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 16/492/321, ff.87-88. 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).
In the last letter of the series, Wharton goes to Hereford and finds that the people swear too much.
most worthy S[i]r
Fryday Sept the 30th was my last unto you. this day a company of knights gentlemen and yeomen of the County of Hereford, came to his Exelency, petioners for strength to be sent spedily to Hereford forthwith wee were commaunded to draw out 15 men out of every company in our Regiments, in all about 900, with 3 troopes of horse and 2 peeces of Ordinance with which we marched (a forlorne hope) towards Hereford. our leaders were The Earle of Stanfords, Leiftenant Colonell, Sargeant major Barrif, and Captaine Inglisby, of Colonell Hampdens Re[giment], Captaine Jones of Cholmleys Re[giment], Captaine Ward of Stanfords, Captaine Povy of Hollis his regiment besides Leiftenants and Sargeants Our ministers Mr John sedgwick, and Mr Kemme. after wee had marched 10 miles wee came to Bromyard, the wether wet, and they way very fowle, here we got a little refreshment and from hence marched 10 miles further to Hereford but very late before wee got thither and by reason of the raine and snow and extreamity of could one of our soildiers died by the way and it is wonderfull wee did not all perish, for the cowardly Cavalleers were within four miles of us in this poore condition comminge to Hereford the gates were shut against us, and for two howers we stood in dirt and water, up to the midde legges for the City were all malignants, save three which were roundheads and the the marquesse of Harford had sent them word the day before, that they should in no wise let us in or if they did we would plunder their houses, murder ther children, burne their Bibles, and utterly ruinate all and promised he would releive them himselfe, with all speede for which cause the Citizens were resolved to oppose us unto the death, and havinge in the City three peeces of ordinance, charged them with nayles stones &c, and placed them against us, and wee against them, resolvinge either to enter the City, or dye before it but the roundheads in the City, one of them an Alderman, surnamed Lane: p[er]suaded the silly maior, (for so hee is indeede) that his Exelency and all his forces weere at hand wherupon he opened unto us, and we entred the City at Bysters gate but found the Dores shut, many of the people with their children fled, and had enoffe to doe to get a little quater but the poore maior (seinge he was so handsomly cozoned) was not a little angry for Harford with his forces, which Fled from Sherbon, promised to visit them the day followinge. this night though weet and weary, wee were faine to guard the City.
this day our generall proclaimed, that all delinquents that in ten daies would returne, and joyne with the parliament, should favorably, but conditionally, be excepted exceptinge such as are members of the house, which must submit to the sensure therof. But these by name are p[ar]ticularly excepted The Earle of Bristo, the Earle of Cumberland, the earle of Newcastle, the Earle Rivers, secretary Nicolas, Mr Endymeon Porter, Mr Edward hide, The Duke of Richmond, the Earle of Carnarvan, the Lord viscount Newwarke, The Lord viscount Fauckland, his majesties secretary in spetiall
Saturday our Squadron watced at St Owens gate, which day I tooke an opportunity to veiw the City, which is well scituate, and seated upon the river Y invironed with a stronge wall, better then any I have seene before, with 5 gates and a stronge stone bridge of sixe arches, over the river, surpassinge worsester. in this City there is the statlyest market place in the Kingdome built with Cullumnes, after the maner of the Exchange. the Minster every way exceedinge that at worcester but the City in Circuit not so large the inhabitants are totally ignorant in the waies of god and much addicted to drunkennesse, and other vices, but principally unto swearinge so that the children that have scarce learned to speake, doe universally sweare stoutly many here speake welsh.
this day our companies exercisinge in the feilds at Worsesster, one of The Lord Generals soildiers shot at randum, and with a brace of bullets, shot one of his fellow soildiers through the head, who immediatly dyed,
Sabbath day, about the time of morninge prayer, we went to the Minster, where the pipes played, and the puppets sange so sweetely, that some of our soildiers could not forbare dauncinge, in the holy quire: wherat the Baallists were sore displ[esd?] the Antheam ended they fell to prayer, and prayed devoutly, for the Kinge, the Bishops &c and one of our soildiers with a loud voice saide, what neiver a bit for the Parlaiment which offended them much more not satisfied with this humane service, we went to devine, and passinge by found shops open, and men at worke to whom wee gave some plaine dehortations, and went to heare Mr Sedgwick, who gave us two famous sermons which much affected the poore inhabitants, who wonderinge said, they neiver heard the like before and I beleeve them, the Lord moove your harts to commiserate the distresses, and to send them some faithfull and painfull ministers, for the revennews of the Collidge, will maintaine many of them.
This even the Earle of Stanford (who is made governor of Hereford) entred the City with a Regiment of foote, and some troopes of horse: and tooke up the Bishops Pallace, for his quarter and is resolved, there to abide wherupon On Munday morninge, we marched towards Worcester, and at the end of ten miles came to Bromyard, where we quartered all night, This day his Exelency proclaimed, that all soildiers that would set to diginge should have twelve pence the day and enter into pay presently.
