Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th May will see muskets and mayhem right in the centre of town as the seventeenth century English Civil War comes to Tonbridge. The re-enactment, hosted by Tonbridge Town Team in conjunction with the English Civil War Society, is based on actual events that took place in 1643.
Civil War Kent is often assumed to be solidly behind the Parliament in its struggle against King Charles I but, as in most areas, there were local sympathisers for both sides. Many Kentish Royalists tended to keep their heads down and their opinions to themselves.
The leading Parliamentarian supporter in Tonbridge was a Mr Thomas Weller, whose Diary provides a commentary on what happened in July 1643 when hostility between the two sides erupted into violence.
Weller was a Lawyer, and also a Tax Collector appointed by Parliament to extract taxes from Tonbridge and other nearby towns – which probably didn’t make him popular with everyone. He lived at what is now ‘Priory House/The Red House’ on Bordyke, and he also owned Tonbridge Castle.
Mr Weller was instructed by Parliament to go to Sevenoaks to investigate reports of disturbances there. This turned out to be more than a few disgruntled locals as up to 4,000 men had turned out to rebel against the Parliament and march on Tonbridge (as well as settling a few local scores).
The ‘Rebels’ (as they were addressed by loyal Parliamentarians) ran amok for several days in Tonbridge until July 24 when 2000 men of the London Trayned Bandes led by Colonel Richard Browne together with local Parliament supporters managed to defeat the Royalists at the Battle of Hilden Bridge with final remnants surrendering at Yalding.
Of course, Tonbridge is a very different place now (thankfully!) so, for this re-enactment, action will mainly centre on the Castle. Over the two days there will be musketeers, pikemen and even cannon. You will also be able to visit the Living History camp on the Castle Lawn to explore how people lived in the seventeenth century.
There will also be a River Market along the Castle Walk. The action takes place between 10.30am and 4.30pm on both days. The event is sponsored by Graham John and supported by Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council