Dawley in the Civil War

Dawley in the Civil War
Marilyn Higson


What is known about Dawley in the Civil War? The best known fact is that there was a castle – the Sites & Monuments Record says it was probably a fortified manor house. The castle was besieged in 1645 and fell to the Parliamentarian forces. In 1648 the castle was razed to the ground so that it could not be used as a garrison for the planned Royalist uprising during the second period of the Civil War.

I do not have new facts based on extensive research but what I hope to do is try to create a picture of Dawley in the mid 17th century and show how this small part of Shropshire was affected by the experience of Civil War. I have built this picture from: copies of original sources, e.g. parish records and probate records (though these have to be treated with caution as they favour a minority of society); well known texts for Shropshire history: Victoria County History (VCH) and Barrie Coward’s history of England in this period.

I have considered this information with an eye for lateral connections and I hope not too much uncorroborated imagination or assumptions. My background is an MA in 17th century history so I do have some respect for the truth.

The Parish

The parish of Dawley at this time contained 2790 acres in three townships:
Great Dawley – 997 acres taking the central position
Little Dawley – to the south
Malinslee – 862 acres to the North.
It was a compact area of 5km in length from NE to SW and about 2 km wide. It was crossed from NW to SE by the main Wellington to Worcester (via Bridgnorth) road. In the 17th century cottages clustered along this road on Dawley Green, the centre of what we know now as Dawley. The pre-industrial settlement pattern was one of small hamlets and isolated farmsteads in clearings, such as at Horsehay, Hinkshay and Dawley Bank. In Great Dawley a cluster of at least seven cottages and other buildings lay around the manor house and church, including a parsonage of two and a half bays with a garden and barn and tithe barns. There were nine landed holdings besides the Castle demesne. By 1672 there were 25 names on the Hearth Tax Roll. The community in Little Dawley seems to have been more disparate being the more wooded part of the parish. There were isolated farms which were joined by cottages erected on the wastes in the 17th century. It is thought that there were about 15 names on the 1672 Hearth Tax Roll. There were also about 15 names on the Hearth Tax Roll for Malinslee.


The Social Order

The context for examining a community in the 17th century is of a social order in which there is much movement and wide variations within every social class, a world dominated by weather, seasons and the harvest and a largely rural population living in villages, hamlets and isolated houses and working within units of 5-6 people. 17th century society can be divided into gentlemen, (anyone from the King down with the right to bear arms and who could live without labour), yeomen, traders and labourers and the poor – an order that was endorsed by the seating arrangements in churches

The Gentry

The Lordship of the Manor of Great Dawley during the Civil War period was held by the Crompton family. Fulke Crompton may have originated from Broseley and the family may have lived in Great Dawley – some sources claim that Mary Crompton, Fulke’s wife, a renowned Royalist, led the defence of the castle in 1645, and continued to take the profits until 1652. After the Restoration in 1662, Fulke Crompton (the son) was cited as being ‘of Dawley’ in a mortgage but no there is no trace of them in the Hearth Tax Roll of 1672 for by that time Frances Crompton (the daughter) had sold the Manor to Robert Slaney of Hatton Grange. There is a coat of arms of a Crompton family in Eyton Church, which may have been theirs.

In the 1620s the Manor of Little Dawley was bought by William Craven, Baron Craven from 1627. The Craven family had made its fortune from money lending. The Cravens did not live in Little Dawley but collected the profits as absentee landlords. Malinslee was held of the Lords of Leegomery by the Eyton family from 1334 and remained so until 1701. From 1655, the Manor was held in trust to create a stock for the younger children of Sir Thomas Eyton.

In all counties in England there was a marked division between the greater county gentry with scattered estates, no direct involvement in farming and forming a county elite and the lesser, parochial gentry who had more influence in their own part of the county. The Cromptons were definitely part of the second group. However during the Civil War, lesser gentry were given more responsibility for local government by both the Royalist and Parliamentarian Committees, and a chance to influence national events such as the strategic role of Dawley Castle.

