London during the English Civil War (January 1642 – April 1646)

Destruction of the ancient cross in the centre of Cheapside in May 1643. It had long been viewed as “an object of Romish religion” and regularly defaced and repaired. It was finally removed by soldiers during the mayoralty of Sir Isaac Pennington, by order of Sir Robert Harley.

London relied heavily on coal from Newcastle, shipped around the coast, for its heating and manufacturing. Supplies were severely disrupted during the occupation of Newcastle by the Scottish army in 1640. At the start of the war the Newcastle burgesses declared in favour of the King. In retaliation, in January 1643 Parliament banned the importation of Newcastle coal into London, and supplies became severely scarce in the capital. Londoners started to burn wood but, as a consequence, that was then also in short supply. With winter approaching, in October 1643 Parliament authorised the cutting of trees on the estates of Royalists within 60 miles of the City.

The war took a toll on London’s citizens. Trade suffered, especially as many of the City’s trained bands were shopkeepers and craftsmen who were away from their business. By 1644 dissatisfaction led to mutiny. Negotiations for a peace treaty were held at Place House at Uxbridge (what is now the Crown and Treaty pub) in January and February 1645. Parliament put forward a set of demands, known as the Propositions of Uxbridge, but at that stage Charles believed that militarily he had the upper hand.

After the failure to agree the Treaty of Uxbridge due to lack of compromise on each side Parliament reorganised its forces as a standing army with soldiers receiving a regular pay. The New Model Army was formed under Sir Thomas Fairfax, into which the London regiments were incorporated. The City lent Parliament £80,000 and provided sufficient men to guard the surrounding redoubts and forts.

There were major losses for the Royalist armies when the New Model Army were victorious at the Battles of Naseby and Langport in the summer of 1645. In the following months various Royalist towns continued to desperately hold out under siege. Charles’s resources were fast dwindling and the outcome became inevitable. The final stand came at Stow-in-the-Wold in Gloucestershire in March 1646.

By April 1646 Parliamentary forces were besieging Charles’s stronghold of Oxford. The King fled to the Scottish-occupied North of England where he hoped to conclude an agreement with the Scots. By May, however, they had rejected his terms and he was imprisoned in Newcastle, which was held by the Scots, with his men dispersing quietly. The King’s eldest son, Prince Charles, had remained in England with his father but under pressure from his mother Henrietta Maria, in 1646 the King sent him to join Henrietta Maria at the French royal court.

The Scots held the King for ransom. Following negotiations, Parliament paid £400,000, Charles was handed over, and the Scottish army returned back to their home country. The King was then held prisoner at various locations, including for a time at Hampton Court.

Sources include: Robin Rowles ‘The Civil War in London’; Sir Walter Besant ‘London in the Time of the Stuarts’ (1903); Barry Coward ‘The Stuart Age’; John Field ‘Kingdom Power & Glory’; Various –‘St. Paul’s – The Cathedral Church of London’; Lisa Jardine ‘On A Grander Scale’; John Richardson ‘Annals of London’; David Flintham ‘The ECW defences of London’

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