Tuesday wee marched to worcester, and weere received with much joy for the deseigne was so desperate, that our Juditious frends, neiver looked to see us againe. I am in good health, and by the goodnesse of god supplyed with strenth, beyond expectation.
Wensday morninge, I went to veiw the soildiers workes, who have pourtraed out the severall formes of their Scaunces, halfe moones, Redouts, &c beginninge at Severne on one side, of the City, and goe round the City unto Severne againe. it will be finished with all convenient speede for as wee intrench here so also doth Prince Robber, at Bridge norton, twelve miles of and we heare at Beaudle also, from whence commeth the coales, that supply Our City but we have sent out some forces to expell them thence.
this day after noone, at the request of my Captaine and other commaunders: I againe rode with them unto Malverne hils, forementioned, leavinge our horses in the towne, after much toyle we asscended the hills, which indeede are a very Curious prospect for the day beinge cleare, wee could see neare thirty miles round, all the valley betweene us and woster, though five miles broad, and many miles longe, (inclosed with hedges) semed unto us, but as a garden with a few knots in it, (though indeede they are very large pastures) at the bottome of these hils is Malverne Church, the statlyest parrish Church in England adorned with varieties of rarities, which I want time to expresse.
Thursday wee exercised our soildiers in the feilds, this day the Lord of Coventry came in to us and this even we expected 3 lords more with [a?] Message from his majesty,
Fryday a pare of gallowes were set up in the market place, for the villan that betrayed our troopes, unto the hands of Prince Robber and we this day expect his exaltation I have nothing of worth to present you with, but I have sent you the gods of the Cavalleers inclosed, they are pillage taken from S[i]r william Russels of which I neiver yet got the worth of one farthinge for it is instantly the prey of the ruder sort of soildiers, whose society blessed be god I hate and avoide
I have breifly sent you every dayes passage since I left London which I hope you have received. I earnestly desire to heare of the welfare of you, my Mrs and [f. 88r] you whole family, by this bearer, Thomas Weeden, who weekely visits our army, and is faithfull he lodgeth at the Saracens head, in Carter lane. S[i]r I greete you and my Mrs with my most humble service, as also Mr Molloyne and his Wife, unto whom I am much ingaged principally for his devine exortation, to reade those 2 chapters which I and my company have often done, they beinge very p[er]tinent to the deseigne in hand. I pray excuse my longe silence towards him and assure him that I will p[ar]ticularly present him, with the next remarkeable passage. I would have done it before this time, but your Athenians catch it from us, and carry it post unto you, (though for the most more then is true) that before we can get conveyance, it is turned into antiquity thus with my love and service to Mrs Elizabeth, Anna, John, and little Sammuell, and my love to all my fellow servants, of both sexes, for the present I rest, but not sease to remaine untill death:
Your auntient, humble, and affectionate servant,
Worcester Octob[er] the 7th 1642
To the worthy and his much honored Frend Mr George Willingham Marchant of the golden Anchor in Swethins Lane London these present
[added in different hand: the post is at the howse? heere in Carter lane]
Transcribing this letter was more problematic than usual because there are lots of marks which may or may not be punctuation, and it’s impossible to tell from the microfilm whether they’re original. In the previous letters, Wharton didn’t punctuate his writing this much.
There were a few minor errors in Ellis’s version: ‘exortation’ was missed from the phrase ‘for his devine exortation, to reade those 2 chapters’, and earlier, ‘dehortation’ was misread as ‘exhortation’. The captain of Holles’s regiment was rendered as ‘Pony’, which is a reasonable reading of the manuscript, but I think Povy is more likely based on the list of officers in Thomas Tracts E.117
William Seymour (1587-1660) was 1st Marquess of Hertford and later 2nd Duke of Somerset. He was the Earl of Essex’s brother in law but fought for the King in the civil wars. When he tried to execute the Commission of Array in Somerset in August, he was chased off by a large crowd. He retreated to Sherborne Castle, and held it against Parliament for a while before escaping into Wales.
The identities of the men excepted from pardon should mostly be obvious. Edward Hyde was later Earl of Clarendon and wrote a history of the civil wars that was mostly lies.
Digging trenches is often part of a soldier’s job, so it’s surprising that here they had to be paid extra for it. At least some of the soldiers seem to have been obsessed with money, as we saw during the mutiny, and Wharton didn’t approve of their baseness.
This is the last surviving letter that Nehemiah Wharton sent to George Willingham. Frustratingly he says his next letter will be to Mr Molloyne, but if it was sent, it isn’t known to have survived. Nobody knows what happened to Wharton. His regiment was at the battle of Edgehill on 23 October, so it’s possible that he was killed there. But it’s also possible that he survived and his subsequent letters haven’t. It would be amazing if someone discovered more of them, especially if there was an account of Edgehill in them, but that seems unlikely now. The story doesn’t have a neat ending, but that’s always the way with history.