Way We Were: The only way for Essex

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Establishing his headquarters at Great Brickhill, in July 1643 the Earl of Essex moved his Parliamentary army from Aylesbury on to the commanding sandstone ridge.

His troops were in poor array, and if Royalists attacked, instead of laying siege to Gloucester, the Civil War could have been different. Fully aware of military deficiencies, Essex took advantage of this welcome respite and despatched a letter to Parliament.

Yet this received little attention and he explained his position in stronger terms; ‘We have, after divers addresses to the Houses, with patience expected recruits and supplies of men, horses, saddles and arms to enable us to do that service which we most heartily wish we could perform; and we have forborne to press these necessities upon your Lordships as often as the condition thereof required...’ ‘We can no longer be silent.’

In fact to emphasise their plight one of the 14 signatories, Sir Philip Stapleton delivered the letter. But while Parliament continued to ponder, the Royalist cavalry continued to randomly strike, and on the day after the letter’s despatch two soldiers were killed, with their burial being recorded in the Bletchley church register.

Parliament responded and rushed six regiments of ‘trained bands’ to reinforce the army at Brickhill. Now Essex had sufficient horses, money and men, and began preparations to march. By August 26 the Parliamentary force left Brickhill, and during September was able to lift the siege of Gloucester. By the early months of 1644 the Parliamentarians had almost complete control over North Buckinghamshire.

Yet Royalist adventures still occurred, and on June 3, 1644 a party of the King’s horse, under the command of the Earl of Cleveland, surprised and ambushed a Parliamentary supply column at Little Brickhill, capturing 16 cartloads of wine, groceries and tobacco destined for Coventry and Warwick.

However, rather more interesting was the discovery of armour which, dating from the Civil War, was unearthed during the construction of an ornamental Japanese garden behind the now demolished ‘Manor.’ The armour was sent to the county museum at Aylesbury for display.