The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

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Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Stour Valley Riots

The people of Melford attacked Melford Hall and partially destroyed it in 1642. Why they did so is not altogether clear. Of course, there was considerable unreast leading up to the Civil Wars, but the rioters supported neither side and both Royalists and Parlimantarians were quick to condemn them. The Countess of Rivers was the widow of Sir Thomas Savage. Her father was Count Rivers and she inherited his title and great wealth on his death. Evidently, when the mob went into action, they first attacked The Countess of Rivers' mansion in St Osyth and pursued her to Melford where all the furnishings were carried off, and the deer in the park were taken. She was a prominent catholic. There were other attacks on prominent catholics at the time, including Sir Francis Mannock at Stoke by Mayland. There was mounting disorder in East Anglia then, due to rising unemployment as the once-prosperous cloth industry went into collapse, and both the Royalists and the Parliamentarians gained recruits from the fear of the anarchy of the mob. The Parliamentary gentry under Sir Nathaniel Barnardiston did their best to regain order. This makes it seem unlikely that it was a parlimentarian mob that sacked the place. It is true that The Countess Rivers was an enthusiastic royalist who subsequently lost her fortune to the royalist cause, and died in a debtors prison, but this attack seems to have been for a different reason.

At the time of the run-up to the civil War, the popular press was convinced that the Pope wished to overturn Anglicanism by stirring up the civil War. Pamphlets spoke of 'The Devil's counsel to the Pope' which was 'to cut them off by some damnable plot, by your adherents among them confiscate their pernicious parliament, destroy and put to the sword the princilpe men thereof, confound them in their devices by civil mutiny.Strangely, other prominent catholic recusant families, such as the Waldegraves, escape the attentions of the mob. In fact the mob was said to have pursued the Countess of Rivers to Melford from St Osyths, which implies that it was not part of random attacks against catholics but was directed particularly against the unlucky Countess.


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