When The King Lost His Crown

Started by: explorations (468)

Derek Winstanley

Champaign, Illinois, USA

September 20, 2013

King Charles I believed in the divine right of kings and disdained Parliament. His attempts to govern without Parliament’s consent led to civil war that tore apart England, and Wigan, from 1642 to 1651.

The first blood of the civil war was shod by a Wigan contingent of Royalists in Manchester. It is well known that Wigan, a Royalist stronghold, was stormed in 1643 and sacked after Royalists lost the Battle of Wigan Lane to Parliamentary forces in 1651. It is less well known that Wiganers and people connected to Wigan played other interesting and prominent roles in the war. Here I identify some of these people and their roles.

From the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066, the rector of Wigan Parish Church served with almost regal power as lord of the manor. King James I presented Dr. John Bridgeman as rector and lord of the manor in 1616; Dr. Bridgeman was chaplain to James I and Bishop of Chester. From 1625 to 1643 he served as rector of Wigan under Charles I.
Wigan burgesses elected two Members of Parliament. By 1640 a split in allegiances between the Wigan Members of Parliament became evident: Orlando Bridgeman, Dr. Bridgeman’s son, was a Royalist and Alexander Rigby a Parliamentarian. Rigby, who probably was educated at Wigan Grammar School, was in command of Parliamentary forces that led an attack on Lathom House. Orlando Bridgeman had served as Solicitor-General to Charles, the Prince of Wales. In 1642 he was expelled from the House, but was knighted in 1643.

During the civil war a series of manifestos, published between 1647 and 1649 and mostly associated with the Levellers under the leadership of John Lilburne, offered a foundation for constitutional changes. It was John’s brother, Colonel Robert Lilburne, who commanded elements of the Parliamentary forces at the Battle of Wigan Lane and was one of the signatories on the death warrant of King Charles I. Another group – the True Levellers, or Diggers – under the leadership of Gerrard Winstanley, a Wiganer, proposed much more radical changes that many say provided a foundation for socialism and even communism.

In 1649 the High Court of Justice found Charles I guilty of high treason, sentenced him to death, and he was executed. The President of the Court was John Bradshaw of Cheshire and of the widespread Bradshaw family of Bolton. In the 1490s, James Winstanley, the grandfather of Edmund Winstanley of Winstanley Hall, had joined an earlier John Bradshaw in Wales, where they operated a successful wool and cloth trade. Edmund’s mother, Elizabeth, married John Bradshaw Jr.; Elizabeth was daughter of Sir Gilbert Gerard of Ince Hall, Wigan, who served as Attorney-General to Queen Elizabeth I. The Bradshaighs of Haigh in Wigan were of the same family as the Bradshaws and in Wigan Parish Church is a chapel and memorials honoring Sir William Bradshaigh and his wife Lady Mabel. In 1543, Ralph Bradshaw, Esq., was Mayor of Wigan.

An uncle of Alexander Rigby was James Winstanley, gent., of Billinge, who was admitted to Gray’s Inn in London in 1624. Orlando Bridgeman also was admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1624, as was Thomas Fairfax, parliamentary commander-in-chief during the civil war, in 1626 and John Bradshaw in 1627. James Winstanley provided legal counsel to Gerrard Winstanley and regicides Colonel Robert Lilburne and Colonel John Moore and in 1650 acquired the Braunstone Estate in Leicestershire.

With the execution of Charles, the monarchy was abolished, a republic called the Commonwealth of England was established and Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector. After the deprivation of Bishop Bridgeman, a nonconformist minister, James Bradshaw of Darcy Lever near Bolton, was granted parsonage of Wigan and he encouraged the siege of Lathom House – the seat of Royalist the Earl of Derby. No Members were returned to Parliament during the Commonwealth or under Protector Oliver Cromwell. Hugh Forth and Robert Markland briefly represented Wigan in 1659 under Protector Richard Cromwell.

In 1654 Gerrard Bankes became Mayor of Wigan. He was one of six Wiganers, including Gerrard Winstanley, given the name Gerrard in the period 1607 to 1613 when Gerrard Massie was Rector of Wigan. Gerrard Bankes’ father, like Gerard Winstanley’s father, was churchwarden at Wigan Parish Church.

