'The Sydenham Trail'
Many facets of this beautiful Countys' history are known to people from far and wide, even though they may never, as yet, have visited Dorset. The last two hundred years especially has provided many a renowned name or event to fill our history books.
Mention the village of Tolpuddle and most people will be able to put the word 'martyrs' to it Talk about the Battle of Trafalgar and the name of Captain Hardy, Lord Nelson's estimable comrade in arms is inextricably linked to that great victory, the good Captain himself being born at Portesham near Weymouth.
On the subject of quality literature, the other even more famous Dorset Hardy,the novelist, Thomas, has very few equals, whilst William Barnes the Dorset dialect poet is also revered the world over for the unashamed love he had for the County of his birth . His poems conjuring up the real and ageless landscape in which Hardy's characters lived their lives.
But what of Dorset before the 19th century? 18th century Dorset was a place where smuggling was rife and great fortunes made by the merchants of Poole, plying the legitimate Newfoundland Trade. But in the 17th century, as with every other County in England, a dark shadow descended across the landscape, a shadow cast by civil war. This often pitted brother against brother, and father against son, as their conscience dictated. A time when the King, Charles 1 declared war on his own Parliament, and on his own people. Dorset's' civil war is largely forgotten today. The men and women who fought and died in it, lost in anonymity. But only scratch the surface and those brave souls and their momentous story can live again.
Many sites connected with this hazy saga, and peopled by those forgotten characters, can still be visited today in 'modern' Dorset. It is still possible to follow the trail blazed by the remarkable Sydenham brothers of Wynford Eagle, who fought for the Parliamentary side throughout the length and breadth of this unique English County, and left behind them a story worthy of any great novel or film. A story which culminated in an intricate plot to deliver the important port of Weymouth into the hands of the royalist forces, and would ultimately end in glorious death for one of the Sydenham brothers...
Their tale can be pieced together by visiting the following historic sites in Dorset. Some are well known, others less so, but what occurred there was real ...
AND IT WAS WRITTEN IN BLOOD...
WYNFORD EAGLE: Every story has a beginning and this one starts at the birthplace of the Sydenhams, Wynford Eagle Manor. A fine early 17th century building built by William Sydenham senior in which to raise his large family of five boys and three girls. Although he did not know it at the time, the first three sons in particular, William, Francis and Thomas would all distinguish themselves through their future exploits in the fields of Politics, Soldiering and Medicine. Sadly, their mother was to be murdered on the very doorstep of the manor-house in August 1644, struck down as she stubbornly refused entry to a band of marauding royalist soldiers bent on pillaging the home of their fiercest adversaries. Now a peaceful hamlet, Wynford Eagle can be found about one and a half miles south west of Maiden Newton.
POOLE: in east Dorset is a much altered town, sadly seeing its' fortunes as lying more in the future than in its' glorious past, though some old parts still remain to delight the eye. It also boasts the largest natural harbour in the world, a famous pottery, and two museums. In the civil war the second Sydenham brother, Francis, then a dragoon captain was, at various times billeted here. Francis was involved in what became known as The Plot to Betray Poole. Royalist sympathisers approached him and promised huge amounts of money and a free pardon if he would turn traitor and help them to capture the town. This he swore to do and a plan was hatched. On a dark night in the late summer of 1643, more than 500-armed royalists crept towards the fortified main gate of the town on the Sterte road. Francis was the officer of the watch and was supposed to let in the attackers so that they could capture the sleeping garrison. As they stealthily crept towards the gate, encouraged on by Francis, a fearsome barrage of cannon and musket fire ripped into their ranks and the attack was thwarted. Francis Sydenham was not the man to turn his coat, for money or anything else. A plaque on the side of the Towngate flyover marks the site of this action. In the 19th century a skeleton was uncovered on the site during building work, and because it sported long hair, was attributed as being one of the unfortunate royalist soldiers who fell on that dark night all those years ago. This could be so, but it is a popular misconception that only 'cavaliers' wore their hair long. Infact most men on both sides did so. The word 'roundhead' was a royalist term of abuse and referred to the London apprentice boys who, at the commencement of hostilities in 1642 cut their hair short when forming the London Trained Bands, military units who defended the capital from royalist aggression.
