Captain Knights Relation of The Siege of Donnington Castle

“We come to December 1645, and Dalbier with Cromwell and having surprised that same house and garrison of Basing, the said Dalbier, with two Regiments of horse and three of foot marches into Newbury, of whose Sir John Boys being advised fires Donnington town and other adjacent villages, as was commanded by the Lords and Council at Oxford.

Hope is of a noble facultie.

His Majesties and the Lords at Oxford conceived good hopes as expecting a brave resistance to be made by these men who in a former siege had done so gallantly, and of the noble governor Sir John Boys, a person of exemplary for valour and fidelity.

Dalbier being thus prevented of his quarters of Donnington town, which was within half a mile of the Castle, and also of other Adjacent Villages and houses, lodges his party of foot in Newbury, and quarters his horse in the adjacent villages, so that Donnington Castle may be said to be now blocked, but not besieged, for that daily the Castilians made sallies, brought in contribution and such prisoners as refused to pay, and the country people, as to a market, daily brought in all sorts of provisions, so fair a correspondence the Governor Sir John Boys kept with the people of the country that he was of them generally beloved, and truly he always gave them a better price for their commodities then they could have found at any of the adjacent markets, and truly so good a Justiciar was Sir John that England had not a better regulated garrison, nor better beloved of the country then was this of Donnington.

Sir John and his, not to seam remiss or negligent, are studious to make all necessary provisions to preserve the place, and considering Colonel Brown had in the former siege made his battery on the north side of the Castle and that from a place called the Queen’s oak the Castle might be easily stormed, being a level and the Castle on all other parts standing upon a hill, he therefore made a mount upon the said level some (200) paces of the Castle, trenched and palisaded it, the walls being high, cannon proof, and the top made of great thickness and strong, as covered over with bricks and earth propped with great beams and laid over with packs of wool to prevent the execution of mortar Grenades.

The winter being very Rude and violent Dalbier could not lay a close siege to the Castle, nor well block it up now that the adjacent villages and houses were burned, and that Castle situated upon a hill and the country about it very bleak, he therefore keeps himself within the town of Newbury.

No garrison of his Majesties was better manned then this of Donnington for besides the ordinary garrison Soldiery, there are come to Sir John 140 men that marched off from Winchester to Woodstock, and are now come to Donnington.

Dalbier acts little, only at times to air his soldiery, draws of his horse to face the Castle nor is Sir John Boys idle but consults for the holding out the siege, and considering that scarcity of horsemeat sends away all the superfluity of his horse for Wallingford, only keeping a select number of 40, and such gallants they were that the Enemy never faced the Castle with their horse without some loss.

Major Stuart who then commanded the Rebels horses in chief, a man of action and of a turbulent spirit and great cruelty to all Royalists, used more than emulatory officiousness to prejudice the garrison, in fine so resolute a man he was that he is reported to pistol such of his troopers as turned tail.

An excellent discipline, for its most probable a valiant leader makes daring and bold soldiers, where on the contrary no good Service is to be expected from a cowardly commander, and certainty Stuart command as stout a Regiment as was in the Rebels service, besides he was a justice and well advised solider took up his quarter at Kingsclere, thereby kept his Regiment in view, and too secure his quarters made turnpikes at the streets and blocked all the Avenues, the Kentish Regiment beings the other that waited upon Dalbier were not so circumspect but took up a more larger quarter lodging at Burghclere and other Adjacent Villages.

Sir John Boys that may in so mannered be said to be a man that takes rest in action, gets information of the quartering of the Enemies horse and finding an Impossibilities to deal with Stuart resolves to attempted some dissigne upon his Countrymen the Kentish Regiment and knowing that he had not horse sufficient to beat up theirs quarters sends out a party of 100 foot whose passing hedge and ditch in the dead of the night fell upon a party of the Kentish men quarters, and besides prisoners brought away about 80 horse arms and good pillage, nor does Sir John let Dalbier to snort without fear in his hot bed at Newbury, but gives him also so strong an alarm that the greatest part of his men ran out of the town, and himself with the rest, drew out of the town, standings all the Rest of the night in Arms.

Major Stuart storms at this disgrace of the Kentish Regiment, and for a bravado the next day faces the Castle, and to provoke Sir John Boys to sally sends out a commanded party from the Rest of his main body, Sir John sends out a party of his Castilians, who seeing they might well charge the enemy being a good distance from their main body and with all secured by a good party of musketeers laid in ambuscade to secure there retreat, falls upon this party of the enemy and routs them, kills many and takes some prisoners.

Stuart advanced to the Rescue, but by the orderly retreat of the Castilians and or party of foot, Stuart frustrate of his intention, so having taken so poor a revenge returned to his quarters with shame, the Kentish Regiment attributes the blame of their loses to their landlords as favours of the Cavaliers Removes there quarters to Woodhay, and for security crowds themselves up in some few houses.

