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Friday, 17 February 2012

Events: Battle of Weymouth 1645 Commemorative Weekend - Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th February 2012

Take a step back in time in Weymouth this weekend as the town’s celebrates its historic links to the Civil War. The event will be held at the Old Town Hall, Weymouth to commemorate the Battle of Weymouth of 1645 and the Crabchurch Conspiracy .

Programme of Events 

  • 10.00am – 4.00pm: Living History and Children’s Sword School. Garrison march arrives at the hall at 3.00pm (approx).
  • 10.00am – 4.00pm: Living History. Garrison march-past hall at 12.30pm (approx). Merchandise & refreshments available.
Garrison Marches
  • 11.00am – 4.00pm: March from Portland Castle across Chesil Beach/Rodwell trail to Sandsfoot Castle (between 1pm and 2pm).
  • Return to town hall around 3:00pm
  • 10.30am – 12.00pm: Commemorative march from Sandsfoot Castle to Old Town Hall.
  • 12.30am – 1.15pm: Commemorative march from Old Town Hall to Pavilion Theatre.
  • 13.20 – 2.00pm: Commemorative march from Pavilion Theatre via Harbourside to Hope Square
  • 2.10pm – 2.45pm: Commemorative march from Hope Square to Nothe Fort for Trial & Execution of Royalist Conspirators.

The History

The catalyst for the three and a half weeks of subterfuge, siege, pitched battle and executions, was a plot by royalist sympathisers in Weymouth and Melcombe, named the Crabchurch Conspiracy. Charles I needed a south coast port where he could land a force of French Catholic soldiers to help him turn the war in his favour.A local merchant, Fabian Hodder, helped soldiers from the royalist garrison at Portland gain control of the Nothe Fort and the Chapel Fort of St Nicholas at Chapelhay in Weymouth. He set up the Royalist commander in Dorset, Sir Lewis Dyve, to attack Melcombe at the same time namely midnight on the 9th February 1645.

Francis Sydenham immediately made a counter attack to retake the Chapel Fort but he died early the next morning. Dyve then arrived in Weymouth. He bombarded Melcombe into submission, but William Sydenham reciprocated. Dyve refused the offer of a cease fire so Sydenham sent a raiding party to set fire to Weymouth. Several buildings and boats were set alight; finally Dyve ended the assault.

Lord Goring, a royalist leader in Dorchester, sent Dyve a baggage train of supplies but Sydenham took it. Dyve sent out most of his force to try and recapture it. Sydenham sent a large force and retook the Chapel Fort. Goring retaliated by attacking Weymouth.

Above: On Saturday 7th February 2009 a spectacular re-enactment took place in commemoration of the Battle of Weymouth and the Crabchurch Conspiracy of 1645. This film shows the performance of the mock trial and execution of the traitors. Dorchester's Town Crier, Alistair Chisholm played the leading role of Colonel William Sydenham and delivered a stunning performance at the Nothe

On the 27 February 1645 the Battle of Weymouth started at around midnight and was ferocious. The town gate and the barricade at Boot Hill fell to Goring's men. They poured down the old high street, past the Old Town Hall, thinking the victory was already theirs but met Sydenham's weapons and forces. At least 200 cavaliers died and the rest turned and fled, pursued all the way by Sydenham's soldiers. A force of about 250 Irish catholic troops of Lord Inchiquin's regiment fought their way into Weymouth from the east. Sydenham's force fell upon them. The Irish fled into the freezing waters where around 250 were either drowned or were picked off by the parliamentarians (near the Old Rooms Pub). The Battle of Weymouth was over. Just over a thousand roundhead soldiers, led by Colonel William Sydenham had beaten off 6000 royalist troops. 

This is all documented by local historian Mark Vine in his book, The Crabchurch Conspiracy, available at here via Imagine Books, Weymouth

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