According to the probate inventories taken in the latter part of the 17th century, more families than just the Lords of the Manor would style themselves or be regarded as gentry because of wealth and local social standing. Richard Clowes of Great Dawley died in 1679 and his inventory give clues to the lifestyle of a country gentleman. Firstly the inventory was taken by two men from neighbouring parishes rather than from within his own parish, indicating the value of his possessions and his place in local society.

His house consisted of at least 11 rooms plus outbuildings, with a hall, parlour, cellar and buttery, 6 bedrooms, a kitchen with rooms beyond and outside a brewhouse, milkhouse and barn. It had been assessed for 3 hearths in 1672. The parlour was a large room comfortably furnished with three carpets, tables, chairs, a couch, cushions, two desks, fire irons, virginals, a map, two pictures, a coat of arms and a chess board – obviously a room for leisure and entertainment. Richard Clowes left £40 in cash in the house and £160 worth of debts owed to him were noted. In the hall was a halberd – a combination of a spear and battleaxe – perhaps last used in the Civil War but dating from before that.. There were looking glasses in two of the bedrooms. In the kitchen there were wood, iron, brass and pewter ware and silverware displayed elsewhere. There was a hogshead and 6 barrels in the cellar, glass bottles and glasses in the buttery and brewing equipment in the brewhouse, plus a cheese press. Outside there was corn and hay in the barn and on the ground, four oxen, five cows, two heifers, one old mare, three pigs and poultry. The total value of the estate (without the house) was £263 18s 4d.

We do not know for certain how Richard Clowes made his money. It is likely that he was born in Broseley in 1629 but we do not know what opening or opportunity persuaded him to move to Dawley. The value of his agricultural possessions amounted to £47 and he obviously was directly involved in farming, benefiting from rising agricultural prices and cheap seasonal labour in the 17th century. From the amount of debt owed to him, we might assume that he also leased out land, thus also benefiting from rising rents. Unlike their European counterparts, English gentry were willing to participate in trade and industry to maximize opportunities for wealth. In the neighbouring parish of Madeley, Basil Brooke was investing in the ironworks at Coalbrookdale.

The Yeoman Farmers

In the social order below the gentry families were the farmers. This class covered a wide range of wealth, standards of living and size of farm, and very often there was little difference between the richer farmers and the poorer gentry and the poorer farmers and the substantial labourer. Farming was the dominant industry but no-one in the inventories was known as a farmer. Rather they were known as ‘yeoman’ or ‘husbandmen’ and these were status titles rather than referring to an occupation. Richard Clowes assisted at the taking of the inventory of Bassall Richards, a yeoman of Little Dawley who died in 1659. His house had at least seven rooms, including a new chamber, and was plainly furnished with wooden furniture, hempen or flaxen sheets and other items of linen, woollen curtains, wooden, brass and pewter ware plus 12 silver spoons. The bulk of his estate was made up of his farming interests, which amounted to £121 7s 8d and included cattle of all ages, a horse, pigs, sheep and cereals in the house and on the ground worth £38.

Farmers held their land either as owner/occupiers or as tenants. Tenancy leases were held under different sorts of tenures. Secure tenants could pay as little as 1d per annum as a nominal rent while copyholders had less security, being liable to shorter leases and rent rises, though these could be limited by ‘custom of the manor’. The size of a farm could depend on local inheritance laws and also on the progress towards enclosure of open fields and reclamation of the wastes and woodlands. In Shropshire, most enclosure was a silent process, not involving Acts of Parliament (with some notable exceptions).

Much of Shropshire had never been laid out to the open field system, new clearings being enclosed straight from the woodlands, such as at Dawley.
Dawley had been part of the Forest of Mount Gilbert, but from the 13th century and up to the 17th century, small enclosures continued to be carved out of the woodland. Field names give some evidence of this: e.g. – ‘stocking’- a field cleared of stumps. By the 17th century Little Dawley was still a heavily wooded area.

In Great Dawley there were at least two areas of open field – the larger, known as the common field, lay along the boundary with Little Dawley, later divided by what is now Holly Road into Pool Hill Field and Rednall Field and Castle Field. Coppy Greave Field lay north of the village in the Portley area. These fields were gradually enclosed between1635 and 1767. They accounted for only a small proportion of the township, with more land being worked or leased out as enclosed farms or small holdings by individual owners.

