Stuart

  • Treasures & Raiders in Midsomer County


    (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episodes: 05×04: Murder on St Malley’s Day, 14×05: The Sleeper under the Hill, and 18×05: Saints and Sinners)

     

    Three episodes of Midsomer Murders are about treasure and its theft. They come from three different eras: The Anglo-Saxon treasure of Gorse Meadow from the Battle of Hallows Beck between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings (14×05: The Sleeper under the Hill) and the Tudor hoard of Milson (18×05: Saints and Sinners) – both treasure heists taking place in Midsomer in the early 21st century.

    But one episode also features an art theft outside Midsomer, but in Midsomer Parva. Specifically, by former Pudding Club members, now diplomats, in the last decades of the 20th century (05×04: Murder on St Malley’s Day).

     

    Greed & Hubris

    The Holloway College was used for Devington School. Photo by Fay1982: The Founder's Building, Egham campus, 2011. URL: The Founder's Building, Egham campus. CC-SA 3.0
    The Holloway College was used for Devington School. Photo by Fay1982: The Founder’s Building, Egham campus, 2011. URL: The Founder’s Building, Egham campus. CC-SA 3.0

    What all three episodes have in common is that the robbers claim to be able to value the treasures for themselves – and only themselves – and therefore need to save them – and, of course, are prepared to murder if necessary to do so.

    At Devington School in Midsomer Parva, headmaster Jonathan Eckersley-Hyde stands with pupil Daniel Talbot in the chamber of the Pudding Club, where many treasures are kept. He seems to be preparing Daniel for his future career as a diplomat. And as an alumnus of Devington School, that includes, er, saving artefacts. He shows Daniel something from a looted museum in Kabul, the contents of which were stolen/saved and brought here by members of the Pudding Club as diplomats. This is what makes the school and its upkeep possible.

    Daniel Talbot is understandably beside himself that there are countless stolen art treasures stored here, and Jonathan Eckersley-Hyde emphasises once again that these treasures have been saved thanks to Devington School.

    And it’s not just Kabul artefacts that are stored in the secret vault off to the side of the Pudding Club room. Tom Barnaby and Gavin Troy identify much more in the room when Jonathan Eckersley-Hyde also enters the vault.

     

    Anglo-Saxon treasures

    There is a prehistoric monument with a blood stone at Midsomer Mow. This area is part of the Gorse Meadow estate, now owned by Alex Preston. Unauthorised, the village’s New Dawn Druids use the site as a spiritual power site to celebrate their beliefs.

    But landowner Preston has his own plans for the land and wants to make it work for him. While ploughing, he makes a very interesting discovery after only a few metres: he finds ancient jewellery under the ground and quickly realises that there must be much more from Celtic times. He shows his first finds to another resident, Caradoc Singer. He is very impressed, but not so much by the fact that Alex Preston wants to find out how to deal legally with a treasure find.

    Caradoc Singer believes that only he has the ability to value the hoard, not Alex Preston or the government. Or the policeman Trevor Gibson, who also wants Preston’s find and wants to sell it. Caradoc Singer – who considers himself far too good to kill – takes advantage of this and has Trevor Gibson do it for him, putting him under emotional pressure.

    All this is revealed during the interrogation in Caradoc Singer’s basement lair at the end of the episode, as Caradoc Singer, surrounded by all the treasures he has collected over the years, sits in an armchair and remembers the day Alex Preston showed him the precious finds.

     

    Arrogance

    Anglo-Saxon treasures
    A Anglo-Saxon hoard – not from Midsomer, but from Staffordshire. Source: David Rowan, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery: Stæffordscīr hord. Searucēap þæs hordes. CC-BY SA 2.0.

    The catastrophe for Caradoc Singers was not that Alex Preston found these treasures on his property, but that he want to report his find and take whatever might be his legal share. And once the items were in the possession of the government, Caradoc Singer could no longer try to own them. Clearly, finds Singer, Alex Preston was not appreciative enough and therefore had to die.

    But an art collector like Caradoc Singers doesn’t do this kind of dirty work himself, but lets others do it, whom he makes emotionally compliant in return with small gifts – in this case the policeman Trevor Gibson. Nothing he regrets, as you can see from his arrogant grin. He is visibly proud of his emotional blackmail.

    Same with Letitia Clifford, a member of the New Dawn Driuds of Midsomer Mow . She finds the right site of the buried treasures via ley lines. On a large map she connects four spiritual places with two lines. They cross at Gorse Meadow. “King Stone” she writes at the intersection. Shortly afterwards she is murdered.

