Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Colonel Leveson’s Posse – Part 2 of 3


Lieutenant Colonel Walter Giffard
Lieutenant Colonel John Beaumont
During the first siege of Dudley in June 1644 Leveson himself was absent. He had been promoted to Colonel earlier in May and had joined Prince Rupert to campaign in the north which would culminate at the fateful Battle of Marston Moor, 2nd July 1644. Lieutenant Colonel John Beaumont held the castle in Leveson’s absence when Parliament’s Lord Denbigh arrived at the castle armed with the ‘Stafford Great Piece’ a 32lb demi-cannon, the ordinance having been previously employed as a whipping post. The Parliamentarians were driven away from their siege lines by a relieving force from Worcester under Lord Wilmot (the future Earl of Rochester). This largely cavalry action on 12th June 1644 was later called the Battle of Tipton Green.

Colonel Leveson’s Regiments of Horse and Foot took part in a number of significant engagements including:
Hopton Heath - March 1643
Siege of Aston Hall - December 1643
Newark - March 1644
Marston Moor - July 1644
Naseby - June 1645

It was the defeat at Naseby, where Leveson’s troops fought side by side with Bagot’s, of the last real effective field Royalist army that left garrisons such as Dudley isolated and at risk from attack. It enabled Parliament to spend the rest of 1645 and 1646 destroying any remnant Royalist forces and garrisons, signaling the end of any real hope that the King could hold on to the midlands.
"Charge lads, they're gaining on us!"
Leveson remained in command of Dudley castle until 13th May 1646 when he and the garrison of 340 officers and men finally surrendered after a second siege to local Parliamentary forces under the command of Sir William Brereton. He was provided with an armed escort on leaving Dudley. This may have been for his own safety as he was that unpopular with the local population. He had antagonised the locals with a combination of imposing heavy local taxes and demolishing a large portion of the town including a church before the sieges had started. He wasn’t very popular back in his hometown of Wolverhampton either. His soldiers had damaged St Peter’s church when they had been lodged there a few years previously.

The Catholic faith played a strong role in Leveson’s life and also his regiments. Martyn Bennett states in his very interesting study ‘Roman Catholic Royalists Offiers in the North Midlands 1642-1646, that “The regiment of Foot was clearly a base for the expression of Catholic loyalty.” The lieutenant colonels, majors and captains were all local to Staffordshire area, “Many were from the Roman Catholic enclave of south Staffordshire.” As much as 20% of the local population may have been Catholic. This area had even become known as Roma Parva or Little Rome. To emphasise this point, back in 1605 the famous last stand of the Gun Powder Plot took place in Holbeche House, Kingswinford, 5 miles west of the castle. The Catholic conspirators thought, tragically wrong as it turned out, they could stir up open rebellion from within this area. Later, after the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Captains William Careless and Thomas Giffard, who had both served under Colonel Leveson, used local Catholic safe houses to aid Charles II’s escape to safety on the continent.
A quick ‘interesting’ (and now seemingly ironic) fact to amuse your mates down the pub: the world’s oldest excavated condoms were discovered in a keep latrine at Dudley castle during digs back in the 1980's. They are thought to date from this ECW siege, the latrine had been sealed by material from the slighting.

After his estate was sequestrated for recusancy, (even though this was against the terms of his surrender) Leveson travelled once more to France into exile where he joined the household of Prince de Conti. He died in Bordeaux, 8th September 1652.