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.

6 Replies to “Join the Club”

  1. I believe we can learn from the Cornish in thinking about our cultural history. They put an emphasis on the Kernweg language.
    We should do the same with Saxish/Seaxisc.
    Luckily for Wessex (West Saxons) today, there is a great deal of material written in so-called Late Weston Saxon (Saxish – Seaxisc), most of it by Ælfric of Eynsham.
    We are starting from a much higher base than the Cornish had for their language revival.
    Saxish is no harder to learn than German, which it is very similar to. That is true of the grammar and the vocabulary, e.g., ship is scip in Saxish and Schiff in German (/sc/ is pronounced exactly the same as /sh/). Notice; ‘þæt scip’ in Saxish and ‘das Schiff’ in German, i.e, both neuter.

    Faraþ ge gesunde (say, “varath yay yehsoonduh” – it means ‘journey ye sound/safely’)

    1. Beon ge hale, (May ye be prosperous. Say, “Bayon yay haaluh”)

      The Venerable Bede tells us that the Saxons were made up of the East Saxons (Essex), the South Saxons (Sussex) and the West Saxons (Wessex), and that the English were made up of the East English, the Middle English, the Mercians and the whole race of the Northumbrians..
      The English language seems to have differed considerably from that of the West Saxish, perhaps as much as Dutch from German. The Kentish language differed from both and is said to have been indistinguishable from West Flemish.
      Farað ge gesunde. (say, “Vaarath yay yayzoonduh)

      Þþ is named thorn. It was originally a rune. Ðð is named thet and was possibly the Greek letter theta. Thorn and thet are pronounced in exactly the same way as /th/.

  2. The Wessex Society needs some campaigns
    [1] getting the wyvern flag flown or the R flag (gold cross on red field) is one such.
    [2] An ongoing campaign to make Saxish/Seaxisc prominent on public signage, e.g., Brycgstow to be included after Bristol, c.f., Caerdydd after Cardiff, Cas Newydd after Newport.
    [3] campaign against mergers across the government’s South West region, e.g., between the Western Daily Press and the Western Morning News.

  3. The Wessex Society is not easy to find on Google among all the other Wessex Societies. Might I put forward that the entry be set over from the koiné (standard ‘English’) into English as ‘Wessex Folk and Land – then, now and to come’.

  4. You wrote back in 2018, ” It is true that Wessex no longer exists as a nation, or as an administrative unit; but as a country of the mind, it has far more power than the government’s South West or South East regions.”
    I agree, but I would say that we are still a nation, in the same way that the Lakota are a nation. Wessex, I suggest, was never a land in the modern way of thinking.
    We Wessex (Wes(t)seaxe – West Saxons) beoth a volk: we beon’t land. We beoth hou we d’dhenk, hou we d’live, hou we d’sbeek, hou we d’be.

    Note: sbeek – verb; sbeach – noun

  5. It would be useful to distinguish between the Wessex accent, which is pretty uniform from Somerset to Berkshire, and West Country accents (Devon and Cornwall – Formerly, West Wales), which have distinctive features in common.
    The only real similarity between the Wessex accent and the West Country accents is the retention of R after vowels. That feature is also found in the traditional Lancashire accent, which shares more features with the West Country accents than the Wessex accent does.

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