     

    Pure Arrogance

    John Barnaby showed the map to Caradoc Singer, who back then waved it off, to distract Barnaby. He admits this later. She was quite right that the battle was fought at Gorse Meadow. But if this had been publicised, the place would have been swarming with treasure hunters – and thus diminishing Caradic Singer’s potential possessions.

    There were at least four battles between Anglo-Saxons and Vikings in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire, but only one of it was won by the Anglo-Saxons: The Battle of Englefield, 31 December 870. (According to the calendar at that time, it was 31 December 871 because the year already began on Christmas.)

    But how did it actually come to the battles? About a century after the Christianisation of the Anglo-Saxons, the Vikings sailed to the British Isles for short raids.It was not until around 850 that Vikings invade Britain – and it was during this time that the Battle of Englefield took place.

     

    Ley Lines

    Let’s come back to Letitia Clifford for a moment. She draws two lines – called ley lines – on a map. They meet in Alex Preston’s field, though not at the bloodstone in Crowcall Circle, but a few steps away. “King Stone” she writes on the spot.

    Drawing ley lines is not an idea of the screenwriter, but is based on a practice of 19th century historians. Today, their significance is strongly doubted by historians and tends to be relegated to the realm of esotericism. They were established by merchant Alfred Watkins who was also an amateur archaeologist and amateur photographer. For him, there had to be a network of straight paths connecting the historic buildings in England.

    And he wasn’t alone:

    • Reverend Edward Duke (1779-1852) found in 1846 that some prehistoric monuments and medieval churches were connected by a line.
    • Architect and antiquarian Joseph Houghton Spencer (19th century), while exploring Taunton Castle, found a historic path connecting monastic sites. He then believed that all monasteries and monuments would once have been connected in straight lines.
    • Archaeoastronomer Joseph Norman Lockyer (1836-1920) suggested that, as at Stonehenge, other prehistoric stone sites were connected on a plane based on astronomical principles.
    • Historian Walter Johnson (c. 1900) found that because churches were built on prehistoric sites, ley lines are also found in them, but go back even further. Churches were built because of the positive energies along the ley lines.

    Nevertheless, the vast majority of scientists today are very sceptical about the anachronistic concept of ley lines. Tom Williamson found that the density of monuments in the UK is so great that with every straight line you have several monuments on one line.

     

    Treasures from family hoards

    Margaret Tudor
    Daniël Mijtens: Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland (1489-1541). Painted between circa 1620 and circa 1638. Royal Collection. Public Domain.

    Cicely Milson was a martyr who was interrogated by her torturers for three weeks before she was executed. Among other things, she lost a toe during the torture. Her family fled to France to escape, but the family hoard, however, remained with Cicely. She probably lived in the 15th century – more likely towards the end. Historian Christopher Corby gives the 15th century for the painting showing her mother Benedicta Milson (in fact it shows Margaret Tudor (1489-1541), the eldest daughter of Henry VII of England).

    The dig in present-day Midsomer Cicely is also attended by Penelope “Penny” Henderson, who wrote her PhD thesis on the Milson family and knows a lot about the connections and the family hoard. It is only towards the end of the episode that John Barnaby and Charlie Nelson find out from the car registration that Penny Henderson’s maiden name was “Milson”. So, she is interested in finding the treasures of the Milson family for genealogical reasons and wants to keep it. But that’s not how it works under current law in England. In the process, Penny Henderson is willing to go to extremes and becomes a murder.

    Note: As with Gorse Meadow: where the scene of the dig was set up is still unknown to me and I welcome any clues.

     

    Fraud and Murder

    And then there was the Reverend Corby, who passes off the bones of a random person as the relics of St Cicely in order to gain more fame.

    He steals Penny Henderson’s car with the actually bones of Cicely in it to replace them in the crypt for the bones of the fake Cicely. What he doesn‘t know is that the family hoard is in the car, too. Kam Karimore drops by in the church to examine the fake bones on display for their age. While she is still discussing the matter with the Reverend, Penny Henderson arrives. They get into arguments when John Barnaby and Charlie Nelson also arrive to join the three people in the crypt.