There were three open fields in Little Dawley – Pool Hill and Rednall Fields next to the fields in Great Dawley and Bandrich Field to the south. Piecemeal enclosure was in progress before 1631 but part of Pool Hill Field remained open until 1772. Waste land was concentrated in the SE as indicated by the frequent use of ‘moor’ in the field names.

There are no references to open fields in Malinslee.

These piecemeal enclosures usually arose through mutual agreement between landowners and tenants. Glebe terriers were created in order to protect the landed interest of the local clergyman, or his patron, in this process. Attitudes to enclosure were usually favourable. Tenant farmers gained more viable farms. In the 1630s Little Dawley there were seven farms with acreages varying from 71 to 133 – each increased by almost 25% in the 1630s and 40s.

As said before, agriculture was the dominant industry and all households were involved in farming to a greater or lesser extent. For example, Walter Hartshorne, a master collier, of Malinslee, whose inventory was taken in 1696, had a herd of mixed cattle, six horses, 16 sheep, hay and corn and implements of husbandry all of which were valued more highly than his coal stocks and colliery gear.

There are many indications that farming in Dawley was less prosperous than in neighbouring parishes. Cows were valued at £1.15s, this being less than in other parishes. A smaller percentage of herds were fed on hay as winter fodder, cheese was more commonly made for home consumption than as a cash product, such as on the richer larger farms in Wrockwardine or Lilleshall. The size of flocks of sheep was smaller and there is less evidence of larger equipment such as wagons, wains, harrows and oxen to pull them.

Although Shropshire was known as a pastoral county, mixed farming prevailed at Dawley. Wheat was the commonest grain grown, often as a mixture with other grains and known as ‘maslin’. Inventories mention the oversowing of fields during the winter. Barley was grown in small quantities for home brewing.

Pigs were often kept and evidence of this is found in the flitches of bacon in the house as well as the sows and hogs outside. Poultry – ducks, hens and geese – provided eggs and more meat for the households. Cheese presses often feature in the inventories and cereals for use in the house are listed as well as growing in the fields. There is no mention of vegetables in the inventories but the VCH cites references to orchards. In 1632, tithes were due on corn, hay, wool, lamb, pigs, geese, hemp, flax, apples and eggs.

Inside the farmhouses the kitchens were equipped with a range of cooking and preservation equipment and implements for serving and eating food in wood, brass and pewter. The halls, parlours and chambers were furnished with wooden furniture, sometimes made by a joiner, with occasional woollen curtains and carpets. Linen and hempen cloth was used for sheets to cover the feather or flock mattresses and for table cloths and napkins. Hemp and flax were grown in the local fields – the harvest being processed into yarn and saved until enough had been collected to be taken to the weaver to make the cloth for personal or domestic use. A Dawley weaver’s inventory was taken in 1675. He had two looms valued at £2 – far less than his farming interests. It is worrying that he did not have a candlestick listed among his belongings. Brass candlesticks are listed in most inventories. Finally fire irons and hearth furniture give evidence of grates burning coal for cooking or heating.

Smallholders and Labourers

When we come to the lowest strata of society we are really limited for evidence. Landless labourers have left few records and those that have can give an exaggerated impression of wealth and standards of living since only the better off labourers needed inventories or could afford the fees for registrations for church baptisms, marriages or burials.

Farm labourers covered a wide variety of economic life – from those who had a small holding of a few acres to those who were wholly dependent on wages from casual employment, charity or poor relief. An act of 1598 stipulated that all cottages should have a 4 acre holding so that the cottagers could be self-sufficient but perhaps 25% had no land at all. All local inhabitants had the right to graze animals on common land and to gather fuel and food from the woods and waste. The cottagers could be employed by local farmers on a seasonal basis and also participate in by-employment. Some lived in the home of their employer and landed magnates employed the greatest number of hands in one organisation until 19th century factories.

