The history of the house on an English village green, continued: Was it once part of Poulshot’s Fortified Manor?



In my last post I managed to travel back in time with my house (potentially) and the land (definitely) to 1671, when a John Cook lived here, and the land passed from Henry Long Esq of Rood Ashton to Edward Pierce ,the elder, (a draper from Devizes ).

But while I was looking at online documents on Poulshot, trying to find out more about this transaction and the history of the land, I came across this comment in the archeological report completed before a solar park was installed. “There were two manors at Poulshot, so it is possible that one was located at the church while the other was located to the north in the area of the Green, where medieval development seems to have taken place in the 12th or 13th century (KDC 2004, 2). Within the Green today there are possible settlement earthworks (RCHME 1996).” The comment made me think – if the second manor, Poulshot Manor, was near The Green, and our house was potentially the oldest house on the edge of The Green – could our land have been the site of the manor? 

Of course that became my next mission. But how could I know? It would take a lot of historical researching (spy) skills 🙂

I found this Thesis Village Greens of England published online. This explains the different structures of Village Greens, and how greens came about.

Common land for the use of commoners was in place in the medieval period, and at this time the use was administered by the local manor (although all land was owned by the King and only on lease for tithes).

“MEDIEVAL INCLOSURE In the Middle Ages, before the very first statute was enacted in 1236,25 the Lord of the Manor could inclose commons or greens by two methods at common law:- by agreement with all the commoners or by exercising his right of approvement 26 According to Halsbury, 27 reaching agreement with all the commoners was difficult in practice and is now probably obsolete. 28 The Lord’s right of inclosure was extended and made statutory by the Statute of Merton 1236 and the Statute of Westminster II 1285,29 a right which is now also probably obsolete. 30 The Statute of Merton allowed the Lord to inclose the common providing he allowed sufficient pasture for the commoners and allowed them free access to and from the common (see appendix 5). This was confirmed and extended by the Statute of Westminster II, 1285, and is still a current statute.”

And the greens, the waste (un-farmed) land continued to pass down with the Manor lands.

“Ownership of greens and commons historically went with the manor and were owned by the Lord as his waste or uncultivated and unoccupied land. This was confirmed by the statute of Merton 1236. Prior to the development of the manorial system, common land may have been common property and came into private ownership as early as the 9th century under the imposition of the manorial system. 51 In early times the waste was the land within the manor that had not been inclosed for farming and may have been wooded or open country. In the 12th and 13th centuries, as the population grew arable farming was increasing to supply the extra food and these pieces of waste became more important for pasture for animals to plough the fields. Many manors were held by absentee landlords who could be people such as great Lords or bishops, an Oxbridge college or ancient public school or even the King. Manors which had an absentee Lord were frequently leased out.”

Poulshot’s Green, is what would be called a Residual Green. These are recognised as being common in areas with a number of small manors, where wasteland gradually becomes a populated area.

d518f631-c013-4de1-aa2d-ffeec0cf0f7e“RESIDUAL GREENS Greens which are not the result of formalised planning but are formed from the presence of former elements in the landscape ( such as commons or the boundaries between territories ) are termed residual greens. It has been recognised that this type of green …is associated with a distinctive form of dispersed settlement pattem.  In such cases, it should be noted that the greens or commons on which the settlement has accreted have long been there, it is not until the settlement arrives that they actually become village greens (a term which includes settled pieces of green or common without the size and status of a nucleated village ) . Residual greens may be formed from pieces of common or wasteland being colonised by settlement Such greens are typically different from planned greens in a number of ways, most obviously in that they frequently have a ‘green name’ and have a strong association with the woodland zones of England. Residual greens tend to be later formations than planned integral or peripheral greens,” Poulshot Manor was in the middle of a Royal Forest. “and are often in more marginal environments. A useful study of such greens has been undertaken by Warner (1987) who noticed similarities between greens on the Suffolk claylands and those in the north London suburbs, and the claylands of south east Birmingham, Norfolk, south Buckinghamhire and East Hertfordshire. He suggested that the presence of divided lordship was an important factor in their formation. Numerous freemen under divided lordship allowed a recolonisation of the claylands before 1086 with such lordship and numerous small manors a reflection of the dispersed greenside settlement pattern which largely remained ( with a few desertions – and probably a few additions ) until the inclosures.”

All of the above seem to confirm that Poulshot Manor House would indeed have been by The GScreen Shot 2019-02-15 at 20.36.06reen.

The greyed areas in these images show you how these village greens were formed.

In figure one, while the church and village are away from the common (waste) land, the manor house stands at the entrance to it.

In figure two, you can see more houses have moved near the common land and that there has been some encroachment into the waste land.

By stage three, you can see that the population has begun to farm much more of the waste land, and so the green has become enclosed by farmed land.

The last image shows you how eventually the population of the village has moved away from the church and now the community surrounding the green has made the green the heart of the village.

poulshot_map001The above depiction of a village green developing over time could be an image of the shift in our village.  With the church left with a few buildings surrounding it at the bottom of the hill.

