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Crabchurch Conspiracy

Commemoration Weekend How it came about Mark Vine The Crabchurch Conspiracy Commemoration Weekend is now in its 19th year and has taken on many guises during that time. It is held in Weymouth, Dorset each February on or around the anniversary of the Battle of Weymouth and the preceding Siege of Melcombe in which more than 500 people died in total. It happened as a result of a royalist plot to overthrow the parliamentarian garrison within the twin towns of Weymouth and Melcombe, some say, as a prelude to the King, Charles 1, using the ports to land a huge French Catholic army to enable him to win the civil war. The plot was only half successful with most of the Parliamentarians being able to escape across the water to Melcombe where they stubbornly held out. A week long siege and bombardment ensued between the two warring factions, causing great material damage to both communities. Eventually, George, Lord Goring appeared on the scene with a 4,500 strong army and all seemed lost to the ‘roundhead’ garrison commanded by the then relatively unknown Colonel William Sydenham. With the 2000 or so royalist soldiers already facing him, the arrival of Goring’s men meant that Sydenham was now outnumbered about six to one. And when, at midnight on the 27th February 1645, Goring launched an all out assault on Sydenham, it seemed a forgone conclusion that it would only Above and right: Rebe a matter of time before the twin enactors assemble in the towns were once again under the conwinter sun outside Sandstrol of the King’s Army. But ... underesfoot castle, 2013 Right: The trial at the timating Colonel William Sydenham, Nothe, 2009 the eldest son of a Dorset squire, was Goring’s first and biggest mistake. Royalist losses were heavy and Sydenham’s beleaguered

Above: The opening volley of musket fire, 1995

garrison claimed a “miraculous victory” to retain the twin ports for Parliament. Hundreds of Goring’s men were ambushed in the old High Street and about 200 killed there, whilst 250 Royalist Irish troops were killed when they were chased by Sydenham’s men and forced into the icy February waters of the Weymouth Quay. After the fighting, most of the conspirators were arrested, tried and many executed, though the chief plotter, Fabian Hodder somehow managed to escape to the continent. And it is this series of events that each year the town of Weymouth commemorates. In its first manifestation in 1995, the commemoration organised by the English

Civil War Society, lasted for three months as an exhibition (The Key to the Kingdom) at Weymouth Museum housed in Brewer’s Quay and saw thousands of visitors coming through the doors and also involved a battle re-enactment weekend. In other years, it has been a far simpler affair, being marked by just a few diehards paying homage to those who fell in the original siege and battle, retracing the scenes where the greatest loss of life occurred and saying just a few simple words over the laying of a wreath. These days, the weekend is run by and for the benefit of the Weymouth Old Town Hall. Originally a Tudor building which was in the thick of Goring’s onslaught and still bears the scars today. All profits from the weekend will go to the refurbishment fund for this wonderful old building. Now, the whole story can be read in a new book entitled The Crabchurch Conspiracy,by Mark Vine. LIVE LINK: Below Left: Re-enactors assemble outside the Old Town Hall, 2013 Below Right: Author Mark Vine points out the town’s still visible battle scars to Professor Ronald Hutton, 2013




The Crabchruch Conspiracy Mark Vine The book traces the incredible story of what happened in Weymouth and Dorset during the English Civil War leading up to what has now become known as the Crabchurch Conspiracy, a name that has become synonymous with all that is good about Weymouth’s history. It also charts the rise of the Sydenham family from Wynford Eagle and in particular, the exploits of the three older Sydenham brothers who were so intimately involved in this saga. The eldest son, William, a parliamentarian colonel and Governor of Weymouth & Melcombe, who, with the men of his regiment, defied odds of more than six to one to win the Battle of Weymouth and whose political career after the war, saw him rise to become “only second to that of Price : £11.99 Oliver Cromwell in the councils of the Parliament”. FranLIVE LINK: cis, the second brother, the fearless and dashing cavalry commander who was a “perpetual vexation & terror to his and on facebook enemies”. And Thomas, the third brother, a junior officer in his brother’s troop of horse, who would also distinguish himself on the battlefield and thereafter, go on to become the foremost physician of the entire 17th century. But the book also tells of the ordinary folk of Dorset who all conspired to play their part in what is, Dorset’s bloodiest secret. With more famous names from that time also involved in this gripping drama, the book sets out in chronological order the sequence of events that finally led up to more than 500 lives being lost in and around the old streets and harbour of Weymouth, most in one single night of bloodletting. With excellent first-hand contemporary accounts from the time in the form of a diary and a pamphlet, detailing the siege of Melcombe and the trial and executions of some of the conspirators, Weymouth’s history is brought stunningly back to life with the dead speaking once more to tell their own story. And with the locations of the main happenings within the town & County clearly set out, the reader can easily walk in the footsteps of those hardy souls who followed their conscience and chanced all for the cause in which they believed almost 370 years ago.

