Category Archives: South East

Good news for Basing House Siege site? Or just spinning the short change for battlefield heritage?

A picture of a painting of a 17th century town under attack
(Above) Mike Codd’s painting, The Fall of Basing House, depicts the ransacking of the mansion in October 1645. The site will be turned into a permanent museum after a new Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Picture courtesy Hampshire County Council.

This is a piece of old news from 2010 from the page on culture 24

A Basingstoke mansion, which was the largest private home in England in the 17th century before being destroyed in a bloody  siege by Oliver Cromwell, will become a permanent museum in a multi-million pound development.

Basing House has been given a further £50,000 towards the exhibition in The Lodge, showcasing relics found in archaeological investigations around the site including clay pipes, a decorated ivory cup from West Africa, pistol shot fragments and hefty cannonballs.

It follows a grant of more than £1 million from the HLF towards the re-launch of the grounds as Basing House History Park last December, a project aiming to bring the House’s tumultuous Tudor and Stuart past to life.

A picture of a silver sixpence
A Charles I sixpence discovered during an archaeological dig at Basing House which will feature in the museum displays. Picture courtesy Hampshire County Council

“The grant from the HLF provides an opportunity to put many more of the finds on display to help tell the story of this fascinating site,” said Alastair Penfold, Head of Service at Hampshire County Museums and Archives Service, praising the generosity of local group the Friends of Basing House.

Head of HLF South East England Michelle Davies added that the scheme would help visitors to gain “a much clearer understanding” of the “scale and importance of this once-great house.”

The news is overdue relief for a building which has suffered repeated attacks. A Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War, Basing House had survived two sieges by August 1645, when Cromwell himself took charge in an onslaught which killed more than 100 defenders. Parliament later ordered the ruins of the burnt and ransacked House to be razed to the ground.

Wenceslaus_Hollar_-_The_Siege_of_Basing_House
Wenceslaus Hollar: The Siege of Basing House

This sounds like a good news story?  Well only up to a point. Until a few years ago Basing House was a museum run by Hampshire Council, with knowledgeable curators living on site who cared about the siege,  as well as excellent hosts and guides.  Their jobs were cut with the pressure on the public sector.  Compared to the £1m spend on the grounds, £50,000 isn’t a lot for a battlefield interpretation centre

This is a tale of modern British heritage funding. The  Heritage Lottery fund is the only game in town,  It is the largest benefactor to the heritage sector disbursing £250m a year while funding from public sector through English Heritage and Local government has been cut back and funding for humanities and social science research has been greatly reduced.  The HLF funding critera are based on outcomes for heritage preservation, communities and participants in the projects. Arguably these are a fair way to apportion resources  between the  competing bids for funding for a range of calls for funding.

But there are consequences of this pre-eminence of the HLF.  The HLF funds “projects”, not  core resources, with a focus on matched funding and resources from, volunteers rather than paid staff.   The result is fewer tenured posts and more hand to mouth projects staffed by contractors working to the HLF standard rates which impose a ceiling for pay in the sector, substantially below those that apply to commercial business.

The HLF critera are weighted towards projects which engage a large number of participants. Projects needing  expertise such as battlefield archaeology fare badly.  The funding for Basing House appears to display finds discovered by early archaeological work, not funding research itself.  HLF will help to display what professional archaologists have found, but will do nothing to uncover other battlefields that may lie below the soil.

This is short sighted.  Advances in battlefield archaeology has made it possible to discover a lot more about the past.   British universities produce good  battlefield archaeologists and military historians.  Yet the funding is all geared towards projects which preserve buildings or inform and educate en mass.

Tourism is Britian;s second ;largest export industry, and heritage is our principle asset.  The Visit Britian plan is to increase revenue from tourism.  This implies developing new destinations.  The response to the discovery of the Boswth battlefield and then Richard III’s body shows the interest in old battles and battlefields.

It is crazy that the investment in new heritage assets is funded in such a haphazard way.  What other key industry is funded by charity handouts from the proceeds of a public lottery?  Which other key sector expects investments of funding to be matched by the time of volunteers from the big society?

