6th October 1651 - Charles II hides from Roundheads at Heale House

Heale House near Salisbury

On 6th Oct 1651 King Charles II, fleeing from the Roundheads, rode from Trent House in Yeovil to Heale House near Salisbury where he spent the night

Allan Fea in 1908 told the story[1]

It was determined then that Charles should be removed to Heale House, near Salisbury, the seat of Mrs. Hyde," a widow lady who was well acquainted with Dr. Henchman, and upon whose loyalty they could depend.

Ere we follow Charles to Heale, let us look at the old inn near the Close, Lord Wilmot's headquarters, while these important transactions were in progress, which remains to this day but little altered, and still bears the sign of " The King's Arms."[3] This picturesque gabled house stands in St. John's Street, not far from St. Anne's Gate, leading into the Close. The front has been much spoiled by stucco, but the interior is practically the same as in the year 1651. Upstairs is a large room, oak-panelled from ceiling to floor, with a quaint doorway projection, surmounted by antlers, suggestive of one of Nash's drawings. The staircase leading to this room has some odd turns and landings, and from a corridor we get a delightful peep into a little interior quadrangle, the uneven outline of whose red-tiled roof and gabled dormers would delight the eye of an artist.

Directly opposite "The King's Arms," and standing within the precincts of the Close, one side of the building - fronting the street, stands a fine old brick mansion, having in some of its rooms curious hiding-places, as is also the case in a wainscotted summer-house within the grounds. Tradition says that Huit or Hewitt, the landlord of " The King's Arms" in 1651, was an old servant at this house, which during the Civil War was much frequented by Royalists, and was the agent for conveying messages and warnings to those who were in hiding.

There is no record extant to prove who actually resided in this old mansion at this time, but the foregoing tradition and the understanding which evidently existed between the innkeeper and Mr. Coventry relative to secret quarters for Royalist fugitives, inclines one to the belief that he lived here. The hiding place in the summer-house was brought to light in the 1870s. Ine of the large panels was found to open, reealing what appeared to be an ordinary cupboard with shelves, but upon these being removed from the grooves in which they slide a narrow door in the thickness of the wall (and forming a portion of the sid eof the cupboard) can be opened. Passing through this a fugitive could firmly secure it from within by means of an iron hook and staple for that purpose : he could then ascend a flight of steps and pass along under the eaves of the roof to a recess situated over the entrance door, and directly behind the carved facing of the scroll work, wherein is a little chink, so that he could keep on the look-out for the approach of danger.

When first opened this hiding-place was found to contain a seventeenth-century horn tumbler, a mattress, and a handsomely embroidered blue velvet pillow, the last article falling to pieces upon being handled.

On Sunday, October 5, Colonel Robert Phelips rode over to Trent to act hs the kind's Guide to Heale and the next morning, riding as before in front of Juliana Coningsby, Charles, after a sojourn of nineteen days, once more left Trent House.

Colonel Phelips and Peters led the way, and being well acquainted with the country from their previous visits from Salisbury, shaped their course in a north-easterly direction to Wincanton ; a distance of ten miles.

The most direct way would lie through the secluded and orchard-girt villages of Sandford-Orcas, North Cheriton and Charleton Horethorne.

At the last-named village was situated the seat of a Royalist family named Husey, and according to the tradition handed down to this century the party halted here for refreshment, and in the hurry to depart, left behind a curious silver spoon jointed near the bowl, and having engraved upon it a crown and the letters "C. R.". We must take this story for what it's worth, but Charleton undoubetdly ,ust have been passed en route from Trent to Wincanton.

Eight miles farther on, and Mere, on the border of Wiltshire, was reached. "The George Inn," where they put up for a time, has been a good deal modernised. The oldest part faces the yard at the back, but with the exception of a huge fireplace in the bar-parlour - reminding one somewhat of "The Maypole" and "John Willet " - there is but little left contemporary with our story. " King Charles's Stairs " are still pointed out - a stone flight of steps leading to the first floor having nothing remarkable about it ; but why the stairs in particular should be associated with the "merry monarch" we are at a loss to conjecture.

