This post is part of a series of letters from parliamentary soldier Nehemiah Wharton during the English Civil War, which will be posted on the anniversary of the day they were written. For more information see the introduction. To find the rest of the series, use the “wharton letters” tag. The original of this letter is held by the UK National Archives, reference SP 16/491/119, ff. 265-6. The text of the letter is out of copyright. Images are available for non-commercial use only at Flickr (click on folio numbers for individual page images).
Wharton starts with an account of how he and his men went from Acton in Middlesex to Ailsbury in Buckinghamshire, with lots of pillaging and iconoclasm on the way.
Alisbury August the 16th 1642
Worthy S[i]r on Munday August the 8th we marched to Acton but beinge the 6th company we were belated and many of our soildiers were constrained to lodge in beds whose feathers were above a yard longe
Tuesday early in the morninge severall of our soilders inhabitinge the out parts of the towne sallied out unto the house of one Penrudduck a papist and beinge basely affronted by him and his dogge entred his house and pillaged him to the purpose this day also the soildiers got into the Church defaced the auntient and sacred glased picturs and Burned the holy railes
Wensday Mr Love gave us a famous sermon this day also the soildiers brought the holy railes from Chissick and burned them in our towne at chissick they also intended to pillage the Lord of Portlands house and also Doctor Ducke but by our Commanders they were prevented This day our soldiers generally manifested their dislike of our Leiftenant Colonell who is a Godamme blade and doubtlesse hatch in Hell and wee all desire that ether the Parlaiment would depose him or God convert him or the Divill fetch him away quick This day Towards even our Regiment marched to Uxbridge but I wa[s] left behind to bringe up 30 men with ammunition the next mornin[g]
Thursday I marched towards Uxbridge and at Hillington one mile from Uxbridge the railes beinge gone wee got the surplasse to make us and handcherchers and one of our soildiers ware it to uxbridge this day the Railes of Uxbridge formerly removed was with the service boock burned this even Mr Hardinge gave us a worthy sermon
Fryday I with 3 other commaunders were sent with 100 Musqetteres to bringe the ammunition to Amersam in Buckinham shire which is the sweetest Country that ever I saw and as is the cuntrey so also is the people but wantinge roome for the Regiment comminge after us we were constrained to march 4 miles further unto greate Missenden where we had noble entertainment from the whole towne but espetially from S[i]r Brian [Ireson?] and the minister of the towne
Satturday morninge our companies overtoke us and we marched together unto Alsberry and after we had marched a longe mile [f. 265v] For so they are all in this Cuntrey wee came to Wendever where wee refresshed ourselves burnt the railes and accidentally one of Captaine Francis his men forgettinge he was charged with a bullet shot a maide through the head and she immediately died from hence wee marched very sadly 2 miles wher Colonell Hamden accompanied with many Gentlemen well horsed met us and with greate Joy saluted and welcomed us and conducted us unto Alsbury where we have a Regiment of foote and severall Troopes of horse to joyne with us in this towne our welcome is such that wee want nothinge but a good Leiftenant Colonell
Sabath day August the 15 in this towne a pulpit was built in the market place where wee heard 2 worthy sermons this eveninge our ungodly Leiftenant Colonel upon an ungrounded whimsey comaunded 2 of our Captaines namely Captaine Francis and Captaine Beacon with their companies to march out of the towne but they went not
every day our soildiers by stealth doe visit papists houses and constraine from them both meate and money they give them whole greate loves and Chesses which they triumphantly carry away upon the points of their swords
I humbly intreate you as you desire the successe of our Just and honorable cause that you would indeavor to Roote out our Leiftenant Colonell for if wee march further under his commaund we feare upon suffitient grounds wee are all but dead men
Munday August the 16th Colonell Hamden marched out of Alisbury with 400 musquetters and about a hundred Horse towards wattleton in Oxfordshire where the Commission of aray was this day to be setled but they hearinge of the aproch of our troopes fled and our horse p[ur]sued them so close that S[i]r John Cursam was taken and the lord of Barks was Constrained to take Asgate hous sometime the Lord Carnarvans where our companies have at this present beset him and thus much for the present.
touchinge Leiftenant Colonell Biddeman formentioned I once more humbly beseech you and not I alone but many others both commaunders officers and common soildiers that you would indevor to Rout him
[There?] are several other circumstances which I want time to expresse for the office assigned mee is very troublesome and [f. 266r] Continually takes up my whole time and therfore for the present let these satisfie. to conclude I present you and mistris with my humble service and doe give you humble and harty thankes for all your former and late Favors and doe intreate you to remember my humble service to Mr Molloyne and wife my service also to Elizabeth Anna John and Sammuell which I often thinke upon. and also my love to all my [fello]w servants In extreame hast I rest
Your poore auntient humble and affectionate servant to commaund
To the worthy and his much Honored Frend Mr George Willingham merchant at the golden Anchor in St Swethins Lane
Ellis’s 19th century transcript of this letter had some terrible mistakes in it: ‘the lord of Barks was Constrained to take Asgate hous’ was mistranscribed as ‘the Lord of Bartie was constrained to take hynte hom’, which makes no sense at all. This passage refers to Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Berkshire, taking refuge in Ascott House near Wing in Buckinghamshire, where he was captured by John Hampden and Arthur Goodwin (both Buckinghamshire MPs and parliamentary officers).
Mr Love is probably Christopher Love, a famous puritan preacher.
Dr Arthur Duck was a civil lawyer whose work in the Court of High Commission and association with Archbishop William Laud made him very unpopular.
Altar rails, stained glass, surplices and the Book of Common Prayer were all very controversial. Crowd actions against them were quite common even before Parliament officially banned them (although some people were prepared to defend them). Diane Purkiss has pointed out that the soldiers probably saw their iconoclasm in churches and plundering Catholics as part of their holy war against ‘popery’. They didn’t necessarily have any official orders to do any of this, as the officers stopping them from plundering the Earl of Portland and Dr Duck shows.
The unpopular lieutenant-colonel is going to cause more problems soon.
Next letter on 26 August.