Another little bit of information to add to the mix was a record made in a book written by people who lived in the village in the 1960s Hooke and Stevenson. Their last words on Poulshot Manor, “…it was sold to Thomas Long, clothier, and great uncle of Gifford Long who died holding the manor in 1635.” Although annoyingly they don’t say where they found this information.

I imagine Poulshot once looked similar to this drawing…

Manor Drawing

If you go back to my last post, you’ll see that Henry Long Esq of Rood Ashton who sold our land in 1671,was the Grandson of Gifford Long, and in the direct line of inheritance through his father. Which means that it is highly likely that the share of the Poulshot Land  in Henry’s inheritance included Poulshot Manor, while his distant cousins still owned the land belonging to nearby Burdon’s Manor.

It is not so much a village myth, but a village vacuum of information because no one else has been able to see where the manor disappeared to after Gifford Long. It was then assumed, in the absence of contrary evidence, that the manor must have been somewhere on the lands that remained in the hands of Henry’s distant cousins. Especially as when Henry died in 1672 he left no heirs. But other people had not come across the Indenture recording the exchange of Henry’s Poulshot Property in 1671.

img_4058So, I am at this point certain that the manor was somewhere on the land that passed on down with our house for centuries. If you go all the way back to my first post. Showing the map of that land you’ll see only two properties. Ours with an orchard, untitled, and the second below ours, which to this day is called Manor Farm.

There’s something then very notable about the site of our land too – while the other houses enclose the green, ours is on the end of it (Plot 284 on these maps). On a site also at the end of both the original access roads. So going back to  figure one in the over-time drawings of the development of common land above – where the manor initially stands in isolation at the entrance to the common land – this would relate. So it is very possible that the property at this site controlled the access to, and managed, the original waste/common land that  became Poulshot Green after the Civil War.


You might be thinking, she’s bonkers, that’s a long jump. But all archeology includes some initial element of belief and theorising. But next I started looking to see if there was any evidence to support it.

Knowing that several archeological records have said there was probably a moated manor here, I set off to use the fieldwalking skills I’d learn in my childhood for any clues in the landscape.

IMG_4004.jpgAs much as I said in the first post, that I’d always thought the very wide “green lanes” pathways around the village were unusual (and they turned out to be redundant roads), there is also a lumpy bumpy field (plot 285 above – plot 284). Plot 285 has lots of oddly shaped unnatural looking ridges, and ever since we moved here I’ve felt there was something archeological going on in that field. While plots 215 and 214 have ridge and furrow markings which mean people were ploughing it with hand driven ploughs for many years.

When I walked into the lumpy bumpy field the first thing I noticed was that there’s a perfectly rectangular long pond on the left (not marked on the above map but in the farthest right top corner of plot 285), and in front of me was a ridge about a meter high. That ridge runs all the way along the front of the lumpy bumpy field behind a row of cottages and then along the outer edge of the land our property is on.  This slope up is on the boundary line of plots 285, 284 and 283.

On the map above, where the land is coloured  in pink, you can see that  field number 285 later filled in the space from the original boundary to the road.

But the pictures below show you the line of the pond following the original boundary, which shows up in the field. Also at the farthest end of the pond, there’s a brick wall that suggests the pond used to turn the corner there.

As I walk on into the field, there are loads of unusual ridges, and a circle of mud that never seems to grow grass (a former well???). Then on the right, there’s a clear furrow that runs along and then turns, in the field. I can see at some point the furrow was a field boundary because on the far side are plough marks.

But its the way the furrow turns in the field (as you can see on plot 285 above) and the placement of that turn that’s interesting, because the position is aligned with another pond, that is shown on the map above. The pond turns at the lowest lefthand point of plot 284, and is also dammed on one side.

SkewedmoatThe area of grass in front of our house also sometimes floods in the winter, forming a pond that aligns with the long rectangular pond. The moat potentially then ran around the boundaries of plots 283,4 and 5. Which means the moat was not geometrical – but not all moats were geometrical, as can see at the site at South Kyme.

So now I’ll try not to bore you with too much of my additional delving, but the things I know about the manor from various sources are;

  1. That it was initially built on a plot of cleared land in the middle of a large forest.
  2. That in the Doomsday book, Poulshot is listed as being 3 hides, which means it was a small settlement.
  3. That the person the Manor had been allocated to via the feudalism system, never used the property as a primary residence, from 1066 until 1600s, and even through most of the 1900s the property was let to a tenant.
  4. That all sources agree the manor was positioned on the highland where the green was formed.

