ostler is just back and he brings news that a Sergeant is in the village with a squad of soldiers and they are talking and behaving very arrogantly.

JH: There’s little we can do about it, Thomas. If they come here, as no doubt they will see they have entertainment for the night and breakfast before they move on in the morning.

Thos.: Yes sir. I ought to say also sir that there are rumours that they’ve come about that plot against the King in Yorkshire that came to light last month.

JH: Thank you, Thomas, you do right to keep me in touch with these rumours though the movements of soldiers no longer have much practical interest for me.

Thos.: Thank you, sir. (withdraws)

Lucy: What is this Yorkshire Plot? I’ve only heard the vaguest rumours about it.

JH: I know no more than you; some supposed plot against our present rule, which was discovered before it got very far.

Lucy: Well I hope they don’t think anybody at Owthorpe has had anything to do with it.

JH: No reason why they should. Now, what were we saying when Thomas burst in?

Lucy: We were living former days, John.

JH: Yes, after Charles we had Cromwell, more tolerant than most of them, though speaking for myself I never really liked him. In the end, we both came to distrust each other deeply.

Lucy: And now another Charles Stuart with a government that is likely to leave none of us in peace. Ugh, what a cold, wet night it is! I wish the Hall were a warmer place to live in.

(Loud knocks off stage)

JH: It will be warmer when the repairs are finished. It takes a long time for us to recover from the financial losses of the war and to repair the damage to the house. (Noises off) What on earth is that noise?

(Enter Thomas backwards, trying to prevent a squad of soldiers from entering the room. Soldiers push their way in led by Sergeant)

Thos.: Keep out! I tell you, keep out! How dare you force your way into a gentleman’s house like this?

Serg.: Out of my way, man, don’t impede an officer engaged on the King’s business or it will be the worse for you. Now get out! (Pushes Thomas rudely aside; the HUtchinsons stand up in amazement)

JH: What’s the meaning of this, sergeant? How dare you intrude into my house in this unseemly way? What is your business?

Serg. (a little more politely): Begging your pardon, sir, but I am on the business of His Majesty King Charles. You are Mr John Hutchinson?

JH: I am.

Serg.: I have orders to arrest you and to take you to Newark this night without fail.

JH: To Newark! What’s the meaning of this? I accompany you to Newark: I shall do no such thing and I must ask you to kindly remove yourself and your man from this house at once – or, should it be you are at a distance from your quarters you may shelter for the night in one of the stables.

Serg.: Be careful what you say, sir.

JH: Careful what I say! Are you drunk, man? I advise you to guard your lips or I shall withdraw my offer of shelter for the night.

Serg. (drawing a large paper from his pocket with a flourish): Mister Hutchinson, please read this and know my authority for ordering you to accompany me to Newark tonight.

(Lucy draws near and they both read the paper. Both look surprised and grim. JH flings the paper, in anger, back to the Sergeant).

Lucy: But what is this about? It’s signed by Francis Leke. Who is he?

JH: The Deputy-Lieutenant for the County.

Lucy: Of course, but why….?

JH: Why should he summon me to Newark in this peremptory way? Sergeant, I have been unwell of late, the night is stormy, my coachman is away and the coach horses turned out. I will provide you with lodgings for the night and come with you to Newark in the morning.

Serg.: Ho, so you will come in the morning, will you, Mr Hutchinson? My orders are to have the house searched and to bring you to Newark as soon as I have finished.

JH: On what grounds, may I ask?

Serg.: On what grounds, do you say?! (course laugh) On what grounds?! You know on what grounds you are being arrested?

JH: I have not the faintest idea of any reason why I should be arrested. I must ask you to state without any further delay the reason why you have come here tonight.

Serg.: Ho ho, Mr Innocent. You have not the faintest idea why you should be arrested, have you not? You’ll be saying next you know nothing of the Yorkshire Conspiracy.

JH (aghast): The Yorkshire Conspiracy! I certainly know nothing whatever about that alleged plot against the King.

Serg.: You’ll have to explain that to my Lord Buckingham, that is, when he deigns to see you.

JH: Lucy, it is evident I must go with this man. Don’t let this trouble you, my dear, I have no doubt I shall be able to prove that I have been falsely arrested. Mr Leke will probably accept my word and I shall be back at Owthorpe tomorrow. I could wish it were a better night.

