Battle of Sedgemoor

Coordinates: 51°06′56″N 2°55′42″W / 51.11556°N 2.92833°W / 51.11556; -2.92833
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Battle of Sedgemoor
Part of the Monmouth Rebellion
'The Morning of Sedgemoor' by Edgar Bundy, Tate Britain.JPG
The Morning of Sedgemoor, Edgar Bundy
Date6 July 1685
Result Royal victory
 England Monmouth Rebels
Commanders and leaders
Louis de Duras
John Churchill
Henry FitzRoy
James Scott
Ford Grey
Nathaniel Wade
3,000 4,000
Casualties and losses
200 killed or wounded 1,300 killed or wounded
2,700 captured
Battle of Sedgemoor is located in Somerset
Battle of Sedgemoor
Location within Somerset

The Battle of Sedgemoor was the last and decisive engagement between the Kingdom of England and rebels led by the Duke of Monmouth during the Monmouth rebellion, fought on 6 July 1685,[1] and took place at Westonzoyland near Bridgwater in Somerset, England, resulting in a victory for the English army.

It was the final battle of the Monmouth Rebellion and followed a series of skirmishes around south-west England between the rebel forces of the Duke of Monmouth, and the Royal Army still loyal to James II. Victory went to the Government and about 500 prisoners fell into their hands. Monmouth escaped from the battlefield but was captured, taken to London and executed nine days later. Many of Monmouth's supporters were tried during the Bloody Assizes. Many were transported abroad, while others were executed by drawing and quartering.


"The Map of Sedgemoor, with adjacent Parts" from "The history of imbanking and drayning" by William Dugdale (1662).

It was the final battle of the Monmouth Rebellion, by which the rebel James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, attempted to seize the English throne from his uncle James II of England. James II had succeeded to the throne on the death of his brother Charles II on 2 February 1685; James Scott was Charles' illegitimate son.

After Monmouth landed from the Dutch Republic at Lyme Regis in Dorset,[2] there had been a series of marches and skirmishes throughout Dorset and Somerset. Eventually Monmouth's poorly equipped army was pushed back to the Somerset Levels, becoming hemmed in at Bridgwater on 3 July. He ordered his troops to fortify the town. The force was made up of around 3,500,[3] mostly nonconformist, artisans and farm workers armed with farm tools (such as pitchforks).[2]

The royalist troops, led by Louis de Duras, 2nd Earl of Feversham, and Colonel John Churchill, were camped behind the Bussex Rhine at Westonzoyland. The infantry forces included 500 men of the 1st Regiment of Foot (the Royal Scots), known as Dumbarton's Regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Douglas; two battalions of the 1st or King's Royal Regiment of Guards (Grenadier Guards), respectively led by Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton and Major Eaton; 600 men of the Second Regiment of Guards (later the Coldstream Guards) under Lieutenant-Colonel Sackville; five companies of the Queen Dowager's or the Tangier Regiment (later 2nd Foot), known as "Kirke's Lambs"; and five companies of the Queen Consort's Regiment (Kings Own Royal Regiment), also known as Trelawny's Regiment, which was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Churchill, Colonel John Churchill's younger brother. The Horse and Foot, the Royal Train of Artillery was camped along the road to Bridgwater. The Royal Cavalry, with seven troops of 420 men of the Earl of Oxford's, the Kings Regiment of Horse (Blues and Royals), led by Colonel Sir Francis Compton; the King's Own Royal Dragoons; and three troops of the King's Horse Guards (Lifeguards) made up the army.[4]

Royalist force[edit]

The royalist force included the following regiments:

The battle[edit]

James Scott, the rebel commander

The Duke eventually led his troops out of Bridgwater at around 10:00 pm to undertake a night-time attack on the King's army. They were guided by Richard Godfrey, the servant of a local farmer, along the old Bristol road towards Bawdrip. With their limited cavalry in the vanguard, they turned south along Bradney Lane and Marsh Lane, and came to the open moor with its deep and dangerous rhynes.[14]

There was a delay while the rhyne was crossed and the first men across startled a royalist patrol. A shot was fired and a horseman from the patrol galloped off to report to Feversham. Lord Grey of Warke led the rebel cavalry forward and they were engaged by the King's Regiment of Horse which alerted the rest of the royalist forces.[4] The superior training of the regular army and their horses enabled them to rout the rebel forces by outflanking them.


A memorial to the battle.