Colonel Phelips, who knew the landlord, was having a drink with him in the cellar, when the latter, noticino- Charles standing aloof from the rest, said: "Thou lookest like a honest fellow. Here's a health to the king." Charles, hesitating in his reply, "made the man expostulate with the colonel, what fellow he had brought."

At Zeals, the ancestral seat of the Grove family, about a mile from Mere, are preserved a cap, stocking and a handkerchief said to have been left by Charles at "the George Inn"

Once more upon their way, the road to Salisbury is in a direct line, nearly due east, but in the seventeenth century this part of the county was but little enclosed, so that the journey to Heale could accomplished if necessary without hardly touching a village ; following the road, in the present day, we go through Hindon, Fonthill, Chilmark. Teffont, Dinton, Harford and Wilton ; here crossing the river Bourne [2]instead of going on to Salisbury, a traveller to Heale would strike to the north, going cross-country to Lower Woodford, situated in the picturesque Amesbury Valley and following the course of the river Avon for half a mile the ancient seat of the Hydes would be reached, the entire distance being close upon twenty miles.

Lord Clarendon says that on the way to Salisbury they passed through the middle of a regiment of horse and afterwards met Desborough, .attended by three or four men who had lodged in the city the night before ; but the Lord Chancellor confounded this with the incidents that occurred in Sussex on the last day of the king's escape, with which we shall have to deal in another chapter.



IN the description ot his adventures, King Charles says he arrived at Heale with Colonel Phelips only but makes no allusion as to where Juliana Coningsby parted with them, for from all accounts she does not appear to be included in the supper party that night (October 6),' but there is no doubt that Peters escorted her back to Trent the next day, so she probably did not accompany the king beyond Salisbury

Charles having had a long conference with Dr. Humphrey Henchman retired to rest, and on the following morning, by the advice of Mrs. Hyde, took horse with Colonel Phelips as if resuming their journey, so as to delude the servants; but, having wiled away the time in the neighbourhood of Stonehenge until it became dusk, they returned and were joined by Dr. Henchman in the fields near the house, who conducted the king to a hiding-place like that at Trent, constructed and utilised at the times of religious persecution. Here he remained until the morning of October 13, unbeknown to the household with the exception of Mrs. Hyde and her sister, who attended personally to his wants.

Colonel Phelips, now that he had safely disposed of his charge, rode over to the house of a friend' living at Newton Tony (nine miles north-east of Heale), taking with him the king's horse to be stabled there until he should again require it."

Mr. Hughes was quite in error in stating that Heale House was pulled down shortly before he wrote in 1830, for though reduced in size to about one-half of its original extent, it is still a good example of the Dutch style of architecture introduced by William III., and though its exterior character has been metamorphosed there is no record of its ever having been _pulled down_, and not until 1835 was it reduced to its present dimensions by fire. The situation of the old house is picturescque. with the winding river Avon in front and a background of noble cedars: the imposing piers at the entrance gate and the venerable stables on the left give the whole an appearance of dignity and importance.

The interior has been much modernised, but there are in some of the rooms vestiges of antiquity : the old kitchen, with its big open fireplace where the king sat and warmed himself upon his arrival, and the spacious cellars are no doubt the original. A carved oak over-mantel and the entrance hall are also worthy of notice, and what is now a very deep cupboard in one of the bedrooms is pointed out as Charles's hiding-place ; but of this we can only say that if it were so, alterations and restorations have swept away what powers of secretion it may once have possessed.

Mrs. Hyde was a first cousin by marriage of Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon - Lawrence Hyde, her husband (who had died before 1651), being the eldest of the eleven sons of Sir Lawrence Hyde of Heale. At the death of Mrs. Hyde the estate passed to her brother-in-law, Robert, the second son of Sir Lawrence, who was knighted at the Restoration, and he, dying without issue, and passing over the daughters of his elder brother, left the property to his brother Alexander, Bishop of Salisbury, and afterwards in default of issue, to the sons of his other brothers, one of whom. Dr. Robert Hyde, cut off the entail, leaving Heale to his sister, and she in 1727 willed it to her son-in-law, Dr. Frampton, whose cousin. William Bowles, Canon of Salisbury, came into possession in 1759. Remaining in the Bowles family for upwards of eighty years, Heale was sold to the Loder family, who held the property until 1892, when, we understand, it again changed hands.