    For a moment, Penny Henderson is surprised, that the police have discovered that she is the murderer. Then pulls out a knife and runs to Kam Karimore to take her hostage. Kam gasps. John is visibly in distress. He reveals to her that he knows of her birth name, lets her get emotional until she is not paying close attention to holding Kam Karimore down enough. Kam is able to break free. John and Charlie immediately rush towards Penny Henderson. Kam and Charlie hold Penny Henderson down, so she can be arrested.

     

    How does it work in England when you find treasures?

    This is regulated by the Treasure Act of 1996: There is a legal obligation that golden and silver objects over 300 years old found in England must be reported within 14 days of discovery. A finder’s reward is possible, but does not apply to archeologists and volunteers participating in an archeological excavation.

     

    Read more about Midsomer Murders & History

    The Chronology of Midsomer County by Year or by EpisodesDeep Dives into Midsomer & History.

    If you would like to honour my effort and passion, I am happy and thankful for every donation.

     

    Literature

    • Ford, David Nash: Englefield. In: Royal Berkshire History. URL: http://www.berkshirehistory.com/villages/englefield.html
    • Hutton, Ronald: The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles. Their Nature and Legacy. Oxford/Cambridge 1991.
    • Johnson, Walter: Byways in British Archaeology. Cambridge University Press 1912.
    • Lockyer, Joseph Norman: Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered. Macmillan and Company, London 1909.
    • NN: Parishes: Englefield. In: P. H. Ditchfield/William Page (Eds.): A History of the County of Berkshire 3. London 1923. P. 405-412. URL: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/berks/vol3/pp405-412
    • Williamson, Tom/Bellamy, Liz: Ley Lines in Question. Tadworth 1983.

     

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    • Midsomer Murders History Header Gunpowder Plot

      “Involved in the Gunpowder Plot.”


      (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episodes: 08×04: Bantling Boy, and 15×02: Murder of Innocence)

       

      Welcome to Bantling Hall, located in the picturesque village of Dorney, Buckinghamshire… no, sorry: Dorney Court. A stunning Tudor manor that has been listed on the National Heritage List since 23 September 1955. With a rich history dating back to before the Battle of Hastings, the manor has been owned by several notable figures, including Aldred and Miles Crispin. Dorney Court is proudly owned by the Palmer family, who have maintained its beauty and heritage for generations. It is worth noting that the text does not reference the Gunpowder Plot, Battle of Marston Moor, or War of Independence. In 1646, during the Civil War, the Palmer family, who were royalists, had their estates seized. However, their estates were returned to them in 1657.

      Back to Midsomer: As Tom Barnaby arrives at Bantling Hall for the first time, he is warmly greeted by Angela Hartley. Upon entering the drawing room, he is struck by the impressive large-scale oil paintings of notable figures. Angela proudly introduces the first gentleman depicted in one of the paintings as Cecil Hartley, the 3rd Baron Bantling. Despite his controversial past, Cecil remains a fascinating historical figure. Interestingly, Cecil was one of the Catholic conspirators involved in the infamous Gunpowder Plot of 1615, which aimed to assassinate the English king and his family.

       

      Remember, remember

      Gunpowder Plot
      This is where the ammunition for the Gunpowder Plot was hidden. William Capon: The cellar underneath the House of Lords, as drawn by William Capon, 1799. Public Domain.

      James VI of Scotland was widely regarded as a beacon of hope for English Catholics due to his reputation for religious tolerance. However, their hopes were ultimately dashed as James became increasingly drawn to Protestantism. In the summer of 1603, two plots were attempted by Catholics: one to kidnap James and the other to overthrow the royal family. In the summer of 1603, two plots were attempted by Catholics. One to kidnap James (“Bye Plot”) and the other to overthrow the royal family (“Main Plot”). However, both plots failed and resulted in James implementing stricter policies against Catholics.

      The power of Catholics in England was waning as the Puritans gained influence. In the summer of 1603, two plots were attempted by Catholics: one to kidnap James and the other to overthrow the royal family. It is clear that the Catholic influence was no match for the strength of the Puritan movement. In response to the plots, he confidently decreed that all Catholic priests must leave the country. In his friendly opening speech to Parliament as King James I, he made it clear that he had no interest in strengthening Catholic influence again, which was highly sobering for the Catholics.

       

      The Fifth of November: Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot

      In May 1604, a group of Catholics, led by Robert Catesby, confidently planned a large explosive attack on the opening of parliament as revenge for the oppression of Catholics. This friendly version of the text aims to convey the message in a clear and approachable manner, while maintaining a confident tone to showcase the competence of the conspirators. The plan aimed to kill not only the king but also all members of parliament. However, they made an exception for James’ daughter Elizabeth, who they planned to kidnap and install as titular Queen after the attack. Based on today’s calculations, the 2.5 tons of hidden explosives were enough to cause severe damage to all buildings within a one-kilometre radius and completely destroy Westminster.