British Battlefields is a voice to campaign for proper funding for the Battlefield and military heritage which attracts visitors.

14 May 1264 Battle of Lewes

Lewes_Oman
Interpretation of the Battlefield of Lewes by Sir Charles Oman

14th May 2014 is the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Lewes, a key event in the Barons wars, which resulted, in the cocmmitment of the Kings of England to abide by the Magna Carta signed just under fifty years earlier.

The Battle of Lewes was one of two main battles of the conflict known as the Second Barons’ War. It took place at Lewes in Sussex, on 14 May 1264. It marked the high point of the career of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, and made him the “uncrowned King of England”. Henry III left the safety of Lewes Castle and St. Pancras Priory to engage the Barons in battle and was initially successful, his son Prince Edward routing part of the Baronial army with a cavalry charge. However Edward pursued his quarry off the battlefield and left Henry’s men exposed. Henry was forced to launch an infantry attack up Offham Hill where he was defeated by the Barons’ men, defending the hilltop. The royalists fled back to the castle and priory and the King was forced to sign the Mise of Lewes, ceding many of his powers to Montfort.

King Henry III, in his efforts to subdue the reforms springing from the Provisions of Oxford of 1258, provoked a baronial faction led by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, to the extent that civil war as only a matter of time.

Simon de Montfort and the baronial army marched on the King at Lewes and positioned themselves on the crest of the Downs to the north-west of the town. The King’s foot soldiers followed the cavalry under Prince Edward up the long hill, but were pushed right back against the Castle and Priory in the town. The royal army suffered significant casualties, several leading supporters of the King had fled, and much of the town was ablaze.

10 Battle of LewesThe only near contemporary account is from one William of Rishanger. Chronicle of William de Rishanger of the Barons’ Wars ed. J.O.Halliwell (Camden Society 1840).  Here in the English Heritage Battlefield report.

Earl Simon passed that night without sleep, giving time, as was his habit, to divine offices and prayers and exhorting his men to make sincere confessions. Walter de Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester, absolved them all, and commanded that for the remission of their sins they should manfully strive for justice on that day, promising to all who should die thus the entry into the heavenly kingdom.

Battle being therefore certain, at daybreak before the rising of the sun, they went out from the village of  Fletching, where a great part of them had spent the night, and which was about ten miles from Lewes. Before the start earl Simon de Montfort girt Gilbert de Clare with a knight’s sword.

When they had marched near the town of Lewes and were hardly two miles distant from it, Simon with his men ascended a hill and placed his chariot there in the middle of his baggage, and having purposely placed and firmly erected his standard upon it, he encircled it with many armed men.

Then with his own forces he held the ground on either side and awaited the issue of events. In the chariot he set four London citizens, who a little before, when he passed the night in Southwark, had conspired to betray him. This he did as a warning.

LPT_battle_of_lewes_crop.jpg670x498When he had thus prudently arrayed his forces, he ordered white crosses to be sewn on their backs and breasts over their armour, so that they should be distinguished from their enemies, and to indicate that they were fighting for justice. At dawn the baronial army suddenly attacked the  king’s guards who had gone out to seek for food or fodder and killed many of them.

When the king therefore was sure of the coming of the barons, he soon advanced with his men, with his  standards unfurled and preceded by the royal banner, portending the judgment of death, which  they call the ‘Dragon’. His army was divided into three parts: the first line was commanded by Edward, the king’s eldest son, together with William de Valance, earl of Pembroke, and John de Warenne, earl of Surrey and Sussex; the second by the king of Germany with his son Henry; and the third by king Henry himself. The baronial forces were divided into four, of which the first line was given to Henry de Montfort, the second to Gilbert de Clare together with John FitzJohn, and William of Montchensy; in the third were the Londoners under Nicholas Segrave; while the  earl himself with Thomas of Pelveston led the fourth.

Then Edward with his line rushed on his enemies with such violence that he compelled them to retreat, and many of them, to the number of sixty knights, it is said, were overwhelmed. Soon the Londoners were routed, for Edward thirsted for their blood because they had insulted his mother, and he chased them for four miles, slaughtering them most grievously. But through his absence the strength of the royalists was considerably diminished.