The last representative of the Heale branch of the Hydes was a MrsWindimore (_nee_ Hyde), a grand-niece of Charles II.'s hostess in 1651. This lady, having lost her fortune in the South Sea Bubble affair, was living in 1768 in the recently demolished Lady Dacre's almshouses at Westminster, aged upwards of a hundred years. At her death, it was notified that she was a distant cousin of Queen Anne, whose mother, Anne Hyde (daughter of Lord Clarendon), was James II.'s first wife.

Before tracing the Flight of the King towards the Sussex coast, we must revert for a moment to Lord Wilmot, whom we left at " The King's Arms," Salisbury. From there he rode over to consult with a friend living in Hampshire - Mr. Lawrence Hyde, the second son of Sir Nicholas, and a brother-in-law to Mrs. Hyde, of Heale.

Stopping at this gentleman's house, Hinton-Daubnay, near Hambledon, Wilmot, at his host's recommendation, next rode over to Racton, near Chichester, the seat of his cousin, Colonel George Counter, to consult him as a likely person for procuring a vessel - sleeping at Racton and returning to Hinton-Daubnay the next day, while Colonel Counter hastened to Chichester with the object of transacting for a boat with an acquaintance, Francis Mansel, a merchant of the town. Having ex plained the purport of his visit, they both set out for Brighthelmstone (Brighton), with the object of striking a bargain with Captain Nicholas Tattersal, the master of a small coal-brig, whom Mansel thought would be a likely man. Tattersal, however, had just started for Chichester ; but having put in at Shoreham on his way, a message was sent to him, and a meeting took place on the following day (Saturday, October 11), and it was finally settled that for sixty pounds (which was paid down) the captain should carry over to France, Colonel Gounter's two friends, who were described as being anxious to flee the country on account of a duel which had taken place with a fatal result.

When Colonel Counter arrived at Hinton with the good news, Lord Wilmot immediately despatched Colonel Phelips to Heale to inf<ğrm the king and arrange for his departure thence.

"Early in the morning," says Gount, "his majesty was privately conveyed from Hele, and went on foot at least two miles to Clarendon Park Corner, attended by Dr. Henchman ; then took horse with Colonel Philips. Charles II., however, in his own account, merely says: "At two o'clock in the morning I went out of the house by the back way. and with Robin Philips. met Colonel Gounter and my Lord W ilmot together some fourteen or fifteen miles off." A few additional details, recording a little mishap not mentioned elsewhere, we glean from the Phelips MS.':

"Coll. Phelipps returned on ye 11th of October to Salisbury ; ye same evening Dr. Henchman went to Hele to give notice of ye success, and so prepare ye king to be ready at ye meadow gate opening into ye river. when Coll. Phelipps would bee there by three of ye clock in ye morning with a leade horse for ye king. Accordingly, ye Coll. came to ye place at ye time appointed, but had ye misfortune to have ye king's horse, at ye entring of ye meadow-gate, to brake his bridle & run upp the the river, wch after some short time with noe smal trouble he recovered & brought back, & having in some tolerable manner amended that had been broke, ye king & ye Coll. sett forward for Brighthempson."

Leaving Salisbury on the right, and bearing in a south-easterly direction, the road to Amesbury and Hungerford would be crossed about midway between Heale and the outskirts of Clarendon Park. A few miles further east, and Hampshire is entered ; but no place j being recorded of this day's journey until we come to Warnford Downs, where it had been arranged that Wilmot and Counter should join them, we can only conjecture a cross-country route, via the villages of Titherly, Mottisfont and Twyford, in preference to the old Petersfield road that goes through Stockbridge and Winchester, which latter town would in all probability be avoided.


Mike Faherty [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Footnotes and references

[1] ‘The flight of the king : a full, true, and particular account of the miraculous escape of His Most Sacred Majesty King Charles II after the battle of Worcester’ by Fea, Allan Publication date 1908 URL: https://archive.org/details/flightofkingfull00feaa

[2] This would have been the Nadder or the Wylye, rather than the Bourne

[3] The pub was called the King’s Arms until, perhaps, the early 2010s. It was then, for a time, called something like ‘The Lazy Cow’, and is now called, I think, the chapter House.