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Hampshire in the Civil War

Up until the last years of the sixteenth century Hampshire was described as an idyllic county; combining the pastures of the downs with fertile river valleys and a thriving coastal industry. Not only did the county rely on agricultural activity but had become pivotal to the burgeoning cloth trade with the continent. As the seventeenth century unfolded external factors affected the county for the worst. The Enclosure Acts deprived many of their land and larger landowners gobbled up the real estate. A rapidly increasing population made the problems worse. The outbreak of war on the continent and a London-based decision to ban the trade of un-dyed wool to the continent in 1614 decimated the cloth trade. Industrial decline compounded agricultural reform and unprecedented numbers of unemployed, homeless and destitute people roamed the county. At first the political arguments in London between the King and his Parliament went un-noticed for the vast majority in the county. Only as conflict loomed and the factions needed military muscle did the conflict start to directly influence ordinary people. With so many destitute, the county was ripe for the recruiting sergeant. Far more joined the army through sheer survival and economic reasons than ideological arguments, which were generally left to the MP’s and landed gentry.


Many of the powerful gentry declared for the King. Lord John Paulet, Marquis of Winchester declared himself a royalist only after great insult and assault from parliamentarian sympathisers. His residence, Basing House, would remain hugely influential throughout the war. Sir William Ogle, MP for Winchester successfully held the town and castle against numerous sieges. George Goring, MP and Governor of Portsmouth held the town in the early months before being overrun. Goring went on to become a famous and successful royalist cavalry general. The lion of parliamentary pride was undoubtedly Sir William Waller, controversially elected MP for Andover in 1641. It would fall on men such as these to raise the troops needed to defend their respective causes in Hampshire.


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