CORFE CASTLE: Possibly the most enigmatic set of ruins anywhere in Britain. Situated in the breathtakingly beautiful and wild Purbeck Hills between Wareham and Swanage. The castle was a Royalist stronghold in the civil war and owned by the wealthy Bankes family. As her husband was away fighting for the King, Lady Bankes was left to defend their home, a task for which she was more than suited. Captain William Sydenham , the eldest son, was part of the besieging roundhead force which first attempted to take the castle in the summer of 1643 . As a large royalist relief force approached, the 'roundhead' commander, Sir Walter Erle fled, leaving William Sydenham to extricate his men from what would have been a slaughter. This he did with great skill, fighting a rearguard action all the way to Swanage, where he effected a 'Dunkirk' style evacuation of his command, in boats back to the parliamentary garrison at Poole.
Lady Bankes, or 'brave Dame Mary' as she became known, held out for a further three years, the castle finally falling because of the treachery of one of her own officers, a Colonel Pitman who secretly let the 'roundheads' in and ended the siege. Legend has it that as the castle was betrayed, Lady Bankes ordered that all of her family's jewels and money etc be cast down a well, and that the well was then to be destroyed by dropping a barrel of gunpowder down it, thereby burying the treasure. It is said that the hoard still lies buried there today, waiting to be discovered. The castle was ordered to be blown up by the Parliament in 1646 so that it could never again be used to aid the Kings' cause. However this medieval marvel could only be partly destroyed by 17th century technology, and still sits defiantly on its' hill above the picturesque village of the same name.
WAREHAM: A pretty market town of Saxon origin, 9 miles south west of Poole, and still enclosed by its' earthen Saxon walls. Known as the 'gateway to the Purbecks', it was held by both sides, on various occasions during the civil war. On a foggy November night in 1643 the Parliamentary garrison at Poole sent 200 musketeers in boats up the River Frome to attack the town, under the command of Captain John Ley of Bridport. The attack succeeded and in December 1643, Francis Sydenham led a raiding party into the Purbeck Hills and brought back 323 head of cattle to feed the town. Later the same month he raided Dorchester, captured the royalist deputy governor, William Churchill and his deputy, Joseph Paty, then broke into the jail and released all parliamentary prisoners therein. On his way back to Wareham he intercepted a royalist baggage train, seizing 80 muskets and smashing 200 more which could not be carried, then, near Wareham came across a royalist goldsmith, Robert Coker, relieving him of such gold-plate as he had ... All in a days work for Francis !!!
HOLMEBRIDGE: This small but picturesque spot about 3 miles west of Wareham was the site of a little known, but typically gallant skirmish on the 27th February 1644. Francis Sydenham at the head of a 300 strong force came across a numerically inferior royalist patrol, a part of Lord Inchquins' Irish regiment. The previous week, William Sydenham had fought and routed Inchquins' men near Poole, capturing eight of them. What followed was sadly common on both sides. William ordered that as the prisoners were 'true Irish papists', they would be given 'as much quarter as they gave the Protestants in Ireland’...He hanged them... Allowing one of their number his freedom for performing the execution of his comrades... Obviously fearing similar treatment, the 45 Irish soldiers held the tiny bridge at Holmebridge for 5 hours without giving way. Their Lieutenant bled to death on the bridge while spurring on his men as the contest raged. Musket balls have been found in the fields nearby and also in the stream. The road ambles over a more modern bridge today, but the original one still remains just to the right of it.
BLANDFORD: In June 1644 a detachment of 200 'roundhead' cavalry were quartered in this pleasant town on the banks of the River Stour. Some of the townspeople who held Royalist sympathies betrayed their presence to a larger cavalier force some miles off. However just before the trap was sprung, a Parliamentarian sympathiser warned the troopers and all but twelve escaped the net. In retaliation for this, Francis Sydenham, aided by the M.P. for Shaftesbury, Captain George Starr, rode to Blandford with a troop of horse and allowed their men to ransack and plunder at will. Before leaving, they put the town to the torch. Blandford is famous for its Georgian architecture, which it gained as a result of a fierce fire, which virtually destroyed the place in the 18th century. But less well known is the inferno of a century before, started as a lesson in loyalty.
