On the 22nd of April, 1642, the king, who was then at York, sent his son, James (Duke of York), his nephew (Prince Rupert), the Lords Newport and Willoughby, and other distinguished persons to Hull. Being market day, the town was all astir with the country people, coming there to dispose of their produce, and the prince and his attendants were, it is said, allowed to enter without difficulty. It, however, appears, from a letter addressed to the Speaker of the House of Commons by Sir John Hotham, that these distinguished personages were expected to visit Hull on that day. Expected or unexpected, they were most hospitably entertained by the mayor, and were invited to dine with the governor, Sir John Hotham, on the following day, being the Feast of St. George. Whilst the governor and his guests were inspecting the south end fort, on their second day in the town, Sir Lewis Dives delivered a letter to Sir John from the king, informing the governor that his majesty intended to visit Hull on that day. This message put Hotham "into a great straight," and sending for Alderman Pelham, M.P., consulted with him what was best to be done under the circumstances, and the result of the conference was that a messenger was at once despatched to the king, "humbly to entreat his majesty to forbear his coming to the town," in as much as the governor "might not, without a breach of that trust committed to him, admit him and his train." This messenger met the king about three miles off, and his majesty was greatly shocked at the message he received; he, however, proceeded on his road to Hull. In the meantime, Sir John ordered the drawbridges to be raised, the gates to be shut, and the walls to be manned; and, to prevent any disturbance amongst the townspeople, the governor ordered them to keep within their houses till sunset.
About 11 o'clock of Friday, the 23rd of April, Charles appeared before the Beverley Gate, with a retinue of some 300 noble and chivalrous followers, and demanded admittance. The governor, who with the mayor was upon the walls, told the king that he was intrusted by the parliament to hold the town for the kingdom's use, and that he was resolved to keep and defend it to the same ends, and with many professions of reverence and loyalty, firmly maintained, that to admit his majesty, would be contrary to the orders of parliament. The king, having demanded to see his authority for keeping him out of the town, the governor replied, that the king's train was so great, that if he were to admit him, he should not be able to give a good account of his trust to those that employed him.
About one o'clock, the Duke of York, Prince Rupert, and the other noblemen and gentlemen with them, came out of the town and joined the king, and four hours later his majesty again called upon Sir John Hotham to admit him, with 20 attendants only, and pointed out to him that he would be responsible for all the bloodshed that might follow upon his disloyalty. The governor, falling upon his knees, invoked the vengeance of God upon himself and his family, if he were not a loyal and faithful subject to his majesty, but ended by again refusing to admit the king. Charles then gave him an hour, in which to consider his final answer. At six o'clock the king again commanded the governor to open the gates, but Sir John answered as before, adding, with much feigned loyalty and respect, "that he was sorry that he could not yield to his majesty's desires. The king thereupon ordered his heralds to proclaim Sir John Hotham a base and rebel traitor, and commanded the corporation to reject his jurisdiction, under the penalty of high treason. Drawing close up to the walls, the king commanded the soldiers to throw the traitor over into the moat. No notice being taken of his majesty's commands, he turned about with his whole retinue, and set off for Beverley, where he lodged that night.
(In that remarkable book, published at the Hague, in 1650, Eikon Basilike, Charles thus refers to this incident : - " My repulse at Hull, seemed at first view, an act of so rude disloyalty, that my greatest enemies had scarce confidence enough to abet or own it. It was the first overt essay to be made, how patiently I could bear the losses of my kingdoms. God knows, it affected more with shame and sorrow for others than with anger for myself; nor did the affront done to me trouble me so much as their sin, which admitted no colour or excuse. . . . I had the better of Hotham, that no disdain or emotion of passion transported me, by the indignity of his carriage, to do or say anything unbecoming myself, or unsuitable to that temper, which in greatest injuries I think best becomes a Christian, as coming nearest to the great example of Christ.")