I’ve also found this piece of history recording the ownership of the Manor through the ages…

“A grant in 1216 by the king to Hugh de Bernevall of land in Poulshot may refer to this manor. (fn. 28) In 1272 Ralph de Paulesholte settled the manor as a messuage and a carucate of land in Poulshot and elsewhere upon himself and his children John, William, and Alice. (fn. 29) John de Paulesholte had succeeded his father by 1289 (fn. 30) and in 1322 he forfeited all his possessions(fn. 31) As part of his manor, John held 32 acres in the forest of Melksham. (fn. 32) His lands were restored to him before his death in 1330 when he was holding the manor of Poulshot and land in ‘Chitumersche'(Chittoe Marsh). (fn. 33) John’s heir was his kinsman, John Enok of Potterne, son of William Enok. It seems probable that John Enok is the same as John de Paulesholte, upon whom with his wife Margaret the manor was settled in fee in 1335. (fn. 34)

In 1383 the manor was conveyed by Henry Eyre to Sir John Lovel. (fn. 35) Sir John died in 1408 and was succeeded by his son John. (fn. 36) In 1412 this John, by then Lord Lovel, conveyed the manor to William Stourton. (fn. 37) From this date the manor passed in the Stourton family until 1545 when it was sold to Thomas Long, clothier, of Trowbridge.”

You can see in this record that the person who owned the manor Manin 1322 did fortify all his properties. Which was recorded because land owners had to ask permission from the King to fortify any land.

But what does fortifying a manor mean?

In the medieval period people did not have the morals we know today, and local violent (deadly) quarrels broke out all the time, even when the country was not fighting a civil war. Disputes, raids and local battles occurred all the time. People killed, stole property and livestock. Edward II reigned during 1322 and there were many disputes because Edward II was considered to be a weak and ineffectual King, who was overthrown five years later, and then murdered at Berkley Castle. 

The fortified manors were generally surrounded by a moat and wall. I imagine the manor on our land was like the property above. Those that survive today in the images below are much grander, but that’s because they became a primary residence of an influential family, which ours never did. 

But the other thing I know about the moat around Poulshot manor is that there is one listed cottage, among a row of cottages built on top of where the moat would have run, that’s dated 1656. That means if I am right about the position of the moat it had already been filled in by the late 1600s when the occupants of the village moved up to the land around the green.

But then I found this record in The Book of Devizes by Edward Bradby, “In May 1644 there was a raid by Parliamentary forces when several Royalist supporters were arrested, including a Senior Burgess, Michael Tidcome; and the Constables of Potterne and Cannings were ordered to demolish the ‘works and fortifications … now standing about Devizes  It’s likely, then, that it was on this order that the manor was destroyed and the moat filled in. So if this is right the fortified manor was in its heyday from 1322 until 1644, and then perhaps no longer there.

More evidence that the manor was in this area and in the land that came from Henry Long Esq, is in the field names of the estate. Going back to my first post, in the 17-1900s records I saw the field names Pug Pit and Butts change to Pig Pit and Butts.

The Pig Pit was separate to the general common land because pigs break up and destroy pasture, turning the land to mud, which would have meant there was no pasture for other stock. So pigs were banished from the green land and owners of pigs fined if they let them feed on the main common. While in the Middle Ages and Tudor times, by law, every man had to practice archery on Sunday afternoon, and of course, they would have practiced at The Butts. 🙂

IMG_4142I have also looked at the name the Splotts, that I saw on the earliest documents, that I believe was the name of the land our house was built on. As it’s such an unusual word I poulshot_map001feel like it must have an old English meaning. The only things that I can find are similarly named places at Glastonbury, in Wales and in the North of England, but interestingly all these places are on the edge of hills. Which our land is, and the only similarly connected word I can find is “sprot” meaning twig or small branch, which, as the manor would have been at the bottom of the G (of the word Green) on this map it is on the brink of a branch of higher ground… Which would, of course, have given the occupants a good view of who was coming along the roads so it is a good defensive position for occupation.


So, yet again, research has lead me to discover that there is so much left to be discovered.  🙂 But now I believe we are on the land of Poulshot Manor, I can follow records back for decades as tithes were paid to the Monarchs, and then on down from that.

My research from now will be to trace back through the wills and tithe records of the lords who owned Poulshot Manor, to see if I can find descriptions of the land, of what and who was here, and how they lived.

Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 19.07.34Fee of fines Entries ABSTRACTS OF FEET OF FINES RELATING TO WILTSHIRE


Morrow of Purification. Ralph Thorp, esquire, and Philippa his wife, pl.; Robert Dyngley, clerk, def. Manors of Boscombe (Borscombe), Burdens Ball (Burdonesballe) and Poulshot (Poulesholt), and 7 messuages, 11 virgates, 8 a. meadow and rents of 3s. I/ad. and 1/2 lb. pepper in Allington (Alyngton), Newton Tony (Neuton Tony) and Middle Winterslow (Wyntreslewe Middelton) and the advowson of Boscombe. Def. granted and rendered to pl. To hold to pl. and the heirs of their bodies. Remainder to his right heirs. 


Oct. of Trin. William Hankeford, knight, John Chitterne, clerk, John Bathe, clerk, and William Stourton, pl.;John Lord Lovell, knight, def. Manor of Poulshot (Poulesholt), and 8 messuages, 8 virgates and 8 a. meadow in Poulshot, Potterne (Poterne), Marston (Mershton) and Worton. 


