Malmesbury and the English Civil War
Malmesbury - History
When the English Civil War broke out in 1642, it had far reaching implications, even for the smallest of settlements. Malmesbury was no exception; the settlement was in fact of great strategic importance due to its location between Oxford and Bristol. Throughout the course of the war, Malmesbury changed hands at least five times, twice involving direct assaults on the town itself.
The first assault on Malmesbury took place on 21st March 1643, where a force under the command of the parliamentarian, Sir William Waller, took the poorly defended settlement with relative ease, and his force sustained only three casualties. Waller had attacked through Westport, usually considered to be a weak point in the otherwise naturally well defended town.
The second assault was an altogether more aggressive affair. On 24th May 1644, Colonel Massey, another parliamentarian (Malmesbury had since reverted back to the side of the King), attacked Malmesbury with troops and artillery, again choosing the poorly defended Westport as the main area to attack. A vivid description of the battle has survived the years and it appears that once the bloody conflict had ended, Massey refrained from plundering the town. As far as Malmesbury was concerned, the conclusion of this battle marked the end of its direct role in the Civil War.
The starkest reminder of Malmesbury’s role in the Civil War can be seen at the West end of the Abbey. Here, the south-facing wall to the side of the main porch is riddled with bullet holes, indicating where prisoners of war were executed.
Hodge, Dr. Bernulf., A History of Malmesbury (5th Edition; The Friends of Malmesbury Abbey, Minety: 1990).
Luce, Major-General Sir Richard H., The History of the Abbey and Town of Malmesbury (The Friends of Malmesbury Abbey, Minety: 1979).