Tag Archives: John Hampden

The Battle of Brentford (1642)

The Battle of Brentford, in the English Civil War, took place on this day in 1642 …

Monument

Informative plaque

The site of the battle is marked by a granite memorial and by a series of informative plaques.

According to the plaques, what happened here was as follows:

“Parliamentarians had arrived in the prosperous market town on Friday 11 November.  The following day the royalists marched from Hampstead Heath and in the early afternoon broke through a parliamentary barricade at the bridge over the Brent.  Near this information panel, the royalists were delayed, fighting two or three hours until the parliamentarian soldiers fled.  This position was defended by about 480 of Lord Brooke’s regiment and survivors of the earlier fighting, with two small pieces of artillery. The royalists soon gained the upper hand.  There seem to have been no civilian dead despite the capture of the town.  About 20 royalists were killed, and perhaps 50 parliamentarians died in the fighting with more drowning in the Thames.  Parliamentary Captain John Lilburne was amongst those captured”.

And what happened next was as follows:

“Later that afternoon the royalists pressed on towards London.  There were more parliamentary troops in a large open area, probably Turnham Green and Chiswick’s Common Field.  These green-coated men of John Hampden’s regiment of foot charged five times, holding the royalists back.  But with night coming and the royalists exhausted from fighting both sides disengaged.  The royalist soldiers who had captured Brentford ransacked the town … The Battle of Turnham Green took place the following day”.

John Gwyn, a royalist soldier, wrote:

“We beat them from one Brainford to the other, and from thence to the open field, with … resolute and expeditious fighting, …  push of pike and the butt-end of muskets, which proved so fatal to Holles’ butchers and dyers that day”.

Map

The  attempted arrest of the “five members” (John Rushworth, 1642)

A nineteenth-century painting in the Houses of Parliament of the attempted arrest of the five members (Charles West Cope)

On this day in 1642, King Charles I and his henchmen entered the Houses of Parliament and attempted to arrest five Members of Parliament, namely, John Hampden (c.1595–1643) (*), Arthur Haselrig (1601–1661), Denzil Holles (1599–1680), John Pym (1584–1643) and William Strode (1598–1645).  It is said that when the King demanded to be told the whereabouts  of the MPs, the Speaker of the House, William Lenthall, retorted:

“May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here”.

The event was essentially the last in a series that eventually led to the Civil War between on the one hand the Royalists under Charles, and on the other the Parliamentarians under Cromwell (*).

It is ceremonially re-enacted each year during the State Opening of Parliament, when the Crown’s  representative, “Black Rod”, is despatched from the Lords to the Commons, there to have the doors slammed shut in his face.

A seventeenth-century portrait of John Hampden (Robert Walker)

(*) Hampden was Cromwell’s cousin, and one of his ablest military commanders during the early part of the war.  He died  of wounds sustained at the Battle of Chalgrove Field  in 1643.

The Mother of Parliaments

The Ship of State
Forever teatime

Today (3rd October) I went on a tour of the Houses of Parliament,  also known as The Palace of Westminster* (see below, 2nd paragraph).  I found it a strangely moving experience, simply being in the space where so much history has been made.  And felt a particularly strong  surge of emotion on being reminded by the guide of Charles I’s  attempted unconstitutional arrest of five Members of Parliament here in 1642 – essentially the last in the series of events that led to the Civil War.  One of the said “Five  Members” was my distant relative John Hampden, who went on to fight on the Parliamentarian side in the War, and was mortally wounded at the Battle of Chalgrove Field. 

The Old Palace was purportedly originally built for Cnut in around 1016, and subsequently rebuilt by Edward, “the Confessor” in 1042-65, and extended by succeeding kings, with Westminster Hall eventually becoming the seat of Parliament, to be succeeded, in 1548, by the then-secularised Royal Chapel of St. Stephen.

Westminster Hall exterior
Westminster Hall interior
Some of  the palace complex was  destroyed in a fire in 1512; and most of what remained, in another, in 1834, with essentially only Westminster Hall and the Jewel Tower surviving to this day, together with parts of the Royal Chapel of St. Stephen, including the St Mary Undercroft (see Caroline Shenton’s book, “The Day Parliament Burned Down”, published by Oxford University Press in 2012).
Jewel Tower exterior
Jewel Tower interior
Westminster Hall was originally built as a royal residence cum banqueting house by William II, Rufus,  in 1097-9; and rebuilt, with a spectacular hammerbeam roof, by Henry Yevele, for Richard II, in 1394-1401.  The Jewel Tower was originally built by Henry Yevele, for Edward III, in 1365-6.
The New Palace was built by Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin, in the Victorian Gothic style, in 1837-58.
Victoran Gothic extravagance
Victorian Gothic aspiration

(*) For those wanting to see inside the Palace of Westminster – here is a link to the official website with details of how to book …
http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/visiting-and-tours/