Join the Club


I have been writing a series of posts about Wessex Political Thinkers over at the Wessex Regionalist blog. This was originally intended to be a part of that series, but I thought it more properly belonged here, for two reasons. Firstly, because their interest seemed more related to history than current politics. And secondly, because political theory was never really their thing.

The Clubmen were a movement that arose during the English Civil War in response to depredations inflicted on the general populace by both royalist and parliamentarian troops. Originally founded in south-west Mercia in 1644, bands of  Clubmen sprang up the following year in virtually every county of Wessex, with their heartlands being in Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorset. Their symbol was the white ribbon, but these were no "peace at any price" non-interventionists; rather, their slogan was "resist all plunderers." Some favoured the royalist cause, others the parliamentarian, but all were sick of the war, and prepared to take up cudgels--literally--to defend their property, and their womenfolk.

The first Clubman uprising in Wessex came, appropriately enough, on St Ealdhelm's Day 1645, when 4000 Dorsetshire Clubmen assembled near Shaftesbury, at the site known to this day as Clubmen's Down. It is thought that many of the ringleaders had been involved in the Western Rising of twenty years earlier, against enclosures and disafforestation, but this is mostly conjecture based on the fact that many of the riots occurred at the same locations.

Further uprisings occurred across Wessex in the following months. On August 4th, Cromwell dispersed nearly 2000 clubmen at Hambledon Hill, killing around 50 or so. Combatants on the Clubman side included the future Bishop of Gloucester, Robert Frampton, and his four brothers. Shortly afterwards, the Clubmen of Gloucestershire, Somerset and Devon appear to have been won over to the parliamentarian cause, and at a meeting in Dundry on September 7th, they agreed to aid Fairfax in the siege of Bristol.

As the uprisings ended in the western part of Wessex, they were just beginning in the east. Roundhead troops were diverted from the siege of Basing House, seat of the Marquis of Winchester and a key royalist stronghold, in order to suppress a nearby rebellion by Hampshire Clubmen. In Berkshire, the Clubmen were said to number 16000, more than either the Cavaliers or the Roundheads in that county.

In November, 3000 Clubmen met on Bredon Hill in Worcestershire and openly declared for parliament. After that, they survived in the form of local militias acting on behalf of the New Model Army. Their last gasp was an ill-fated attack on Princes Rupert and Maurice as they retreated to Oxford. Interestingly, the use of the word "club" to mean an association is first recorded shortly after the English Civil War, so it is possible that their legacy lives on in the English language, long after they themselves have faded into history.

St Ealdhelm’s Day 2019

Wantage Morris Men flying the Wessex flag in Oxford on Mayday morning

The image above comes courtesy of Chris McDowell. It is good to see the wyvern being flown earlier this month on Icknield Way. It serves as a nice appetiser for our annual St Ealdhelm's Day event, which this year takes place in Lacock and Chippenham. Normally, the event takes place on the nearest Sunday, but as May 25th falls on a Saturday this year, we are holding it on the actual day.

We are fortunate to have Leo Stevens acting as our host at Lacock. Leo has lived in this preserved and special village all his life and his family roots there go back hundreds of years. We will visit the church - which hopefully will be flying the Wessex flag - and the tithe barn as well as a pub with a dog-driven spit - the origin of hot dogs (maybe not).

After lunch we will head on to Chippenham and visit King Alfred's hunting lodge where he was attacked by those pesky Vikings at Twelfth Night in 878AD. We can also visit the local museum and talk about the "unusual" situation in that part of Wiltshire during the early years of the Saxon settlement.

To get even more back to our roots, our visit coincides with the Chippenham Folk Festival, so the town will be buzzing.

We will meet in Lacock's car park at 11 am. That will give us about one and a half hours or so in the village; time for lunch and then head to Chippenham about 2pm for the remainder of the day.

Would everyone coming please let us know so we can try to book a table for lunch. If you have any queries, feel free to post them in the comments.

BBC Introducing in Wessex and Cornwall 26.03.2019

This may be our last Spotify playlist. The BBC has said that the ability to save tracks from their radio shows and export them to Spotify will cease at the end of this month, but didn't specify an exact date. We may get one next week as well, but if not, you can at least enjoy this one.