ABBOTSBURY: This superb Dorset village which boasts the biggest swannery in Britain, a wonderful medieval tithe-barn, and is now also a 'Mecca' for art-lovers, attracted there by its' many fine studios was, in the civil war, the site of one of the bloodiest 'misfortunes' of the conflict. At that time in Abbotsbury, there was a fine Manor House owned by the staunchly Royalist Strangways family, and in the first week of November 1644 William and Francis Sydenham, under the command of Sir Antony Ashley Cooper lay siege to the garrison inside. The Sydenham brothers bore a healthy dislike for Cooper because he once fought for the King, and after a small token royalist force of 13 musketeers was extricated from the quaint little church nearby by a Captain Baynton and his company, the siege of the house itself began with Cooper attacking the front, and the Sydenhams, the rear. Inside, the Royalist commander, James Strangways, rudely refused all offers of an honourable surrender and so Cooper gave the order that no prisoners were to be taken alive. Eventually the house was set alight and a fierce artillery barrage began to pound its' walls. So much musket shot was concentrated upon the downstairs rooms that the cavaliers had to retreat upstairs. With the lower half now well alight, screams were soon heard as the flames climbed higher. The cavaliers now begged for mercy, but Cooper refused it . The Sydenhams, partly out of respect for a brave enemy, and partly to spite Cooper began to give quarter at the rear of the house, and their men helped their choking enemies to safety. As was common practice then, the victorious Parliamentarian soldiers rushed in to the burning house in search of plunder, but the thankful prisoners warned the Sydenhams that the magazine of gunpowder was about to explode. The deliriously happy common soldiery paid no heed to the warning and soon a huge fireball engulfed those who were looting inside, the explosion claiming about fifty lives, including a Lieutenant Hill who had volunteered to go in and try to persuade the plunderers to leave. Today little remains of the house, apart from one end wall, but if you venture in to the church and look closely at the excellent carved Jacobean pulpit, you will find two holes in it made by musket-balls from Bayntons' attack.
DORCHESTER: The County town of Dorset, and the Casterbridge of Hardys' famous novel. Here also is the renowned Dorset County Museum, and, just outside the town, the imposing Celtic Iron Age Hill fort of Maiden Castle, and the largest pre-Christian monument in Britain. During the civil war, Dorchester changed sides several times. But two events in particular, which occurred here, seem to epitomise both the religious fervour, and the reckless courage of those desperate times. In 1642 a Catholic priest named Hugh Greene was seized after he refused to leave the country, and dragged up to Gallows Hill to be executed for his beliefs. This unfortunate soul was hanged, but as was common practice then, cut down before the rope had done its' work. He then, whilst still alive, had his entrails cut out by the local surgeon, Mathew Barfoot, and after that, his heart, which was then displayed on a pikestaff before being cast in to a fire. Not content with these hideous acts, the crowd was further amused when Greenes' corpse had its' limbs and head cut off. The head was then used as a football by them, before the final desecration, that of having sticks inserted in to both eyes, ears, nostrils and the mouth ... The second incident involved Francis Sydenham, and occurred on the 30th November 1644. Francis was at Poole with his men, when a large Royalist force of 300 cavalry led by Sir Lewis Dyve appeared outside of the towns' wall. They did not attack, but contented themselves with hurling insults at the soldiers of the Poole garrison. It was then that Francis saw a Major Williams amongst the hecklers, the very man who had murdered his mother three months earlier at Wynford Eagle Manor. Incensed, Francis Sydenham and sixty of his men rode out of Poole and headed straight for the cavaliers, who turned and fled. Francis chased them all the way to Dorchester (24 miles) and once there turned to his men and cried ' Give the dragoons no quarter and stick close to me, for I shall now avenge my mothers' innocent blood or die in this place'. He then spurred his horse on and charged headlong into the terrified Royalists, fighting his way with grim determination towards Major Williams, whom he shot dead, and whose body fell under his horse. Williams was possibly John Williams of Plumber , 3rd son of John Williams of Herringston.