      The ‘powder treason’ plot was entrusted to explosives expert Guy Fawkes (who used the spelling Guido Faukes). He easily obtained gunpowder on the black market, and the event was scheduled for 5 November 1605. The explosives had already been carefully concealed in the cellars of Westminster. It is clear that those involved in the plot were highly confident in their ability to carry out this devastating attack. But the plot was foiled just before the opening of parliament thanks to a letter received by the Catholic MP Lord Monteagle advising him not to attend. The explosives were found in time, and Guy Fawkes was apprehended.

      After being subjected to torture, Fawkes confessed and revealed the identities of his co-conspirators, who were subsequently captured. The failed plot had a considerable adverse effect on anti-Catholic politics. However, the government used it to intensify the suppression and persecution of Catholics. We must acknowledge the impact of this event and work towards a more inclusive and tolerant society.

       

      I know of no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot

      Bonfire
      A Bonfire. Public Domain.

      In January 1606, just a few weeks after the plot, Parliament convened for the first time and confidently passed the Observance of 5th November Act 1605. This friendly act established special sermons to commemorate the upcoming anniversaries. Additionally, to this day, the Yeomen of the Guard amiably search the cellars under the Houses of Parliament before the annual opening of Parliament by the reigning monarch.

      Other traditions of public remembrance were established soon after. Annual bonfires were held, which is why the anniversary of Guy Fawkes Night is also known as Bonfire Night. In fact, an episode of Midsomer (15×02, Murder of Innocence) features a Bonfire Night celebration.

      Sarah and John Barnaby are shown relaxing on the sofa with Asian food after work. Sarah is already sitting on the sofa, enjoying her meal with two chopsticks in hand. Meanwhile, John stands and thinks out loud about the case and the significance of Bonfire Night 1994. This event holds the key to solving his current case, as Grady Felton was wrongly convicted of murder during that time. The Bonfire Night 1994 in Binwell is a crucial scene in solving the current murders. It is worth noting that there were no other notable incidents in England on Saturday 5 November 1994. The episode was confidently filmed in Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Surrey.

       

      Read more about Midsomer Murders & History

      The Chronology of Midsomer County by Year or by EpisodesDeep Dives into Midsomer & History.

      If you would like to honour my effort and passion, I am happy and thankful for every donation.

       

      Literature

      • Frazer, Antonia: The Gunpowder Plot. Terror and Faith in 1605. London 1996.

       

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      • Header Midsomer Murders History Civil War

        The Civil War, pt. 1


        (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episodes: 03×04: Beyond the Grave, 06×04: A Tale of two Hamlets, 08×04: Bantling Boy, and 11×02: Blood Wedding)

         

        After the Gunpowder Plot, religious tensions in England continued to escalate against the Catholics. Among them were the Fitzroys of Bledlow Village, who took over ownership of their manor in the 1600s. This is what Harry Fitzroy told Ben Jones in an interview. Well, there’s no telling how he treats the policeman. Let’s say: Fitzroy certainly told Ben Jones not to ask questions like that.

        The episode first aired in 2008, which means the Fitzroys have owned the manor since at least 1608, perhaps even before the Gunpowder Plot? Unfortunately, we don’t know from whom they acquired the manor.

         

        The Grace of God

        In 1625, James I was succeeded by King Charles I, who was even more committed to an absolutist monarchy. But he also sought reconciliation with Catholicism.

        None of this appeased the many Puritans in Parliament. On several occasions, Charles I brushed aside concerns, petitions and so on. Things came to a head in 1640, after his plan to use royal troops to suppress a Scottish rebellion failed, and Parliament produced the Great Remonstrance. This was a list of all Charles I’s transgressions since 1625 – from the Puritan point of view. But Charles I felt so emboldened that he attempted a coup in January 1642, arresting Pym and other opposition leaders in the House of Commons.

        But the coup failed. Charles I then fled to Oxford and the civil war began. The real leader of the Puritans was Oliver Cromwell. A Puritan with a very strong belief in Providence and the great-nephew of Thomas Cromwell (Dissolution of the Monasteries).