Sir John is advertised where they are and how lodged, draws out a party of 120 foot who provided with sledge hammers and hatchets for the breaking up of doors and having hand grenades to throw in at windows amongst them, passed hedge and ditch and in the dead of the night, falls upon the rebels in four houses, Reporting themselves, as Sir John commanded, in to 4 party’s, 30 in a Company, in fine our party broke their doors upon them, took 26 officers and soldiers, and might have taken many more if they would, but valuing their horses more than the men they brought of between 80 and 90 horses, arms, and plunder.

Sir John Boys needed not at this time to have alarmed Dalbier in Newbury for the Rest of the Kentish Regiment in a great confusion ran to the headquarters and so alarmed Dalbier that he drew out of the town and stood all night in arms, in fine, After this Dalbier changed his course, for now he slept all day and watched all night. The Kentish Regiment having now lost (200) or more of their horse were accused by Dalbier of sloth and Negligence, and himself received a like check from the Parliament, so that to prevent the like disgrace he keeps a strong guard of horse day and night between Donnington and Newbury.

It wore tedious to recount all the passages and skirmishes passed between the Castilians and Rebels, the whole siege being spent in such like actions and beatings up of quarters. The Kentish Regiment drew themselves in to Bolsome House, a place double moated, but Sir John Boys would not leave them so, and to that purpose, communicates his resolutions with Colonel Blagge of Wallingford, who joins with Sir John sends a party of 150 horse with whom Sir John joins his, and besides 120 foot with firelocks and other materials fit for beating up of quarters, these together set out of Donnington Castle, and comes to Balsome House, the enemies quarter.

A place able to have with stood any party that had not brought Cannon with them, but whether these presuming on the strength of the place thought Sir John would not have attempted to beat them up in a place of that strength, or how security destroyed them, for as they cock-sure slept without keeping guard or sentries the Royalist come unexpectedly upon them, broke up their gates, and surprised them. This last action totally broke the Kentish Regiment who were once 4 or 500 horse, in some Major Stuart has preserved his Regiments with little loss to his no little glory, who in his own person upon a skirmish unfortunately shot that brave gentleman, Lieutenant Colonel Smith, Lieutenant Colonel to Sir Humphrey Bennett, where of he shortly died.

Sir John Boys to revenge Smith’s death inquires out Stuart’s rendezvous, And having intelligence that he was at Knights house of Greenham to a great supper, to whose daughter he was a servant, the said Sir John sends out a party of (60) Foot, who came upon them so suddenly between 7 and 8 of the clock in the evening in march, that they found the doors open and Stuart at super sitting by the side of his Mistress, the man would take no quarter and was shot dead in the place, many prisoners were taken which not worth the nominating I let pass, in sum, this was the last beating up of quarters.

We are now come to the month of April, and Dalbier takes the field facing the Castle, and the same night falls a digging under the may pole within 15 score of the Castle, Sir John could not digest such rough proceedings of the enemy, commands a sally with horse and foot at high noon, the enemy laying carelessly in their trenches, not suspecting a sally, for that they saw the gate shut and the bridge drawn but in this they were very much deceived for Sir John had a private sally port made within the bulwark trench and palisades filled up with earth, which now he cleared and through it passed his horses and foot undiscovered, this party was commanded by Captain Donne who so suddenly fell upon the enemy that they beat them out of their works, killed about 80 persons upon the place, brought away above (60) prisoners (4) Colours and many hundred Arms.

Dalbier stricken with this loss marches with all his forces, horse and foot to regain his trenches which he did without dispute, and the next day plants a mortar piece, and the same day shot 17 upon the Castle, an old weak rotten house that with this one day’s work was well near all shattered to pieces, however Dalbier knew he had to deal with a brave enemy and himself having received so many rubes from the Castilians was in disgrace with the pliant assayes to gain Sir John and the garrison by treaty, and to that purpose writes to Sir John that the Lord Hopton had given up his army in the west to General Fairfax, the Lord Astley was lately routed at Stow On the Wold, Chester surrendered, and that he could expect no relief, therefore he advised him to yield betimes, while he may be able to give him conditions, and that this advice proceeded from him of mere love as to himself and so many gallant men with him, to who he bore much honour and love, finally that this was done against most of the wills of his Officers.

Sir John called a Council of War, communicates Dalbier’s letter with his Officers, in some the resolute of this Council was not to believe Dalbier upon his bare word, but if it were so that the said Dalbier should be moved to grant passes to two gentleman of the Castle to go to Oxford to the King, to acquaints him with the condition of the Castle, and to know his Majesties resolution, in fine, this Dalbier courteous granted, and Captain Osborne and Captain Done, two noble gentleman were sent to his Majesty to Oxford, who sent to Sir John Boys that he should get the best conditions he could for himself and his, and that if possibility he could, he should march of to Oxford and bring of all the artillery of the Castle with him.

Upon the return of those gentleman, a parley was held with Dalbier where in the conclusion was to surrender the Castle.

The Castellan’s were to march away to Wallingford with bag and baggage, musket charged and primed, match in Coke, bullet in mouth, drums beating, and Colours flying.

Every man taken with him as much ammunition as he could carry, as honourable conditions as could be given, In fine, thus was Donnington Castle surrendered.”