On the following day the king sent a messenger to Sir John Hotham, to afford him another opportunity of admitting his majesty into Hull, and offering him a gracious pardon for his past disloyalty. Sir John again refused, and Charles returned to York. This was the first open act of hostility between the king and the parliament, and was fatal to the king's cause, for had Charles succeeded in making himself master of Hull, then the best furnished arsenal in England, it would in all probability have averted that terrible civil war, which for four years desolated England.
From York, the king transmitted a message to the two houses of parliament, demanding justice on the governor of Hull and his adherents; but the parliament had resolved on war, and the members of the lower house justified the conduct of the governor, and declared the king's proclaiming of Sir John Hotham, a. member of that house, a traitor, was a breach of the privileges of parliament.
After this the king tried to obtain possession of the town by stratagem. A Mr. Beckwith, of Beverley, had a son-in-law named Fowkes, a subaltern officer in the Hull garrison, and it was arranged that he should take steps for the delivering up of the citadel of Hull to the King.* This plot, however, failed. It now became necessary for the king to take defensive measures. He accordingly raised a troop of horse and a regiment of foot, the command being given to the Prince of Wales - afterwards Charles II. The queen, who was in Holland, there purchased 200 barrels of powder, 8,000 stand of arms, and eight field pieces, by the sale of her own and the crown's jewels, and sent them in a small ship, called the Providence, into the Humber, where, to avoid pursuit, they were landed at Keyingham Creek. Sir John Hotham, having received news of the arrival of the "Providence," sent a strong party out of Hull to seize her cargo, but the trained bands of Holderness opposed and drove back the detachment. The arms and ammunition were subsequently safely delivered to the king at York. On the 4th of July Charles removed his court to Beverley, whence he published a proclamation, which he sent to the parliament, notifying his intention of besieging Hull, unless it was delivered up to him.
* In Oliver's History of Beverley, this plot is minutely detailed. See pages 209 to 211.
Meanwhile Sir John Hotham prepared for the threatened siege. He laid the surrounding country for a distance of two miles under water, in order to render access to the town impracticable, and put the town into a state of defence. The hospital of the Charter House and several houses outside the walls were demolished to prevent their occupation by the Royalists. The fort at the south end was well furnished with iron guns and one brass basilisk, 17 feet long, which weighed 7,OOOlbs.; and the walls were well supplied with brass and iron guns, and batteries were erected before the Myton, Beverley, and North Gates. Parliament sent by sea 2,000 men under the command of Sir John Meldrum, an experienced Scotsman, to assist Sir John Hotham. Two ships of war were also sent down to scour the Humber.
Whilst the garrison at Hull was making these preparations for defence the king was not inactive at Beverley. Two hundred men were employed in cutting trenches to divert the current of fresh water which supplied the town. Two hundred horsemen were despatched into Lincolnshire to prevent succour coming to the town from that side, and two forts were erected - one at Paull, the other at Hessle Cliff - to guard the Humber, so that a complete blockade of the town was established. Notwithstanding the inundation the king succeeded in planting several guns before the walls.
Everything being now prepared Charles, to show his earnest desire for peace. offered to "grant a free and general pardon to all persons within the town, notwithstanding the provocation he had met with from the unheard of insolence of Sir John Hotham," on the town being given up to him. It was, however, useless; his request was refused, and it was left to the arbitrament of arms to decide the question of the possession of Hull. The Parliamentarians gave the signal for active operations, and the first blood that flowed in this unhappy contest was shed by Captain Pigot, the officer of one of the ships of war in the Humber. A pinnace, laden with arms and ammunition for the king, was met by the Parliamentary vessel when opposite Paull, and, refusing to strike, an engagement ensued, and after a sharp fight the pinnace sank, and all on board perished.
