This article is from "Aspects of the Early History of Hungerford" by Norman Hidden, 2009.
During the Civil War of 1642-6 Hungerford was an unwilling but important centre of military activity because of its geographical location, midway between London and the southwest . It was this geographical location which probably resulted in the town’s becoming a troop centre for many years that followed. That troops were stationed there during the Commonwealth is evidenced by the occasional parish register entry. Thus in 1651 there is record of the burial on June 7th of Thomas Silversyde, ‘a soldier, of London’; and among the baptisms on 22 August that year was that of Thomas, son of Thomas Later, ‘a soldier’. In addition, when there was an abortive attempt by Charles (later Charles II) to seize the throne by force of arms in that same year, the Hampshire militia levies, stationed at Hungerford, were ordered urgently by the Commonwealth Council of State on September 4 to join Cromwell’s force at Worcester .
A further attempt to overthrow the Commonwealth occurred in 1655, and had its origin in the area of Salisbury. This was known as Penruddock’s rising, from the name of its leader, who rode into Salisbury with about 200 adherents and proclaimed Charles as king. The rising drew in a small number of Royalist sympathisers from Hungerford and district. These included William Palmer, a cordwainer, who joined the group at ‘Bottles Hill’, 4 or 5 miles from the town of Hungerford, intending to rendezvous at Old Sarum, but had turned back and was arrested. More notable local rebels were Sir Seymour Pyle of Axford near Ramsbury and his brother Gabriel Pyle; Robert Mason who owned the manor of Hidden-cum- Eddington; two more landowning gentry in John Deane and Thomas Curr; John Lucas, a tradesman’s son of Hungerford; and John Kensey, surgeon, who is described in one list as of Hungerford and in another as of Newbury .
Penruddock had gravely misjudged his likely support and his force was easily rounded up. He himself was captured in Devon, tried at Exeter and executed. Of his followers Mason and Curr were fortunate to escape; Deane, Lucas, and Kensey were tried and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. However Deane was reprieved; and Lucas and Kensey by what was described as an act of grace had their sentence reduced to beheading.
The incident shows what relatively small support there was in Hungerford for a Royalist action so extreme. Of those named as having Hungerford connections Palmer changed his mind; Kensey almost certainly came from Newbury (the name Kensey appears nowhere in Hungerford parish registers, nor in any other Hungerford documents); the Pyles resided well outside the parish; Deane lived in the parish of Tidcombe.
Of the remainder who might more properly be considered Hungerford locals Robert Mason had fought as a young Cavalier in both the first and second Civil Wars; Thomas Curr was a staunch Roman Catholic whose adherence to his faith had caused him to lose much of his landholding in Sandon, Helmes and Anvilles; John Lucas was a member of a well-to-do Hungerford family of mercers, being the son of that Jehosophat Lucas who gave the town its famous Hocktide horn.
Since W. H. Summers mistakenly describes John as the brother of this Jehosophat , it is necessary to state that there are numerous documents which prove otherwise quite conclusive ly. John in fact was born in 1631 and, like Mason, and probably other hotheads, was a young man when he was caught up in the excitement of Penruddock’s rebellion. There are several indications that the rest of the Lucas family held Puritan views; the will of John’s uncle Onesimus (1638) in particular being full of the most extreme Puritan theology. One can but feel sorry for poor young Lucas, as one may for surgeon Kensey who, we are told, was drawn into the rising by Robert Mason, the latter ‘a desperate fellow’. Be that as it may, different fates befell them. Lucas and Kensey were executed; but when the King returned Mason received a knighthood, and Deane climbed his way back to become the member of Parliament for Great Bedwyn.
1 See Norman Hidden: ‘ Caught in the No-Man’s Land of War’
2 State Papers Domestic 1651, p.406
3 W. Money, p.27
4 Summers, p.118
- Civil War, 1642-1651