Battle of Hartley 1554 - Hartley-Kent: The Website for Hartley

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Battle of Hartley 1554

"Men of Kent... the cause that  hath brought us together is not the cause of a county or a shire, but of  this England, in whose crown our Kent is the fairest jewel", cries Sir Thomas Wyatt in Tennyson's Queen Mary.  This  year marks the 450th anniversary of his rebellion, a war in which  Hartley played a small part.  Our main source is the Tonbridge  schoolmaster John Proctor, who was a fervent supporter of Queen Mary, so  his account is highly coloured.  However there are sources supportive  of Wyatt also.

The rebellion began on  25 January, when Wyatt had a proclamation read out at Maidstone.  He  stressed his rebellion was not against the Queen but against the  proposed marriage to Philip of Spain - "we seek no harm to the Queen, but better counsel and councillors".   Fear of domination by Spain was uppermost in people's thoughts.   Interestingly, given the times, both sides hardly mention religion,  although Proctor believed Wyatt was a Protestant.  It was meant to be  part of a wider rebellion, but the others collapsed quickly.   

Battles of Wrotham and Hartley 1554, 1833 map of Kent showing key events

He then set up headquarters at  Rochester [1].  Opposed to him in Kent were the sheriff Sir Robert  Southwell and Lord Abergavenny.  The latter may have wanted to prove his  loyalty to Mary, having previously been a supporter of Lady Jane Grey.   Family ties may have been more important - Southwell, Abergavenny and  Warham St Leger (see below) were all related.  However most people in  the county sat tight and awaited the outcome.
Wyatt was counting on  reinforcements from his supporters Henry Isley and the Knevett brothers  (Anthony and William) in the west of the county, to whom he wrote an  urgent letter on the 27th requesting they came to him as soon as  possible.  Sir Henry and his force of 500 marched from Tonbridge [2] to  Sevenoaks [3], where they rallied the townsfolk.  Anthony Knevett told  one "if you hap to hear that I am taken, never believe it, for undoubtedly I will either die in the field or achieve my purpose".   Meanwhile standing between them and Wyatt, Southwell and Abergavenny  had a force of 600 at Malling [4].  Things were very tense - the arrival  of a messenger just after 1am on the Sunday 28th led to rumours that  Wyatt had attacked, and shouts of "treason, we are all betrayed".   The messenger brought the vital intelligence that Isley was at  Sevenoaks and that they planned to attack the house of George Clarke at  Wrotham (who was with Abergavenny's forces at Malling), which they  resolved to defend.  At this point, the attack and defence of a house  looks more like a personal feud.   

Early on the 28th Abergavenny  stationed his forces at Borough Green [5] in the path of Isley's men,  and thence sent out scouts to find out where the opposition was (finding the other army was always a problem before the modern era).  He did not have long to wait, they reported "they were at hand comin towards him as fast as they could march, which was glad tidings to the Lord Abergavenny and his band."   Isley seems to be equally well informed for Abergavenny found they had  gone off the main road and up the hill past a house called Yaldam [6]  to reach the higher ground.  Proctor reports "the Lord Abergavenny,  the sheriff, and the rest of the gentlemen with such other of the  Queen's true and faithful subjects, as with great pains taking to claim  the hill, and to hold way with the horsemen, overtook the rebels at a  field called Blackesoll Fielde [7] in the parish of Wrotham, a mile  distant from the very top of the hill, where [they] handled them  so hot and so fiercely that after a small shot with long bows by the  traitors, and a fierce bragge shewed by some of the horsemen, they took  their flight as fast as they could.  Yet of them were taken prisoners  above three score".

