IT happened 332 years ago but Weymouth historian Greg Schofield has uncovered fresh information on the Monmouth Rebellion.

The Rebellion, which began in Lyme in 1685, was a pivotal piece of south west history. It was an attempt in the West Country to overthrow James II.

Protestants under the Catholic King protested against his rule. An illegitimate son of Charles II, James Scott, the 1st Duke of Monmouth, challenged his rule. The Duke was hugely popular in the south west and so he landed there first, in Lyme Regis on June 11, 1685 to gather troops for the rebellion.

Historian Greg has been browsing through some of the local history records in Weymouth Library to find references to the Monmouth Rebellion.

He said: “In the 1990s I took A-level history students on field trips on five occasions to study the Monmouth Rebellion in depth as part of their exam requirements. 

“Each time we were fortunate to have a lecture from Richard Dunning, Somerset county historian. He had a particular interest in the Rebellion and uncovered much new unpublished evidence which he imparted to us, along with many less obvious aspects which threw a new light on it.

“Browsing through some of the local history records in Weymouth Library I came across references to the Monmouth Rebellion, and with a fresh understanding of some of the issues and interpretations involved, those events appeared in a new light.”

Greg said he would like to thank Maureen Attwool and Chris Pafford for their help.

So here, from Greg’s diligent research is the first part of the story of the Monmouth Rebellion.

“In June 1685 the illegitimate son of Charles ll, the Protestant Duke of Monmouth who was well known and popular in the south west, landed at Lyme Regis and raised the flag of rebellion against his uncle, the Catholic King James ll. 

“This was a period of strongly held religious views and England being a strongly Protestant country, there appeared to be widespread suspicion of James ll’s religious intentions. 

“Therefore, it is not surprising that large numbers of Lyme Regis men flocked to his banner, and in the next few days, many more men came in from the surrounding countryside to swell his growing army. After a few days he launched a raid into Bridport to get more recruits and horses, but this developed into a skirmish against Royal troops based in the Bull Hotel, and nothing was gained. 

“In an attempt to raise the West Country en masse, he went on a line of march from Lyme to Axminster, Chard, Ilminster, Taunton, Wells, the outskirts of Bristol, Bath, Frome, Shepton Mallet and back to Bridgwater.

He gained many new recruits, but not as many as had been hoped for.

“The English army at this time was very small, but as luck would have it there was locally a force of Dragoons under a brilliant young officer, John Churchill, the future Duke of Marlborough. 

“His force was too small to put down the rebellion, but it was sufficient to constrain it and pose a threat to potential recruits attempting to join the rebels. 

“Churchill was waiting for regular battle-hardened troops freshly returned from fighting in Tangiers to join him. Known as ‘Kirk’s Lambs’ from their Colonel’s name and their regimental cap badge, they were anything but!

“The rest of the king’s armies were raised through the County Militia system by the Lord Lieutenant. The real problem was their loyalty; if they were brought to battle would they actually fight or would they desert en masse to the rebels? 

“A further blow to Monmouth’s recruitment was the failure of any of the major or minor nobility or landowners to commit themselves to his cause. But then they didn’t come out in active support of the king either.”