All negociations between the king and parliament proving fruitless, the siege was commenced and prosecuted with great vigour. Cannonading commenced by both parties, but no great slaughter was effected on either side. Sir John Hotham, in order to inflame the townspeople and the troops against the royal cause, raised a report that the king intended to burn the town, and to put every person, without respect to age, sex, or condition, to the sword. The people were aroused, and the waters being drawn off they made several sallies from the town, beat up the enemies' quarters, put them to flight, and demolished their batteries. About the end of July, Sir John Meldrum, with 500 men, made a desperate sortie, and attacked the king's forces with so much spirit that they were totally routed, several being killed and wounded and 30 taken prisoners. Elated by this success, and having been reinforced by fresh troops from London, the garrison made several other furious and successful sallies, in one of which the Royalists were driven out of Anlaby, their magazine blown up, and the village plundered. In this skirmish 48 Royalists were slain and 115 taken prisoners; and on another occasion the Earl of Newport was unhorsed by a cannon ball and thrown into a ditch, from which he was rescued with difficulty. After repeated disasters the king called a council of war, at which it was decided to raise the siege, as, having no ships of war to bombard the town from the river, the attempt to reduce it was ineffectual. The attempt on Hull having failed the king retired to Beverley, whence he proceeded with his court to York, and so ended the first siege of Hull.
It appears that in this attempt upon Hull the king relied for success less upon the efficiency of his own army than upon the treachery of the governor. Lord Digby, son of the Earl of Bristol, having been carried into Hull as a prisoner of war by one of the Parliamentarian warships, under the disguise of a Frenchman, remained for some time unknown. Pretending that he could give secret information of the king's designs he was introduced to Sir John Hotham, to whom he had the romantic hardihood to propose the surrender of the town to the king. The manner in which the governor received the overtures encouraged him to press the negociations; and it was at length agreed between them that the king, at the head of a small army, should attack the town, and that Sir John should surrender after a brief defence. Either through the pusillanimity, inconsistency, or the inability of the governor to fulfil his part of the contract, the project proved abortive. Notwithstanding the success of the garrison the town and adjacent country were in a deplorable state. In the town party spirit ran high, and those who were suspected of favouring the royal cause were imprisoned and their property confiscated. These severities did not, however, deter many of the principal inhabitants from openly espousing that cause, and from subsequently fighting under the king's banner. Indeed Tickell says that it was the general opinion that the major part of the inhabitants, had they been at liberty to avow their sentiments, would have declared for the king.
Towards the end of August, orders were received by Sir John Hotham to make frequent sallies out of Hull, with a view to harrass the Royalists as much as possible. The devastation committed by the detachments sent out in pursuance of these orders, and the damage done to the surrounding lands by the inundation's during the siege of the town, caused many families to be utterly ruined.
The appointment of Sir Thomas Fairfax to the supreme command of the Parliamentarian army in Yorkshire, aroused the jealousy of Sir John Hotham, who had aspired to that honour, and induced him to seek revenge by delivering up Hull to the king. Into this conspiracy, his son, Captain Hotham, readily entered, and became the medium for carrying on negociations with the Earl of Newcastle for the accomplishment of this design.
In February, 1643, the queen arrived at Bridlington Quay with troops from Holland. As soon as it was known that she had landed, Sir John Hotham sent his son to congratulate her on her safe arrival, and to find out what favour he and his family might receive from the king if he (the governor), should deliver up Hull to the Royalists. Captain Hotham was admitted into the queen's presence, and had a private interview with the Earl of Newcastle. Hull was to be given up to the Royalists at the first favourable opportunity. This was the decision arrived at, and until the favourable opportunity occurred, the matter was to be kept a profound secret. But secrets will ooze out, and the Parliament, long suspicious of Sir John's integrity, received information of the intended surrender from their emissaries. They at once employed a cunning Presbyterian minister named Saltmarsh, a near relative of the governor's, to discover the extent of the plot. By pretending an extraordinary zeal for the church and the king, this tool of the Parliament gained the confidence of Sir John. Believing that a man pretending such sanctity, and a near kinsman to boot, would not betray him, the governor discovered to him the entire plot, which the treacherous and insidious minister at once communicated to Captain Moyer, who commanded the 'Hercules' ship of war, then lying in the Humber. His next care was to despatch a messenger to the Parliament with intelligence, and they, for this meritorious piece of service, voted him a reward of £2,000. Sir John, ignorant of the discovery, sent his son to join Cromwell and Lord Gray, at Nottingham, where, on the night of his arrival, he was arrested, and committed to the castle. He soon afterwards found means to liberate himself, and escaped to Lincoln, and thence to Hull.
