In the autumn of the year, Cestrians found themselves embroiled in the civil war which broke out in England ; and as this was one of the proudest and most memorable epochs in our city's history, a condensed sketch of the part she and her sons played therein may not be uninteresting. On the 25th of August, 1642, the commons being then in open rebellion against his majesty, King Charles hoisted his standard at Nottingham, and proclaimed war between himself and the parliament. " Three weeks after this, the king came to Chester, accompanied by a numerous train the incorporated companies of the city received him and conducted him to the Pentice, where he and his suite were entertained. After the banquet, 200L. were presented to his majesty, and half that sum to the Prince of Wales. On the 28th of September, the King proceeded to Wrexham, escorted by the corporation to the city boundary.
War being declared, Chester was deemed
a place of great importance ; and his majesty sent hither Sir Nicholas Byron, with a commission as Colonel-General
of Cheshire, and Governor of Chester. A levy of 300 men was ordered by the citizens, independent of the trained
band and a rate was made for their maintenance.
The outworks and entrenchment's were carried on with such vigour, that in the beginning of the summer, 1643, the mud walls , mounts, bastions, &c. were all completed, and several effective batteries planted.
Byron sent him for answer, that he
was not to be terrified by words, but bade him "come and win the city, if he would have it." The authorities
busied themselves in perfecting the defence's of the city three troops of horse were raised, for the maintenance
of which the citizens assessed themselves according to their abilities, and converted 100l. worth of the city plate
into coin, some of which pieces, stamped with the city arms, still exist in the cabinets of numismatists.
On the 13th of February, 1644, a battle was fought near Boughton, in which the enemy were forced to retire. About 100 of the royalists, chiefly Chester men, fell in this engagement.
On the 19th of September, the parliamentary forces from Beeston Castle advanced to Chester, and immediately transmitted a peremptory summons. Ere an answer could be returned, the enemy made a brisk attack upon the city, but were repulsed with loss the city walls now constituted the only defence of the besieged.
After various skirmishes on each side, the besieging commanders opened a correspondence, which, however, terminated without leading to any result.
By the end of February, 1645, the enemy had succeeded in surrounding the city, and placed garrisons at Hoole, Rowton, Eccleston, Iron-bridge, Upton, &c. In this position affairs remained until the middle of September, when the garrison were gladdened by the news that the king was on his march for the relief of the city. The exultation of the citizens was beyond bounds but there is reason to believe, that in their excess of joy, measures of prudence were grievously neglected.
On the 27th of September, his majesty, with his guards, and Lord Gerard, with the remainder of the horse, marched into the city, amidst the acclamations of the soldiers and citizens. The condition of the garrison now presented a promising appearance .Sir Marmaduke Langdale, as previously arranged, passed the river at Holt, and marching in the direction of Chester, drew up his forces upon Rowton Heath, about two miles from the city, where on the afternoon of the same day, the decisive battle took place the parliamentary forces, under Major-General Poyntz, totally routing the royalists. His majesty, attended by Sir Francis Gamull, and Alderman Cowper, had the mortification to witness the rout of his army from the leads of the Phoenix tower. On the following day the royal fugitive took his departure for Denbigh Castle. On the 29th of September , the besiegers effected a breach near the Newgate, and at night made an assault, but were repulsed. On October 7th, the city was surrounded by their horse, and a violent assault made inn several places. For a long time the conflict was doubtful; at length the assailants, having gained the top of the Walls, were again beaten off, thrown down, and killed. From this time the parliamentary commander despaired of taking the city by assault, and immediately converted the siege into a close blockade a high compliment to the gallantry of the inhabitants of Chester.
The beginning of 1646 found the garrison
in want of the common necessaries of life, being so reduced as to be compelled to feed upon horses, dogs, and cats.
In this extremity the garrison rejected nine different summonses, nor, till they received assurances that there
was no hope of succour, did they answer the tenth. The negotiations occupied six days, when conditions were agreed
to that the garrison should march out with the honours of war, and that all the ammunition ,stores, &c. in
the castle, be delivered up without injury to the besieging army .in conformity with these articles, the brave
and loyal city of Chester, which had held out twenty weeks beyond expectation, being reduced by famine to the utmost
extremity, was, upon the 3rd of February, 1646, surrendered up to the parliamentary forces. For two years, nothing
had been heard but the sound of warlike preparations, and during most of that time the citizens were inclosed within
their Walls, the victims of starvation and constant apprehension. The incessant drains upon their property for
the maintenance of the garrison, and the support of their fugitive prince, had leveled the different classes of
the community to one common condition of beggary. The whole suburbs presented an undistinguishable mass of ruins,
while the Walls and edifices within the city were defaced or battered down by the destructive cannon. In addition
to this, the city lands were all mortgaged, the funds quite exhausted, the plate melted and the churches particularly
St. Johns, being so long in possession of the enemy, greatly damaged .