For the general labourer, this was a period of falling standards of living. Real wages fell as the numbers of available labourers rose. Summer day labourers’ rates in Shrewsbury in 1628 were 3d per day with food, 7d per day without food, and winter rates were 1d per day less. A skilled agricultural worker could earn more but unskilled workers, women and children were always on much lower rates. This forced many labourers to travel to find work to where new communities were being formed. It was more common for people to move than to stay in one place. Poverty was deep-rooted in Elizabethan and Stuart England despite legislation, philanthropy and local charities. When the farming economy was hit by bad harvests, then conditions of life for many could become very difficult indeed. It is reckoned that the 1620s, 1630s and 1640s witnessed extreme hardship.

In Shropshire enclosure and encroachment was not the prerogative of the land-owning classes. Small scale encroachments by peasants are recorded in the manor courts as squatters established their small holdings on the wastes and edges. Throughout the county, there was squatter activity from the late 16th century. Shropshire landlords tended to welcome squatters – there was no shortage of land, they could yield more rental income and were available to join the work force when needed. In Little Dawley the illegal building of a cottage was presented to the manor court in 1592, while in Great Dawley a piece of ground in Dawley Green was leased in 1611 to a miner as a site for a cottage.

Early Industrial Activity

Claims have been made that the 16th and 17th centuries witnessed an early industrial revolution – a prequel to the rapid progress of the 18th century. There is evidence for early industrial activity in East Shropshire. Often these industries, and trades, were carried out as a by-employment rather than sole employment, to tide a farmer though the lean winter months. Early in the 17th century Sir George Hayward worked the ironstone and coal measures on his estates, which included Great Dawley. There was an ironstone mine and a bloom smithy at the Ridges Farm in Little Dawley, and in Malinslee the Eyton trustees were charged to mine coal and quarry ironstone, which in 1680 had an annual value of £200. Limestone mines and quarries were recorded in Little Dawley from 1653.

A comparison between Dawley and Broseley inventories reflects the development of coal mining in the two parishes. Dawley lies on the Lightmoor fault so, in the west of the parish, coal was easy to gain without expensive equipment, whereas Broseley miners owned horses for gins and coal working equipment valued at £13. For the Dawley collier, mining was a by-employment - he had a larger agricultural interest with cows, sheep and corn, while his Broseley counterpart kept pigs and nothing else.

The only other trades evident from the earliest inventories taken at Dawley are two weavers. If we look at the surrounding parishes, Madeley boasted a nailer, two trowmen, a bowyer and a weaver, Little Wenlock a mason, Broseley a pedlar, four trowmen, a carpenter and a chandler, Lilleshall a blacksmith, two game keepers and a carpenter and Wrockwardine a weaver, a nailor and a schoolmistress. Wellington, as the nearest town, could provide all manner of luxury goods from a range of mercers, tanners, glovers, gunsmiths, blacksmiths and dyers. Dawley parish did have a mill on the Horsehay brook between 1573 and 1715 and there may have been a windmill in the SE of the parish. There were at least three alehouses from the 16th century and these establishments were guilty of harbouring illegal gaming and card playing.

Education and Religion

Claims have been made for an ‘educational revolution’ in this period. The curate in Dawley in 1605 is believed to have opened a school but we do not know how long it lasted. There were schools in Bridgnorth, Newport and Shrewsbury but there is little evidence of literacy in Dawley in the 17th century. Only one inventory includes a book and few of the leading men in the parish who took the inventories could even sign their names. Education remained the prerogative of rich men and the clergy as far as the population in Dawley were concerned.

The clergy and the church held a central place in society in the early modern period. The Church of England represented authority and stability, law and order, or should have done. The church at Great Dawley stood just NW of the castle. By the 17th century the living at Dawley was a royal donation, the rights of the rectory going to the holder of the living, while a curate was put in place to perform the duties. It was a poor living: the curate in 1639 only received £13 pa, while the impropriator ( during the 17th century the Watson family) took the great tithes and also the profits from the 25 acre estate that belonged to the church. He also owned the parsonage on the east side of the churchyard and possibly rented it out for there was no house for the curate until the 18th century.