Oct. ofHil. (Made quin. ofEas. 7 Ric. ll [1384]). Thomas Worfton and Cecily his wife, by Thomas as her guardian, pl.; John Burdon, def. Half the manor of Poulshot (Paulesholte) which Agnes Cuttyng holds for the term of her life with remainder to Thomas Cuttyng for the term of his life of the inheritance of def. Right ofdef. Grant of reversion to pl. and the heirs oftheir bodies rendering a rose yearly to def. at S.J.B. Reversion to def. (Warranty) Agnes was present and consenting. Thomas and Cecily have done fealty. 


Oct. of Mic. Nicholas Burdon and Denise his wife, pl.; Julius, vicar of the church of Toynton, def. Manor of Paulesholte. Right of def. by gift of Nicholas; grant back and render to pl. To hold to pl. during their life. Remainder to Peter de Testewode and Agnes his wife during their life and the right heirs of Nicholas. 


Quin. of Mic. John de Paulesholte and John de Kyveleye, pl.; Robert Mareys and Helen his wife, def. Two messuages, l mill, 1% virgate of land, and 3 acres of meadow in Great Chiverel and Mershton by Poterne. Right of John de Paulesholte, pl. having 2 parts of the said tenements by gift of def.; grant back and render to def. To hold to def. from pl. during def.’s life, rendering yearly l rose at S.J.B. Also grant to def. of the reversion of the third part, which Joan who was wife of Thomas Ennok holds in dower in the said townships. To hold as above. Remainder to Richard, son of def., to hold as above during his life.  


York. Quin. of Trin. (Made three weeks from Eas.) John de Poulesholte and Margaret his wife, pl.; William de Chiltenham, def. Manor of Poulesholte. Right of def. by gift of John; grant back and render to pl. To hold to pl. and the heirs of their bodies. Remainder to the right heirs of John. 


Three weeks from Eas. Hugh Wak’ and Joan his wife, pl., by Roger de Stok’ in his place by the king’s writ. Adam de Paulesholte, def. Manor of Wynterburnestok’.


Oct. of S.J.B. Walter de Pavely, Joan his wife and Walter, son of Walter de Pavely, pl., by John de Paulesholte in their place. John de Tany, def., by Thomas le Paumer in his place. Manor of Hulprinton’. (F.) Remise and quitclaim to d-éfi, the heirs of the body of the same Walter son of ‘Walter and the right heirs of Walter de Paveley. 


Oct. of Martinmas. William de Rolveston’ and Margaret his wife, pl. Parnel de Bovill’, def., by Adam de Paulesholte in her place. I messuage and II virgates of land in Orcheston’ Bovill’ and the advowson of the church of the same town. (C.) Def. to hold during her life of pl., rendering yearly I rose at S.J.B. 

As usual there are P.Ss 😉

There is a record on the Wiltshire Archeology site of another moated area down by the church, and evidence of a fishpond down there. I looked at this on

It’s a much smaller area that’s enclosed. But more notably, which might mean something to someone who is trained in archeology is that –  the site is at the bottom of a circular area of land, that our plot is at the top of…

Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 19.44.53

P.P.S While I don’t think our house was the original manor because it’s too small and it’s in one corner of the moat, I do wonder if our house has some of the early timbers.


IMG_4289P.P.P.S for those of you who have followed me for a long time, there’s an old tree outside the manor boundary… My brain is thinking was the tree young when the manor stood here. 😉





Perfect Period Drama

from Jane Lark

The rule of the red thread of destiny says that everything that is unresolved will be resolved


The Thread of Destiny


The Lure of a Poet

Delicious Reading_with poet

Discover all of Jane Lark’s books

Discover hours of period drama (2)







The history of the house on an English village green, continued: Poulshot and Devizes in the Civil War

our house 1786

Stories from history in their telling and retelling lose most of their reality over the distance of time. That is the main reason why I read memoirs, diaries and letters to gather the true impressions of the periods I write about in my novels. I have found that many text books will share the facts but the facts have lost the substance of reality. What did it like for the people involved? What happened next when that event was over?

img_4137But the details of reality are often not completely lost. By spending some time researching things properly you can rediscover the detail.

One of the myths that has been filled-in in these gaps of lost knowledge in our village is that our village was so impacted by the plague in the 1600s that people moved away from the area around the church and up the hill to settle around what became the village green. Having spent hours researching our house and the land our house is built on, I think it is another myth that I can bust. Through my research, I have seen a very different story come through in the lost details I’ve found out.

This section of my story begins with the last document I looked at in the records office (pictured above). I have already said that I managed to trace the ownership of the land and property where our house is in documents back to the 24th June 1671, when the property was sold by Henry Long Esquire to Edward Pierce, woollen draper.

The document was amongst this package of deeds;

“Ten counterpart conveyances
Of houses and lands, parts of the manor of Poulshot, from Henry Long of Rood Ashton, and after 1672, his executors.
Parties: Sheppard, Stone, Hiller, Rooke, Bollwell, Withers, Peirce, Gowen, Hind.

