Civil War Display
- 27th November 2019
In the display cabinets on level 2 we’re featuring the Civil War in Worcestershire from across our collections and services.
Worcestershire is heavily linked to the Civil War, with the first skirmish taking place at Powick, and the final battle fought here in 1651. Worcester was besieged several times, and Charles I visited the city during this time. Other parts of the county were also fought over and besieged too, with armies travelling through the county.
We have a few letters of Charles I from when he visited Worcester and two are on display. One is a letter about troop deployment at Evesham and the other tells Prince Rupert about his retreat from Oxford to Worcester. These are unusual in our collections as they were purchased at auction. We very rarely buy archives but these were an exception.
The Battle of Worcester was the final battle of the wars, bring an end to what often referred to as the Third Civil War.
To try and make the city more defendable new ditches were dig and walls repaired. Men from local parishes were ordered to come. One of these memos from Prince Charles has survived, in the Salwarpe parish records. For many years it was kept in the Salwarpe purse. In 2010 our archaeologists excavated the site of the St Martin’s Gate ditch just in front of where Sports Direct is, in advance of the Lowesmoor development. It shows as a distinct V on the later maps, but did it really look like that? Excavations did show a clear V shape, and was quite deep. Days after the battle the Parliamentarian army order local men to dismantle the defences, and again the Salwarpe parish records contain this memo. Was it the same men who were forced to come both times, and what did they think?
The site of the battle covered a wide area, but one part was south of the city near Powick. With the recent Southern Link Road work our archaeologists have been working to ensure any archaeology is recorded. We shared about what we found on our blog, and you may have seen the coverage on the BBC, and newspapers including The Guardian, The Sun and Daily Mail. Some of the finds are in the display cabinets, including examples of the different types of lead shot, a buckle, fittings and a horse shoe.
Also connected to the battle are pamphlets written days after the event. The Letter from Oliver Cromwell to Parliament on the taking of the City of Worcester was published on 6 September in London. This was followed two days later by Robert Stapylton’s account of the Battle of Worcester and a list of prisoners captured. Although they may not provide the best insight into the events of the battle, and may be a little biased, they provide a fascinating insight into what people in London would have read about what happened.
The pamphlets were part of a collection acquired by Alderman Palfrey, one of the key instigators of the creation of Worcestershire Record Office in 1947. He was a big collector himself of books and documents to do with Worcestershire, and when he died we bequeathed the collection to us. Some of his books are ones in the glass cabinets on level 2.
We also have a couple of lead shots from Hartlebury Castle which had been fired. Hartlebury was besieged in 1646 on the way to Worcester. It is said though that the Castle surrendered without a shot being fired – the war was just about over and the owner was probably more interested in ensuring a peaceful solution which would prevent his house being damaged.
If you want to find out more about the Civil War in Worcestershire we have several books in the Local Studies Library, including some by our former County Archaeologist Malcolm Atkin.
The Hive also holds the Stuart Collection, over 1,000 books relating the Civil War and the Stuarts, bequeathed to Worcester City Library by bookseller John Grainger. Many of these are 17th and 18th century books including books written in the 1660s such as the early edition of Boscobel. The books are kept in the locked glass cabinets on Level 4 and are all on the Library catalogue. They can be viewed in the original archive area when it is open, but need to be accessed by a member of library staff.
Since the move to The Hive our conservator, Rhonda, has been working on these volumes on behalf of our library colleagues. She has been going through each one checking to see what work needs to be done to ensure they are in good condition, able to be seen by people and will last well into the future.
The display will be on view until the end of January.
You can also come on a Behind the Scenes tour with a Civil War theme. As well as see the display cabinets we’ll take you to the areas you don’t normally get to see, and bring out more documents of the periods in the archive strongrooms, visit the conservation studio and see where the archaeological finds are processed. Our November tour sold out so we are running more on Saturday 11th January at 2pm and Wednesday 22nd January. They cost £6, and you can book here.