Nostalgia: Royalists rise from the ashes

Helmsley castle had been surrendered to Sir Thomas Fairfax in 1644 by Sir Jordan Crosland.
Helmsley castle had been surrendered to Sir Thomas Fairfax in 1644 by Sir Jordan Crosland.

As elsewhere in the country, in Scarborough the transition from republic back to monarchy happened gradually, not immediately, and initially without bloodshed. Captain Northend, commander of the castle garrison, offered no resistance: even as late as Michaelmas 1660, after Charles II had been welcomed back to London four months earlier, the majority of the re-elected members of the Common Hall on Sandside were burgesses who had sat there throughout the 1650s; and neither of the two Bailiffs, William Saunders and William Lawson, had Royalist records. On the contrary, both had prospered under the Commonwealth and Protectorate, Saunders as a woollen draper and wine licensee, who had been Bailiff in 1649 and 1654; and Lawson (no relation of the Admiral), who had the other vintner’s licence and a Sandside tavern.

The most significant changes in the composition of Scarborough’s ruling body were the first appearances in the First Twelve of Sir Jordan Crosland, William Wyvill and John Hickson. All three had been in arms against Parliament. Crosland’s wife was an open papist; he had surrendered Helmsley castle to Sir Thomas Fairfax in 1644, then joined Cholmley at Scarborough, only to be captured in the hand-to-hand fighting in and around St Mary’s in February 1645. William Wyvill of Osgodby was also a Catholic, educated at the college at Douai in the Spanish Netherlands. Hickson had been in Scarborough castle first with Cholmley then with Boynton.

The other nine members of the First Twelve were long-standing, experienced burgesses who had all served there during the republic and included such Parliamentarian supporters as William Foord, William Nesfield, senior, Matthew Fowler and William Robinson.

Further down the borough’s hierarchy, in the Second and Third Twelves, the continuity was even more evident. All but three of the 24 had been there during the past 12 months. Of the three newcomers, Richard Bilbrough, according to Captain Northend, had fought for the King; Henry Swaine, reappeared after an absence of 17 years; and Daniel Foord, son of William, belonged to Scarborough’s richest and most politically flexible family.

Of the Corporation’s officers, there was no change at all! Richard Dighton had been town clerk since 1645 and held the post for 20 years continuously. Philip Benson was the town’s gaolor during the same two decades. Ralph Moxon, mace-bearer, George Merry, netherd, Ralph Harrison, bellman, Thomas Hampton, warrener, and William Batty, pier master - all retained their positions during the so-called Restoration. John Taylor was parish clerk from 1658 until at least 1683. William Penston, the Scottish grammar schoolmaster for 50 years, swore allegiance as required to Charles I, the Commonwealth, Cromwell’s Protectorate and Charles II!

The Royalists gradually moved their way into key places. In 1661, Sir Jordan Crosland took Legard’s seat in the Commons and the previous October he had been made constable and keeper of the royal castle at Scarborough at a salary of £16 a year. Mindful of its recent strategical value, the Crown had bought the castle back from the Thompsons, Stephen and William, by granting them a reduction of rent on their manor at Humbleton in the East Riding from £55 11s 6d to only 40 shillings.

From now on Scarborough castle was to be permanently garrisoned and armed and also to be used as the magazine for the North Riding and Durham county. Secondly, it came to be employed as a secure prison for suspected republicans and religious dissidents. Crosland seems to have spent more time in Scarborough and at the castle than attending the so-called Cavalier Parliament in London.

Yorkshire was particularly rich in disaffected ex-officers who had fought under the Fairfaxes and Lambert or, as Lord Langdale, lord lieutenant of the West Riding, described them: “the multitude of casheired officers and souldiers... well provided with Horse & armes & long reste made slothfull to fall to there ould trades”. Many of them were to die excruciating executions and their severed heads displayed on York city’s Bars. Others, who were merely suspected of plots or “treasonable designs”, such as Colonels Berry and Lascelles and Captain Beckwith, were arrested and lodged for a time in Scarborough castle. Luke Robinson was accused of conspiracy against the Crown in 1663, but escaped imprisonment. He died at Thornton Riseborough two years later.

The family who gained most from the return of the Stuarts was the Thompsons. Between 1600 and 1644, they had exercised almost a monopoly of authority on Sandside; even Sir Thomas Hoby had not been able to break it. But the Civil Wars had been exceptionally damaging to their property and local power. Their homes at Kilham, Humbleton and in Scarborough were all plundered, their castle at Scarborough had been occupied and twice devastated, their St Mary’s rectory, worth £270 a year, had been confiscated, their ships in the harbour were wrecked. All had to pay hundreds of pounds in “delinquency” fines. Stephen Thompson, head of the family, pleaded poverty: he had a household of 21 to support, including a wife and ten children of his own. Amazingly, in 1654, after prolonged bargaining, he was permitted to set his claims for unpaid rent for Scarborough castle against his fine.

After 1660, the Thompsons returned to Scarborough’s Common Hall, but not for long. They held the highest office of Bailiff only three times, in 1661, 1663 and 1668, and then withdrew altogether. Instead, their parliamentary record of success was truly phenomenal. Between 1660 and the death of the last William Thompson in 1744, at least one and sometimes two of the family represented the borough of Scarborough at Westminster. Their only absence from the 
Commons was during the short reign of James II from 1685 to 1688, because they had voted for his exclusion from the succession. Without exaggeration, it could be argued that the Thompsons were the founding fathers 
of Scarborough’s Whig