LAST week we heard of the acts of retribution carried out in the Dorchester Assize following the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685.

The notorious Judge Jeffreys was in no mood for clemency and handed down death sentences to 251 rebels, although only 74 of these sentences were actually carried out.

Weymouth and Melcombe Regis became involved when gallows were erected on or near Greenhill.

Although Weymouth and Melcombe Regis had played no part in the rebellion, a major demonstration of the fate that awaited rebels and traitors was to be made locally with 12 people executed at Greenhill. Their heads and quarters were disposed of by the Mayor and a document detailing grisly details - the sheriff's report - lists locations of the parts being displayed in locations such as Upwey, '1 head at Osmington', Sutton Poyntz, '4 quarters at Preston', 'Radipoll', 'Broadmaine', Winfrith, Weeke, Winterborne St Martin, 'Puddletowne', Bincombe, 'Waymouth Townhall, 'neare the windmill', 'grand piere' and 'Melcombe Townhall'

"The fate of traitors was to be hanged, cut down whilst still alive, their entrails cut out and burned before their eyes, then beheaded and quartered, their quarters being boiled in pitch to preserve them for as long as possible whilst on display: That these sentences were carried out with all with all the ritual horror that it entailed is demonstrated by details of payment made to some of those involved"

14th October. To Bill of Disburstments for ye Gallows, Burning and boiling ye rebels executed p ordr att this Towne. £15.14.3.’

20th November. Paid to Mr. Mayor at the “Beare” ... for setting up the post with the quarters of the rebels at Weymouth towne end. 1s. 6d.’

Many of the rebels whose death sentences had been reduced to transportation sailed from Weymouth on the ships Betty, and ironically, The Happy Return, both being listed as Weymouth ships transporting convicts.

In addition to the Dorchester prisoners, between October 15 and 17, 200 were marched in chains from Wells to Weymouth for shipment, 30 escaping en route. The Betty sailed with 80 convicts and ‘one serving maid’, arriving at Barbados in January 1686, having buried eight rebels at sea. The Happy Return took all her 91 rebels to Barbados without any deaths. Very few were to return.

As a consequence of the rebellion, James ll wanted a large standing army in the European style, with Catholic officers. This filled leading Protestants with alarm; there is no evidence that he wanted to use it to force the English to return to Catholicism, but the flight to England of tens of thousands of Huguenots (French Protestants) from persecution, and his plans to grant toleration to English Catholics, only raised suspicion of his intentions.

To begin with Protestants were prepared to wait; James was an old man, time wasn’t on his side. On his death, his daughter Mary would inherit the throne and she was Protestant. His wife, Mary of Modena, was thought to be too old to have any more children, but in June 1688, in suspicious circumstances, she gave birth to a son; a Catholic succession seemed assured. Now desperate, leading Protestants invited James’ daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange to take the throne. On 5th November, 1688 they landed at Brixham and marched on London; support for James melted away and he fled the country.

The Glorious Revolution followed and with it pardons for the Monmouth rebels. At last the grisly relics of the executions could be removed. In the West Indies transported rebels were freed from slavery, but no arrangements were made to bring them home and few were able to afford the trip, so very few returned, indeed many may not have wanted to. There is some evidence to show that many rebuilt their lives in the Caribbean whilst others emigrated to the British Colonies in North America.