AN ESSAY IN HISTORY AND HERALDRY

by Rafe de Crespigny June 2020

Photo © Mike Searle (cc-by-sa/2.0)

William Barnston (1592-1665) of Churton, a village some seven miles/twelve kilometres south of Chester, was among the royalist defenders of that city against the attacks of parliamentary forces and the final siege of 1645-1646.[1] He was imprisoned for a time after the Civil War and was obliged to pay a fine to the Interregnum government before he could return to his estates.[2] The area had suffered heavy damage during the war, but soon after the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 Barnston was able to rebuild his parish church of St Chad at nearby Farndon, and he added a chapel with a memorial panel to his experience of the war and a window commemorating his comrades of Chester.[3]

After general conflict in Cheshire between royalists and parliamentarians, the parliamentarian forces under Sir William Brereton (1604-1661) established supremacy in the county. Chester, held out as a royalist stronghold, however, and was important as an entry-port for troops from Wales and Ireland. After some early attacks in 1643 and 1644, full siege was laid in September 1645. The city held out for several months, repelling many assaults, but as supply lines were cut the people were faced with starvation, and the garrison surrendered in February of the following year.

After three and a half centuries it is not surprising that the Farndon window has suffered damage and decay: one panel at the top is missing and many details are blurred. By good fortune, however, a coloured copy was made in the early nineteenth century and an engraving of it was published in Ormerod’s History of Cheshire:[4]

In the Barnston chancel …[is] a curious historical subject, which was rescued from a state of extreme decay, and repaired at the expence of the late dean of Chester. It is represented in the attached engraving, on a scale reduced about two-thirds from a fac-simile drawing, which was executed under the inspection of the dean, when the glass was in his possession.

The Dean of Chester was Hugh Cholmondeley (1773-1815), who held that office at Chester Cathedral from 1806 until his death, four years before Ormerod published his History. In the engraving, the blank panel at the top is occupied by a title sheet with an attribution to his patronage.[5]

The engraving is presented on a two-page spread-sheet. It is certainly clearer than the photographs, and given that it was prepared under supervision we may accept it as a fair reproduction. A full copy appears at the end; details are used for comparison and clarification in this essay.

The window is divided into four registers, with four larger panels in the centre, four each across the top and bottom, and four each again in column on either side. Since the overall measurement is no more than 28 inches/72 centimetres high and 18 inches/46 centimetres wide, the twenty pictures are all quite small.

The four central panels have a display of arms, armour and other equipment, and the one in the upper left also shows an officer standing outside a tent and carrying a baton of command. From the shield part-hidden behind him: or, three mallets sable [yellow, with three black wooden hammers], he can be identified as Sir Francis Gammul (1606-1654). A former mayor of Chester, when King Charles raised his standard at Nottingham and issued a call to arms in August 1642 he raised troops in the city and brought a contingent to join him. He played a leading role in the defence of the city and was made a baronet in 1644.[6]

Sir Francis Gamull
central pictures, top left hand and on the right in the engraving from the Cholmondeley copy. The shield of Sir Francis, with a baronet’s insignia, is shown in the middle,
with a more detailed illustration of the insignia – a red [gules] left hand – below

Eight small pictures on either side of the window show figures of armoured infantrymen with muskets and pikes, and in four larger pictures across the base there are a pikeman, a junior officer bearing a flag, a flute-player and a drummer.[7] In his discussion of the window, Colonel Field notes that the figures are based upon contemporary drawings published in France by the engraver and water-colourist Abraham Bosse (c.1604-1676): styles were the same on both sides of the Channel.

Like Sir Francis Gamull, the flag-bearer can be identified by the shield in the corner of his picture: the shield is black, with three white greyhounds, surrounded by a white border [sable, three greyhounds courant argent, within a bordure of the last]. This was the insignia of the Berington family of Cheshire, and the top of the shield has a “label of three points” – a bar with three pendants – indicating that he is an eldest son whose father is still living.

Ensign Hugh [?] Berington
Lowest register, third from left and to the right is the image from the Cholmondley copy. In the centre is the shield of Hugh Berington.

The senior lineage of the Berington family had held the estates of Bradwall and Moores-barrow, a short distance southeast of Middlewich in Cheshire, but they passed by marriage to the Oldfield family in the late sixteenth century. A cadet branch, however, still held property at Warmingham, some five kilometres/three miles south of Middlewich, and Hugh Berington was baptised there in 1626.[8] In 1644 Hugh would have been eighteen, and Ensign – equivalent to a second lieutenant at the present day – was an appropriate rank for a young gentleman.

