The English Civil War has been somewhat eclipsed in our history by the more dramatic Tudors, though readers of 1066 and All That will remember that the conflict was between the Cavaliers who were Wrong but Wromantic and the Roundheads who were Right and Repulsive. Burford’s chronicler extraordinaire, Raymond Moody, has stepped into the arena in his latest book which, as the front cover indicates, runs from the Civil War to the Jacobites. It combines an account of events in our area, some better known than others, with a brief description of the national picture to put them in context.
He sets the scene with accounts of two Burford lives. The first is that of Lucius Cary, second Viscount Falkland, former owner of the Priory, who was killed while fighting in the Royalist army at the first Battle of Newbury in 1643. The second is William Lenthall, Speaker of the Long Parliament, the man who bought the Priory in 1637. Raymond then tells the story of the Civil War itself. There were no major hostilities in the town but it was in the periphery of the Royalist stronghold of Oxford and was exposed to the whims of various forces who passed through it and helped themselves to whatever resources they needed. Charles I came here several times, staying at the Priory (presumably Lenthall was absent) and the George.
The author then moves on to an episode of which he writes that: “After the years of warfare and the hardships entailed it hardly merits more than a footnote…But since some modern historians for modern reasons have turned their spotlight upon it, the four days it lasted must be included here.” This, of course, is the mutiny by some of Cromwell’s troops who were imprisoned in the parish church, following which three of their ringleaders were shot. They became known as the Levellers and Raymond gives an interesting explanation of their views. “Levellers” was a term of abuse used against them by their enemies and they firmly denied favouring “an equalling of men’s estates” (it was all about men, of course). They wanted constitutional reform including parliamentary constituencies of equal size and a modest extension to the franchise. They harked back to a semi-mythical time when Saxon people enjoyed a degree of self-government before being enslaved by the Norman Conquest. Although in recent decades they have been adopted as supposed forerunners of socialism, it almost sounds as if they would feel more at home in UKIP than in Momentum.
Later chapters of the book describe events after the Restoration and tell the story of three more people who made their mark locally: Nell Gwyn, mother of the first Earl of Burford; Edward Hyde, first Earl of Clarendon; and John Wilmot, first Earl of Rochester, poet, libertine and alumnus of Burford School.
In the Glorious Revolution of 1688 the Catholic James II was ousted and replaced by his Protestant daughters. After the Stuart line died out the throne passed to the German-speaking Hanoverians. Raymond describes how the repercussions of these events echoed well into the mid-18th century as Jacobites (followers of James and his son) disputed the succession. The origins of our party political system can be traced back to the contests between the “Old Interest” and the “New Interest”. Anyone who thinks our current political discourse has reached a new low in terms of viciousness and abuse should read Raymond’s account of how the 1754 Oxfordshire County Election during which a mob of New Interest supporters armed with bludgeons stormed the White Hart at Chipping Norton where the Old Interest were “entertaining” their supporters.
Burford - Two Centuries of Conflict by Raymond Moody, published by HindSight of Burford. 90 pages. Copies may be obtained from David Cohen. For more information contact us vis this website.