With such a poor living it is not surprising that the curates did not stay long and that there were accusations of laxity in the 1630s. During this period the glebe terrier is signed by the three churchwardens, not the curate, which event in the Lichfield diocese is often associated with a dispute. In 1647, the Dawley living was made more attractive when Francis Watson, the impropriator, settled his sequestration fine with an annuity of £56. After 1660, Dawley was served by the rector of Stirchley who sent a curate to Dawley.

Set this reality of spiritual care in the national movements of religious reform. . In the 1630s Archbishop Laud was trying to implement high church reforms within the Church of England while both Puritan and Catholic recusants either openly or quietly celebrated services in their own way. The Brooke family at Madeley attracted a large Catholic community to its estates. In the towns and villages Puritan preachers were welcomed and attracted large congregations. Richard Poole, curate of St Chads, Shrewsbury, had local approval but was removed by Laud. Nearer to home, the rector of Little Wenlock from 1608 was George Baxter, a Puritan, for whom a warrant of arrest was issued in 1643. We do not know how these issues influenced people in Dawley. A Puritan curate was in place at Dawley in the 1650s but was ejected in 1660. He seems not to have left a mark for there were no non-conformists recorded in 1676.

The Roman Catholic Church had remedies or explanations for the inexplicable happenings of day-to-day life, while the Church of England referred believers to the unpredictableness of God. The new scientific discoveries were slow to filter down through society and were anyway full of complex concepts. In this vacuum, belief in the folklores, magic and witchcraft continued. How else can you explain freak weather, sudden deaths and other tragedies? We have no evidence of this at Dawley, but it should be considered when we are trying to build up a picture of the scattered, isolated community, and there were cases of witchcraft heard in courts around the county.

We can put names to some of the people who lived in the townships. I have already mentioned Richard Clowes as a leading member of society at the top of the Hearth Tax Roll. The Darrall family lived at the Ridges, which we have heard about when discussing early industrial ventures in Little Dawley. Richard Darrall helped take inventories along with men from the Newton and Peploe families. The Roe family, father and son, acted as churchwardens, as did the Jordans and Higgins. Surviving parish registers date from1666, but even from looking at the first 20 years of records we can trace the marriages of local people and the christenings of subsequent children. Joseph Bailey married Judith Hawking, from another local family, in February 1667: seven children were born. Edward Barnes married Frances Steventon from Dawley in 1667 and had six surviving children. These names all appear on the Hearth Tax Roll so the records reflect the wealthier families in Dawley, but their early marriages and the high survival rates of their children could be a measure of employment and stability in society.

The Effects of the Civil War

Of course these examples come from the Restoration period when England had restored a monarch and also many of the old ways of life after the Civil War and Commonwealth period. Some historians have called this period cataclysmic, when the world was turned upside down and England had its own revolution. Others have viewed it as a temporary interruption in the gradual development of constitutional monarchy. In my view the Civil War affected everyone in England no matter how remote or lowly.

In the first place, the English people had to get used to the idea of war on English soil. For the previous 90 years any threats of war had come from foreign enemies, such as the Spanish or French, and these external threats had brought people together. In the 17th century the term ‘nation’ was beginning to be used as England, Wales and Scotland had been brought together under the Stuart monarchy. Many European neighbours had been involved in what became known as the Thirty Years War. Then Charles I’s policies brought war to England, firstly in the campaigns against Scotland 1638-40, and then in the Civil War.

Secondly, the Civil War forced people to take sides. There was no common enemy to unite the nation: rather the ancient ties of family, friendships and neighbours were broken in favour of a higher allegiance to a patron, religion or political belief.

When Charles I raised his standard in Nottingham in August 1642, it was no surprise. By 1640 Charles had alienated many sections of the population by:
▪ The danger and waste of revenue of the Scottish War
▪ Sundry innovations in the matter of religion….imposed by Archbishop Laud
▪ The great increase of popery and the employing of popish recusants in places of
power and trust
▪ The great mischief that might befall with the intention of bringing in Irish and
foreign forces
▪ The heavy charges on merchandise and monopolies which discourage trade
▪ The long intermission of Parliaments
▪ The enforcement of Ship Money and prosecution of some sheriffs in the Star
Chamber for not levying it.