Monmouth escaped from the battlefield with Grey and they headed for the south coast disguised as peasants. They were captured near Ringwood, Hampshire.[4] Monmouth was taken to the Tower of London, where he was, after several blows of the axe, beheaded.[2]

A letter written by the Earl of Shaftesbury in 1787 provides more detail as to Monmouth's capture:[15]

The tradition of the neighbourhood is this: viz. That after the defeat of the Duke of Monmouth at Sedgemoor, near Bridgwater, he rode, accompanied by Lord Grey, to Woodyates, where they quitted their horses; and the Duke having changed clothes with a peasant, endeavoured to make his way across the country to Christchurch. Being closely pursued, he made for the Island, and concealed himself in a ditch which was overgrown with fern and underwood. When his pursuers came up, an old woman gave information of his being in the Island, and of her having seen him filling his pocket with peas. The Island was immediately surrounded by soldiers, who passed the night there, and threatened to fire the neighbouring cotts. As they were going away, one of them espied the skirt of the Duke's coat, and seized him. The soldier no sooner knew him, than he burst into tears, and reproached himself for the unhappy discovery. The Duke when taken was quite exhausted with fatigue and hunger, having had no food since the battle but the peas which he had gathered in the field. The ash tree is still standing under which the Duke was apprehended, and is marked with the initials of many of his friends who afterwards visited the spot.

The family of the woman who betrayed him were ever after holden in the greatest detestation, and are said to have fallen into decay, and to have never thriven afterwards. The house where she lived, which overlooked the spot, has since fallen down. It was with the greatest difficulty that any one could be made to inhabit it.

After the battle, about 500 of Monmouth's troops were captured and imprisoned in St Mary's Parish Church in Westonzoyland, while others were hunted and shot in the ditches where they were hiding. More were hanged from gibbets erected along the roadside. The royalist troops were rewarded, with Feversham being made a Knight of the Garter, Churchill promoted to Major-General and Henry Shires of the artillery receiving a Knighthood. Other soldiers, particularly those who had been wounded, received allowances ranging from £5 to £80. Some of the wounded were among the first to be treated at the newly opened Royal Hospital Chelsea.[4]

The king sent Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys to round up the Duke's supporters throughout the south-west and try them in the Bloody Assizes at Taunton Castle and elsewhere. About 1,300 people were found guilty, many being transported abroad, while some were executed by drawing and quartering.[16] Daniel Defoe, who would later write the novel Robinson Crusoe, had taken part in the uprising and battle. He was heavily fined by Jeffreys, losing much of his land and wealth. Two brothers Benjamin Hewling, a commander of a troop of horse, and William Hewling, lieutenant of foot, were among those condemned to death.[17][18][19] Benjamin Hewling was hanged rather than drawn and quartered following a payment of £1000 by his sister.[20][21]

James II was overthrown in a coup d'état three years later, in the Glorious Revolution.

Last battle on English soil[edit]

The Battle of Sedgemoor is often referred to as the last pitched battle fought on English soil, but this depends on the definition of 'battle', for which there are different interpretations. Other contenders for the title of last English battle include: the Battle of Preston in Lancashire, which was fought on 14 November 1715, during the First Jacobite Rebellion; and the Second Jacobite Rebellion's Clifton Moor Skirmish, near Penrith, Cumberland, on 18 December 1745. The Battle of Culloden, fought on Drumossie Moor to the north-east of Inverness on 16 April 1746, was the last pitched battle fought on British soil.[22]

Cultural references[edit]

The Battle of Sedgemoor is depicted in detail at the climax of the plot in Arthur Conan Doyle's historical adventure novel Micah Clarke.[23] The Battle also appears in Blackmore's Lorna Doone, where the hero arrives on the battlefield as the battle is finishing, and is then escorted home by the King's soldiers to safety.[24] Likewise, The Royal Changeling (1998) by John Whitbourn describes the rebellion, with some fantasy elements added. The Battle of Sedgemoor both opens and concludes the novel.[25] A collection of poems (Sedgemoor), exploring the battle and consequences of the rebellion, was written by poet and academic Malcolm Povey and published by Smokestack Books in 2006. The poems move between 1685 and the present day, as a narrative technique.[26] Povey's book received widespread praise, especially for its originality: "Not many poets try something as different and ambitious as this. It deserves to be widely read."[27] The battle is commemorated in Val Wake's poem "Dead Willows Mourn". Val Wake, the Australian born journalist and author, lived in Westonzoyland from 1973 to 1979.[28] Events surrounding the battle occupy the first few chapters of Rafael Sabatini's novel Captain Blood.[24] The battle is also included/mentioned in the beginning of the 1935 movie Captain Blood.[29]

The battle serves as the historical background to a series of murders in the novel "Down Among the Dead" (2020) by Damien Boyd.

