© 2017 John Lucas

The siege of Colchester occurred in the summer of 1648 when the English Civil War reignited in several areas of Britain. Colchester found itself in the thick of the unrest when a Royalist army on its way through East Anglia to raise support for the King, was attacked by Lord-General Thomas Fairfax at the head of a Parliamentary force. The Parliamentarians' initial attack forced the Royalist army to retreat behind the town's walls, but they were unable to bring about victory, so settled down to a siege. Despite the horrors of the siege, the Royalists resisted for eleven weeks and only surrendered following the defeat of the Royalist army in the North of England at the Battle of Preston (1648).

A military court found Sir Charles Lucas, Sir George Lisle, Colonel Farre and Sir Bernard Gascoigne guilty of High Treason and sentenced them to death by firing squad. This sentence was actually rare during the Civil Wars, but was justified by Fairfax and General Ireton on several grounds. The claims were that Lucas had executed Parliamentary prisoners in cold blood; that he had broken his parole given after the First Civil War; and that the Royalists had continued to fight in an indefensible position, thus causing unnecessary death and suffering.

Overnight Farre managed to escape, and it was discovered that Gascoigne was an Italian citizen, so he was spared the firing squad. However, Lucas and Lisle were executed in the evening of 28 August 1648. Within days, pamphlets were produced extolling Lucas and Lisle as martyrs to the Royal cause, and today in the grounds of Colchester Castle there stands a monument marking the site of the execution.

Humpty Dumpty

The siege is commonly believed to have inspired the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty, which is said to have been the nickname of a large Royalist cannon strategically placed on the wall next to St Mary's Church. The Parliamentary bombardment of 14 July damaged the wall, causing "Humpty Dumpty" to be destroyed. Other stories attribute the name Humpty Dumpty not to a cannon but to a Royalist sniper, "One-Eyed Thompson", who occupied the belfry of St Mary's Church and was shot down by Parliament forces

Lucas and Lisle monument

Colchester Castle.

One of the first Norman Castles to be built after the conquest of 1066

It is built on the foundations of a Roman temple. Much of the stonework and bricks are from the Roman building.

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Castle Park, Colchester


51° 53′ 26.12″ N,

0° 54′ 10.97″ E

Domesday Book Entry:

Colecastro / -cestra: Bishop of London; King's land; Count Eustace; John FitzWaleran; king's burgesses; the Abbot of St. Edmund's; Eudo the Steward; Hugh de Montfort; Roger de Poitou; Abbot of Westminster; Geoffrey de Mandeville; Swein of Essex; Abbess of Barking; Aubrey de Vere; Bishop Walkelin. 400 houses, 2 churches (including St. Peter's), 4 mills, court. 4 sesters of honey.

Colchester Castle - Civil War Siege - Sir Charles Lucas