Monmouth Rebellion

Monmouth Rebellion

Yeovil men executed for taking part


The Monmouth Rebellion, also known as The Revolt of the West or The West Country rebellion, was an attempt to overthrow James II, who had become King of England, Scotland and Ireland upon the death of his elder brother Charles II on 6 February 1685. James II was a Roman Catholic, and some Protestants under his rule opposed his kingship. James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of Charles II, claimed to be rightful heir to the throne and attempted to displace James II.

Following the failure of the Rye House Plot to assassinate Charles II and James in 1683, plans for several different actions to overthrow the monarch were discussed while Monmouth was in self-imposed exile in the Dutch Republic. Because Monmouth had previously been popular in the South West of England he planned to recruit troops locally and take control of the area before marching on London.

The Duke of Monmouth landed at Lyme Regis on 11 June 1685 and for the following few weeks his growing army of nonconformist, artisans and farm workers fought a series of skirmishes with local militias and regular soldiers commanded by Louis de Duras, 2nd Earl of Feversham and John Churchill who later became the Duke of Marlborough. Monmouth's forces were unable to compete with the regular army and failed to capture the key city of Bristol. The rebellion ended with the defeat of Monmouth's army at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685 by forces led by Feversham and Churchill.

Monmouth was executed for treason on 15 July 1685. Many of his supporters were tried during the Bloody Assizes led by Judge Jeffreys and condemned to death or transportation.

It is said that Judge Jeffreys held court in the Mermaid Hotel, although this is untrue - the Assizes began at Winchester on 26 August 1685, and proceeded to Salisbury, Dorchester, and Taunton, finally ending at Wells on 23 September.  Nevertheless, the eight Yeovil men executed for their part in the rebellion were -

  • Barnaby Devereux

  • Francis Foxwell

  • Edward Gillard

  • Thomas Hurford

  • William Johnson

  • George Pitcher

  • Oliver Powel

  • Bernard Thatcher

See also the amazing story of a Yeovil doctor, Henry Pitman, who took part in the Monmouth Rebellion, was sentenced to death by Judge Jeffreys at the 'Bloody Assizes', transported to Barbados, escaped, had adventures with pirates, returned to England and became the inspiration of the 1922 novel and the 1935 Errol Flynn movie 'Captain Blood'.