WEYMOUTH: This busy but delightful seaside town with its' quaint, working 17th century harbour, golden sands and countless other attractions, was the setting for the most amazing and complicated plot of the entire civil war in Dorset. Weymouth has suffered less from the ravages of the planners than most comparable towns of its' size, and retains its' elegant Georgian esplanade, together with a good mix of both earlier and later architectural gems. There is a late Tudor house which is fully authentically furnished and open to the public, a Henry VIII channel defence fortress (Sandsfoot) an awesome mid Victorian channel defence fortress (The Nothe Fort) which has been lovingly restored, and an excellent museum encompassing a special historical feature known as the TIMEWALK, in which one is transported back to medieval Weymouth at the time of the Black Death, (which was said to have been first introduced into England through the port). From there one travels forwards through the centuries learning of the towns' enthralling past. Of how the Spanish Armada came to grief in the treacherous waters nearby, and of how King George III came to love the place and so begin its' wonderful history as a seaside holiday resort. The Crabchurch Conspiracy...February 1645. The civil war in Weymouth is mostly remembered for an incredible plot which was hatched by one of its' leading citizens and royalist sympathisers, Fabian Hodder.. Together with his wife, her friend Elizabeth Wall and several others, the plot, which has become known locally as the CRABCHURCH CONSPIRACY, was aimed at bringing the town once more, under the control of the Kings army, and, before its' desperate conclusion would result in the deaths of many of the conspirators and the soldiers of both sides. It would also lead to the death of one of the Sydenham brothers. By the February of 1645 the Parliamentarian garrisons of Weymouth and Melcombe (linked by a bridge across the harbour) were under the control of the Governor, Colonel William Sydenham. Weymouth felt secure, a fact borne out in the diary of its' regimental preacher Peter Ince who wrote 'we were in as sweet a quiet and security as any garrison in the Kingdom; no enemy near us but one at Portland, and that not very considerable, being but about 300 or 400 men'. The Roundheads numbered about 900 souls as Sydenhams' garrison was swelled by the arrival of a regiment commanded by Colonel Ralph Weldon. All seemed well, but beneath the surface a plot so audacious and cunning in its' aims and means was already nearing fruition, and the final details being ironed out. On the night of February 9th 1645, soldiers of the Royalist Portland garrison, guided by two men from Weymouth, John Dry, a tanner, and Walter Bond, a fisherman, were to simultaneously attack two of the most strategically important forts crucial to the defence of Weymouth (the Nothe and Chapel Forts). At the same time, villagers from the surrounding areas of Upwey, Broadwey, Sutton Poyntz and Preston who were sympathetic to the royalist cause, were to meet up with a large force of 1500 men from Sherborne commanded by Sir Lewis Dyve, and were to guide them to Melcombe where a tailor named Thomas Samways would let them in to the town. The names of the other known conspirators included John Seton, Leonard Symonds, Walter Mich, John Lock, Philip Ashe, and Samuel Tackle.