I knew there is more to be learned about this transaction, because the Long family were vast landowners, and in 1671 Walter Long of Whaddon was the 1st Baronet of Whaddon and the Sheriff of Wiltshire.

Sir Walter Long, son of another Henry Long, died in 1672 at the age of 80 and left his land to his heir Walter who became the 2nd Baronet of Whaddon. Most of the land in Poulshot passed to the 2nd Barron. Those areas of land and buildings remained in the Long family until 1911 when the land and properties were sold by auction. Everyone in the village already knows this. My mind then was wondering why our land was sold on from the Long family much earlier.

I have now tracked the Long family tree to discover that Henry Long of Rood Ashton (the seller in the Indenture in 1671) was a distant cousin to Walter (1st Baronet of Whaddon). Walter’s grandfather (Edward Long) had been Henry’s great-grandfather’s uncle. Edward was given a separate area of Land in Poulshot by his uncle (Henry), while the largest area in Poulshot was passed to his uncle’s heir (his eldest son, another Henry. It is no wonder this gets so confusing).

So our Henry’s land had passed down to him via a separate line of the Long family.

Fortunately our Henry’s grandfather, Gifford Long, was a member of parliament over the period just before the Civil War in the 1600s, and this means there are records of how Gifford Long came by his inheritance. (Richard Long’s story, a later relative of our Henry who was also an MP, gives a little more background). I have also found this really good description of Walter Long’s life during the 1600s. Walter was heavily involved in the political arena of parliament in the lead up to the Civil War.

I want to discover more about these members of the Long family, but I had another lead that took me into further research in a slightly different direction. It was this research that meant I began thinking that the village myth wasn’t right.

The last document told me two particularly useful things that took me in directions for more research. The first thing led to the reason for this blog post (the second I will save for next week). The Indenture above actually mentions the name of the tenant, John Cook(e). If you read my post last week you will know that the same name appeared on the paperwork of a later sale in 1740, I think the second John Cook is the son of the original John Cook, though. But the fact that they named the tenant told me that  John Cook, and  his son, may have been important. There was something to be read between the lines of the document. As I said the things that are lost, metaphorically slipping between the cracks of the facts.

My time at the records office finished on that document (for now, I have a list of documents to go back and look for that I hope will tell me more.) But John Cook, or Cooke as it is sometimes written, stayed in my mind. I had a man. I wanted to picture the man. What was life like for him. With the research bug itching, I began searching online to find out more.

My first stop was a historical timeline for the 1600s. Obviously the village myth says that in that century our village had entirely reformed. Why had nearly every resident moved from wattle and daub properties around the church at the bottom of the hill, into new brick buildings, with wood-frames for their bones, mostly built about the village green at the top of the hill?

The official conservation document for Poulshot confirms that this migration took place in the 17th Century, but it cannot explain the reason for this. Yet, that document mentions the Manor Farm buildings were there prior to this date. (Manor Farm is the building that is on the land that was sold at the same time as ours, and on the 1800s maps, the only other property on the 165 acres of land that was sold along with our house). Manor Farm is the property that is shaded green at the lowest point in the map below.

poulshot map“The oldest surviving dwelling in the Conservation Area is The Old Farmhouse at Mill Lane which although much altered dates from the 16th century. The 17th century was a time of considerable building in the village, including a number of the farmhouses. There are at least nine surviving properties from the 17th century including Manor Farmhouse which is a late 17th century refronting of an earlier timber framed range of buildings. Several of the other 17th century buildings can still be seen as timber framed, others have been refronted or updated.” (All the properties shaded green on the map above are listed properties).

In the past people must have looked at the historical timeline for the 1600s, seen the plague and apportioned the changes in Poulshot to that. But the Civil War raged across the British Isles from 1642 until 1653. My attention was drawn by that, not the plague.

Poulshot is within the distance of canon fire – a-stone’s-throw – or a trebuchet shot (she says with a smile 😀 ) – from a castle town. Devizes, that castle town, is on another step up to the hills on which the ancient track called The Ridgeway crossed. A castle was on that hill at least from the poulshot_map 1808_1811early Norman period, and the castle even housed the royal court for a period in the much earlier civil war; a war between the followers of Queen Matilda and followers of King Stephen.

During the Civil War in the 1600s most castles in the south of England were destroyed by canon fire and ransacked. To the point of being inhabitable. Most of these castles were left to become ruins after the war, as families built more modern properties rather than rebuilding their castles.  So, it was safe for me to make a guess that troops would have attacked Devizes, and that therefore that was something to research to try to understand more about John Cook(e)’s

The intent of my search then progressed to try to understand what was not only happening in the village of Poulshot, but around Poulshot during the 1600s, in the years impacted by the politics that lead up to the Civil War and into the years following the war. The stories of Walter Long of Whaddon indicate that the Long family where at the heart of the political situation that lead up to the Civil war, and Walter, who owned most of the land in Poulshot, fought on the side of the Roundheads, against Charles I. Though, Walter Long later changed his allegiance and joined Charles II in exile. This information made me certain that there was warfare in the area around Poulshot.

