Skip to content

Military

Stone Age Celtic Roman Saxon Medieval
Tudor Stuart Georgian Victorian Modern

Maurice Speed on Horseback

Maurice Speed in training. Courtesy of Norah Weeks and Mervyn Speed

Farming and soldering share a number of skills and Maurice Speed is demonstarting his horesmanship skills probably gained on Grove Farm before World War One. Maurice Speed joined the Royal Horse Artillery as a driver which required great skill as well as courage. He was sent to Palestine to fight the Turks and survived the war only to die of pneumonia bought on by malaria in 1919. Military
Stone Age Hunter-gather groups tend to avoid each other if they meet potentially hostile groups. It is only when resources are scarce or there is farming or some other form of permanent settlement that warfare breaks out. It is impossible to say if the arrowheads found in the area were fired at animals being hunted or at humans. Return to the top of the list.
Celtic Burledge Hill between Widcombe and Bishop Sutton in the West and Blackers Hill at Chilcompton in the East are the closest military sites from this era with Chewton Mendip roughly equidistant between the two. This could have made the settlement at Chew Head a ‘border town’ which could have made it a place of conflict.Another view is that the hill forts were part of a defensive line marking a North/South divide between two tribes. The Mendip Hills marked the division between the Dobunni tribe to the North and the Durotriges tribes to the South and the Dumnonii to the West. Return to the top of the list.
Roman The Second Augusta Legion under Vespasian made short shrift of the hill forts in Ad43 and the lead Mines at Charterhouse were also the site of a small garrison. Chewton Mendip may have provided support services to the Roman forces. Return to the top of the list.
Saxon The beginning of the Saxon era was undoubtedly one of conflict much of the early detail is as shrouded by mystery as the stories of King Arthur that originated at the time. DNA analysis suggest there was more assimilation between the Romano-British Celts and the Anglo Saxon invaders.The records are more reliable at the end of the Saxon period when King Alfred created Burhs or fortified towns to resist the Viking incursions. Modern thinking about this period is also less simplistic than earlier stories of barbaric Vikings slaughtering peace loving Saxons. The Vikings were traders as well as raiders.There is no doubt that Chewton Mendip was a significant place in Saxon times but the inhabitants would have retreated toBathor Axbridge which were the nearest Burhs.The concept of a ‘hundred’ was also revised by King Alfred. The origins of this arrangement is lost in history but the key point was that a designated area had to raise a hundred fighting men. There was a ‘warrior class’ of elite fighters who formed a personal bodyguard for their lord but the majority of a Saxon army were farmers or followed some other trade. The biggest problem was they could not fight and farm at the same time so Alfred arranged it so that half of the men stayed at home whilst the other fought the Vikings or whoever. Return to the top of the list.
Medieval Chewton Mendip was a personal possession of the Godwinson family at the time of the battle ofHastingsin 1066 so Queen Edith would have probably sent some of her personal body guards to fight for her brother, King Haraold. The names of the some of the Saxon thegns who held land in the area at the time of the conquest may be the first casualty figures. There are accounts of the men of Wessex making one of the ‘last stands’ after the Battle of Hastings was obviously lost that only make sense to the warrior class.The Normans based their military centre at East Harptree in Richmont castle. This was the site of a battle in what could be called the first English civil war but is usualy called the anarchy between the forces of King Stephen and the empress Matilda or Maud. Sir William de Harptree held the castle for Matilda/Maud in 1138 when Stephen’s forces besieged and captured it.The relationship between the miners and local inhabitants was never very cordial and records of near riots exist from this era persisted until the modern era. Sir William Bonville was involved in the last stages of the 100 Years war and the Wars of the Roses which ended for him when he was decapitated after the battle of St Albansin 1461. Return to the top of the list.
Tudor There was plenty of conflict during the reformation of the church but the turmoil was mainly economic and political although the Lord of the Manor, Henry Grey and his daughter, Lady Jane Grey were both decapitated in 1554. Sir Edward Waldegrave (c. 1568 – c. 1650) was rewarded with the Manor of Chewton Mendip whilst Roger Manners ended up with the former monastic lands. The Manners family had made their fame and fortune fighting the Scottish.The names of some men mobilised to fight of the anticipated invasion of by the Spanish Armada in 1588 are recorded. Return to the top of the list.