         

        The origin of the enmity between the Upper and Lower Wardens

        13 March 1643. According to the history books, it was not a decisive day in the Civil War, but for the inhabitants of the two villages of Lower Warden and Upper Warden, it was the beginning of a conflict that has lasted to the present day, and has only been exacerbated by the tug-of-war over the writer Ellis Bell and his famous book, House of Satan.

        Frank Smythe-Webster also attends the press conference following the murder of the rather unpopular Larry Smith. Jack Wilson, who writes for the Upper Warden Church Newsletter and also runs the bookshop on the High Street, calls in. To Tom Barnaby’s astonishment, he does not have a question, but simply wants to point out to the press present that this is the appropriate time to talk about Ellis Bell’s affiliation. Just then, however, Frank Smythe-Webster’s phone rings and Gavin Troy asks Tom to come with him. Tom Barnaby and the others barely hear what Jack Wilson says. However, the Lower Warden bookseller explains that the enmity between the two chalets dates back to 14 March 1643 and Cromwell.

        Jack Wilson could have explained what happened here in the early days of the Civil War, but Tom Barnaby interrupts him to go and see Gavin Troy. So we don’t know which of the hamlets was on the Royalist side and which was on the Parliamentarian side. But we do learn elsewhere that, irritatingly, Lower Warden is on a hill and Upper Warden is in the valley.

         

        The Battle of Chalgrove

        Perhaps the origins of the enmity lie in the Battle of Chalgrove, although this took place a few weeks later on 18 June 1643. Nearby are Watlington and Lewknor, the sites of Upper Warden and Lower Warden. Situated in Oxfordshire on the Chiltern Hills, they are 3 miles (almost 5 kilometres) apart, separated only by the hamlet of Shirburg. Both date from Anglo-Saxon settlements, but nearby ancient roads (now public footpaths) – Icknield Way and The Ridgeway – both date from the Iron Age and were also used in Roman times, archaeological evidence shows. After the Battle of Hastings, the Danish Thegn Tovi bequeathed his royal fief to Abingdon Abbey, which farmed it until its dissolution in 1538. Both towns were connected to the railway network from the second half of the 19th century.

        During the Civil War, Watlington played a greater role as it housed Parliamentary troops. Even before the Civil War there were a number of Puritans, so the Roundheads were welcome here. The commander-in-chief of the Royal Cavalry was Rupert of the Rhine, Charles I’s nephew and an experienced and renowned soldier at the age of 23. He moved via Watlington and Lewknor to Chalgrove in June 1643, where he met Parliamentary troops seeking revenge for the siege of Reading. The battle consisted of several engagements which ended in a convincing Royalist victory.

        Another possibility: The Battle of Hopton Heath in Staffordshire on 19 March 1643 was close in time to the enmity between the Upper and Lower Wardens, although this is a long way from the Midlands locations.

         

        Battle of Marston Moor 1644 (08×04)

        Battle of Marston Moor
        The Battle of Marston Moor painting. The battle was on 2 July 1644, during the English Civil War (1642-52) between Royalists and Parliamentarians. Oil on canvas by John Barker (19th century); 101.6×152.5 cm. Public Domain.

        More than a year passed before the Battle of Marston Moor in the north of England on 2 July 1644 turned the Civil War on its head. The open field battle ended in a Parliamentary victory.

        The Royalists’ defeat was all the more bitter because they had lost control of the north of England. The battle changed the course of the Civil War in the Parliamentarians’ favour, but they were unable to capitalise on it. Perhaps George Hartley, 4th Baron Bantling of Bantling Hall in Midsomer County, played a part in this. His descendant, Angela Hartley, tells Tom Barnaby in another episode that he fought for the Royalists but betrayed them at the Battle of Marston Moor.

        The other two Hartleys portrayed, the Barons of Bantling, were similarly disloyal: as already mentioned, Cecil Hartley was part of the conspiratorial network around Guy Fawkes in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. We are about to meet Thomas Bantling, who fought for the rebellious English colonies in the War of Independence, although he was a soldier in the English army. The place, Dorney Court in Buckinghamshire, also belonged to the Palmer family, who were loyal to the King. However, there was no treason here. The Palmer estates were seized in 1646, but returned in 1657. The family still owns the estate today.