Weymouth Pavilion

Weymouth Beach


No.6 King St



All at the Old Town Hall would like to offer a Huge Thank You to all those Good People, vital participants and audience alike, who support and make this event possible. You bring the Spirit of the Past alive in the Present, for what is the Spirit of a Town and its Future but the People in it.

Friday 14 February The Dolmen & Saor Patrol UK’s Leading Celtic Rock Bands The Nothe

No. 6, King Street, Weymouth Only £5 Entry

Saturday 15 February : the day

Follow the Drum to witness the Arrests of the Crabchurch Conspirators as they seek to avoid Justice! Aid the Force by spotting the Deviant Fabian Hodder, who always tries to be One Step Ahead! (See back cover . . . )

A 12.00 The Belvedere Inn High West Street B 12.20 The Boot High West Street C 1.00 The Old Rooms Cove Row C


D 1.30 Sailors Return St Nicholas Street E 2.00 The Globe East Street

Tudor House

F 2.30 The Black Dog St Mary Street G 3.00 The Edinburgh St Thomas Street H 3.30 Finns Westham Road

Weymouth Old Town Hall B A

Then Follow the Prisoners to the place of Trial & Execution! 4 - 5pm Saturday 15 February : the night The Crabchurch Conspiracy Live : The Dolmen With Prof. Ronald Hutton & Kit Berry Weymouth Pavilion, 7pm till late Tickets at £15 available from

Sunday 16 February : wreath laying 11.30 12.00 12.30

Weymouth Old Town Hall Chapelhay Street The Old Rooms: at the Town Pump




The Album The Crabchruch Conspiracy: The Dolmen This critically acclaimed album came about as the result of a collaboration between Taloch Jameson, famed lead singer of the internationally renowned Celtic Folk-Rock band, The Dolmen, who regularly tour Europe’s big festivals playing to thousands, and writer and historian, Mark Vine who wrote the album’s lyrics. During the work the brilliantly talented Josh Elliott joined the band as lead guitarist and also contributed to the writing of the music. The harrowing story of the events which occurred in Weymouth during the Eng-

lish Civil War, in which more than 500 people were killed, is translated into an extraordinary selection of songs, woven with poignant narrations, including passages read by renowned historian, writer and TV presenter, Professor Ronald Hutton. On the evening of Saturday 15th February, as centrepiece to the Crabchurch Commemoration Weekend, The Dolmen will give an electric live performance at the town’s Pavilion theatre, accompanied by special guests the inimitable Ronald Hutton, Stonewylde author Kit Berry and the leader of the Poole Re-Enactment Society, Steve Howl. A truly thrilling event not to be missed. The tickets are available at £15 from the Box Office at Weymouth Pavilion and from The album the Crabchurch Conspiracy is Available to buy from

Friday 14th Feb Special Crabchurch Treat This Crabchurch Weekend kicks off with a very special event. The Dolmen and their good friends from the famous Scottish heritage band, Saor Patrol will play a joint concert at the No6 music venue, now run by the Dorset Burger Company, who are one of the Crabchurch Weekend’s main sponsors. The concert is only £5 entry and a full bar and food is available. Saor Patrol are a five-piece high energy band playing traditional and contemporary Scottish music in their own inimitable style. 2013 saw Saor Patrol and The Dolmen energy explosively combine to record the noted album ‘CRANN TARA’ in four days in Weymouth’s Old Town Hall. Friday’s event will be a rare experience not to be missed!

For more on these two great bands & to purchase their legendary ‘CRANN TARA’ visit:

LIVE LINK: LIVE LINK: and find them on facebook

Live Link: Saturday 15th February : ‘The Crabchurch Conspiracy’ LIVE!

