Wednesday, 18 July 2012


In  July 1643, when Admiral the Earl of Warwick and his Parliamentary fleet came sailing up the Estuary, cannon blazing to starboard and larboard, hoping to relieve the Parliamentary forces in Exeter, the Royalist besiegers under the command of Sir John Berkley managed to prevent the ships reaching the city and held them in battle at Topsham until the tide was running out from under the ships' keels and the fleet had to chase back down channel and out to sea.   (This is the same John Berkley who was soon to be the Governor of Exeter and the recipient of laudatory lines from the Cavalier parson poet at Dean Prior, Robert Herrick, viz:.

"Stand forth, brave man, since fate has made thee here
The Hector over Aged Exeter;
Who for a long sad time has weeping stood
like a poore Lady lost in Widowhood:   &c.

 This then is Clarendon's (Royalist) account of the action on the Estuary:

    "The Parliament commended the Relief of this place (Exeter), by special instructions, to their Admiral, the Earl of Warwick;  after whose having made show of Landing Men in several places upon the Coast, and thereby compelling Sr John Berkley to make quick and wearisome marches with Horse and Dragoons from place to place, the wind coming fair the Fleet left those who attended their Landing about Totnes, turned about, and with a fresh Gale made towards the River that leads to the Walls of Exeter, and having the Command of both sides of the River, upon a flat, by their Cannon, the Earl presumed that way he should be able to send Relief into the City, but the diligence and providence of Sr John Berkley had fortunately cast up some slight Works upon the advantageous Nookes of the River in which his Men might be in some security from the Cannon of the Ships; and make great haste with his Horse to hinder their Landing;  and so the Attempt was not only without success, but so unfortunate that it discouraged the Sea-men from endevouring the like again.  For after three or four hours pouring their great shot, from their Ships upon the Land Forces, the Tide falling,  the Earl of Warwick fell off with his Fleet, leaving three Ships behind him, of which one was burnt, and the other two were taken from the Land, in view of his whole Fleet,  which no more look'd after the Relief of Exeter in that way."

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