Stuart The Kingsmill family who were to become the Lay Impropriators or owners of the former monastic land stated the century by getting involved with colonies in America and Ireland. These had military implications at the time and resulted in conflicts involving several people with Chewton Mendip links throughout the rest of history. The English Civil is given many date ranges but 1642 – 1651 the conflict had effects in the area throughout the 17thcentury.Sir Edward Waldegrave, 1stBaronet Waldegrave and grandson of the Sir Edward Waldegrave (c. 1568 – c. 1650) was as Royalist but lived in Essex and campaigned inCornwall despite being over 70 at the time. The majority of the population in Chewton Mendip and the area were parliamentarian, including the Hippiley’s.There were two or three military events within the parish boundary.The first was in 1642 in what is best described as some posturing by both sides followed by some sectarian looting in Wells.The second event happened a year later and is sometimes called the ‘battle of Nedge Hill’ or the ‘battle of Chewton Mendip’. Very little fighting appears to have happened but the capture of some Parliamentarian artillery could have turned the subsequent very real battle of Lansdown in favour of the Royalists.The third Cromwell’s troops were active in the end of the war when law and order had to be restored.Henry Waldegrave, 1st Baron Waldegrave (1661 – 24 January 1689) inherited his father’s title in inherited his father’s title in about 1684. He was not a resident of Chewton Mendip but he was a Catholic and a supporter of James II just prior to the the Monmouth rebellion in 1685. This was fortunately the last time there was a major battle on English soil and was the result of unresolved issues that had caused the English Civil war. The catalyst was the attempt of an illegitimate son of Charles II, James Duke of Monmouth, to take the throne from his unpopular uncle, James II. At least three men from Chewton Mendip were involved. One was executed and two were transported to Jamaica.Return to the top of the list.
Georgian Sir Edward Waldegrave, 1stEarl Waldegrave but took the pragmatic step of becoming a protestant in 1714, perhaps because he was a politician. Religion was less of an issue in the South West but it was still a cause of conflict in other parts of Europe includingIreland where several families who would play a part in the history of Chewton Mendip were based.John Waldegrave, 3rd Earl Waldegrave (28 April 1718 – 22 October 1784) was wounded at the battle of Fontenoy in 1745 which was part of the war of the Spanish succession. He also fought at the battle ofMindenin 1749 and The Battle of Warburg in 1760. Both battles were art of the Seven Years War.A young naval officer called Robert Brice fromIrelandachieved an early success during the Seven Years War in 1761 when he captured a French Privateer. He was later to serve with Rodney in the capture ofMartiniquein the same year. He was soon to marry into the Kingsmill family and would become the lay Impropriator of Chewton Mendip. He fought in the battle of Ushant in 1778, which was linked to the American War of Independence, but resigned from the Navy as a protest of the criticism of his commander, Admiral Keppel’s , handling of the battle.The younger son of John Waldegrave, the 3rdEarl , was, William Waldegrave, 1st Baron Radstock (1753 – 1825). He was naval commander of distinction. He was third in command at the Battle of Cape St Vincent 1797 in which a promising young officer called Horatio Nelson also fought in the battle. William Waldegrave was never directly connected with Chewton Mendip, the Lordship of the Manor was passed through his elder brother’s family.Robert Brice, now Admiral Kingsmill, was a close friend of Nelson and played a significant role as commander of the Irish Station in repealing an attempted French invasion ofIrelandin 1798. This was in support of a rebellion inIrelandled by Wolf Tone, a protestant although most of the members of the United Irishmen were Catholics. Other members of the Anglo-Irish with links to Chewton Mendip inhabitants were involved on both sides of that conflict.Admiral Kingsmill was involved in the court martial in 1789 of William Bligh over the loss of HMS Bounty. Return to the top of the list.
Victorian A native of Chewton Mendip, Lieutenant Samuel Clark, served on board HMS
Agamemnon at the battle of Trafalgar. Admiral, William Waldegrave, 1st Baron Radstock was by now Governor of Newfoundland an instituted many reforms which were carried on by a subsequent Governor, Sir Erasmus Gower, a distant relative of his mother and the ancestor of a current inhabitant of Chewton Mendip. Newfoudland was little more than a fishing port and training station for the Navy at the time.Vice-Admiral William Waldegrave,(1788- 1859), who would later become the 8thEarl, was a naval commander in the American was of 1812. Lieutenant-Colonel John James Waldegrave, 6th Earl Waldegrave (1785–31 1835), saw action in the Peninsular War of 1808 and the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.It is probable that people form Chewton Mendip were involved in previous and subsequent military campaigns but no records have yet been discovered of natives of Chewton Mendip on active service. Return to the top of the list.
Modern The twentieth century was dominated by two world wars. One picture shows the nonchalant volunteers at Tucker St Station in Wells as they were going off to fight in World War One. A second picture shows the more sombre group who returned. A third picture shows the memorial for those who did not return. Less known stories are about people who served and returned alive. War puts people into harm’s way in a number of unexpected guises. World Ward Two was not as costly to Chewton Mendip in terms of people killed and most of the stories and photographs show the men of the Home Guard. Women were involved in roles other than nursing for the first time in history.The Korean war followed soon after and a whole series of conflicts linked to the withdrawal from empire may have involved people from Chewton Mendip or who subsequently moved to the village.The ‘cold war’ hid the threat of nuclear destruction and a ‘hot’ war in the South Atlantic in 1982 were followed by two Gulf wars, intervention in the former Yugoslavia and now Afghanistan. Return to the top of the list.

Please refer to the acknowledgements page for a list of the contributors to this website.

Advertisements
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: