Thame Local History
The Civil War Period (1642 - 1646)

The English Civil War between Parliament and King Charles I (1625 - 1649) started in 1642.

King Charles I
King Charles I
The land east of the Chiltern Hills, towards London, and to the north of the Vale of Aylesbury, was controlled by Parliament.

The land to the west of Oxford, Oxford City itself and key towns in the Thames Valley, such as Wallingford, were controlled by the King. The King himself set up court at Oxford.

Manor houses and market towns along the Oxfordshire border, such as Thame, were called upon to feed, house and tend the wounds of soldiers from both sides as the conflict progressed.

In 1643 Thame was not openly Royalist or Parliamentarian, although the sentiment within the town was said to be generally Puritan and pro Parliament.

The Earl of Essex commanded the Parliamentary army locally, and the King's local forces were commanded by his nephew Prince Rupert.

The Earl of Essex made a push in early 1643 to close in on Oxford, and set up his headquarters in Thame.

This was to have a devastating effect on Thame. In the summer of 1643 an outbreak of what is thought to have been typhus hit Thame, and 141 people out of an estimated population of 1300 died in a single ten week period.

Prince Rupert mounted raids out of Oxford against the Parliamentarian army's positions. It was in returning to Oxford from one such raid that the Royalist party engaged at Chalgrove with a Parliamentarian contingent led by John Hampden.

In the resulting battle John Hampden was mortally wounded. He managed to make his way to Thame, where six days later he died, on 24th June 1643.

The following month the Parliamentarian army retreated from Thame and the Earl of Essex moved his headquarters to Aylesbury.

Anthony Wood was a scholar at Thame Grammar School and was lodging at Thame vicarage during the conflict. His diaries give a good account of a Royalist party fleeing back to Wallingford from Long Crendon, through the west end of Thame, in January 1644.

There was a further skirmish at Thame in April 1645. By September 1645 a substantial Parliamentarian force was once again garrisoned at Thame and one Sunday morning a Royalist force from Oxford rode into Thame market place and attacked them.

In December 1645 two regiments of horse from Sir Thomas Fairfax's army at High Wycombe were moved to Thame, and that was an end to Royalist attacks.

In April 1646 King Charles left Oxford and eventually surrendered to Parliament. The town held out, under its governor, Sir Thomas Glemham, but surrendered to Sir Thomas Fairfax in June 1646.

Sir Thomas Glemham was allowed to march out of Oxford on 23rd June 1646 with his Regiment of Foot of some 3000 men, fully armed and with their colours flying. King Charles had ordered them to disband.

When they reached Thame they disbanded and were allowed to return home or to leave the country.

The surrender of Oxford and the dignified dispersal of Glemham's troops at Thame marked the end of what is known as the first English Civil War.

John Hampden

Thomas Glemham's Regiment of Foote

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  Local History Research Group
  Thame, Oxfordshire, England