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Civil War - 1643

In January of 1643, parliament resolved that the southern counties should co-ordinate their forces and activities. The Southern Association was formed, comprising Kent, Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex. A sharp cavalry skirmish occurred in Alton from which Waller’s men were pushed back to Farnham. Spring took Waller and the action well to the west of Hampshire. The main action would now centre on Basing House. This significant garrison raided the local countryside. As the war raged across the southwest during a glorious summer, the citizens of Hampshire settled into a relatively peaceful life. This wasn’t to last long. At Roundway Down near Devizes, Waller’s western army was completely destroyed and the impact was to be quickly felt by Hampshire’s parliamentarians. Waller desperately petitioned parliament for a new army. With only around 400 horse and the local garrisons, the county was in danger of being overrun by the resurgent royalists. Only Richard Norton had a force capable of striking back for parliament. Eager for victory, he laid siege to Basing House on 31st July 1643. Not knowing that the garrison comprised just six gentlemen and their servants they attacked and were repulsed twice. Just then re-enforcements arrived from Oxford and the first siege of Basing was broken.

 

Such was parliament’s desperation that a declaration of impressments was issued that all men aged from 18 to 50 must join the colours, a challenge to their notions of freedom. Whilst parliament raised troops, Lord Hopton was given a clear strategic brief to clear Wiltshire and Hampshire then strike towards London. As parliament struggled to organise the defences, Sir William Ogle yet again took Winchester castle for the King. Re-enforced with veteran regiments of foot, the town gave a firm base for Hopton to continue operations in the south. With Romsey well garrisoned in November, the pressure increased on the Southampton parliamentarians. Hopton dispersed his troops in Winchester, Alton and Petersfield. Meanwhile Waller continued to build his army around Farnham. On Friday 3rd November this army marched out of Farnham due west to Basing House. Arriving on the 6th, on a cold winter’s morning clouded in fog proved a complete shock for the garrison who rapidly came to arms. With only 500 men to hold the walls and earthworks, it seemed that Waller’s army of over 5,000 men would finally take the single most important royalist garrison in the south of England. Under the perception that royalist troops were on the way to relieve the garrison, Waller threw a series of assaults at the house and continued a heavy bombardment. He was repulsed with some loss. On the 12th, Waller returned to finish the job with his men refreshed and re-equipped. After a heavy bombardment, 3,000 infantry assaulted the house, armed with ladders and grenades. Despite some success, heavy resistance from cannon and musket and even ladies throwing down roof tiles so unnerved the parliamentarians that discipline broke down. With the rear ranks accidentally shooting down their own front ranks, the foot broke. Dispirited, with over 300 killed, the army retired to Farnham as Lord Hopton finally approached with his main army. The second siege was over.

 

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