The Sealed Knot re-enactment society have re-enacted important parts of the rebellion's campaign, on the 300th anniversary in 1985, and again in 2005. For the first re-enactment, the folk trio Strawhead produced an album of various songs from the time and written especially, entitled 'Sedgemoor'.[30] The Battle of Sedgemoor was also a central plot in the 1972 HTV series Pretenders, which was broadcast in 13 half-hour episodes.[31] A mural depicting the battle can be found on display at Sedgemoor motorway services on the North carriageway of the M5.[32]


  1. ^ "Battle of Sedgemoor". UK Battlefields resource centre. Archived from the original on 4 December 2007. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  2. ^ a b c "Monmouth's rebellion and the Battle of Sedgemoor". Historic UK. Archived from the original on 2 November 2007. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  3. ^ "Battle of Sedgemoor". UK Battlefields Resource Centre. Archived from the original on 4 June 2008. Retrieved 21 June 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d Whiles, John (1985). Sedgemoor 1685 (2nd ed.). Chippenham: Picton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-948251-00-9.
  5. ^ "Royal Horse Guards: Service". 16 August 2007. Archived from the original on 16 August 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  6. ^ "Royal Horse Guards [UK]". 21 June 2007. Archived from the original on 21 June 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  7. ^ "1st The King's Dragoon Guards: Service". 16 August 2007. Archived from the original on 16 August 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  8. ^ "1st King's Dragoon Guards [UK]". 8 July 2007. Archived from the original on 8 July 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  9. ^ "The Royal Dragoons: Service". 16 October 2007. Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  10. ^ "The Royal Dragoons (1st Dragoons) [UK]". 16 October 2007. Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Grenadier Guards [UK]". 11 October 2007. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  12. ^ "1st Bn, The Royal Scots: Deployments". 15 October 2007. Archived from the original on 15 October 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  13. ^ "The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment) [UK]". 7 October 2007. Archived from the original on 7 October 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  14. ^ Vale, Jessica. "Monmouth Rebellion - Battle of Sedgemoor". Somerset Timeline. Archived from the original on 3 October 2006. Retrieved 21 June 2008.
  15. ^ "History of Monmouth Close". Notes and Queries. 6: 82. December 1849. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  16. ^ "The Battle of Sedgemoor". Britain Express. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  17. ^ Critchley, Macdonald (1998). John Hughlings Jackson: The Father of English Neurology. OUP. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-19-512339-5.
  18. ^ "Monmouth Rebellion — Bloody Assize". Somerset Timeline. Archived from the original on 3 October 2006. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  19. ^ Toulmin, Joshua (1822). The history of Taunton, in the county of Somerset. Printed for J. Poole. p. 512. Benjamin Hewling Battle of Sedgemoor.
  20. ^ Lavenas, Tilly. "The Last English Uprising". Dorset History. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  21. ^ Chung, Sunny. "The Bloody Assizes". The Glorious Revolution. Archived from the original on 8 March 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  22. ^ "The Making of the Union". Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  23. ^ "Micah Clarke : his statement as made to his three grandchildren, Joseph, Gervas,& Reuben, during the hard winter of 1734 ( NOVEL )". Create Space. Retrieved 9 May 2017.[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ a b "The Various Versions of the Sedgemoor Storytellers". The Study. 4 December 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  25. ^ "Royal Changeling". Fantastic Fiction. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  26. ^ "Sedgemoor". Smoke Stack Books. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  27. ^ Review of Sedgemoor in the Penniless Press, issue 24
  28. ^ "Dead Willows Morn". Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  29. ^ Harris, Tim (2015). The Final Crisis of the Stuart Monarchy: The Revolutions of 1688-91 in Their British, Atlantic and European Contexts. Boydell & Brewer. p. 33. ISBN 9781783270446.
  30. ^ Hall, Mike (2013). The Severn Tsunami? The Story of Britain's Greatest Natural Disaster. History Press. ISBN 9780750951753.
  31. ^ "Pretenders (ITV 1972, Frederick Jaeger, Curtis Arden)". Memorable TV. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  32. ^ Jackson, Clare (7 September 2016). "Killer Heels". Times Literary Supplement.

Further reading[edit]

51°06′56″N 2°55′42″W / 51.11556°N 2.92833°W / 51.11556; -2.92833