Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

The oaths at Woodchurch, 1643–1644: tensions in civil-war Wirral and its aftermath

Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (2015), 164, (1), 1–20.

Abstract

Four years after the end of the civil war, three parishioners of Woodchurch in northern Wirral were accused of having sworn an oath of loyalty to the king and of joining the Royalist army during its occupation of the peninsula up to October 1644. Since all had subsequently served the State as sequestrators until at least the end of 1646 and been responsible for the collection and expenditure of income from confiscated Royalist lands, their inclusion in a list of persons disloyal to Parliament is unexpected. The accusations stemmed from a confrontation of 1643–1644 with the rector of their parish, who had forced them (two of them his churchwardens, and two later army captains) against their consciences to swear the oath of loyalty, an essential element of the Royalist recruiting procedure. Six other local figures faced the same or lesser charges at the same time, and conformed to a pattern in which unwarranted charges were levelled against parliamentarians elsewhere in Cheshire with a view to extorting additional revenue for the State, only to be withdrawn on referral to London. On the strength of these accusations orders were issued for the immediate seizure of the estates of the three men from Woodchurch, initially without verification. In time their plight came to be recognised as of special interest, and ended up before the House of Commons. Lieutenant Colonel Rathbone, the compiler of the list of allegations and a pre-war neighbour of the three victims, was based for part of the war at Puddington garrison, where his behaviour reveals a certain contempt for sequestration and sequestrators. The proceedings illustrate victimisation by Parliamentarians following a period of Royalist occupation and oppression more than once characterised as ‘terror.’

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Author details

Dyson, Tony