The issue of Ship Money is a good example of how the King’s policies had roused even remote counties. The first writ arrived in Shropshire in August 1635 and £4500 was demanded: double that demanded of Staffordshire because Shropshire was known as a rich county with numerous castles and mansions. The same levy was received in 1636. Then the protests of the previous year developed into disturbances and violence against the Sheriff and his collectors. In 1637, with the third levy, Charles sent a letter explaining the importance of maintaining the ships against Turks and pirates. Ship money was in fact raising income that enabled Charles to rule independent of Parliament. By 1638, Shropshire people were refusing to pay, by 1639 the method of collection had broken down and in 1640 the tax was abandoned and Parliament was called.

Most of the nation did not want to fight either the King or Parliament. They wanted the King to rule with the help of Parliamentary representatives. When Charles I arrived in Wellington in September 1642, the Mayor of Shrewsbury had prepared a speech that he was not allowed to give, in which he asked for ‘a reunion of these disjointed governments’. The most common reaction was non-commitment either by individuals, groups or whole counties, such as Cheshire, which tried to stay neutral. The Earl of Clarendon remarked of Shropshire that ‘the number of those who desired to sit still was greater than those who desired to engage in either party’. And for the ordinary people, Thomas Hobbes wrote that for every committed supporter there were many more whose interests were confined to living their own lives especially the ‘common people’ who ‘did not care much for either of the causes’ for they ‘loved their pudding at home better than a musket and pike abroad and if they could have peace, care not what side had the better’.

There was confusion, too, about the differences between what King and Parliament were fighting for. Jonathan Langley wrote to Francis Ottley at the beginning of the War that ‘both sides are fighting to uphold the Protestant religion, so why are they fighting’. Recently Barry Coward has written that allegiance was chosen for negative reasons. The Royalists feared Parliamentary absolutism, religious radicalism and popular rebellion while the Parliamentarians feared royal absolutism and distrusted Charles I.

At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, Shropshire declared for the King despite the past protests over Ship Money and despite the fact that four of the 12 MPs and some prominent gentry were Parliamentarians. In August 1642 a grand jury filled with 100 Royalist gentry of the highest degree voted to assure the King of the county’s support. This was followed by a similar declaration by the Church of England clergy. In East Shropshire, in the small communities within Manor Lordships, declared loyalty was predominately Royalist. At Dawley, Mary Crompton was a declared Royalist, as were Sir Basil Brooke at Madeley, the Newports at High Ercall, the Levesons at Lilleshall and the Charltons at Apley Castle; but at Tong was the Parliamentary supporter William Pierpoint, ‘wise William’, the friend of Cromwell. In towns like Newport, loyalty swung from one side to another depending on the proximity of either army and economic pressures.

Thirdly, the war brought opportunities for men to earn a regular wage, travel away from home and experience some adventure by enlisting in either army. When it was revealed that none of these promises were upheld, impressments and conscription were used to gain recruits. The Royalists raised armies through the Commissions of Array, put into force in Shropshire by Sir Francis Ottley. A general muster was held on the Gay Meadow on 28th September 1642. The Long Parliament had passed a Militia Ordnance. In Shropshire, Sir William Pierpoint tried to enforce this measure. Of course, there were local confrontations as both sides tried to recruit the same reluctant volunteers and grab the same arms, but generally local landowners recruited from their own tenants.

There was little to distinguish the two armies physically. The Parliamentarians wore an orange scarf and the Royalists a red one. Parliamentary soldiers tended to be better armed while Royalists borrowed from the trained bands and the contents of private armouries.

Skilled men would have become musketeers while new recruits, especially young strong labourers, would have carried pikes or bills, 12–18 feet long. Sergeants carried the halberd like the one that Richard Clowes displayed in his hall after the War,

Both armies advertised ‘constant’ pay. In 1642 a musketeer’s pay in the Royalist army was 6s per week. Of course the constant pay was never achieved and was a source of grievance, and later mutiny. By 1649, the pay for an infantryman in the New Model Army had fallen to 8d per day – the same rate as an agricultural labourer. The lack of wages, the conditions of service and responsibilities at home led to widespread desertion, even after the Battle of Edgehill in October 1642. Brereton, the Parliamentarian commander for Cheshire and later Shropshire, wrote that the new soldier rarely ‘had much mind to fight, but was glad to take any occasion to haste home’.

