Due to various events in April, Thatcham Historical Society was unable to hold their normal Monday evening speaker meeting. Instead we held a special Civil War event on Saturday 16th April.
The first of the two part event saw author Chris Scott present "The First Battle of Newbury." Chris noted that Newbury was the crossroads of Southern England. It is know that the royalists were camped in Victoria Park, however the town supported the Parliamentarians and did not want the Royalists camped nearby.
Although numbers are difficult to calculate, it is thought that both sides had around 15,000 troops and sustained losses of 1,200. Chris noted that there were not Horse Regiments but Horse Troops, which consisted of up to 100 soldiers. The Royalist blocked the way for the Parliamentarians to proceed to London. One of the leaders of the Parliamentarians, the Earl of Essex, had made a detailed plan of how he was going to get to London after being stopped at Newbury. In essence Essex just slipped around the side of the opposing forces.
The second part of the event was given by members of the Earl Rivers Regiment, part of the Sealed Knot. Members noted that the uniforms being uniform were not. Colours worn changed, sometimes making it difficult to identify which side a soldier was on. The cost of the uniforms were deducted from the soldiers pay and those enlisted tended to come from the less well of and hence not well clothed to start with. Soldiers were often enlisted from tenants of land owners. Despite what their own opinions may have been, tenants thought for the side that their landlord supported.
Weapons were also shown. An 18 foot pike was one item which although is a long spear, took a great deal of strength to handle. Other weapons were also shown including matchlock muskets and flint lock pistols, the latter of which officers used and paid for themselves.
Members of the living history section showed what life would have been like for the families. Boys and girls would have been dressed the same, with boys wearing dresses until they were given their first pair of breeches. Cleanliness was also an issue with only face and hands being regularly cleaned. The water at the time, although it may have been used for cleaning was not suitable for drinking and from the age of 2 most would have drank Ale. All of this also meant there were health issues.
One member noted that field medics could perform an amputation in around 15 seconds. However this would be with no anaesthetic, and with others holding the patient down. Dental hygiene was also far removed from what we have today. Unless a tooth broke, many learnt to live with the pain. It was thought at the time that something lived in the teeth, a tooth worm. This came about as when a tooth broke something could be seen inside, what we know as a nerve. At the time a special tool would have been used to remove it. At this time 90% of the population only had half their teeth by the time they reached their 40's.