On the 28th of June, a communication was sent from Captain Moyer to the Mayor of Hull, acquainting him with the intention of the governor and his son to deliver up the town to the king. On the following day Captain Moyer landed 100 men from his ship, and seized the Castle and Blockhouses almost without resistance. About the same time, 1,500 of the soldiers and inhabitants, under the command of the mayor (Thomas Raikes), seized the main guard near the magazine, took possession of the ordnance on the walls, and placed a guard at the door of the governor's house, all of which was done in about the space of an hour, and without any bloodshed. Captain Hotham was arrested, but his father managed to escape from the town, and proceeded to Beverley, where he was seized by his nephew, Colonel Boynton, "as a traitor to the Commonwealth." Sir John and his son were afterwards sent in the "Hercules" to London, where they arrived on July 15th, and were conveyed to the tower. After a long imprisonment they were brought to trial and condemned to death. On the 1st of January, 1644-5, Captain Hotham was decapitated on Tower Hill, and on the following day, his father suffered the like penalty. The execution of Sir John Hotham and his son, recalled to the mind of the king the imprecation he uttered upon the walls of Hull, when he denied him admission into the town - " May God bring confusion of me and mine, if I be not a faithful and loyal subject to your majesty."
After the seizure of the Hothams, the custody of Hull was entrusted to a committee of defence, consisting of the mayor and ten other gentlemen. The Earl of Kingston,*1 then governor of Gainsborough, hoping that this change would be the better for the king's interest, wrote a letter to the mayor and aldermen, requesting to be admitted governor of the town, but they replied in a courteous letter absolutely " rejecting and dissenting from what he desired." This letter*2 bore date, the 4th July, 1643, but as his lordship was shot in crossing the Humber, a prisoner in the custody of Lord Willoughby, some days before, he would never receive it.
*1 Robert de Pierrepont was created Earl of Kingston-upon-Hull, by Charles I., in 1628, and obtained the title of "the Good." Evelyn, the fourth Earl (who was also Marquis of Dorchester), was advanced to the dignity of Duke of Kingston, in 1715. This nobleman, who was High Steward of Hull, Chief Justice beyond the Trent, and the father of the celebrated Lady Mary Montague, died in 1726. The title became extinct in 1778.
*2 Allen, Symons, and Sheahan say that no answer was sent, but Mr. T. T. Wildridge has since published the text of the reply in his "Hull Letters" (1886).
Soon after this, Lord Fairfax arrived in Hull, and, on the 22nd July, was constituted governor of the town. Ere two moons had waned, news came that the Earl (now Marquis) of Newcastle was marching upon the town with 4,000 horse and 12,000 foot soldiers. On the 2nd of September the Marquis arrived before Hull, and at once commenced operations against the town by cutting off its supplies of fresh water and of provisions - as far as the latter depended on the surrounding country - and by noon several batteries had been raised, and the gunners were hard at work pouring shot and shell into the town. The siege and defence were conducted with all the military skill of the period, and with that determination which generally distinguishes intestine warfare. The town guns were not slow to respond to the royalists' fire, and carried death and destruction into their camp. Thus passed the first day of the siege. On the following day (Sunday) the besiegers worked hard, and raised other works in Sculcoates, which, being finished and equipped with two pieces of cannon, began to play upon the town. To facilitate his operations, the marquis constructed a bridge of boats over the river Hull, and, after much labour and the loss of many lives, succeeded in raising a fort about half-a-mile from the town, called the King's Fort. On this were placed several pieces of heavy ordnance, together with two brass culverins, which shot balls of 361bs. weight into the town, and did great mischief there. He also constructed a large furnace for heating the balls. The firing of red-hot balls into the town threw the inhabitants into great consternation and alarm, but the prudent precautions of Fairfax prevented them from doing any very serious injury. By adding two large culverins to the Charter House battery, and by erecting another fort which flanked the besiegers, the governor succeeded in demolishing the king's fort, and depriving Newcastle of the means of firing hot balls into the town.
