Civil War Trail
Site 1 – The Black Horse Inn
Local tradition has it that this was the Headquarters of Lord Hopton, General of the King’s Army defending the town. Hopton would no doubt have picked the most opulent inn in which to lodge.
One account states how Hopton hurriedly left his quarters during the battle. “The Lord Hopton left his dinner on the Table and fled leaving behind him his Trunks of plate and silver and other treasure”.
From a balcony close to this spot, Hugh Peters, a chaplain with the New Model Armypreached to the parliamentarian soldiers and townspeople on Saturday 21st February 1646, it being the market day following the battle.
The town saw the coming and going of Parliamentarian and Royalist troops several times during the Civil War of 1642-46. In August 1645 when Lord Goring’s Royalist forces occupied the town, one soldier by the name of Henry Boose was hanged next to where the pillory stood in front of the Town Hall. He was a Lancashire man charged with mutiny. This was the market area for the town and goods were brought into the town in panniers carried on the backs of pack horses and then sold straight from the panniers.
Through the archway to the rear can be seen the Shambles, an area of the town where the butchers had their stalls and where meat was sold. This area also contained within it a Leather Hall, Cordwainer Chamber, Yarn Hall and Council Chamber.
The rear of the Council Chamber can be seen from the Shambles and while the new ‘own Hall was built in 1861, the rear is mucholder, almost certainly there in 1646. The rear of the buildings with their frontage on Fore Street also show 17th Century building styles.
Near this spot Major General Webb hadhis horse shot from under him by a parliamentarian musket volley which also fatally wounded Lord Hopton’s horse and hit Captain Harper in the head. Lord Hoptor’s horse was able to carry him back to his “lodging door and there fell down dead”. It is also likely Hopton’s personal colour was captured in this particular engagement and that he suffered a pike wound in the face.
Near this spot stood the main Royalist barricade, scene of the bloodiest fighting in the Battle of Torrington.
The barricade was contested for over an hour at ‘push of pike’. Accounts of the battle testify to the courage of the Cornish troops who defended it, “at push of pike and with the butt end of their muskets”.
There was a large number of pubs in Torrington in the 17th Century. Onesuch pair was the Rising Sun on the corner of Castle Street and facing it on Cornmarket Street, the Setting Sun. In one Torrington alehouse in 1642 John Heddonwas drinking with company and asked William Hocking if he would have a cup of ale with him,
to which Flocking, who supported Parliament replied that Heddon waa a buse fellow and he should be defending his country, whereupon Flocking and others drew their swords and daggers and pricked John Heddon near the belly and he died of his wounds on 8th November 1642, The quarrel seemed to be over the fact that Heddon had been spreading gossip that Capt, Hocking and his men had fled at the approach of Royalist troops.
Site 6 « Castle Till
The Prince of Wales’ Regiment of Foot was positioned here in the battle. They were the last troops of the King’s Army to leave the town making their escape down this steep bank to the River Torridge. In his account of the battle, Lord Hopton wrote “And the foot in every quarter quilted their posts saving those of Your Highness’s foot guards… (who) defended their ports even after the town was lost“.
In 1644 the town was garrisoned by the King’s forces, An unfortunate incident occurred when Thome Moncke gent Lieutenant to Colonel Thomas Moneke af Potheridge was slain close to this spot on the 9th day of July 1644 about 12 o’clock at night, by some of his own company on guard when he failed to give the correct password. Perhaps he had been drinking and his speech had become incoherent.
Foot soldiers from the defeated Royalist Army of Lord Hopton fled down this street and over Taddiport Bridge towards Cornwall.
This area at the Northern end of Mill Street was the scene of much industry in the mid 17th Century. A 17th Century pottery site was found at Caynton House, 100 yards down Mill Street and Rack Park was the area where woven cloth was stretched whilst being bleached in the sun.
The house that formerly stood on this spot was destroyed when the Royalist powder magazine in the church exploded on the night of 16th February 1646.
This church served as the Royalist powder magazine. During the battle 80 barrels of powder exploded killing 200 Royalist prisoners and their guards. At First the explosion seemed to be accidental but a Royalist soldier, Robert Watts, was found in the rubble and accused of being the culprit, having been offered, it was said, £30 as a reward from Lord Hopton for the deed. A stoneset into the wall of the transept to the right of the entrance to the church records the explosion and the rebuilding of the church.
The mound near this spot is reputed to be the burial place of the mortal remains of those soldiers killed when the 80 barrels of powder, stored in the church, exploded. Recent research by local diviners has suggested the burial pit is 7 feet deep and contains the remains of 67 bodies,
The area behind M & V Ferry’s hardware store was the site of the town’s Bull Ring where people watched the sport of bull baiting. It was thought baiting a bull tenderised the meat.