Restoration of the monarchy began in 1660 when Charles II was received as King. In that year Sir Orlando Bridgeman served as Presiding Judge at the trial of the regicides of Charles I, including John Bradshaw. Bradshaw died in October 1659 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, but posthumously he was found guilty of high treason and his body was exhumed, hung in chains at Tyburn and beheaded.

Charles Hotham served as rector of Wigan from 1653 to 1662, when he was ejected for refusing to subscribe to the Act of Uniformity. After the Restoration, Sir Orlando Bridgeman purchased the patronage of Wigan rectory and in 1662 presented Dr. George Hall, Bishop of Chester and chaplain to Charles II, as rector. Dr. John Wilkins, a founder of the Royal Society and Bishop of Chester, was presented as rector of Wigan in 1668: in 1656 he had married Robina, Oliver Cromwell’s sister.

John Molyneux, son-in-law of Alexander Rigby, and Roger Stoughton were elected to the First Parliament of Charles II in 1660. It was in the Third Parliament of Charles II in 1679 that we see political parties appearing for the first time: Charles, 2nd Earl of Ancrum, son of a confidential friend of Charles I, and Roger Bradshaigh, son of Sir Roger Bradshaigh of Haigh Hall, represented Wigan as Tories. William Bankes of Winstanley Hall was the first Whig Member for Wigan later in 1679; William was grandson of James Bankes who purchased Winstanley Hall from Edmund Winstanley in 1595.

The ancient and loyal borough of Wigan came to the brink of utter disaster and in so doing played its part in establishing the precedent that an English monarch cannot govern without Parliament's consent. New privileges were granted to the Corporation including the liberty to buy or sell property with public money. Of great interest is the web of social, religious, economic and political connections 400 years ago, long before cars, railways, canals, radio, television and the internet. Communication was by personal contact, letter and horses.

Agreement of the People (
Alexander Rigby (,_Alexander_(DNB00)).
Battle of Wigan Lane (
Bithell, Eileen, Walsh, Eileen and BETA students, 2012. Wigan and the English Civil Wars”, BETA Research Book, Wigan.
Bridgeman, George T.O., 1888-9. The History of the Church & Manor of Wigan in the County of Lancashire: Parts 2 and 3, printed for the Chetham Society, Vols. 16, 17; Reprints from the University of Michigan Library.
English Civil War (
James VI and I (
Orlando Bridgeman (,_1st_Baronet,_of_Great_Lever).
Sinclair, David, 1882. The History of Wigan, Vols. 1 and 2, Wall, Printer and Publisher, Wallgate, Wigan.
Winstanley, Derek, 2011. Wigan: Home of Gerrard Winstanley and Socialism (

Started: 22nd Sep 2013 at 13:58
Last edited by explorations: 22nd Sep 2013 at 14:00:55

Posted by: blackrodweaver (627) 

can you be a bit more precise

Replied: 22nd Sep 2013 at 20:16

Posted by: tonker (24048) 

Can you be a bit more correct?

For a start, the 'first blood' of the English Civil War was shed in Hull Kingston Rovers!

WHY did the English Civil War 'tear apart' Wigan?

The Battle of Wigan Lane wasn't part of the English Civil War.

etc., etc., etc. ....!

Replied: 22nd Sep 2013 at 20:36
Last edited by tonker: 22nd Sep 2013 at 20:55:22

Posted by: Mac (inactive)

"The Battle of Wigan Lane wasn't part of the English Civil War."

Then what was it about if not the Third English Civil War, between Royalists under the command of the Earl of Derby and elements of the New Model Army?

Replied: 23rd Sep 2013 at 12:56

Posted by: explorations (468)

Derek has other papers he'd like to share but is now put off from the idea owing to the negative comment above.

Well done.

Replied: 23rd Sep 2013 at 18:35

Posted by: Mac (inactive)

Please ignore tonker, Explorations, he needs a mummycuddle.

I found the post VERY interesting.

Replied: 23rd Sep 2013 at 19:37

Posted by: explorations (468)

Replied: 23rd Sep 2013 at 20:45

Posted by: Mac (inactive)

Excellent. Many thanks, Explorations, most appreciated.

