Report of General Monthly Meeting - Tuesday 8th March 2022


The Civil War in Hampshire: how was Oliver Cromwell linked with Winchester and why is Oliver’s Battery so called? - by Alan Turton


Warts and all


As a fitting sequel to the excellent talk on electricity in January, the March lecture in Littleton Hall was about Oliver Cromwell’s battery. Apparently he had lots of them, each skirmish and battle requiring canon to be set up to breach walls and demolish strongholds.


alan Turton - The SpeakerAlan Turton - The Speaker


Alan Turton from the Cromwell Association was for many years curator of Basing House. This extensive building was the location of many a struggle during the English Civil War, although it only fell into parliamentarian hands right towards the end of the conflict.


Alan concentrated on the many encounters in Hampshire between the two forces. With the king based in Oxford and parliament sitting on London, Hampshire was to some degree off the beaten track. Nevertheless, parliamentary forces did have a major base in Farnham and so eastern Hampshire was the location for a number of skirmishes.


With the navy coming out on the side of parliament, ports around the coast such as Portsmouth and Southampton were also siding against the king. This prevented assistance from overseas reaching the royalist forces; had the navy been on the other side of the fence, the outcome of the war, and the subsequent history of England, might have been very different.


Winchester changed hands a few times during the conflict, with significant damage by troops stationed inside the cathedral. The castle itself was besieged on many occasions and, apart from the Great Hall, eventually fell into ruin.


Ccivil WarCivil War Soldiers in typical clothing


One of the major difficulties of the war was working out which side was which. Without a professional army, most of the infantry just wore their own clothes with maybe a coloured sash to denote which side they were on. In the heat of battle, it often wasn’t easy to know if you were fighting friend or foe.


And the Winchester suburb of Oliver’s Battery? Alan asserted that there was no evidence to establish a link there to any activity during the civil war. The battery of guns ranged against the castle would have been much closer, roughly where Orams Arbour is today.


As Alan said, not a time to live through but fascinating to study.


Vernon Tottle