When the Civil War broke out in 1642, Hampshire was almost equally divided between supporters of the two sides. 

Southampton was in a precarious position. To the west, much of the country was Royalist; to the east, the country was solidly Parliamentarian. Local opinion in the town itself was divided, with a majority leaning towards the Parliamentary cause.

In November 1642, after some local Royalist resistance, a Parliamentary warship, ironically named The Charles, sailed to Southampton, and its commander Captain Swanley demanded the surrender of the town. A Parliamentary garrison then occupied the town, to defend against seaborne attack from Royalist ships.

In Winchester, the loyalties of the people were again divided, and the City sat in an even more strategic position. In December 1642, a Royalist force entered Winchester Castle, closely pursued by Parliamentarians; the next day the ill-prepared Royalists surrendered the Castle. However in 1643, both the City and the Castle were retaken by the Royalists, and the defences of both were strengthened.

Daily Echo: Oliver Cromwell pub.

Also In 1643, a West Country Royalist army under Sir Ralph Hopton occupied Romsey. A few weeks later, Hopton succeeded in cutting off Southampton’s land communications with the west. Southampton itself was now threatened.

 The tide was turned at the Battle of Cheriton on 29 March 1644. Sir William Waller's Parliamentarian "Army of the Southern Association" defeated a Royalist force, jointly commanded by the Earl of Forth and Sir Ralph Hopton. Defeat at Cheriton ended Royalist hopes of retaking South East England, and forced them onto the defensive for the rest of 1644. Hopton retreated to the west, and the threat to Southampton was removed.

Soon after the Battle of Cheriton, the Parliamentarians under Waller once again captured and sacked the City of Winchester, although the Castle remained in Royalist hands. According to legend, Cromwell shelled the City from an earthwork two miles south-west of Winchester City centre, still known as Oliver’s Battery. The Castle was finally taken by Cromwell on 5 October 1645, about the same time as he captured Basing House, another Royalist stronghold in Hampshire.

Within five years, King Charles I was to lose his head, and the country entered a period of republican rule known as “The Commonwealth”.

Daily Echo: Old Farmhouse.

There were a number of local connections with these events - and some still exist.

Thomas Wriothesley was the 4th Earl of Southampton, the son of Shakespeare’s patron. At first an opponent of the Royalist party, he later served Charles I as an intimate advisor, and negotiated for him with Parliament in 1643 and 1645. After the King's execution in 1649 he retired, but at the Restoration in 1660 he became Lord High Treasurer. However he disapproved of the immorality and ostentation of Charles II, and retired from active politics.

By marriage, the Hursley Estate passed into the hands of Richard Cromwell, son of Oliver, and later himself Lord Protector of the Realm. The family continued to own the estate until 1718.

The Oliver Cromwell Pub was situated on Millbrook Road. It was said that the pub was over 400 years old; its name alleged to have derived from a legend that Oliver Cromwell once stayed the night there, on his way through Southampton during the Civil War.

Daily Echo: Battle of Cheriton.

Other local legends state that Oliver Cromwell stayed at the Old Farmhouse Pub in Southampton on one or two occasions in the 1650s.

There is a Cromwell Road in Shirley, and a Milton Road. John Milton was an English poet and intellectual, who served as a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under its Council of State, and later under Oliver Cromwell. He is best known for the poem “Paradise Lost”.

Mead Crescent and Oliver Road are in an area once called Oliver’s Mead, said to come from a link to Oliver Cromwell. Perhaps someone can help with more information?

Daily Echo: SeeSouthampton logo

Jack Wilson is a tour guide with SeeSouthampton.co.uk .