        The Secret of the Ring 2 and the synicate

        Perhaps, now that little Peter has grown up, he will program a sequel to The Secret of the Ring computer game, but with all the historical men (the scallywags, according to Angela Hartley)? Perhaps with the addition of the characters around the syndicate and the Bantling Boy – and himself? Could be a Midsomer Murders bestseller. 😉

         

        Battle of Aspern Tallow (03×04)

        Almost exactly a month later, the Battle of Aspern Tallow took place in the middle of Midsomer County. Aspern Tallow was filmed in the Oxfordshire village of Ewelme, near the Chiltern Hills. It’s a former Roman and later Saxon settlement mentioned in the Domesday Book. Back then, in Norman times, Bigod, Earl of Wallingford was probably the owner of the village. And the film location is also related to the Civil War, as the manor was occupied by Prince Rupert. The nephew of Charles I was born in Prague, but grew up in what is now the Netherlands.

        In the opening scene, Alan Bradford gives a tour of the parish to seven interested people, including Police Constable Angel, who is there in his spare time. He gives the tour from a Royalist point of view, although the Aspern Tallow area leaned Parliamentarian.

        We learn that at 3.30pm on 1 August 1644 the Battle of Aspern Tallow was over and the Roundheads were victorious. Many, many Royalists died, but not Jonathan Lowrie.

        Alan Bradford leads his group past a cottage, then along a footpath further into the village. But first he pauses to continue the story: Jonathan Lowrie was wealthy and in the King’s favour, but he had friends in Parliament. So he was able to make his way from the battlefield to his house in the hamlet down the lane where the group was standing.

         

        Demolished

        In the background, a bell rings and Eleanor Bunsall commands them to make way for her on her tricycle. Shortly after she has passed, Alan Bradford turns back to his group. As the group reaches the graveyard at Aspern Tallow Church, they listen to the story of Jonathan Lowrie’s life. It was here, in the graveyard, that the Parliamentarians found him and wounded him. He ran on through the graveyard, pursued by his attackers to his home, Aspern Hall. Alan Bradford’s party takes the same route, but in no hurry. They reach Aspern Hall, now the local museum, and go inside to a stone slab in the floor. Jonathan Lowrie was shot here and buried on the spot. It was his wish.

        This is where Jonathan Lowrie managed to escape to, Alan Bradford continues. The persecuted soldier shouted the name of his wife, Florence, when he was fatally shot by one of the Parliamentary Musketeers. And according to his wishes, he was buried where he died.

        Bradford points to the ground, where a marble tombstone is embedded. But a shock awaits Alan Bradford as he leads the group into the hall where a very large painting by Jonathan Lowrie hangs. In the middle of a sentence, the local historian stops his story and stares at the large portrait of Jonathan Lowrie, recently demolished.

        The next morning Tom Barnaby, Gavin Troy and Cully’s friend Nico Bentley are at Aspern Hall. Nico is accompanying Troy to rehearse his new role as Detective Sergeant in a play. Also present at Aspern Tallow are Alan Bradford, Sandra MacKillop and her brother-in-law Charles, as Alan Bradford leads them through the museum to the destroyed painting by Jonathan Lowrie. You can read on it: Jonathan Lowrie. Royalist, philanthropist, classicist.

         

         

        To be continued – read part 2.

         

         

        Read more about Midsomer Murders & History

        The Chronology of Midsomer County by Year or by EpisodesDeep Dives into Midsomer & History.

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        • Header Midsomer Murders History Civil War

          The Civil War, pt. 2


          (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episodes: 11×02: Blood Wedding, and 15×01: The Dark Rider.)

          Continued from Civil War, pt. 1

           

          But when the Parliamentarians failed to capitalise on the successful battles of Marston Moor and Aspern Tallow, Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Fairfax formed the New Model Army – a single professional standing army of fanatical Puritans who fought not for money but for their honour, their faith and their passion.

          They were very loyal, very tenacious, and very well equipped by the standards of the day.

          The New Model Army was the link between the two turning points of the Parliamentarian Civil War. In 1643 the Royalists still had the most victories, but with the Battle of Marston Moor, the creation of the New Model Army, the Battle of Naseby on 14 June 1645 was a huge blow to the Royalists. At the Battle of Naseby, around 4,500 of them were captured and 1,000 died – including Geoffrey DeQuetteville from the village of Quitewell. However, as Ludo DeQuetteville explains to John Barnaby and Ben Jones, he lost his life through carelessness, clumsily sticking his head into the cannon when it was fired. Since then, a curse has been placed on Geoffrey as he rides around as a headless horseman, pointing at people – who soon die.