Meanwhile many of the might men of the royal army, seeing the earl’s standard on the hill and thinking he was there, made their way thither and unexpectedly slew those London citizens, for they did not know that they were on their own side. In the meantime the earl and Gilbert de Clare were by no means inactive, for they smote, threw down and killed those who opposed them, endeavouring with the utmost eagerness to take the king alive. Therefore many of the king’s supporters rushed together – John earl of Warenne, William de Valance, Guy de Lusignan, all the king’s half brothers, Hugh Bigod and about three hundred warriors – and seeing the fierceness of the barons, fled. There were captured Richard, the king of Germany, Robert Bruce and John Comyn, who had led the Scots thither. Also King Henry had his horse wounded under him, and giving himself up to earl Simon was soon brought under guard to the priory.

There were killed on that day many Scottish barons, and a great number of the foot soldiers who came with them had their throats cut. Meanwhile Humphrey de Bohun earl of Hereford, John FitzAlan earl of Arundel, William Bardolf, Robert de Tateshale, Roger de Somery, Henry Percy and Philip Basset were taken prisoner. But on the king’s side there fell the justiciar, William of Wilton and Fulk FitzWarin, the one slain by a sword, the other drowned in the river. On the barons’ side fell Ralph Haringod, baron, and William Blund the earl’s standard bearer. On both sides five thousand are said to have fallen.

When Edward and those fighting with him returned from the slaughter of the Londoners, not knowing what had happened to his father, he went round the town and came to Lewes castle. When he did not find his father there, he went to Lewes priory, where he found his father and learned what had happened. Meanwhile the barons made an assault on the castle, but as those shut up in it defended themselves manfully, the barons withdrew. When Edward saw their boldness within the castle, he was greatly inspirited, and collecting his men again, he wished to continue the battle afresh. Discovering this the barons sent arbitrators of peace, promising that they wished to treat for an effectual peace the next day.

LewesBattle_Big

If you would like to visit the Battlefield of Lewes contact British Battlefields. info@britishbattlefields.com 

Battlefields Trust Resource Centre here 

The 75th anniversary website is here website http://simon2014.com/

Festival programme here

More about the battles and sieges associated with Magna Carta and the Barons Wars here

5 May 1943 – A Turning Point in the Battle of the Atlantic

SS Harperely, sunk by U 264 on the night 4-5 May 1943
SS Harperely, sunk by U 264 on the night 4-5 May 1943, her master was Captain J E Turgoose

“Both torpedoes struck almost simultaneously on the port side, the first one in the vicinity of the engine-room, whilst the 2nd torpedo struck in the way of the fore-mast. The explosion was not very violent, and appeared to be more of a dull thud. I did not notice a flash, neither was there a column of water thrown up, although I later learned from survivors of another vessel that they saw a big flash. Neither the submarine, nor the track of the torpedoes was observed.  I was in the wheel-house at the time, and was surprised to find that apparently there was practically no visible damage. Even the glass windows of the wheel-house were unbroken, the only visible damage being that one of the port boats was destroyed and No. 4 raft had carried away. The ship listed very heavily to port, submerging the holes in ship’s side, thus making it impossible to see the extent of the damage.    Owing to the heavy list I ordered “abandon ship”. A W/T message was sent out, and the rockets fired, one of which failed to function. I endeavoured to ring the engine-room telegraph but found that it was jammed, although the engines must have stopped when the first torpedo struck as it was the first”  Extract from the Master’s Report on the loss of SS Harperley 4-5 May 1943

On the 5th May 1943  Slow Outbound Convoy Convoy ONS 5, outbound from Liverpool to Halifax lost eleven merchant ships to U Boat attack in a force 6 seas in the mid Atlantic.  The Battle of the Atlantic was the most important naval campaign waged by Britain in WW2 and the only matter which Winston Churchill said kept him awake at night

By the time the week long voyage n the course of a week, ONS 5 had been the subject of attacks by a force of over 40 U-boats. With the loss of 13 ships totalling 63,000 tons, the escorts had inflicted the loss of 6 U-boats, and serious damage on 7 more.