There are lots of online articles on the Civil War in Devizes . The focus is particularly about the battle of Roundway. This was a significant Civil War battle that took place in the countryside around Devizes and carried on into the streets of the town. The Royalists were camped in Devizes and the Parliamentarian army had surrounded the town, setting up a siege in the hopes of forcing the Royalists out from the castle. When the Parliamentarians heard that a Royalist army of 1500 was on its way to provide reinforcements for the town, the Parliamentarians left the town and moved to a position on the high ground at the top of a steep hill on Roundway Down. A hill that looked down over the road. But the Royalist mounted cavalry were not deterred by the slope, they attacked first (horses hooves kicking those that stood in their way, trampling them down and stamping on those that fell as the soldiers slashed, cut and pierced with their swords). The Parliamentarians may have held the advantage of position, but they could not form squares to protect themselves from the cavalry and so the Royalists won and the Parliamentarians dispersed and fled. The descriptions speak of hand to hand combat in the narrow streets of the town around the castle.

A local amateur historian has found numerous remains that evidence how widespread and violent the battle was.

When I watched the Battle of Waterloo reenactment I discovered how the army responded to restrict the impact of a cavalry attack. The Parliamentarians could not have responded like this on the narrow area of the shallower slope where the battle took place.

Devizes and Roundway Down

A few days before the battle of Roundway, there was also a battle on lands between Poulshot and the City of Bath, at Landsdowne. Neither side won that battle, the Parliamentarians (Roundheads) retreated into the City of Bath and because the Royalists had heavy losses they retreated to Devizes.

So, that means that between the 5th July 1643 and the 13th July 1643 the armies of Both sides had certainly moved across the land close to Poulshot, or even travelled through the village. Perhaps part of the army had even stayed in the village as they had set up a siege around the castle before the 13th July?

Today when these battles are re-enacted, they are celebrated as being something of occasion. But around 1500 Parliamentarians (Roundheads) died during the battle of Roundway Down, no  figure for deaths is known for the Royalists (Cavaliers).

If you know how much blood can come from a small cut then imagine a body bleeding out into the mud. The ground that the soldiers fought on would have been soaked red. The smells of entrails, both from horses and men who had been hit, mixed with the bitter smell of gun powder from the rifles and cannon would have given the battle field a very distinct and grotesque stench. A stench that would have travelled as far as Poulshot (as you will know if you live in the country when it’s muck spreading time of year).

Equally, when I was researching the Battle of Waterloo for a book, The Lost Love of a Soldier, I was sitting in my old single brick walled living room, and the house kept shaking as over ten miles away the army set off guns on Salisbury Plain. It made me think that they must have heard the guns in Brussels. I later had that belief confirmed in research. But so then would Poulshot people not only have seen the armies pass, and been emotionally engaged in these interactions, but they would also have listened to and smelt the battle on the 13th July. They would also have seen the smoke rising. It must have been terrifying. They would have known people fighting, and they must have wondered whether they were safe in their homes. I know that people at the time were more resilient emotionally, because there were a higher number of deaths, life was more difficult, but they would not have experienced war before the Civil War broke out. War is a very different thing.

This is as much telling you about how I develop book ideas as it is telling you about how I went about this research and about the things I’ve found out. 😀 Because having recognised that these things would have been happening during the life of the John Cook(e) that lived in our house, my imagination was then drawn to comparisons of the civil war in places like Syria.

Whole towns and ways of life have been destroyed in Syria and people who have lived through this terror are struggling to learn how to feel safe and live again.

IMG_7202Having undertaken a lot of study on war previously, because in my Marlow Intrigues Series there a couple of soldiers in the books whose lives I wanted to properly portray, I have learned about some key historical principles of managing wars and progressing battles.

When I researched Waterloo for the Lost Love of a Soldier, and travelled over to be shown around the sites of the battle events, one thing I had never previously thought about was the importance of roads.

When you are trying to move an army, of hundreds of soldiers on the march, but also their equipment in carts – including the cannons, but also everything that is going to keep the army fed and provide kegs of ale for them to drink, and all the gunpowder and shot they will need for a battle – then you cannot drag all that over pastures and through hedgerows and woods. You need roads to be able to move an army quickly to the places where you need them. Therefore whichever side controlled the key roads had/has an advantage, and had a better chance of winning the war. Even today the army use that principle. In Helmand, in Afghanistan, the Taliban wanted to control the road and that is why that was where the majority of the worst fighting took place because the allied forces were protecting it so that the road could be used.

I have loads of videos of the different armies and battalions walking towards the reenactment Waterloo battle but here are a couple to give you some idea…

The amount of men is significantly (in the extreme) lower than those involved in the Civil War in the 1600s, and there would have been lots of cannons in between the people.