To purchase The Album ‘The Crabchurch Conspiracy’ visit

Live Link:




Kit Berry and Ronald Hutton performing narrations at The Crabchurch Commemoration Concert 2013

Bringing The Crabchurch Conspiracy

Back To Life Each February Dorset’s seaside town of Weymouth resounds with musket, cannon fire and the Captain’s call to arms in commemoration of the extraordinary proven courage and conviction revealed in the true and bloody tale of the Crabchurch Conspiracy. Just as each participant of the past is remembered alike, so too are the exceptional speakers, musicians and re-enactors, who come to the town to bring the townsfolk of 1645 back to life. Professor Ronald Hutton At the Crabchurch Commemoration Concert of 2013, the audience were held spellbound as Professor Ronald Hutton presented a faultless talk on the English Civil War, profoundly illustrated by haunting anecdotal stories, and providing the audience with an intense background for the beautiful music from The Dolmen to follow. This year’s event, held at Weymouth Pavilion, will again be opened by this enigmatic orator, with a talk entitled ‘Why the King Lost the English Civil War.’

Ronald Hutton is a leading authority on history of the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, on ancient and medieval paganism and magic, and on the global context of witchcraft beliefs. An extremely prolific author, he is also the leading historian of the ritual year in Britain and of modern paganism, and is a member of the ‘Medieval and Early Modern Cluster’ at Bristol, where he is Head of School of Humanities at the Bristol University.

Kit Berry

A one time history teacher in Weymouth, Kit Berry left her teaching career to pursue her dream of being a professional writer and became the author of the famed Stonewylde series, a fantasy story set in the fictional community of Stonewylde, a hidden place in Dorset. Kit has told the magical tale over five best-selling novels, and is now engaged in a new writing project, an adult novel set on Portland at the time of the Crabchurch Conspiracy. Kit will again be joining Ronald Hutton in and around the town, and as guest narrator at The Crabchurch Conspiracy Commemoration Concert ‘14. For more information about the Stonewylde series, please visit LIVE LINK:

Top Right: Professor Ronald Hutton and author Kit Berry enjoy the wonderful Crabchurch artwork made by the pupils of Beech Croft School, Weymouth. Top Left:UK leading Celtic Rock Band The Dolmen perform their acclaimed album, ‘The Crabchurch Conspiracy’ Live in 2013. Tickets for Saturday’s Concert on 15 February are available from the Box Office, Weymouth Pavilion, Box Office 01305 783225. Bottom Right: Professor Ronald Hutton and Kit Berry hold the winning portraits by pupils of Beech Croft School, Weymouth Bottom Left: Crabchurch Conspiracy author Mark Vine shows Kit Berry and Mr B an original letter signed by Colonel William Sydenham at Crabchurch Commemoration Weekend 2013

The Crabchurch exhibition, ‘The Key to the Kingdom’ is opened at Weymouth Museum, Hope Square, 1995

The Re-Enactors Throughout the weekend of the 14th – 16th February 2014, you will see around the town many people dressed in full 17th century, English Civil War costume. They are here to bring the incredible Crabchurch saga to life and to portray the events which happened here in Weymouth as realistically as possible. To show the bravery, fear and sacrifice displayed by the citizens and soldiers of that time as they struggled to help their chosen side win out. Just like the people they are portraying, the re-enactors come from all walks of life and ask for no payment for what they do. They are here to impart knowledge and to make the Weymouth and Dorset public more aware of the amazing story which was played out in their streets all those years ago. They pay for all their own costumes and equipment and a love of English history and the camaraderie of their fellow re-enactors is the only reward they seek. Talk to them if you wish. They are all friendly, have a wealth of knowledge to share and despite being armed to the teeth, they do not bite ! Duncarron Village Re-enactors LIVE LINK:

We are thrilled and honoured to welcome these expert living history re-enactors from Fife in Scotland to the Crabchurch Weekend. The village they have built up there is breath-taking and well worth a visit. Poole Re-enactment Society One of the main re-enactment groups you will meet on Crabchurch weekend is The Poole Re-enactment Society. This Dorset-based group are all highly skilled in the art of historical combat and practice at least once a week throughout the year portraying warriors from several periods of English history including the Dark Ages where they are The Ulfhedinn Félag Vikings. PRS also portray Medieval armoured combat, English Civil War and Pirate reenactment (Poole Buccaneers) and one of their stalwarts, the infamous Cap’n Steve Howl will also be taking to the stage at the Crabchurch Conspiracy Concert with international festival favourites The Dolmen, Professor Ronald Hutton and Kit Berry to bring the Crabchurch story to life with music on Saturday 15th at Weymouth Pavilion. Also present will be soldiers and camp followers from the ECWS. LIVE LINK:

the English Civil War Society. This group has many hundreds of members and have been portraying life during the English Civil Wars period since the early 1970s. They put on several large and smaller events throughout the year and it is hoped that as from next year, which will be the 370th anniversary of the Crabchurch Conspiracy, the ECWS will be taking over the re-enactment side of the weekend and making it one of their annual events which we hope will go a long way towards ensuring that the Crabchurch Conspiracy and all the brave souls originally caught up in it, are never again forgotten. This, after all, is our, the organisers, one and only avowed aim.

Above: Steve Howl, leader of the Poole Re-enactment Society and one of the special guest narrators at the Crabchurch Conspiracy Commemoration Concert at Weymouth Pavilion. Right: Kevin Davis of The Skimmity Hitchers, Crabchurch Commemoration 2009 Left: The Trial of Elizabeth Wall, Crabchurch Commemoration 2009

We would like to thank all those who are taking part, for it would not be what it is without them and we hope that the general public will embrace the weekend and get as much out of it as they can. For it is everyone’s history and our ancestors lived it and in many cases, died for it. And everyone that comes along to witness the Crabchurch Conspiracy Weekend makes each moment unique. You and your children are a vital ingredient in a thrilling weekend of amazing true tales and beautiful music set in one of England’s most picturesque and historical towns. LIVE LINK:


Old Town Hall and its GUARDIANS

Above: Crabchurch Organisers : Old Town Hall Guardian Steve Booth and Crabchurch Conspiracy Author Mark Vine. Left: Kit Berry at the main entrance. Photograph: Marloes Visser

‘Guardians of the Old Town Hall’ is a notfor-profit Community Interest Company that was set up by local people to save the Tudor grade II listed Old Town Hall from being sold into private hands. It, along with the pub ‘The Boot’ opposite, are the only two surviving buildings left from the original Weymouth High Street. A 30 year lease was agreed with Weymouth & Portland Council on condition that the group renovate the building and then for it to be developed as a Heritage Centre, with a focus on the significant and dramatic Civil War Battle that took place nearby, and which the Crabchurch Commemoration weekend remembers. It is also a focus of the Guardians of the Old Town Hall to develop the building for community use as an exhibition, performance & meeting centre for the people of Weymouth. Many dedicated people have been involved in the project at every stage of it’s development and ALL are volunteers. Costs for renovation materials and utility costs have

come through donations, fundraising events, hall hire and some sponsorship & materials coming from local businesses and companies. Our main goals for this year are to rehang the Old Town Hall The arrival of the Old Town Hall Bell, dated 1633. bell, dated 1633, to get the installed heating system up and running, install an accessible toilet and to prepare the loft space for use as vital storage space. For more details on the vital renovations that have been carried out and on work that still desperately need to be done, and to find out more about the activity groups or hiring the hall or volunteering a much needed few hours, please contact us at LIVE LINK:

Roof Repairs: repointing the brickwork and repairing the leaks.

Rotten floor joists: all these had to be replaced.

Alan Pindar rewires the lamp above the door.

Removing the windows on the upper floor for repair.

Cleaning the stonework window frames.

Hard at work removing the old plaster from the walls in the stairwell.

Tony Hawkins of MV Freedom works on an original wall.

Jon Snell repairing the Old Town Hall clock in the tower.

Royston Fowler works on one of the three leaded light ground floor windows.

Filming for ‘The Banquet’ video, The Dolmen.

The Original Town Hall Clock, back from Weymouth Museum & working.

ARTWEY Exhibition: before the original walls were exposed.











USEFUL LINKS Weymouth Old Town Hall LIVE LINK:

To Buy the album, ‘The Crabchurch Conspiracy’ The Dolmen LIVE LINK:

The Crabchurch Conspiracy The Book . Mark Vine LIVE LINK: LIVE LINK:

To Buy tickets for Crabchurch Commemoration Concert Saturday 15 February LIVE LINK: Box Office 01305 783225

Crabchurch '14 Online  

The Official Programme for Crabchurch 2014; Weymouth's extraordinary annual Weekend Commemoration of the events of February 1645 during the...

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