(sound of rushing wind)

Serg.: You won’t find it easy to convince my Lord Buckingham, Mr Hutchinson. I can tell you that before you try.

JH: Alright, Sergeant, I’m coming with you. Now kindly step outside into the hall while I make ready.

Serg.: I shall wait in no hall, Mr Hutchinson, I wait here until I see you ready to come.

JH: You are in a gentleman’s house, sergeant, and I request you kindly to step outside into the hall until I am ready. You need not be afraid that I shall attempt to get away. I shall do no such thing. This charge against me is patently false and I shall have no difficulty in proving it so; I have therefore no need to attempt to flee. Now, sir, outside at once!

(Sergeant hesitates for a moment and then mutters something unintelligible under his breath and steps outside with his trooper).

Thos.: Mr Hutchinson, sir, if I’d been as I was twenty years ago that ruffian would not have pushed his way in like that, sir. I’m sorry I didn’t keep him out, sir.

JH: You had no choice, Thomas, and I have no choice either. Now, will you please have a horse saddled for me – the grey mare is still in the stable – and pack my bag for a night’s lodging. The sooner we get the unpleasant business finished with the better.

Thos.: Very good, sir (exits).

Lucy: Oh, John, what will be the outcome?

JH: Just an uncomfortable journey to Newark, Lucy. then a few words of explanation and I shall be back tomorrow night – or within a day or two at the latest. I’ve had nothing to do with the Yorkshire Conspiracy, or any other attempt to interfere with the government by force. No, I’ll be back tomorrow night, God willing, all safe and sound.

Lucy: I do hope so, John. I do hope you’re right. You were a parliamentarian and you have many enemies among our rulers.

JH: Yes, but the worst is over. I have already faced one trial and have been acquitted.

Lucy: But that is what makes me so fearful. Your enemies are determined on your downfall. One charge has failed… you were acquitted…

JH: Largely owing to your efforts on my behalf, my dear Lucy.

Lucy: And now another charge is brought against you, unjustly, and untrue. Forgive me, John, for speaking in this way. Perhaps I am wrong, I trust I am wrong, but I do not want you to go.

JH: Do not fear, Lucy, I have powerful enemies, but I also have powerful friends and, most powerful of all, the truth is on my side.

(Enter Thomas with JH’s cloak)

Thos.: The horses are ready, sir, and the bag is packed.

JH (putting on the cloak): Thank you, Thomas. Now, good night, Lucy, and may God be with you.

Lucy: Goodbye, John, good night. May God protect you.

(Clasp hands: exit JH. Lucy sinks into a chair, head in arms on the table quietly weeping).

(Lights darken)


NOTES for Scene VI – Restoration, Repentance & Retribution:

When John Hutchinson retired to a quiet life in Nottinghamshire with Lucy, the old manor house at Owthorpe had been almost destroyed by the Royalists during the war and had to be completely rebuilt. The new house was in the field close to the church. As Julius Hutchinson later described it, large stone steps took you into a spacious entrance hall. The staircase and upstairs rooms are described by Julius in his account quoted above. The family quarters were on the left of the Hall while the three entertainment rooms for guests were situated on the right. These rooms opened to an outside terrace and bowling green type lawn with flower borders and shrubbery.  Trees had been cut to allow views across the countryside towards Langar and Belvoir Castle.

After the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, John Hutchinson retained sufficient local popularity to be returned to the Convention Parliament in the election of that year as one of the members for Nottingham but was then expelled from it on 9 June of the same year as a regicide. On the same day, he was made incapable of bearing any office or place of public trust in the kingdom, but it was agreed that he should not be excepted from the Act of Indemnity either for life or estate. He was arrested for his part in the regicide and imprisoned but was not tried. Lucy went before the House of Lords to gain his release. In his petitions, he confessed himself “involved in so horrid a crime as merits no indulgence”, but pleaded his early, real, and constant repentance, arising from “a thorough conviction” of his “former misled judgment and conscience”, not from a regard for his own safety. Thanks to this submission, to the influence of his kinsmen, Lord Byron and Sir Allen Apsley, to the fact that he was not considered dangerous, and that he had personally, to a certain extent, forwarded the Restoration, Hutchinson escaped the fate of most of the other regicides. Yet, as his wife Lucy owned, …

“… he was not very well satisfied in himself for accepting the deliverance. … While he saw others suffer, he suffered with them in his mind, and, had not his wife persuaded him, had offered himself a voluntary sacrifice”.