Fourthly, without regular pay and provisions or proper equipment, both armies plundered the towns and countryside. The Royalists had the worst reputation for this. During September and October 1642, Charles I and his entourage and 4000 troops were stationed at Shrewsbury.

One commentator wrote:
‘Our country is now in a woeful condition, by reason of the multitude of soldiers daily billeted upon us, both of horse and foote… all the county over 12-14 miles of Shrewsbury are full of soldiers… they take men’s horses, breake and pillage men’s houses night and day in an unheard manner; they pretend quarrel with the Roundheads as they call them, but for aught I see they will spare none if they may hope to have good bounty’.

By mid October, the King had left Shrewsbury for Bridgnorth, followed by Prince Rupert who scoured the countryside for arms, money and recruits, visiting Shifnal on his way to Wolverhampton. Dawley would have been on the edges of both these episodes.

The plundering continued throughout the war. A house could be plundered by both sides if the occupant was believed to be neutral. It ranged from petty theft to wholesale pillaging after a victory. A garrison in a private manor house would get all its provisions from the surrounding countryside and the same source would also have to feed the opposing force if the garrison was besieged – as at Dawley.

Fifthly, the war brought about a decade of economic dislocation. Trade was disrupted by sieges in towns which stopped markets, as at Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth, blockades on the rivers, such as the Severn, and closed roads which had already been made worse by the heavy traffic. Village economies were affected by the loss of menfolk, temporarily or permanently, to till the fields, by crops damaged by troops, and by the constant plundering and provisioning of armies. Add to this the taxes levied regularly by both sides. As war progressed estates were seized, sequestered and families were ruined by trying to pay the fines. Buildings were destroyed, not only castles and manor houses, but smaller dwellings to make room for better defences. Churches were also often involved. We do not know if Dawley Church suffered during the siege in 1645. It was situated close to the castle so may well have done. At Stokesay the church was destroyed, at High Ercall, the church was part of the siege and the church at Tong bears the marks of action.

Finally, there is the direct action that a small community like Dawley may have witnessed. Dawley being situated close to Watling Street would have witnessed troop movements on a scale never seen before, especially in the early part of the war. The wagons of newly minted money travelling from the King’s new mint in Shrewsbury to his capital at Oxford may have passed along this road in the winter of 1642/43. Dawley would have been fearful of the rumours of a Parliamentary force of 15000 threatening the eastern side of the county early in 1643. During 1643-44, most of the action was concentrated on the North of the county, but then as parliamentary forces prevailed and towns fell, the Royalists garrisoned individual strongholds such as High Ercall and Dawley.

Farrow says that Dawley Castle was held by its lady owner, Mary Crompton. According to the diary of Richard Symonds, of the Royalist Army, it was held by Fulke Crompton and by Duckenfield, who was probably the military leader of the garrison. Duckenfield had also led the garrison at Lilleshall, also lost in 1645. Dawley fell to the Parliamentary forces on 23rd August 1645, when the troops stationed there abandoned it for High Ercall. It may then have been garrisoned by the Parliamentarians.

In 1648, during the second period of the Civil War, Dawley Castle featured in a plot to rally support for the King in the West Midlands. Sir Henry Lingen was commissioned to organise the rising in Worcestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Herefordshire. The plans included seizing several garrisons for the King including Dawley and Ludlow. The plot was discovered by Captain Andrew Yarranton, a former Captain of the garrison at Madeley Church. The Governor of Ludlow was forewarned and the local Committee of Safety for the County of Shropshire made ready to outwit the plot. In the east of the county, the plan progressed further. Francis Ottley was drilling troops in the woods around Boscobel when he was surprised by Captain Yarranton. Within the context of continuous Royalist plots, the House of Commons ordered that Dawley Castle, and others, be demolished.




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