On the 9th of September, the townsmen made a sally, with 4,000 horse and foot, and attacked the royalists at Anlaby, but they were soon repulsed and pursued to the gates of the town. In this skirmish 20 of the garrison were slain and several captured, including a lieutenant and an ensign. Five days later, fearing that the town was in danger, the banks of the rivers Hull and Humber were cut, thus laying the surrounding country under water. The effect of this was to drive the royalists out of all their works, except the batteries erected on the river banks, from which they continued to bombard the town. On the 16th, an accident happened that nearly proved of great advantage to the besiegers. A gunner entered the ammunition room in the North Blockhouse to procure cartridges, carrying a naked light, with which he accidentally ignited some handgrenades, with the result that an explosion took place, through which a great part of the Blockhouse was destroyed, and his own life, with the lives of four other persons, were sacrificed. In an adjoining room, the door of which was burst in by the explosion, were stowed 12 barrels of gunpowder. Had these fired, the entire Blockhouse would have been destroyed, with its garrison of 300 men, besides the damage it would have done to the town.
On the 20th September, a strong party of royalists made an approach to the town on the west, and erected batteries, on which they placed heavy artillery, and on the 27th of the same month, they repaired the fort at Paull and erected another several miles above Hull, near the confluence of the Ouse and Trent, the intention of the royalists being to prevent the town receiving supplies by water. These forts were, however, soon destroyed by the ships of war which the parliament sent into the Humber, so that the attempt to cut off succour by water proved abortive. About this time, Colonel Cromwell and Lord Willoughby came to Hull, to consult with Lord Fairfax, but their stay was of short duration.
Friday, September 22nd, was, by command of the governor, solemnly kept, with humiliation, fasting, and prayer, to beseech God so to confound the royalists as to compel them to raise the siege. On the 28th September the Marquis of Newcastle's magazine at Cottingham was blown up, either by accident or treachery, by which considerable damage was done to the village, and not a few lives lost. The 30th September being, according to the ancient charter of the town, mayor-choosing day, the king's friends hoped that a gentleman favourable to their cause might be chosen; but the governor having found Mr. Raikes a faithful adherent of the Parliament, caused him to be again chosen, contrary to the charter and the traditions of the town. About this time Lord Fairfax levied an assessment of £6,000 upon the townsmen, promising them that it should be repaid after the siege, but it appears that never a single farthing was refunded. Early in October, the spring tides flooding the country, the royalists were again driven out of their works. On the 4th another sortie took place. Four hundred men sallied out of the town, and succeeded in destroying one of the enemy's forts. At the same time another detachment of the garrison attacked the besiegers' fort on the Derringham bank, and, after a sharp skirmish, captured and demolished it. Early on the 8th October the royalists cast up a new work on the west of the town, but it proved of very little service. On the 9th the Marquis of Newcastle sent a strong party, under the command of Captain Strickland, to attack the fort at the West Jetty, and the Half-moon battery near it, while another portion of the royalist force proceeded to the other side of the town, and made an attempt on the Charter House battery. Captain Strickland and his men were not discovered till they began to scale the fort, when they were met by a shower of musket-shot from the Half-moon battery. The brave and valiant Strickland, having got to the top of the battlement, called upon the garrison to surrender. He had, however, no sooner done this, than he was struck by a musket-ball and killed. The death of their leader threw the assailants into confusion, and they were driven back with great slaughter, few having the good fortune to escape. The Cavaliers on the other side of the town were equally unfortunate. Though they carried the Charter House battery, and killed the commanding officer and several of his men, they were unable to retain possession, and were driven out with great loss.
