During the Bank Holiday weekend of 5th and 6th May 2018 Tonbridge Castle played host to The English Civil War Society. A living history encampment on the Castle Lawn gave visitors the chance to get up close and experience a little of what life was like in the seventeenth century.
Modern day Tonbridge is a very different place to the town Thomas Weller, a lawyer and tax collector, lived in. On Monday 24th July 1643 the English Civil War came to Tonbridge. In his diary, writing in the run up to the event he commented, ‘… and got into my house, locked the doors, put on armour, charged diverse pieces, called my servants to stand upon defence, which we accordingly did.’
Looking at the ruined castle today, many may not realise that it wasn’t in fact military action that reduced the castle but orders from Parliament that Thomas Weller, the owner, should put the castle beyond military use by dismantling its defenses.
The historic battle of Tonbridge defeated five to six hundred rebels, killing around twelve and apparently taking two hundred prisoner, the Parliamentarians won the day and changed Tonbridge forever.
As part of a broad plan to create landmark events within Tonbridge, The Town Team worked with Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council and The English Civil War Society with the view of carrying out a re-enactment on the Castle Lawn.
Graham John were very fortunate to be part of bringing this event to fruition and it has been a delight to be involved. The ECWS are an amazing group of people, knowledgeable and passionate about the period and the impact it had upon our country and military.
Across the weekend we were treated to displays of cannon, musket and pike drill and skirmishes between Parliamentary forces and ‘the rebels’. All members of Sir Marmaduke Rawdon’s Regiment of Foote, a fabulous group. Interspersed through the action were opportunities to visit the living history encampment and learn about life in the seventeenth century. A fascinating journey of the soldier outlined the development of our military into becoming the army that we know today and how household names such as The Coldstream Guards and the Grenadiers came to be.
We had a fabulous day, it is estimated that around sixteen thousand visited across the weekend, enjoying the military display and sampling delights in the River Market stalls along the Castle Walk.
We think it would be wonderful to see the event happen again next year and hope that other local businesses will step forward to support the event and help us make it even better than this years. We know the members of The English Civil War Society enjoyed the warm welcome they received, Tonbridge hospitality is something to be very proud of today.
Below is some wonderful footage of the event taken by David Dore of Silk Purse Films