The Crabchurch Conspiracy
Location: The Old Town Hall, Weymouth
The catalyst for the three and a half weeks of subterfuge, siege, pitched battle and executions, was a plot by royalist sympathisers in Weymouth and Melcombe, named the Crabchurch Conspiracy. Charles I needed a south coast port where he could land a force of French Catholic soldiers to help him turn the war in his favour.
A local merchant, Fabian Hodder, helped soldiers from the royalist garrison at Portland gain control of the Nothe Fort and the Chapel Fort of St Nicholas at Chapelhay in Weymouth. He set up the Royalist commander in Dorset, Sir Lewis Dyve, to attack Melcombe at the same time namely midnight on the 9th February 1645.
Francis Sydenham immediately made a counter attack to retake the Chapel Fort but he died early the next morning. Dyve then arrived in Weymouth. He bombarded Melcombe into submission, but William Sydenham reciprocated. Dyve refused the offer of a cease fire so Sydenham sent a raiding party to set fire to Weymouth. Several buildings and boats were set alight; finally Dyve ended the assault.
Lord Goring, a royalist leader in Dorchester, sent Dyve a baggage train of supplies but Sydenham took it. Dyve sent out most of his force to try and recapture it. Sydenham sent a large force and retook the Chapel Fort. Goring retaliated by attacking Weymouth.
On the 27 February 1645 the Battle of Weymouth started at around midnight and was ferocious. The town gate and the barricade at Boot Hill fell to Goring's men. They poured down the old high street, past the Old Town Hall, thinking the victory was already theirs but met Sydenham's weapons and forces. At least 200 cavaliers died and the rest turned and fled, pursued all the way by Sydenham's soldiers. A force of about 250 Irish catholic troops of Lord Inchiquin's regiment fought their way into Weymouth from the east. Sydenham's force fell upon them. The Irish fled into the freezing waters where around 250 were either drowned or were picked off by the parliamentarians (near the Old Rooms Pub). The Battle of Weymouth was over. Just over a thousand roundhead soldiers, led by Colonel William Sydenham had beaten off 6000 royalist troops.
This is all documented by local historian Mark Vine in his book,The Crabchurch Conspiracy, available at www.crabchurch.co.uk
"I Don’t know whether she was a bit of a romancer, but she seemed quite genuine and more than a little shocked. I believe her house was at the other end of the road from the pub, down towards Hope Square." said Mark.