Welshmen at Hopton Castle in the English Civil War

Gaynor Madoc Leonard
07/09/13 10:37:29AM
302 posts

Yet again last night I got caught up in watching an old (2009) Time Team episode, this time about Hopton Castle in Shropshire.

You might ask what that has to do with Wales and the Welsh but in fact a number of the 30 Parliamentarian (Roundhead) defenders at the battle of Hopton Castle, during the Civil War, were Welsh. We know this because the commander of the castle at the time kept scrupulous records; the names of all 30 men were listed and some, clearly Welsh, have the letter "W" following their names which indicates they were actually from Wales, as opposed to Welsh people living in the Marches. In 1644, this castle was one of very few places in the west of the country to be held by Roundhead troops and was besieged for several weeks by the Royalists before surrendering. After the surrender, the Royalist commander apparently killed all the troops (though not their commander) and had them buried either in a cellar or in a muddy ditch.

If you look at www.hoptoncastle.org.uk , you will see a rather romantic-looking castle keep which is all that remains of the medieval (probably early 14th century) castle. What became clear during Time Team's 3-day dig was that at the time of the Civil War, the place was not so much a castle as a country manor. There was a large, brick-built and rather grand 3-storey house and wooden outbuildings.

Time Team's "mission" was to find out more about what the place looked like, in which they were very successful, and, hopefully, find out where those poor men were buried. They simply didn't have the time to do the latter.

What they did find was a 9lb cannon ball, a human tooth (probably knocked out during hand-to-hand fighting) and a beautiful "quarter-laurel" gold coin with the head of James I of England (he was also James VI of Scotland) from the early 1620s.

The massacre of the men at the castle became known as "the Hopton Quarter" and the story goes that the Royalist commander, Colonel Woodhouse, later had to surrender at Ludlow; remembering what he himself had done at Hopton, he asked that he be allowed to surrender to anyone but the erstwhile commander of Hopton Castle as he feared revenge.

As for the Welsh soldiers,we have no idea whether their families ever found out what had happened to them; a few with Welsh names were presumably local as they didn't have the letter "W" after their names but the others must have travelled from Wales only to lose their lives quite horrifically defending an almost indefensible country home.


updated by @gaynor-madoc-leonard: 11/11/15 10:38:57PM