          New Model Army
          The New Model Army (First English Civil War’s) soldier’s catechism: rules, regulations and drill procedures. Public Domain.

           

          The historian’s delight

          But it is not only Geoffrey DeQuetteville who has a bad habit, so does the family currently living there: they are re-enacting the Battle of Naseby on their land, but claiming that the Royalists won. A misrepresentation of history. Every year.

          Not even Sarah Barnaby can change that, but at first she is convinced that the DeQuettevilles have an interest in making the battle as realistic as possible. As the new secretary of the Causton Historical Society, she wants to gain respect by making the Battle of Quietwell historically accurate. Her husband, who is already a good judge of the DeQuettevilles, points out that this will not be so easy – later Ben Jones will do the same – but Sarah shrugs it off, believing that this year, as in reality, the parliamentarians will win.

          What she doesn’t know: Sasha Fleetwood wants to make absolutely sure that the battle is lost for the DeQuettevilles this time. Her motivation is not historical accuracy, but revenge and a bet she made with Julian DeQuetteville. And so the unsuspecting Sarah Barnaby introduce to the King’s Loyalists (“Cavaliers”) and the Parliamentarians (“Roundheads”) as they take their stand and wave their banners.

           

          The historian’s woe

          Sarah Barnaby welcomes the participants and visitors to the re-enactment and mentions that there were no battles in Midsomer County during the Civil War. (We know that’s not true because of the Battle of Aspern Tallow). She then clarifies that this time it will be a little different to the years, yes, probably decades, before, but she explains it in a little more detail for some of the participants.

          One Cavalier General seems to have little patience or desire, and shouts “fire” at her monologue. Sarah Barnaby, startled, interrupts her introduction and tries to stop the inevitable, but she has no chance. The Roundheads form up and the Roundhead general gives the order to attack. Sarah Barnaby becomes increasingly desperate, regardless of the general on the battlefield in front of her.

          And then the battle doesn’t go according to Sarah Barnaby’s plan at all. Instead, the Cavaliers manage to capture the Roundheads’ standard. It looks like a victory for the DeQuettevilles, but then Sasha Fleetwood’s trump card arrives: half a dozen soldiers – in today’s uniform, but with a red sash. They can regain their standard and win the Cavaliers’ standard. This is finally too much for Sarah Barnaby. She makes a snarky comment, then lets her microphone dangle from the cable over the microphone holder, causing feedback, and leaves the scene.

           

          In the priest hole

          Knebworth House in Hertfordshire was the location for Quitewell Hall. A late Gothic manor house listed on the National Heritage List since 9 June 1962. However, there was a pre-Norman manor on the site, belonging to a thane of King Edward the Confessor called Aschil. In 1086, according to the Domesday Book, it belonged to Eudo Dapifer (‘the piper’), son of the recently deceased Norman baron Hubert de Ryes. It then changed hands many times, but from 1490 it was the home of the Lytton family.

          Among them was Sir William Lytton, who sat in the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for Hertfordshire from 1640 to 1648. He supported the Parliamentary cause in the Civil War, so the hidden alcove where John Barnaby and Ben Jones find the oil painting of the headless Geoffrey DeQuetteville is probably not a priest’s hole.

          Oliver Cromwell
          Charles Landseer: Cromwell in the Battle of Naseby in 1645, 1851. Public Domain.

          But there is such a secret passage at the Fitzroy’s Bledlow estate. Tom Barnaby has just arrived at the house of the latest murder victim, Robin Lawson, the Fitzroy family’s estate manager, who lives on the estate not far from the manor. Ben Jones is already there and has found Harry Fitzroy. Ben Jones wonders how he got into the house and enters the sitting room. Tom Barnaby deliberately touches the panelling of the stove. He presses a spot, it clicks and – tada! – the bookcase opens.

          They go in and come out in the bedroom of the house. The room where the first victim, Marina, was stabbed through the chest and into the wood-panelled wall with an old knife.

          Bledlow Manor was filmed at Joyce Grove, a manor house in Nettlebed, Oxfordshire. The Jacobean styled building was first constructed in 1900, and so has no connection with the Civil War or the period when Catholic mass was banned. It did, however, have a post-Civil War predecessor. It has been on the National Heritage List since 23 August 1999 and was most recently a branch of Sue Ryder Hospices until 2020.

          Note: I’m aware that there’s another episode with priest holes, but until it’s shown on British TV, I won’t be writing more about it here.

