The Civil War and Tobacco Growing in Winchcombe

Winchcombe really suffered when King Charles I declared war on the Parliamentarians who objected to the way he was running the country.

These holes in the wall of the Belfry Tower of St Peter’s Church are said to be bullet holes made when a Royalist skirmishing party was caught and imprisoned in the church before being shot at dawn.

Sudeley Castle was an important stronghold, so both sides wanted it! It was captured and re-captured several times during the civil wars, and the besieging armies, whether Cavaliers or Roundheads, always ransacked Winchcombe.

George, the sixth Lord Chandos of Sudeley, supported the king, and Sudeley Castle was besieged and captured by parliamentary forces twice during these civil wars. Of course, whenever the Roundheads and the Royalists besieged the castle and plundered it, they also plundered Winchcombe.

Not surprisingly, evidence of these battles has been found locally, like these cannon balls. It must have been hard work shaping this stone with a hammer and chisel and then smoothing it on a turning lathe or stone block - and it must have been so frustrating trying in vain to shape it like a ball!

It was so much easier just to cast iron balls, and the results were more consistent and so more accurate. 

These horse shoes are thought to have belonged to Prince Rupert’s cavalry. He was King Charles’ nephew and his military commander. For a time, Sudeley Castle was his headquarters, and his dog, Boye, is said to still haunt the castle! 

One of the soldiers must have lost his powder flask.

I wonder if the same man lost his shot container.

And somebody lost just one riding boot! 

Eventually, in January 1649, King Charles was beheaded, and the war came to an end, but in September, Sudeley Castle was slighted so that it would never again be used as a military stronghold. 

During the civil wars, production of small value coins ceased, so businesses found it very difficult to carry on trading. Coining money had been the King’s Prerogative, but, when there was no longer any King, Winchcombe’s traders did not have to fear the punishment for flouting a law that was no longer valid. They commissioned their own unofficial money, usually out of copper and brass. 

These tokens were made in 1663 for George Skinner, a candle-maker in Winchcombe. The design shows the candle-maker dipping the candles into the beeswax.

However, the civil wars did not disrupt tobacco-growing in and around Winchcombe. Tobacco was a very important crop here for about 60 years in the 17th Century, helping Winchcombe’s residents to make a living at a very difficult time.

All attempts by the government to destroy the crop were fought off by the whole town.

This carved tobacco jar used to stand on the bar at The Corner Cupboard.

Tobacco-growing probably died out in Winchcombe, because the ground had been so extensively cultivated that the soil was exhausted and the crop suffered. Also, imports from Virginia were getting cheaper.

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