However, his outright enemies were not prepared to let matters rest there. In 1663, he was implicated in the Farnley Wood Plot, a conspiracy in Yorkshire in October 1663. Intended as a major rising to overturn the return to monarchy in 1660, it was undermined by informers and came to nothing. The major plotters were Joshua Greathead, a local squire in Gildersome who had fought in the Parliamentary army and had led his own squadron, and Captain Thomas Oates of Morley, operating primarily in Farnley, West Yorkshire, but also with links to Leeds. A Particular Baptist preacher, Captain Paul Hobson who was involved in the planning of a more general northern rebellion was arrested on 20 August. He had served in the parliamentary army and was one of the signatories to the Baptist Confession of 1644, who later adopted Fifth Monarchy ideas. He was later accused of having turned informer. The aim of the plot was to capture and overthrow the Royalist strongholds of Leeds city centre. On the morning of 12 October 1663, a poor turn-out of only twenty-six men had convened, mostly Presbyterian local farmers and businessmen, who were not prepared to fight in battle. The plot was therefore disbanded; the meeting broke up and all returned to their villages. However, Greathead had turned informer after being overruled in favour of the plans made by Oates and had alerted the authorities, who set in motion the arrest of the twenty-six people. The men were arrested, imprisoned and executed as traitors, with at least some being hung, drawn and quartered.

The authorities also rounded up Parliamentarian sympathisers throughout the country including John Hutchinson. Though most of these ‘suspects’ were released due to a lack of evidence, the government appears to have been eager to seize the opportunity of imprisoning Colonel Hutchinson. He was incarcerated at Sandown Castle in Kent. Imprisonment restored Hutchinson’s peace of mind. He regarded it as freeing him from his former obligations to the government and refused to purchase his release by fresh engagements. The final scene in the play is a continuation of the first, set in 1669, with Lucy in conversation with two of her grown-up children, John and Barbara, in the same room at Owthorpe Hall. Lucy tells them:

“And so he left this room, that night. Fear and sorrow gripped me and I felt in my heart he would never return. He did not return, except for a day on the way to London. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London in the same room in which the two young princes were said to have been murdered… After that, he was transferred to Sandown Castle where he lived a few months longer in a damp, cold, unhealthy room not proof against the weather. His confinement there was an act of murder; the place killed him!

No charge was ever formulated against the retired Colonel, John Hutchinson, and he was therefore never brought to trial or given the opportunity to clear himself of any association with the Yorkshire Plot. The restored Royalists were concerned only to wreak their vengeance on him. Lucy took lodgings at the inn in Sandown and brought daily such comforts and necessities as she could. He died in prison the following year, 1664, with Lucy and Barbara with him. On their last visit, he told his daughter to dry her tears, saying “Fie Bab, do you mourn for me as one without hope? There is hope!” Lucy obtained permission to bury his body in St Margaret’s Church, Owthorpe (below). In the play, Lucy’s last speech is directed towards her son, John, urging him not to see his father’s death as ‘the end’, but to continue his ‘righteous’ struggle:

The things he fought for, liberty, the rule of parliament, the right to worship God as conscience bids, are yet to be won in England. He fought for these ends and fell by the way. The struggle still continues and the tide of battle ebbs and flows, but the right is sure to win…”

The Inscribed memorial in St Margaret’s. was ordered by Lucy Hutchinson
St Margaret’s Church, Owthorpe

Secondary Sources:

Simon Schama (2001), A History of Britain: The British Wars, 1603-1776. London: BBC Worldwide.

Austin Woolrych (2002), Britain in Revolution, 1625-1660. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

David Smurthwaite (1984), The Ordnance Survey Complete Guide to the Battlefields of Britain. Exeter: Webb & Bower.

One thought on “Six Scenes from the English Civil War: Vignettes of Colonel John Hutchinson – Roundhead, Radical & Regicide.

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