At midnight the sounds of battle rent the cold winter air as the surprise attacks upon the Nothe and Chapel Forts went ahead as planned, but elsewhere things did not go so smoothly. Sir Lewis Dyve and his force from Sherborne did not appear and so Melcombe remained in Parliamentarian hands. In Weymouth however both forts were taken, but one person had kept their wits about them and was soon rallying his men for a counterattack. Within half an hour, Major Francis Sydenham led an assault upon the cavaliers who had just captured the powerful Chapel Fort of St Nicholas. Leading from the front, as ever, he charged the enemy and a fierce fight ensued. At its' end, the Chapel Fort still remained in royalist hands, but for the Roundheads an even bigger blow had befallen them. Their inspirational and much admired leader Francis Sydenham lay mortally wounded. He died at dawn the following day aged 27, and in his diary Preacher Ince seems to have captured the mood of the moment when he wrote, 'Among the slain was Major Francis Sydenham, the Governor's brother, whose memory may not be buried with him. His death was no small joy to his enemies, to whom he was a perpetual vexation and terror, and no small grief to us who had our eyes too much upon him'... That morning, Colonel William Sydenham and his younger brother Thomas, a Cornet, who was also wounded in the attack, stared across the harbour from Melcombe at the victorious Royalists in Weymouth and vowed to avenge their brothers' death. At about midday on the 10th February, Sir Lewis Dyve and his force finally emerged and together with Sir William Hastings, the Governor of Portland Castle, mopped up the last of the resistance and secured their newly won prize. Three days later it is recorded that several cavaliers together with the 'Clerk Curate' of Sutton Poyntz, a Master Wood 'regaled themselves at an alehouse at Causeway', just outside Weymouth, 'and became distempered with beer'. Soon, Dyve began to bombard the beleaguered Parliamentarians in Melcombe, who replied in kind, and a fierce artillery battle ensued which destroyed many buildings in both towns. A tangible glimpse of this 'duel' can still be seen today high up in the wall of a house in Maiden Street where a cannonball is still lodged underneath a window! Some hope came for William Sydenham and his men in the shape of 200 sailors from Poole who were delivered by Vice-Admiral William Batten in his ship The James, and who described them as, 'some of the toughest fighting men in Dorset'. Also Lieutenant Colonel James Heane fought his way through the royalist land blockade with 100 horsemen to further strengthen the roundhead garrison within Melcombe. Eventually though, all seemed lost with the news that the infamous Royalist commander George, Lord Goring had arrived in nearby Dorchester at the head of 4,500 Hampshire troops and, after allowing his men to plunder and vandalise the town, destroying among other things a 'brewhouse owned by Benjamin Devenish, he was now to turn his attentions towards the 'provincial upstart', Sydenham' Sydenhams' 1200 men were now faced by about 6,000 royalists, strangely though Goring did not attack immediately, but instead returned to Dorchester with 4,000 men, doubtless thinking that Melcombe could be taken at leisure . Two days passed and William Sydenham observed that a large and slow moving baggage train was making its' way to Weymouth from Dorchester, a gift from Goring to Sir Lewis Dyve. Right away Sydenham gave the order to attack it, as supplies were running dangerously low, and against all odds, he succeeded in capturing it. A horrified Sir Lewis Dyve, watching the calamity unfold from his position high up in the Chapel Fort, immediately sent out more than 100 infantry to try and rescue his 'present', and this gave Sydenham the chance he had been waiting for. For no sooner had Dyve dispatched his soldiers, then Sydenham ordered that the drawbridge on the bridge dividing the two towns be lowered, and 150 of his musketeers led by a Major Wilson and a Captain Langford charged screaming across it and poured onto Weymouth quayside, sweeping all before them in an unstoppable wave of musket balls and bravado. Watching this turn of events at the time, and very nearly engulfed by it, was a man who, together with Thomas Sydenham, was to become one of the most famous medical men of that century. His name was Richard Wiseman, (later known as the father of English surgery) He was tending a wounded royalist soldier at the very moment that Sydenhams' men pressed home their attack. He later wrote of the event .......... ' as Sydenham's troops attacked, I was dressing a wounded man in the town almost under the Chapel Fort and hearing a woman cry, 'fly, the Fort is taken', I turned aside a little amazed towards the line, not knowing what had been done, but getting up the works I saw our people running away, and those in the Fort shooting at them. I slipped down this work into a ditch and got out of the trench; and as I began to run hearing one call 'Surgeon', I turned back and seeing a man hold up a stumped arm , I thought it was an Irishman whom I had absolutely dismembered, whereupon I returned to help him. We ran together, it