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Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681). Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson. 1906.

Appendix V: The Attempt to Obtain Possession of the Powder in the Magazine of the County of Nottinghamshire

And other incidents which took place during the king’s stay at Nottinghamshire.

Mr Bailey in his Annals of Nottinghamshire (vol. ii. p. 651) concludes that the account given in these Memoirs of the attempt made to seize for the king’s service the powder belonging to the county, and Colonel Hutchinson’s successful intervention to save it, is entirely fictitious. He argues that the story told by Mrs Hutchinson contradicts itself, because she represents her husband in one place as interfering in time to prevent the powder being carried off, in another as being informed of the attempt too late to prevent it (pp. 81–95). He also brings forward an entry in the records of the town council, which states that the town willingly agreed to lend the king some powder, and asserts that this disproves Mrs Hutchinson’s narrative.

But the contradiction referred to does not in reality exist at all. True or untrue, Mrs Hutchinson’s story is perfectly consistent. The two passages which are cited as contradictory refer, not to the same, but to different events. The first is the account of an attempt which failed, the second of an attempt which succeeded. Nor does the municipal record disprove Mrs Hutchinson’s statements, for the entry in question relates to the powder of the town, whilst her narrative relates to that of the county. That entry, on the contrary, confirms her account, and helps to fix the date of the events mentioned in it. The entry in the Hall Book of the Corporation is as follows: ‘August 3d, 1642. This company are content at my Lord Newark’s motion, to lend out of the town’s magazine one barrel of powder, which is promised to be returned again within ten days next ensuing, and also by a note under Sir Nicholas Byron’s hand, in Mr Mayor’s custody’. In the dialogue between Lord Newark and Mr Hutchinson, the former states that the town have cheerfully lent the king a barrel of powder, therefore this attempt to obtain possession of the powder of the county probably took place about the middle of August. Charles arrived at Nottingham from York on August 10th, and set out again on the 18th for Warwickshire. On the 20th he made his unsuccessful attempt to enter Coventry. It was most likely during the interval between August 3d and August 20th that the unsuccessful attempt to obtain possession of the powder took place. Vicars in his Parliamentary Chronicle, and several newspapers of the time, mention the king’s unsuccessful endeavours to secure the aid of the Nottingham train bands, and the use of their magazine for this expedition. A contemporary pamphlet entitled ‘The King’s Majesty’s proposition to the Gentry and Commonalty of Nottingham’ (in the Thomason Collection in the British Museum, E. 116) says:

‘The king’s most excellent majesty having within a few days taken into consideration the great and manifold preparations that are now making for war here in the south, and in divers places of this kingdom, and being informed of some of his council of the proceedings in Warwickshire, forthwith resolved to send some aid to the Earl of Northampton, so that he might by that means the better perform the trust reposed in him, and to that end his highness intended to send out warrants to all the adjoining counties for their appearance, to aid and assist his majesty therein, but the greatest part refused to come to obey the warrant. His royal majesty being somewhat displeased thereat, that they should deny to obey his command, sent out a strict command that they should resign up their arms, and restore them to those which he had appointed to take charge of them; and having a great confidence of his subjects of Nottingham, thought it meet and expedient to desire the aid and assistance of the trained band of that city to guard his royal person towards Coventry, and to that end propounded these following propositions to them, viz.:

‘1. That they would be pleased to go along with him towards Coventry in Warwickshire, for the aid and assistance of his royal person against all those that should presume to oppose him.

‘2. That his majesty desired all his loving subjects of that county to make their appearance at Nottingham, where his majesty hath now set up his standard, to assist him against the rebels (meaning the parliament’s forces), but the county refused the same, vowing to lose their dearest lives in the defence of his royal majesty and the parliament against the bloodsucking cavaliers.

‘3. His majesty propounded unto them, that the trained band of that county might go along with him, to guard his royal person from his foes and enemies, but they utterly denied these his majesty’s demands, and would by no means condescend thereunto.

‘4. His majesty desired that they would be pleased to lend him the magazine of the said county, promising to see them have it again ere long time, but they likewise denied this his majesty’s request, and would not give their consents that it should be transported out of their own county’.

Thus Mrs Hutchinson’s statement that an attempt was made by the king to obtain the powder in the county magazine is confirmed, though she doubtless exaggerates the part played by Mr Hutchinson in protecting it.

The newspaper which bears the name of Special Passages supplies many details respecting the king’s stay at Nottingham. It mentions amongst other things the plunder of Mr Millington’s house, and another paper names Mr Piggot as a sufferer. The successful attempt to obtain possession of the powder doubtless took place after the raising of the standard, when the king had collected two or three thousand men, and disarmed the trained bands. The Memoirs, however, seem to fix it as taking place directly the king’s soldiers came to the town. Special Passages, No. 3 (August 22–29), states that after the setting up of the standard, ‘the cavaliers having disarmed all the townsmen that had arms sent them from the parliament, three householders refusing to deliver arms which they bought with their own money were committed to the castle’. But the general disarmament of the Nottinghamshire trained bands took place later. A letter dated Northampton, September 12, gives the following account of it (A Continuation of our Weekly Intelligence from his Majesty’s Army).

From its full knowledge of events at Nottingham, it is possible that this letter may have been written by Colonel Hutchinson, who left Nottingham a few days earlier, and, after passing a little time in Leicestershire, visited Essex at Northampton.

‘MY GOOD FRIEND,—I sent fuller, but it was intercepted in the way. In brief, the king wants money, the pay is nothing but dollars, the town is forced to take that for six shillings which is not worth five shillings,—besides the king called the gentry of that shire together to desire of them five hundred pounds, a relic of ship-money left in the then high sheriff’s hands, the beginning of parliament: the middle-sized gentry, though they made appearance, were not called up, did not give their consent, being discontented; however, the five hundred pounds was taken. Many of the king’s servants go away for want of pay; for ordnance there is no more noise of any, only I hear an inkling, as if they were making some iron ones; for foot they have some more; the king desired to see them complete, there were of them nigh three thousand, men and boys, but not above half armed, and eighty of them were hired for one shilling a man for a day, and to mend the matter, to deceive to the full, they gave up in a list to the king five thousand. The parliament army disquiets Nottingham, and so they are resolved to go further off, to Derby first and then westward, and perhaps north-west too therefrom. I do believe it is yet to be resolved. It is sure two pieces of ordnance went to Derby on Wednesday last, some arms and ammunition; on Saturday it was expected more should go, and this day the king was to go; whether to return it is not yet resolved, but it is most probable they will leave Nottingham. They threaten to pillage it before they take their leaves, and some rascals talk of worse, but sure they dare not do it. The king soon moved the trained bands of Nottinghamshire, the appearance was thin; they told him (he told them?) he never received so much loyalty and affection from any county; and though he called them to appear in person with their arms, yet because of harvest, and because of their wives and children, it should suffice to send him their arms, and on the word of a king to return them when he had settled his kingdom in peace. They cried out they would go with him; however, their arms were commanded to the castle for that night, and next morning they were forced to return disarmed. So they served Leicestershire. I guess his counsels vary, and did he know how to bestow his ordnance, he would be altogether in a flying posture, and turn his foot into dragooners, which yet he may, do if foot come in no faster. They will incline westward or north-west, and in the way get up what arms they can, by speeches and perforces. Derby was forced to resign some, that shire is righter than most. We get nothing in the counties by this deliberation, and I find, if they were not seeing people, they would to the cavaliers, as Nottingham and such towns, when promises have been made in vain’….