Civil war breaks out in town again as battle of Hilden Bridge returns

Mayfield festival has changed its line up to maximise appeal

THE Battle of Tonbridge, a furious skirmish during the English Civil War, will be re-enacted next month over the Bank Holiday weekend.

On May 5-6, the Tonbridge Town Team will join forces with the English Civil War Society, the Borough Council and sponsor Graham John to recreate the febrile events of July 1643.

The engagement actually began in Sevenoaks, where some 4,000 men branded ‘rebels’ were set to march on Tonbridge – many to settle old scores.

Thomas Weller, a Parliamentarian who lived on Bordyke – in what is now known as Priory House or The Red House – had been recruited to collect tax to support the Roundhead cause but he was taken captive in Sevenoaks after confronting ‘villains, more like madd dogs then men’.

However, the leader of the rebel uprising, known as Gransden, was seemingly consumed by a fit of remorse and released him.

Yet when Weller returned to Tonbridge he found his house was being raided; having persuaded the armed marauders to leave, they returned the next day and stormed his home once more.

He managed to hide ‘a great deal of the Parliament money’ by burying it in his garden. But the rebels returned yet again the following day and ransacked his possessions.

Eventually, 2,000 Parliamentary troops ‘liberated’ Tonbridge, led by Colonel Richard Browne.

The only significant opposition they met was at Hilden Bridge on the outskirts of the town.

A ‘very hot fight’ ensued, lasting three hours against some 500 or 600 rebels.

The castle itself, which was owned by Weller, was not attacked, though the Roundhead garrison wreaked havoc in the grounds.

Later Weller was ordered to put the castle beyond military use by dismantling its defences.

A timetable of events has been mapped out for both days of the re-enactment. The Royalists will muster outside Weller’s house on Bordyke before marching down the High Street, then up Castle Street to attack the gatehouse.

Musketeers will open fire and Royalist pikemen will attack to rout Weller’s soldiers, though he will return with the London Trayned Bandes.

A Roundhead camp and village will be set up on Castle Lawn, and there will be displays by the Royalist cannon crew, pikemen and musketeers.

Rawdon’s Regiment will be using costumes, weapons, and equipment of museum-quality with a value of around £40,000.

There will be a lecture about the development of the British soldier from Elizabethan part-time militia to the Redcoats at the end of the 17th century.

There will also be a pike drill for children and quizzes each day, with prizes to be won.

PHOTO: PIKE DREAMS: Modern day Royalists and Roundheads fight it out

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