A mounted band under the  command of Warham St Leger set off in pursuit of Isley's men, apparently along Hartley Bottom Road.  They  caught up with them in Hartley Wood [8] where Proctor implies some of  those taken prisoner were summarily killed: "from hence chased the horsemen till they came to a wood called Hartlei Woode,  four miles distant from the place where the onset began.  The Queen's  true subjects did so much abhor their treason and the traitors in such  detestation, as with great difficulty any escaped with life that were  taken prisoners, and yet were they all very well armed and weaponed and  had also great advantage by the place of flight.  Sir Henry Issleye lay  all that night in the wood and fled after into Hampshire.  The two  Knevetts being very well horsed were so hastily pursued, as they were  driven to leave their horse, and creep into the wood, and for haste to  rip their boots from their legs, and run away in the vampage* of their  hose.  The chase continued so long as night came on before it  was full  finished." (*the vampage is the lower part that covered the feet of the hose or stockings that men wore in those days).
The battle gave the government  forces a great fillip, but their joy must have been tempered by the  fact that Isley and the Knevetts all gave them the slip.  Reading  between the lines, it appears they were unwilling to follow Isley and  his men into the wood.  Incidently it is possible that Foxborough Wood  may be the Hartley Wood referred to, as Hartley Wood was called  Northfield Wood in the c17th.  Meanwhile Anthony Knevett evaded capture  and arrived at Rochester that night.

It was not until 10pm that  evening that the government general Duke of Norfolk heard the news at  Gravesend, when he wrote to the council "Post scripta.  Arrived here  with me a servant of Sir Percival Hartes, who hath reported to me ...  the overthrow my lord Abergavenny hath given to Isley and other  rebels..."  This was his one bit of good news, for the following day  Norfolk marched to Rochester where he was defeated when a large part of  his army defected to Wyatt.  Thereafter the Duke played no further  part.

Our area's involvement was not  quite complete.  For Wyatt now marched to London encamping at Dartford  on 31 January.  He met by emissaries of the Queen in the west of the  town.  They offered a pardon if Wyatt's men dispersed now, and made some  vague assurances about the marriage.  Government sources claimed Wyatt  had arrogantly demanded the custody of the Tower of London with the  Queen in it.  Their main purpose seems to have been to wrongfoot Wyatt,  who after all had proclaimed loyalty to the Crown.  Proctor says there  was unrest in his forces at this time, but they were won over when Wyatt  told them Southwell and Abergavenny were hanging any of his supporters  they captured.  Given what Proctor said about the events at Hartley,  there at least was a grain of truth in this.

Wyatt marched to Southwark  only to find the city too well defended, so he marched away at the  request of his supporters there to spare the borough from attack.   Crossing the Thames at Kingston, and marching through such villages as  Brentford and Knightsbridge, his ragged forces finally marched to  Ludgate to find it barred against them.  Returning along Fleet Street,  they were finally defeated at Temple Bar.   

Wyatt, Isley, and about 90  others were executed, the rest fined or released.  Wyatt went to his  death refusing to falsely implicate Princess Elizabeth, even when  offered his life (it is generally thought that she had no knowledge of  the rebellion).  In all 350 Kentish men were arrested and convicted,  David Loades (Two Tudor Conspiracies) states that the numbers included 1  each from Hartley and Ash, with the largest number from Maidstone (78),  Smarden (32) and Dartford (30).   

One other link to Hartley was  Thomas Fane of Tonbridge.  He was brought to the tower of London on 9th  February in the company of Anthony Knivett, who had escaped from  Hartley.  On the walls of the tower are the words he wrote from the book  of Revelation "Be faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life".  He owned the Scotgrove Estate, which included Chapelwood and the sites of the Milestone School and Penenden.   
The rebellion appears to have  made Mary much less merciful to those who opposed her policies.  Lady  Jane Grey was executed soon after Wyatt's rebellion and in Kent 58  Protestant martyrs were burnt at the stake - a number second only to  London itself.  On 19th July 1555, Christopher Waid, a linen weaver from  Dartford and Margery Polley of Pembury were burnt at the stake at the  Brent in Dartford.  The same day Dartford bricklayer Nicholas Hall was  burnt at Rochester.  They are commemorated by the Martyrs' Memorial on  East Hill.

Text of John Proctor's Account
Summarised text is in italics.

