“Pray for us, blessed Simon, that we may be made worthy to obtain the promises of Christ.”
CAVALIERS AND ROUNDHEADS
“Who was he that went out from the command at Gloucester in such a blaze, to adde glory unto conquest, and crown hit actions with a never-dying honour, when he took the strong garrisoned Evesham in a storme of fire and leaden haile; the loss whereof did make a king shed tears? Was it not Massey?”
Once more the peaceful vale was destined to become a field of battle. At an early stage in the conflict between King and people Evesham was fortified and garrisoned by the Royal party, and Samuel Sandys was appointed military governor. The exact nature of the fortifications we cannot exactly know, but it is certain they were complete, and sufficient to withstand a siege if properly manned. A ditch, and rampart of earth surmounted by timber palisades was the probable form of defence, but no signs of such earthworks now remain, and the position of them is unknown.
King Charles paid his first visit early in July, 1644, and he is said to have stayed in what was at that time a large house, probably gabled, with projecting bay windows, on the north side of Bridge Street. This mansion, for it was no less though now divided into shops, was the town house of the Langstones, an influential family in the neighbourhood. Here the King remained two nights, and from “our Court at Evesham” he despatched a conciliatory message “To the Lords and Commons of Parliament assembled at Westminster.”
Sir William Waller, the Parliamentary general, was hanging in the rear of the royal army, and so without more delay the King moved towards Worcester, taking with him the garrison, guns, and ammunition. Before leaving, the army partly destroyed the outworks and rendered the bridge over the river impassable. The townspeople were evidently more in sympathy with the Roundheads than the Cavaliers, for on the departure of the royal forces they immediately repaired the bridge, and Waller entered and remained some days before following the chase.
A week later the King returned, on his way back to the loyal city of Oxford, much to the dismay of the inhabitants. For their rebellious behaviour a fine of two hundred pounds was imposed on the borough, and in addition to this they were forced to provide the royal army with a thousand pairs of shoes.
A year later we find the King once more passing through Evesham. This time he left a garrison in charge of the town under Colonel Legge. But Evesham was too important a place in this conflict, being a connecting link between the “loyal cities” of Worcester and Oxford, to be left in the hands of the King’s party unchallenged. Almost immediately, in the same month of May, 1645, Colonel Massey, Governor of Gloucester, with a troop of horse and foot collected from the neighbouring counties, attacked the town, and after vainly calling upon Colonel Legge to yield, they assailed the fortifications at the bridge and in five other places at the same time. After a short but hard fought encounter the Royalists surrendered, and until the end of the struggle Evesham remained in the hands of the Parliament.