Extract From Cromwell's Garrison Town

More about Cromwell’s Garrison Town, by author Jack Reynolds

 

Oliver Cromwell had good reason to be thankful to the garrison at Newport Pagnell.

In the momentous Civil War of the 17th century, the town’s location was of great strategic importance on the Front Line between the opposing armies.

The controversial General always had an affinity for the place – fighting alongside its troops, sending his son to join the young conscripts, frequently visiting his friend the governor, and selecting it as the muster point for most of his army on the eve of the decisive Battle of Naseby.

Other than 12 days when it was under Royalist control, the fortress stayed faithful to the Parliamentary cause. But for the small market town with its quaint white-washed houses, cobbled streets and a happy mix of stalls and hostelries, being thrust into the national limelight was always going to be a trauma.

Almost overnight, regiments of men were converging on the place with their horses and their helmets and their guns and a way of life that was often violent and frequently brutal.

It was fascinating to be able to piece together, for the first time, what happened during Newport’s tumultuous military occupation; revealing amongst other things, how  …

…. The governor was a diminutive, hunch-back who fought with a cut-down sword and made himself indispensible by running a network of battlefield spies and informants;

.… The fortress was base for 1500 troops including Cromwell’s ‘greatest joy’ of a son and John Bunyan, the much-celebrated writer;

…. Martial Law was required to restore order when the restless men turned to vice, gambling and debauchery;

…. Soldiers were paid in worthless IoUs and their officers had to beg, borrow and steal to get by;

…. Radical sects began advocating free love and group land ownership with aims reminiscent of the ‘hippy’ movement of  the 1960s.

● The author was grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the help and diligent research of local volunteers in the creation of this work

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