being within half a musket shot of the enemie's Fort, but he outran me quite'. Proof positive of the stunning effectiveness of Sydenhams' strategy to regain Weymouth for the Parliamentary side. Governor, Colonel William Sydenham now had two towns to defend with his meagre force of 1200 soldiers. The Royalists still held the Nothe Fort and a smaller one at Bincleaves , but they were not the immediate problem . In Dorchester, a rather embarrassed Sir Lewis Dyve had to explain to Goring exactly how Sydenham , had yet again , got the better of him . And Goring made his mind up to teach Sydenham a lesson in warfare that he would never forget ... On the 27th February, the ever reliable Vice Admiral Batten sailed into Weymouth Bay with a further 100 men, and both he and Sydenham made what preparations they could for the expected attack which would surely come. That very evening to the north of Melcombe , a patrol of Sydenhams' cavalry was approached by a roundhead soldier. He had escaped from the prison at Dorchester and had important news for his Colonel. The man had overheard talk of an attack which was to be staged that very night, at midnight, George, Lord Goring was coming, and he was coming at the head of 6,000 troops ... Goring split his force. That part of it, which was supposed to assault Melcombe, for some reason did little more than fire off a few shots at the town, but the fighting across the water in Weymouth was of a very different order. William Sydenham had set up a defensive line at the top of the old High Street at Boot Hill, near the Boot Inn, and once the main gate fell, Goring's men hurtled towards this obstacle baying for blood. The line held for a while but through sheer weight of numbers, gradually gave way and retreated back down the dark main street of Weymouth. The jubilant cavaliers thinking that victory was within their grasp, followed blindly on after the Roundheads, but within the narrow confines of the street, Sydenham had set a deadly ambush. At least two cannon were positioned at the far end of the street, and every window and doorway held one or more musketeers, primed and ready for action. On came the royalist force, and blundered straight in to Sydenhams' artillery trap. The cold, dark February night air was suddenly filled with deadly lead shot and cannon balls causing havoc among the cavalier ranks within the narrow confines of the old High Street. As many as 70 were killed and many more wounded, and Sydenham's Dorset men now rushed out and entered in to a deadly hand to hand struggle with Goring's shocked Hampshire troops. The Royalists in that part of Weymouth eventually turned and ran back over the many corpses of their fallen comrades, but elsewhere the battle was still raging. Above the High Street where Sydenham had been victorious, the mighty Chapel Fort was under a similarly fierce assault , and the hitherto quiet cavalier outpost within the Nothe Fort had now ventured out and was attacking Weymouth from the east . Sydenham, rode up towards the bridge where a small fort commanded by a Captain Thornhill , ( possibly a relative of the famous Weymouth-born artist , Sir James Thornhill ) had just been taken by the Nothe cavaliers . But upon seeing Sydenham, Thornhill's men were persuaded to turn about and eventually retook their fort. Along with Sydenham and his force, they now chased the panicking Nothe men back along the dark quayside, and it was here that an even bigger loss of royalist life occurred. As many as 250 of them died in this particular action, some during the fighting, but most as they fled , blundering blindly in to the icey waters of Weymouth quayside . William Sydenham had his horse shot from beneath him during the fight. As dawn broke, it became apparent that not one part of Weymouth or Melcombe had fallen to Goring, who , along with his dispirited force had now retreated to Wyke to lick their wounds . From there they marched out of Dorset towards Taunton and lay siege to that town, but never took it. Eventually Goring was brought to battle by the famous Parliamentarian General, 'Black' Tom Fairfax at Langport , and defeated again . Vice-Admiral Batten, writing a letter the morning after the Battle of Weymouth, on board his ship, The Reformation, which was moored in Weymouth bay, reported that the King's troops were 'gallantly repulsed by our men with the loss of some hundreds of the enemy. The Governor Sydenham ) behaving himself like a gallant man , as he hath done in all the siege' . With the Royalist threat finally gone, it was now to be a time of vengeance for William Sydenham, vengeance on those who had hatched the Crabchurch Conspiracy and suffered him to lose a much loved sibling in the slaughter that followed. Now those people would have to pay the price ... The Hangings on the Nothe... Several of the original conspirators were caught and imprisoned aboard Batten's ship. The ringleader, Fabian Hodder , had already fled the area , but was duly caught near Poole and thrown in to jail there awaiting Sydenham's pleasure . Of the others, three were killed during the 17 days of fighting , they were Philip Ashe , Leonard Symonds and William Philips . On board the prison-ship another conspirator, an Irish gunner named Richard Mighill hung himself before sentence was passed , and on the 3rd March 1645 , just four days after Goring's attempt to annihilate Sydenham's command had failed , Captain John Cade became the first of the Crabchurch Conspirators to keep a date with the hangman upon the Nothe headland . Next came Walter Bond and Thomas Samways , whose nerve and dignity seems to have deserted them at the foot of the gibbet . They both begged William Sydenham for mercy, and Sydenham , perhaps seeing mercy as a way of finally winning over the assembled townspeople , spared their lives . Last up was the Weymouth Town Constable John Mills who was made of sterner stuff, as Preacher Ince describes in his diary...... 