           

          What happened next

          After the two turning points of the Civil War at Marston Moor and Naseby, the Parliamentarians won a series of other victories. First, the king repeatedly entrenched himself in Oxford. This third victory of the city lasted two months, but it was more negotiation than fighting, as the war was clearly lost for the Royalists. However, the king was able to escape to Newcastle and surrender to the Scots. From there he ordered all remaining Royalist garrisons to lay down their arms – the surrender.

          A few months later, the Scots delivered King Charles I to Parliament, but Charles I was still able to persuade the Scots to come over to his side and support him again. This led to Scottish rebellions in England, but they were unsuccessful and culminated in the extradition of the English king.

          In 1649 King Charles I was beheaded. The monarchy was abolished. For the first and last time, England became a republic – the Commonwealth. Puritanism became the dominant religious movement. Only in Ireland did the Catholic majority resist, which ended in a bloody massacre and the dispossession of Irish landowners.

          In 1653 Oliver Cromwell staged a coup d’état against his own Commonwealth and proclaimed himself Lord Protector. For the next five years, until his death, he ruled dictatorially and absolutistically – completely paradoxical because the Civil War was not only a religious war, but also a war between absolute and parliamentary monarchy and republic.

           

          More information

          Ellis Bell was born illegitimately in Lower Warden in 1867. His mother worked on the Smythe-Webster estate and was seduced by the son of the house. Although the family denied paternity, they helped Ellis Bell get a job as a teacher. This is seen by some as an admission of guilt. Ellis Bell wrote a classic with ‘House of Satan’ and the two hamlets argue over who has the right to the work. Did he write it in Upper Warden, where his mother worked, or in Lower Warden, where he was born? Did the Smythe-Websters buy out the publishers after it was first published in 1897, burn all the books and now, 100 years later, reissue it as a sensation and film it at the same time? Now, in 2004, The House of Satan 2 is about to be made. Ellis Bell died impoverished in Causton in 1930.

          Oliver Cromwell died of an illness, but it is not certain what it was. There has been speculation about poisoning, but it was probably the combination of malaria and typhoid, or malaria and kidney stones, perhaps together with sepsis.

           

           

          Read more about Midsomer Murders & History

          The Chronology of Midsomer County by Year or by EpisodesDeep Dives into Midsomer & History.

          If you would like to honour my effort and passion, I am happy and thankful for every donation.

           

          Literature

          • Bennett, Martyn: The English Civil War. A Historical Companion, Stroud 2004.
          • Carpenter, Stanley D. M.: The English Civil War. Aldershot 2007.
          • Chambers R. A.: A Deserted Medieval Farmstead at Sadler’s Wood, Lewknow. In: Oxoniensia 38 (1973). P. 146-169.
          • Cressy, David: England on Edge. Crisis and Authority, 1640–1642. New York 2006.
          • NN: Key Events of the Civil Wars. In: The Cromwell Museum.
          • NN: Parishes: Knebworth. In: William Page (Ed.): A History of the County of Hertford. Volume 3. London 1912. P. 111-118.
          • NN: Nettlebed. In: Simon Townley (Ed.): A History of the County of Oxford. Volume 18. Woodbridge 2016. P. 275-302.
          • NN: Parishes: Watlington. In: Mary D Label (Ed.): A History of the County of Oxford. Volume 8- London 1964. P. 210-252.
          • NN: Parishes: Lewknor. In: Mary D Lobel (Ed.): A History of the County of Oxford. Volume 8. London 1964. P. 98-115.
          • NN: Parishes: Dorney. In: William Page (Ed.): A History of the County of Buckingham. Volume 3. London 1925. P. 221-225.
          • NN: Ewelme. In: Simon Townley (Ed.): A History of the County of Oxford. Volume 18. Suffolk 2016. P. 192-234.
          • NN: Ewelme. A Romantic village, its past and present, its people and its history. Here: Chapter 5: Ewelme under the Stuarts, and during the Civil War. Commonwealth and restoration.
          • Rowland, Aston: Watlington Parish. In: Aston Rowant & Chilterns Spring Line Villages.
          • Rowant, Aston: Battle of Chalgrove. In: Aston Rowant & Chilterns Spring Line Villages.
          • Worden, Blair: The English Civil Wars 1640-1660. London 2009.

           

          Further readings

          • Civil War in Ireland: Fraser, Antonia. Cromwell, Our Chief of Men, and Cromwell: the Lord Protector. London 1973.

           

           

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