[12] As he had not heard from Isleye, Tonbridge or the west of the county on Friday 26th January, Wyatt  "addressed an earnest letter the Saturday morning to Isleye, the  Knevetts and others, with the town of Tonbridge, requiring them to  accelerate their coming to him".  They  had just returned from raiding the loyalist Sir Henry Sidney's armory  at Penshurst when they got the letter.  They resolved to march to Wyatt,  but hearing that Lord Abergavenny, the Sheriff and George Clarke had  raised a force after them, [13] they left Tonbridge, but first had a  proclamation read that Lord Abergavenny and others had traitorously  wrongfully imprisoned people and they and others wanted to enslave the  country.  "This done, with all  speed calling their company together they by the noise of drums.... [14]  they marched that night to Sevenocke."  They told the townspeople not to believe any tale told by the Privy Council.  "Antony  Knevet after he was leapt to is horse, took one by the hand, and said  'fare you well'.  And if you hap to hear that I am taken, never believe  it, for undoubtedly I will either die in the field or achieve my  purpose'  But within 24 hours he brake his promise, and ran away no  faster than his legs could carry him".  [17] The  Sheriff makes a proclamation at Malling (set out verbatim) calling for  loyalty to the Queen and support for Lord Abergavenny, [18] and denied  rumours of a force of strangers at Dover. [25] The proclamation was read  out "loud and clear" by one Barrham, a servant of Lord Abergavenny.  At the end the people cried "God save Queen Mary". [26] Sheriff calls for their support.
 
[27]  The Saturday at night the Lord Abergavenny suspecting that Wyat and his  complices lying withing 4 miles of them, and being so much provoked in  that they were in the day so rightly set forth their colours at Malling  would for revenge work some annoyance to them or his band that night,  either by a cammasado,  or by some other means, did therefore to protect the same set a strong  watch in the market place at Malling and other parts of entry into the  town; and gave the watchword before he would take any rest.  But between  1 and 2 of the clock in the night when everybody was taken to rest  saving the watch, there happened a larom,  sundry crying 'treason, we are all betrayed' in such a sort that such  as were in their beds or newly risen thought verily that either Wyat  with his band had been in the town or very near.  The thing was so  sudden and happened [28] in such a time as men not acquainted to like  matters were so amazed, that some of them knew not well wat to do, and  yet in the end it proved to nothing; for it grew by a messenger that  came very late in the night desiring to speak with the Lord Abergavenny  or Mr Sheriff to give them certain advertisement that Sir Henry Isleie,  the two Knevetts and certain other with 500 weldishe  men wre at Sevenocke and would march in the morning from thence early  towards Rochester, for the aid of Wyat against the duke of Norfolk and  in their way burn and destroy the house of George Clarke aforesaid.   Whereupon the Lord Abergavenny and the Sheriff with the advice of the  gentlemen aforenamed, for that the said Clarke had been a painful and  serviceable gentleman, changed their purposed journey from Rochester, to  encounter with Isleye and his band, to cut them from Wyat and save  Clarke from spoil.  And so in the morning early being Sunday.  The Lord  Abergavenny, the Sheriff, Warram Sentleger Richard Covert, Thomas Roydo,  Anthony Weldon, Henry Barnet, George Clarke, Johan Dodge, Thomas  Watten, Heughe Catlyn, Thomas Henley, Christopher Dorrell, Heughe  Cartwright, Johan Sybyll, esquires; Thomas Chapman, James Barram, Jasper  Iden, Johan Lambe, Walter Heronden, [29] Walter Taylor, Johan  Raynoldes, Thomas Tuttesham, Johan Allen and Thomas Holdriche,  gentlemen, with yeomen to the number of 600 or thereabout marched out of  Malling in order till they came to Wrotham Heath, where they mought  easily the sound of the traitors' drums, and so making haste pursued  them till they came to a place called Barrow Green, through which lay  the right and ready way that the traitors should take marching from  Sevenocke towards Mr Clarke.
 
The Lord Abergavenny being very glad that he had prevented them in winning the green sent out spialles to understand their nearness, and to discrive  their number, reposing themselves till the return of his spialles, who  at their coming, said he needed not to take further pains to pursue  them.  For they were at hand coming towards him as fast as tehy could  march, which was glad tidings to the Lord Abergavenny and his band.  And  taking order forthwith to set his men in array, he determined to abide  their coming and there to take or give the overthrow.  Which the  traitors understanding, whether it was for that they misliked the match,  as the place to fight, whiles the Lord Abergavenny and his band were  busy in placing themselves, they shrank as secretly as they [30] could  by the way. And were so far gone before the Lord Abergavenny understood  thereof by his espailles, as for doubt of overtaking them afore their  coming to Rochester, he was driven to make such haste for overtaking  them, as divers of his footmen were far behind at the onset gening.   
 