As I said the road around Poulshot leads to Rowd and on to Roundway Hill. There are other roads, but poulshot_map 1808_1811Poulshot lies on one side of a crossroads just outside Devizes, and on the far side of that crossroads is the road to Roundway. I find it hard to consider that the soldiers did not pass through and/or occupy Poulshot.

I have not proven this theory yet, but I have dug out some lists of records that might help me to prove it in the future, but certainly the case for my theory to be correct is much stronger than that the plague had such an impact on a very small village that everyone moved a few hundred meters further away from the church.  It is far more likely that during the Civil War, Poulshot housed troops. Devizes town changed hands several times during the Civil War, from being controlled by Roundheads to Cavaliers and back again and therefore it is likely that the control of the roads around Poulshot changed hands several times too.

Another thing I learned about the reality of historical wars and battles in my research into not just Waterloo, but the whole of the period of the Peninsular War, is that there are often long periods of standoff. Especially during winter when the battles often stop due the difficulties encountered with moving an army on muddy tracks. During theseIMG_6487 times armies gather and may camp for weeks, waiting for the right moment to make an advance.

Before the battle of Waterloo, just on the allied side there were around 250,000 men lodged in Brussels and encamped around that city. That is a lot of people. Think about how much food those men are devouring in the weeks before the battle. Do you think they had enough animals to feed that many, or enough grain stocks to make bread for them? Of course they did not. These men would have been very hungry, and you may think that an army was disciplined that they may have been hungry but they would have been orderly. I have also learned from research of actual accounts how untrue that was. Which did not really take much imagination as at the time they shot deserters to frighten other soldiers into not rebelling or running away from a fight. But if soldiers thought they could get away with rebellions they would attempt them.

Even in the 1800s during the Peninsular War there were extreme cases of insubordination. After a particularly difficult battle in Spain that the English army won IMG_6391after a long period of encampment outside a city, the soldiers went on a raping and pillaging rampage through the city. It was very undignified for the army of scarlet jacketed men who have since been romanticised in scenes from novels like those of Jane Austen. But this was because the men had suffered hunger, thirst and fear for weeks/months and when the cork came off the top of the bottle, bloodlust made the men become viciously immoral. The officers captured and shot some of their own men in the end to bring the rampage that had gone on for days to a halt.

Being able to imagine the number of men, looking for food and shelter, it makes sense, then, that they would most likely have camped in and around Poulshot. Because, while they besieged Devizes, in Poulshot the men had houses where they might sleep under a roof for a night – probably packed in on the mud floors – and food that they could take. The animals belonging to the villagers would have either been confiscated by the officers, or stolen by the soldiers, to feed all those hungry mouths, and the grain stores emptied. Even the wild food would have been hunted if the soldiers remained for long, depleting the number of pigeons, rabbits, deer, boar, crows. The villagers and the countryside would have become as starved as the soldiers.

Then what happens when the soldiers of one army have to fall back, because the opposing side is making an advance. They will not leave that village to become a refuge for the opposing side, but burn the houses that they had sheltered in, and take any food or animals that are left, to leave the other army struggling to find resources.

War is never kind, nor polite, nor fair, and often those who suffer most are the people who are not in the fight. What was life like for John Cook, and those in the village then?

This post is getting really long I know ~ but come back to it later if you want to, I am not going to cut it in half because I want to keep all this period of information in one place. Because not only did I find out more information about the Long family in further searches but I also actually found mention of John Cook(e).

To explore the cracks between the facts of history I need to find the letters, memoirs and diaries, details about the lives of individuals involved. It’s the real life information that is not even about the fact, that a battle happened at Roundway, that I started trying to find. I wanted to know about the lives of people before and after that day.

For instance, my latest historical series that focuses on a group of poets, was inspired the stories of the real Regency Poets, and one of those, Shelley, ran away with his future second wife to Europe in between the period of the Peninsular War and Waterloo. He and Mary wrote a diary as they travelled, and described the impact of the war on the villages they travelled through. Starving people, living in makeshift buildings because their villages had been destroyed, ransacked.

So I do not think it is much of a step to image Poulshot in that situation.

A BBC website talks about the West of England at the end of the Civil War.  ‘The war was over, but the cost to ordinary people in human suffering was immeasurable. Bled dry with taxes, they had also endured the compulsory billeting of uncouth troops in their houses, the plundering of their animals, the theft of their food, the disruption of their markets, the vandalisation of their churches and the destruction of their property. The lingering effects of the war were visible wherever you turned. One-third of the people in Gloucester were homeless; one-quarter in Bridgwater and two-thirds in Taunton. Hundreds of maimed soldiers and destitute widows submitted petitions to the county quarter sessions in the hope of gaining some relief. Fields lay abandoned; bridges broken down; and road surfaces destroyed. In 1646, on the anniversary of the relief of Taunton from siege, George Newton, the minister, looked around him and described in a sermon‘, here heaps of rubbish, here consumed houses, a multitude of which are raked in their own ashes. Here a poor forsaken chimney and there a little fragment of a wall that have escaped to tell what barbarous and monstrous wretches there have been.”

