Travel Blog by Lily Style (May 2023)

South Hams travel during the English Civil War

The English Civil War (1642–1651) was fought between Royalist supporters of Charles I and Puritan Parliamentarians seeking common rule and the abolishment of bishops.

According to Exmouth Journal:

"the English Civil War is often considered the bloodiest in British history... Devon played a major role in the war [and] was more inclined towards Parliament than to the Royalist side... Towns and villages were plundered, livestock was stolen and a number of country homes were burnt"

Royalist forces failed to take Plymouth despite holding it under siege from 1643 until 1646. Hunger was rife in Plymouth, even though the Parliamentarians kept hold of St Nicholas (Drake’s) Island enabling supplies to come in the via the port at Millbay.

Arguably, the Royalists were under siege too because too because the Puritans had control of the land route into Plymouth.

Siegers under siege

The main road from London to Plymouth passed from Exeter through south-west Devon with a staging stops along the route, the last three being Dean Prior, South Brent and Plympton. The road also passed through Ivybridge, but it was a small settlement in those days and not a designating stop. South Brent, on the other hand, was especially important because it was there that the road to Totnes split from the Plymouth-London road. An open-air market was held on the ground facing this junction to the right of the Packhorse Inn (which is mentioned in a mid 1600s record).

Records show that the Parliamentarians controlled a significant stretch of the Plymouth–London Road because the vicars of South Brent and Dean Prior, along with Rattery, were viciously persecuted and then ousted by Puritan militia. All three vicars returned to their parishes after the monarchy was restored in 1660. Charles II would likely have taken a keen interest because Rev Robert Herrick of Dean Prior was his personal friend.

Did Charles II build a fort in South Brent?

Building commenced on Plymouth Hoe’s Royal Citadel in 1665. One of the restored king's reasons for commissioning the Citadel was to defend his monarchy from Plymouth’s still rebellious population.

Fact sheets about the discovery of what appears to be an almost-intact Charles II fort hidden-in-plain sight, smack bang in the middle of South Brent will be on display in South Brent Old School Community Centre’s corridor gallery in June 2023. The topic is outlined in this March 2023 blog post, although more evidence has since emerged.