The  first fight that the Lord Abergavenny could have of them after they  forsook their proposed way, was as they ascended Wrotham Hill directly  over Yaldam, Mr Peckam's house, where they thinking to have great  advantage by the winning of the hill, displayed their engines bravely,  seeming ot be in great ruffe.  But it was not long after or their  courage abated, for the Lord Abergavenny, the sheriff, and the rest of  the gentlemen with such other of the Queen's true and faithful subjects,  as with great pains taking to claim the hill, and to hold way with the  horsemen, overtook the rebels at a field called Blackesoll Fielde in the  parish of Wrotham, a mile distant from the very top of the hill, where  the Lord Abergavenny, the Sheriff, the gentlemen aforesaid, and other  the Queen's true and faithful subjects handled them so hot and so  fiercely that after a small shot with long bows by the traitors, and a  fierce bragge  shewed by some of the horsemen, they took their flight as fast as they  could.  Yet [31] of them were taken prisoners above three score.  In  this conflict Warram Sentleger (who brought with him a good company of  soldiers and always a serviceable gentleman), also George Clarke,  Anthony Weldon and Richard Clarke with others did very honestly behave  themselves.  Warram Sentleger hearing of a strate  towards between the Queen's true subjects and the traitors, came to the  Lord Abergavenny in the field with all haste, not an hour before the  skirmish, who with the rest of the gentlemen, with certain of the Lord  Abergavenny's and the Sheriff's servants, being all well horsed, served  faithfully, and from hence chased the horsemen till they came to a wood  called Hartlei Woode,  four miles distant from the place where the onset began.  The Queen's  true subjects did so much abhor their treason and the traitors in such  detestation, as with great difficulty any escaped wit life that were  taken prisoners, and yet were they all very well armed and weaponed and  had also great advantage by the place of flight.  Sir Henry Issleye lay  all that night in the wood and fled after into Hampshire.  The two  Knevetts being very well horsed were so hastily pursued, as they were  driven to leave their horse, and creep into the wood, and for haste to  rip their boots from their legs, and run away in the [32] vampage  of their hose.  The chase continued so long as night came on before it   was full finished.  Thus was Isley, the Knevetts and their band  overthrown by the faithful service of divers gentlemen and yeoman  serving under the Lord Abergavenny and the Sheriff, whose forwardness,  courage and wisdom in this traitorous broil, no doubt was very much  praiseworthy, as well for their speedy acceleration their strength,  which (considering how they were every way compassed with traitors) was  no small matter in so little space, and for their wise and politic  handling also in keeping them together from Wyat, who marvelously and by  sundry ways sought to allure them away.  For had not they in their own  person to the encouraging of their company adventured for, and by their  wisdom, discretion and great charge, politicly handled the matter, some  think that Wyat had been at London before he was looked for by any man,  with no small train, whose journey was greatly hindered and is company  very much discomforted by this repulse given to Isleye and his band.   Where amongst other things God's secret hand was greatly felt to the  great comfort and present aid of true subjects agsinst the traitors, who  having such advantage of the place (as indeed they had) [33] were like  rather to give than receive so foul an overthrow.  But this it is (you  see) to serve in a true cause, and her whom God so favoureth, that He  will not suffer the malice and rage of her enemies at any time to  prevail against her; to whom He hath given so many notable victories and  so miraculous that her enemies might seem rather to have been  overthrown by the Spirit of God than vanquished by human strength.   The Lord Abergavenny, the Sheriff and the gentlemen with them, after  they had given humble thanks to God for the victory (which they did very  reverently in the field) and taken order for the prisoners, were driven  to divide themselves for want of harboroughe,  and victuals for the soldiers that had well deserved both.  The Lord  Abergavenny and certain with him went to Wrotham.  The Sheriff and  certain with him to Otforde, where they had much to do to get victuals  for their soldiers.
 
[48] Wyat  marched from Gravesend to Dartford where he reposed the night.  [49]  Wyat met councillors at west end of town, where he had planted his  ordinance.  [50ff] While at Dartford, common people were unhappy with  Wyat, because while he said he was loyal to the Queen, he wouldn't let  her proclamations be read.  So "which  perceived by Wyat and his mates, they devised a brute to be sounded in  his band, that the Lord Abergavenny and the Sheriff did cause to be  hanged as many as they could take coming from his band." [55] Next Thursday Wyat marched to Deptford Strand, 8 miles from Dartford.  

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