It is helpful to get a few facts clear before starting if we would understand Monmouth's connection with our village. A man of weak character, he was the handsome illegitimate son of Charles II and Lucy Walter. After his father` s Death he found considerable support for his claim to the throne owing to the fact that his uncle James II was a Roman Catholic.
Hoping for the support of the whole country he landed at Lyme Regis in Dorset on June 11th, 1685 with a small following and scanty supplies.
All went well at first and the Militia of Dorset and Devon fled before his little army which soon numbered 6,000, many of the country people rallying to his support. His men however were ill-disciplined and equipped only with scythes, knives and reaping hooks. They had little hope of success as the King's forces were closing in, though quite a Strong force had to be kept in London in case there was a rising there.
Lord Churchill (afterwards the famous Duke of Marlborough) was sent down to Somerset with eight troops of Horse, later raised to thirteen, and five companies of Foot, and proceeded to press on with his cavalry and harass the rear of the advancing rebel army. Meanwhile the King, to Churchill's disgust, appointed Lord Feversham as supreme commander in the campaign against the rebels. He soon arrived with reinforcements. If Monmouth could have reached Bristol his campaign might have been successful as the city was full of his supporters who would willingly have opened the gates to him. He reached Keynsham intending to ford the river there when by chance a company of Horse under Colonel Oglethorpe sent out scouting by Lord Feversham, met him. Both sides were surprised by the encounter and Monmouth fearing it was Churchill made his fatal mistake, and turning his back on Bristol decided to try and attract more supporters for his cause in Wiltshire. From Keynsham he marched close by Hinton Charterhouse, Norton St.Philip, Frome, and Shepton Mallet to Bridgwater, from where he emerged to meet final defeat at Sedgmoor. As this account is primarily concerned with Hinton Charterhouse, we shall try and trace Monmouth's route as he came near the village, with the help of information gleaned by the late Miss Helen Foxcroft, and published by her in 1911 in pamphlet form under the title of "Monmouth at Philip's Norton". After unsuccessfully summoning Bath to surrender from Beechen Cliff, Monmouth took the old road to Midford. The present Warminster road did not, of course, then exist, and the hill up from Midford to Hinton Charterhouse was very much steeper, running along the bottom of the valley by Wellow Brook for a short distance and then turning up left very steeply to come out on the Hinton side of Hang Wood. Monmouth decided against following this road, and chose instead to follow the Wellow Brook along the bottom of the valley. There is a field called "Money Quar" and Monmouth passed through it on leaving Midford. (Miss Foxcroft was told by Mrs. Jane Swift of Hinton that she had always heard that that field was connected with "soldiers, coins, and the erection of a temporary forge").
How the rebel army actually reached Norton has always been uncertain. Miss Foxcroft maintained that Monmouth took the most direct way along the valley below Cleeves and Tait Woods along the Norton lane. Mr. Rose, Mr. Foxcroft's old Keeper, used to say that at one point the noise of the brook sounds like the rumbling of cannon wheels and was always supposed to be the ghostly echo of Monmouth's guns. These four cannons, however, were described by Feversham in his lengthy dispatch to the King after the battle, as "two very small pieces, I think 2 pounders ................ and the others rather better but very insignificant" .
We are told that the Summer 0f 1685 was unusually wet, and it was pouring with rain most of that day, and the roads, always bad, were in an appalling state. Near where Monmouth's force must have joined the Norton Lane, there is a hill on the right called Baggeridge. It is just above the lowest and therefore the wettest part of the road where an involuntary halt may have taken placeo Here a ford crosses the brook and leads to a field called Spy Close from which three Combes can be seen, and what more likely than it is so named because Monmouth sent up some men to spy out the land, and find if there was an easier way. by which he could get his cannon to Norton than by following the flooded lane. From Spy Close the two field tracks to the Hinton -Norton road could be seen, one via Norton Barn and the other by Hinton Field Farm. It is probable that Monmouth decided to send his guns up to the road by Hinton Field, and that his infantry continued along the valley to Norton.
The late Mrs. Sarah Andrews of Hinton Charterhouse told Miss Foxcroft that her father in law Mr. Charles Andrews told her that his great grandmother's house in Norton was ransacked by Monmouth's men, but they got no money as she sat on a huge crock in which she had hidden it.
Old Mr. Huntley of Hinton Charterhouse who died in 1891 when he was over 90, told Miss Foxcroft that he could remember a Norton man called Charles Pearce who had told him that his grandfather had helped to pull Monmouth's guns up to the High road. Of the 12 men hanged by the King's forces in the field behind the Fleur de Lys after the battle the last named on the list is called Pearce. One wonders whether this was the same man. A story quoted by Mr. Singer of Frome, who wrote a biography of Monmouth many years ago, mentions that a countryman opened a field gate to let the rebels through, and when asked for whom he stood- answered "For the King", and was immediately killed. There are on Hinton Field Farm four fields connected with these events~ called Monmouth Sideland, Middle Monmouth, Monmouth Field, and Camp. Until recently a very old Wych Elm tree stood above Hinton Field Farm by the road, on which tradition has it men were hanged at this time. A skirmish took place in Norton on Saturday June 26th in which the King's troops had to withdraw. Lord Feversham says, to quote his lengthy dispatch to the King, "I once thought to face the enemy all night but we had very heavy rain which would cause very much inconvenience as we had no tents. " 'the King's men therefore withdrew to Bradford-on-Avon in all probability, via Hinton and Iford, where Lord Feversham passed a very pleasant Sunday at "a very pretty house "owned by Mr. Hall,"to clean our arms and recover the fatigue of the foregoing day". He however left behind a troop o: Horse Dragoons "to collect news" under Colonel Oglethorpe. It is not beyond the bounds of probability that the field called "Camp" above Norton Cottages was used by those troops that night? According to the previously quoted old Mr. Huntley military relics have been dug up there in times past. So far as casualties were concerned Lord Feversham reported that his losses were 8 killed and 20 wounded, but other authorities reckoned his total losses to be nearly 80. Monmouth lost 18 officers and men. Many of the unfortunate wounded crawled away into the fields of corn and their bodies were discovered later by the reapers.
There is a field between Hinton and Norton called Sand Pits and an old Miss Puckstone of Norton who died in 1880 had many stories of the fighting in that field told her by her grandfather and father. She said that a sword, a cannon ball, and human bones had been found there.
Tradition has it that men were hanged on a great old Wych Elm tree which stood until recently beside the Hinton - Norton road just above Hinton Field Farm. An Officer, presumably of the King's forces, stayed in Hinton with a family called Morgan on the eve of the fight. The Story goes that he left a case behind with instructions that his host was to have the contents if he did not return. He did not come back. The case when opened was found to b e full of money. The Morgan family continued as prosperous yeomen farmers for several generations, and there are memorials to them in Hinton Charterhouse. Some of them lived in Beaufix Cottage, at present belonging to Mrs. Dunn. Mrs. Longman, who lived at the Green, was the last of this family living in Hinton village. She died in Oct., 1947. At Hinton House there is an old sharpened fencing foil, found hidden in a chimney in the village in 1890. Perhaps a relic of this period.
In connection with the fight at Norton old Huntley told Miss Foxcroft that it was a fight between two brothers. She could not at first understand this but, on going through the records on the fight found that two illegitimate sons of Charles II were engaged -Monmouth on the one side, and the Duke of Grafton on the other.
In the course of the fight Monmouth escaped from a tight cornerwhenhard pressed by the King's Dragoons through their mistaking him for his brother the Duke of Grafton.