Replied: 23rd Sep 2013 at 20:54

Posted by: tonker (24048) 

Mac. The grammatical meaning of 'Civil' war contradicts the modern-day theory of a series of 'first', 'second' and 'third' 'English' civil wars.

The so-called 'second' and 'third' wars were Wars of Three Nations, not 'Civil' wars. The English Civil War was contained within that.

Regardless of what you think, that writing is just another composite summary of bits of other composite summaries containing the word 'Wigan'.

The post might well be interesting. Some of it is true, however, much of it is made up to gain the attention of 'Wigan' readers.

Replied: 23rd Sep 2013 at 20:54

Posted by: Mac (inactive)

Three wars, three years. The numbering is strange to me, as there was only one war, and a part of it was fought on Wigan lane, and the Parish Church was damaged in a skirmish.

There was fighting at Wigan in 1644 and 1651, and much confiscation by the Commonwealth authorities. The Restoration appears to have been generally welcomed. At the Revolution there was much more division, but no open opposition was made, and the Jacobite rising of1715 does not seem to have had any adherents in the parish. The march of the Young Pretender through Wigan, Ince, and Hindley in 1745 brought in no recruits. The more recent history has, as in the north of England generally, been that of the growth of manufactures and commerce.

From: here

Replied: 23rd Sep 2013 at 21:31

Posted by: tonker (24048) 

"Three wars, three years. The numbering is strange to me, as there was only one war"

Indeed, but the one war was between three countries and it started in Ireland.. But, as well as the 'one war between three countries' there was an 'internal war' going on in England. THAT was the English Civil War.

The truth is that Wigan played a minor part in the civil war, much the same as most other places in England were all involved in a small way.

Replied: 24th Sep 2013 at 00:44

Posted by: Mac (inactive)

But still, a battle was fought on Wigan lane and it WAS during the civil war between the royalists and the parliamentarians.
So there you have it, my little ray of sunshine.
It was indeed, part of the Civil war.

Replied: 24th Sep 2013 at 08:29

Posted by: tonker (24048) 

The English civil war ended in 1649. The battle of Wigan Lane took place in 1651, some two years later.

It was between the troops of the King of Scotland and the troops of the Lord Protector of England.
Two different countries ruled by two different factions.

That is not 'civil war'.

Replied: 24th Sep 2013 at 09:55

Posted by: Mac (inactive)

I suspect it was a bit uncivil at times, of course.
between Royalists under the command of the Earl of Derby and elements of the New Model Army under the command of Colonel Robert Lilburne. The Royalists were defeated, losing nearly half their officers and men.
Charles was off his head.

Replied: 24th Sep 2013 at 12:11

Posted by: tom1303 (1602) 

I would dearly love to hear more, my direct descendants where living in Millgate in the 1640,s onwards through the civil war years. It would be of great interest to put meat on the bones.
I know proud people starved to death in their homes rather than go out and beg.

Replied: 7th Oct 2013 at 22:15
Last edited by tom1303: 7th Oct 2013 at 22:16:03

Posted by: Mac (inactive)

Tom, join Save Wigan
then you can get to meet Explorations and ask away.

Even better, you get to meet me!

Replied: 8th Oct 2013 at 19:07

Posted by: MarieM (5563)

mac I want to save Wigan. Is there a meeting place.

Replied: 9th Oct 2013 at 22:09

Posted by: Mac (inactive)

Yes, Marie. You can either join online, It costs £10 for life membership, or join at the next meeting at the Cricket club in Wigan. I will post the date when It's decided. Be good to have you along.

Replied: 10th Oct 2013 at 11:49

Posted by: tom1303 (1602) 

I will join also.
Tremendous cause and I will try and arrange a visit to the family to coincide with upcoming dates.

Replied: 13th Oct 2013 at 15:15

Posted by: Mac (inactive)

Excellent, Tom. Hope to see you soon.

Replied: 13th Oct 2013 at 15:56

Posted by: tom1303 (1602) 

Look forward to it Mac.

Replied: 13th Oct 2013 at 16:02

Posted by: tom1303 (1602) 

Now a paid up member

Replied: 25th Oct 2013 at 22:10


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