I was then lucky enough to begin to be able to make some greater connections that brought this story directly back to our house. Because when I was searching records online I came across so many connections.

Going back to Henry Long Esq who sold the land and buildings where our house is sited, in 1671: the online information I found out about his family (in the Long family links earlier in the blog), told me that his grandfather and cousin Walter I (later 1st Baronetcy) were both members of parliament in the lead up to the Civil War. They stood against Charles 1 in obvious political opposition, Walter Long particularly, but Gifford Long (Henry’s grandfather) too, Gifford also fought on the side of Parliament in the Civil War.

I do not know the date that Gifford Long died yet, but I believe it was during the period of the Civil War (it is possibly 1635). His eldest son definitely died during the period of the Civil War, leaving the land to our Henry Long.

Fortunately for me, while the Long family men held offices in Parliament and were Sheriffs in Wiltshire, John Cook(e) who leased the land from Henry Long, also held an office that meant he is mentioned in online records. I was also fortunate that the records at Poulshot Church go back much further than most churches.

So here is the first John, mentioned in the records from Poulshot church. “John Cooke (1627-1710)” But “there is a gap in Poulshot weddings 1646-1653 (during the civil war)”. More evidence for my theory.

But most importantly, I discovered this record of Guild Stewards for the Borough of Calne. This document mentions John Cooke who served in office for the Guild after the Civil War.

In “[84v.] 1663,” three years after Charles II was restored to the throne, and Walter Long returned with him (remembering Walter owned a lot of Poulshot land and Henry much of the rest), and two years before the great plague of London, the guild records show, “several accounts of John Cooke and John Forman constables. Receipts of John Cooke for the militia. From Thomas Synnett, Is.; fi’om Richard Clark, 6d.; from widow Scott, Is.; from widow Nicholas, Is. 8d.; from Messenger, 4d.; from John Brooks, Is. Id.; from William Browne, Is.; from Thomas Riley, Is.; from Barnett, 4d.; from Ma[?tthew]Smith, Is. 1d.; from John Bishopp, Is. 6d.; from Thomas Tibboll, Is.; from Thomas Riley, 8d. Sum . . . 12s. 2d. Received by presentments, Il. 19s. 6d.; from Mr. Peirce, Il. 3s. 6d. . Sum . . . 3l. 15s. 2d. Disbursements. To several passengers with passes, Is.; for 3 journeys to Chippenham about the soldiery, 3s.; for my charges at the assizes, Ios.; in charges to the clerk of the market, 3l. Ios. Sum . . . 4.l. 4s. So there remains due to John Cooke, 8s. Iod. Receipts of John Forman. From John Pile, 15s.; ‘in his hands of the militia money, 4s. 8d. Sum . . . 19s. 8d. Disbursements as particularly appears by his note, 2l. 16s. 3d. 74 ACCOUNTS So there remains due to the said John Forman, Il. 16s. 7d. which he received from John Pile.”

This looks as if John Cooke was in a position to apply for compensation for the people in Poulshot who had been impacted by the Civil War, as described in the BBC article. It looks as though many people from Poulshot received compensation, and interestingly, it was after this date that most of the Listed Farm Houses in Poulshot were built around the Village Green.

I am learning to like John Cook(e) because also later in 1663, there is an entry saying John received more money, “16s.; to Mr. John Cooke for his constableship, 8s. Iod.; for carrying cripples for the tithingman.” Again my research into Waterloo taught me not only about the number of men who died, but the number who lived on, crippled, in a time when all work was manual and needed movement – two hands and two legs. If you were crippled it generally meant you were left to beg, or rely on the charity of guilds or parishes. After Waterloo the towns became full of crippled soldiers begging in the streets. John Cook(e) sounds as if he had a deep affiliation with those who had been impacted by the Civil War in the 1600s (I am trying to find out if he fought or not. I have not managed to find out yet).

All of this keeps making me believe more strongly that the Civil War and not the plague was the reason our village now surrounds the Green.


P.S. You may see that the guild records show that Anthony Pierce Served as a Guild Steward in 1649, 1656, 1662-63, 1671-73. It was Edward Pierce who purchased our land in 1671 but is there a connection? Anthony Pierce was involved in the payments to people in Poulshot, he knew John Cook(e). The records also show that Anthony claimed money for hiring a horse to ride to Poulshot in 1673. In 1673 a Robert Townsend from Poulshot was also called to stand as a witness for Anthony Pierce in a court.

There is so much more to be discovered, and my list of things to research is growing by the hour when I write these blogs. (But the research is also turning into a great book idea) 😉

Next week, I am going to go back even further and take you as far back in time as I am likely to be able to go…

Perfect Period Drama

from Jane Lark

The rule of the red thread of destiny says that everything that is unresolved will be resolved.


The Thread of Destiny


The Lure of a Poet

Delicious Reading_with poet

Discover all of Jane Lark’s books

Discover hours of period drama (2)