This battle demonstrated that the convoy escorts had mastered the art of convoy protection; the weapons and expertise at their disposal meant that henceforth they would be able not only to protect their charges and repel attack, but also to inflict significant losses on the attacker.

U264
U264, a type VII C U Boat. The SS Harperley was one of three ships sunk by this U Boat. over two years. She was sunk by depth charges dropped by the British sloops HMS Woodpecker and HMS Starling on 19 February 1944. There were no deaths, fifty-two men survived.

ONS 5 marked the turning point in the battle of the Atlantic. Following this action, the Allies inflicted a series of defeats and heavy losses on the U-boat Arm, a period known as Black May. This culminated in Dönitz withdrawing his forces from the North Atlantic arena.

The official historian, Stephen Roskill commented: “This seven day battle, fought against thirty U-boats, is marked only by latitude and longitude, and has no name by which it will be remembered; but it was, in its own way, as decisive as Quiberon Bay or the Nile”(1)

More on the battle here 

The ships lost on 5th May are shown in the following table from the U Boat Net. 

5 May 1943 U-264  Hartwig Looks Harperley 4.586  br
5 May 1943 U-264  Hartwig Looks West Maximus 5.561  am
5 May 1943 U-266  Ralf von Jessen Bonde 1.570  nw
5 May 1943 U-266  Ralf von Jessen Gharinda 5.306  br
5 May 1943 U-266  Ralf von Jessen Selvistan 5.136  br
5 May 1943 U-358  Rolf Manke Bristol City 2.864  br
5 May 1943 U-358  Rolf Manke Wentworth 5.212  br
5 May 1943 U-584  Joachim Deecke West Madaket S 5.565  am
5 May 1943 U-628  Heinrich Hasenschar Harbury 5.081  br
5 May 1943 U-638  Oskar Staudinger Dolius 5.507  br
5 May 1943 U-707  Günter Gretschel North Britain S 4.635  br

Although the battle has no name or location other than a track over points of latitude  and longitude, there are places to see the U Boat war in Britain.

It is possible to see a U Boat in Birkenhead on Merseyside. This is a type XI larger than the type VII Uboats used by the German wolf packs against ONS 5.

U boat conningtower
U 534 preserved in Birkinhead

The Western Approaches control room in Liverpool is where the Atlantic war was fought.

The  Commonwealth War Grave Commission lists 736 fatalities on 4-5 May 1943, a time when there were operations on  land in Burma and Tunisia  and in the air over Germany. Of these 114 were lost at sea, most oif them in the battle for ONS-5

The merchant marine sailors who lost their lives on ONS 5  are recorded on the Tower Hill memorial to the missing.    The Royal Artillery and Royal Navy Gunners are listed on the Chatham , Portsmouth and Plymouth Memorials.

Unknownsailor
Tower Hill Merchant Marine Memorial

If you would like to visit any of the places associated with this battle contact British Battlefields

25 April 1643 – Surrender of Reading

  reading_siege

On 25th April 1643 the Royalist attempt to relieve their garrison besieged in Reading  failed with an element of farce.

n late October 1642, King Charles returned to Oxford from the indecisive Battle of Edgehill (23 October). On 4 November, he entered Reading from Oxford and later that month retired leaving a Royalist garrison, of 2,000 foot soldiers and a cavalry regiment, under Sir Arthur Aston.

The town and townspeople suffered many privations due to the demands of the garrison for money and lodging.

On 13 April 1643, the Earl of Essex at the head of a Parliamentary army of 16,000 men left Windsor and laid siege to Reading using cannon.  Despite attempts by the King and Prince Rupert to lift the siege, the Royalist garrison  surrendered on 26 and 27 April 1643.

The relief force arrived after the Royalist garrison had lost heart and agreed a truce.  Messengers sent to warn the defenders of the relief were captured.  Attempts by the relief force, unaware fo the truce, were to break through were met by apparent indifference by the besieged who made no attempt to break out . More here http://www.berkshirehistory.com/articles/reading_siege.html

http://sbcox.history-redlands.tripod.com/siege-of-reading.html

www.readingmuseum.org.uk/GetAsset.aspx?id.