The last operation of importance which took place during this memorable siege was a vigorous and determined sortie, made by the besieged on the 11th October. At seven o'clock in the morning the whole garrison was under arms, and at nine o'clock 1,500 men, consisting of inhabitants, soldiers, and seamen, with four troops of horse, sallied out from the west side of the town with the determination of compelling the Royalists to raise the siege. The foot soldiers were formed into three divisions, one of which charged the besiegers in the front of their last erected work; the second, commanded by Sir John Meldrum, fell upon their left flank; and the third stormed the enemy's works on the banks of the Humber. These attacks were made with such determination that the besiegers were driven, first from one embankment and then from another, that they had to leave their heavy artillery behind them. At this juncture the Royalists received a strong reinforcement, which enabled them to recover some of the cannon that had fallen into the hands of the Roundheads, who were driven back with disorder. The Cavaliers did not, however, long occupy the forts they had recovered. Lord Fairfax and Sir John Meldrum now used every endeavour to inspire their men with fresh courage for a renewal of the attack. Stung by their signal failure the besieged again sallied out, and this time with such desperation that the Marquis was obliged to abandon his forts, after experiencing a dreadful loss from his own cannon, which were turned against him. On the same day a furious battle was fought at Horncastle, in Lincolnshire, where Cromwell and Sir Thomas Fairfax obtained a great victory over the Royalists. This double blow to the king's cause disheartened the Marquis of Newcastle, and induced him to call a council of war, at which it was decided to raise the siege. This resolution was carried into effect the same night, and the marquis retreated with the greater part of his army to York, and in order to prevent pursuit cut up the canals, destroyed the bridges, and broke up the roads in his line of retreat. Thus ended the second siege of Hull.
On the following morning, when it was found that the enemy was gone, Fairfax commanded that the day, being Hull fair day, should be observed as one of general thanksgiving, and its anniversary was kept as a holiday until the Restoration. There is no record of the number slain during this six weeks' siege, but it must have been very great, as, before its close, complaint was made to the corporation, by the churchwardens of Holy Trinity Church, that the churchyard was so full of the dead that there was no room for more, and they prayed for leave to treat for a garden, in Trinity House Lane, as a place of interment. The inhabitants suffered severely during the siege, and in 1646 presented a petition to parliament praying for compensation. They stated that they had advanced, st various times, to Sir John Hotham, Sir John Meldrum, and Lord Fairfax, £90,000; that they had suffered losses in trade to the extent of £30,000, and had paid £11,000 for repairing and strengthening the fortifications; but for all this they received no recompense.
In 1645, when the Parliament abolished the liturgy of the Church of England, the soldiers quartered in Hull entered the churches, and seizing all the common prayer books, carried them to the Market Place, where these "immaculate reformers" purged them from "all Popish superstitions" in a fire prepared for that pious purpose.
The confusion and distress which was occasioned by the fanaticism of this period are well depicted in an address from the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses of Hull to parliament. The first paragraph reads as follows : - " The various mutations and revolutions of late times, and the fleeting and unstable situation in which we at present remain, having well nigh brought us to the brink of destruction, make us with the children of Isræl, by the waters of Babylon, to sit down and weep, that there is as yet no balm found in Gilead to aire the fatal distempers under which we labour. The church is divided, the laws violated, the ministry and magistracy - the basis of the Commonwealth contemned, and in many pieces; nay, what is there left undone that might bring this once flourishing nation to a chaos of confusion."