In March 1644 Colonel Waller’s roundhead infantry camped to the north east of East Meon, outside Langrish; his cavalry was billeted at Frogmore. Hopton’s royalist army was based in Winchester and he sent his cavalry to Winchester Hill, south of West Meon, to keep an eye on them and harry their foraging parties. Two East Meon dignitaries, Sir William Lewis of Bordean and Sir Hercules Langrish, had raised a Regiment of Foot and a Troop of Horse for Parliament, so many local men would have served in that army; on March 28th, 12,000 men marched through East Meon on their way to the Battle of Cheriton. They left behind them an outbreak of ‘war typhus’, which accompanied both armies wherever they went. It affected mainly the poorest members of the community, exacerbated by near-starvation. Subsequently during the chaotic interregnum following the Civil War, the average of deaths rose again above 30 for five years.
There are two other ghoulish traces of the dissenting army. On Sir William’s Hill, next to their encampment, is ‘Scaffold Row’, which probably marks the execution site as reported by Elias Archer, an “intelligencer” of the Parliamentary Army in his report back to London:
‘At this rendezvous three disorderly soldiers of the London Brigade were executed. One was tied to a tree and shot for killing his comrade. Another, who belonged to Sir William Waller’s own regiment, was hanged as a deserter, as was also the third for mutiny, and for levelling a musket at his captain in order to rescue an offender.’
In the south transept of All Saints Church is a stone inscribed ‘Amens Plenty’. This was found with two skeletons interred standing up, thought to be parliamentary soldiers who had been executed – ‘Amens Plenty’ referring ironically to the number of Amens with which dissenting preachers and their congregations peppered their sermons.
Finally, the vicar of All Saints, John Shrigley, was one of over 2,000 Anglican clergy who were ‘sequestered’ by Parliament because they did not match up to the puritan ethic of the protestants; he was imprisoned and subsequently died in Essex.
For a fuller account of the Civil War in East Meon, click here.