'He most desperately, without any sign or token of sorrow or repentance , when he was upon the ladder , desperately threw himself off not showing any signs of humiliation or calling upon God , for mercy on his soul , but carelessly , in a most desperate manner died , not so much as praying to God to receive his soul' . Colonel William Sydenham still had one last act of revenge to carry out. Fabian Hodder , in Poole jail was to be the ultimate prize . And Sydenham , replying to a sarcastic letter from Sir Lewis Dyve , promises in his equally sarcastic reply to ' make a halter of your letter to hang Hodder with' . But in this matter, the Royalists finally won a small victory over him . Whether by his own cunning or with the help of friends, (possibly Sir Lewis Dyve ) Hodder somehow managed to escape from Poole jail before Sydenham came for him , and is next chronicled as living back in Melcombe , alive and well at the time of the Restoration of Charles 11 in 1660 , where he became a member of the town council . William Sydenham sat and wrote a letter to the Parliamentary Authorities on behalf of his own soldiers who had served him so well during the battle for Weymouth, outnumbered as they were by six to one by the royalists . He wrote... 'My soldiers, horse and foot , have all had very hard service of it day and night , I shall entreat you to write to the Parliament for something for their encouragement . They have neither money nor clothes, and yet unwearied in this business' . The parliament agreed saying that, along with the Dorset town of Lyme , who withstood a similar siege , 'Divers orders passed for the payment of monies to the garrisons of Lyme, Weymouth and other places . But especially Lyme and Weymouth be remembered by more gallant action. May we always remember the famous services of Sydenham and Ceeley (Governor of Lyme). May they be a pattern of imitation to others in like cases of extremity’. The Sydenhams of Wynford Eagle are largely forgotten today. Lost, along with all the other characters mentioned , in the shadowy mists of time. In their century though, they were at the forefront of local and national events . Colonel William Sydenham, M.P. for Melcombe, later became the Governor of the Isle of Wight. And a contemporary wrote of him, 'He was one of the most brilliant men of the day and had a paramount influence in the councils of the Parliaments only second to that of Oliver Cromwell' . At the Restoration, he was put on a list naming him as one of the twelve most dangerous men in the Kingdom , but by then his health was fading , and he died at home in Wynford Eagle Manor in 1661 , aged 46 . He was nursed to the end by his younger brother Thomas, by then an eminent physician. Dr Thomas Sydenham. Fought for the Parliament throughout the Civil War, and ,at its' end , resumed his medical studies at Oxford. He became the undisputed master of the English medical world and was known as 'The English Hippocrates’. Among his many achievements was the discovery of a disease, which was then known as 'Sydenham's Chorea'. We know it today as St Vitus Dance. A colleague, Dr John Browne described him as , 'the prince of practical medicine, whose character is as beautiful and as genuinely English as his name' . He died, after a distinguished career, at his house in Pall Mall on the 29th December 1689 , aged 65 . He is buried in St James Churchyard, Piccadilly. A memorial stone dedicated to Thomas can be found halfway up the staircase of St James Church, Pall Mall. It was put there by the now defunct 'Sydenham Society’. The staff at the church are completely unaware of who he was...
Your whirlwind tour around 17th century Dorset is now at an end, but it is all still here awaiting the curious . If you decide to explore the most beautiful county in Britain, then the incomparable Dorset Dialect Poet, William Barnes has a message for you. A message that could have been written for the Sydenham brothers of Wynford Eagle. 'Come on down an' you shall vind That Do'set men don't sheame their kind' . Should you feel that you would like to learn more about this subject, there is today a group of enthusiasts who strive to keep the noble name of Sydenham alive. They are Colonel William Sydenhams' Regiment of Foote. A part of the Nation-wide English Civil War Society. So, if you would like to experience the nearest thing to time-travel ............they can be contacted at the following E-mail. Ladynatalie32@hotmail.com Or Tel'01305-773784 .