Of the four larger pictures at the top of the window, the one on the left has been destroyed, and there is no way to tell whom or what it may have shown. The three remaining have images of Sir Richard Grosvenor, Sir William Mainwaring, and William Barnston the sponsor of the window itself.

The upper register of the window:
above: from a modern photograph of the original window [Photo © Mike Searle (cc-by-sa/2.0)];
below: from the Cholmondeley copy in volume II of Ormerod, History.
Flanked by armoured pikeman, the three officers are identified by their shields:
Richard Grosvenor              Sir William Mainwaring     William Barnston
  • The shield of the Grosvenor family, blue with a yellow sheaf of grain [azure, a garb or] is marked at the top by a label of three points, indicating that – like Ensign Berington above – Richard Grosvenor is the eldest son and his father is living.
  • A label also appears on the shield of William Mainwaring. In his case, however, his father Edmund was a second son, so the family shield of two red bars on a white ground [argent, two bars gules] is also differenced by a crescent for cadency.
  • The Barnston shield is complex: blue with an indented bar of speckled with black across the centre, and six complex yellow crosses [azure, a fess dancettée ermine between six cross-crosslets or (ermine is a formulaic rendering of the animal’s fur)]. It does not, however, have any marks of difference, so William Barnston was the head of his family.

The colours in the window have been affected by age and in several places they are uncertain. Where the Cholmondeley copy, for example, has sashes in differing colours and Gamull and Grosvenor with yellow coats, Field argues that all the sashes and the senior officers’ jackets were originally red.[9] With the handsome headgear, this was parade dress; Barnston, however, was wearing the long, close-fitting “buff coat” of heavy leather, often made from buffalo- or ox-hide, which gave basic protection in combat.            

As pictured in the side columns of the window, some pikemen bore half-armour of metal plate over the leather. Such corselets, however, were heavy to wear and were going out of use, while musketeers had sufficient problems with their weapons. Two shown in the side panels are holding “matchlocks,” dangerous and erratic and requiring a pole to rest upon, but even the new, lighter “firelocks” shown in the other pictures were awkward to manage. Horsemen, like William Mainwaring’s cousin Philip, carried pistols and swords and were often armoured, but the soldiers in the Farndon window were defending a city and had no use for cavalry.[10]

The upper right panel in the centre of the window displays some items of armour, and the photograph shows a suit of the period, thought to have been worn by Philip Mainwaring; it is now in his tomb chapel at the church of St Lawrence in Over Peover.
Photo © Mike Searle (cc-by-sa/2.0)

William Barnston, who had the Farndon window made in the early 1660s, has already been discussed, while nothing more is known of Ensign Berington – even his identification as the Hugh Berington baptised at Warmingham in 1626 is uncertain. We can, however, offer a brief account of the other officers shown in the window:

  • Following the surrender of Chester in 1646, Sir Francis Gamull was able to compound for his estates, but in 1654 he joined a rising against the newly-established Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. The rebellion was defeated and Francis Gamull was executed. He left no sons, and the baronetcy was extinguished.
  • The Grosvenor family of Eaton Hall in Eccleston, just to the south of Chester, were leading gentry of the county. As a member of Parliament in the 1620s, Sir Richard Grosvenor (1585-1645) had been a strong supporter of the royal interest, and he had been made a baronet by King Charles in 1622. His son, also Richard Grosvenor (c.1604-1665) was High Sheriff of Cheshire in 1643 and raised troops in the royal cause.

Richard Grosvenor succeeded to the baronetcy at his father’s death in 1645, and later generations of the family became increasingly successful and prosperous. The present-day Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, one of the wealthiest men in England, is a direct descendant, and Eaton Hall in Cheshire is his country house.

  • William Mainwaring (c.1616-1645) had been a Sergeant-Major of the troop brought by Sir Francis Gamull to join the king’s forces when he raised his standard at Nottingham in 1642. William took part in the campaign which led to the battle of Edgehill on 23 October, first engagement of the civil war, and he was knighted by the king at Oxford in January of the following year.

William’s father Edmund (1579-c.1650) was a younger son of Sir Randle Mainwaring of Over Peover (d.1612), some fifty kilometres/thirty miles east of Chester. While many gentlemen of the time determined their allegiance in the war through family interest and local alliances rather than by any political or religious conviction, the Mainwarings were divided. Philip Mainwaring of Over Peover, whose armour is shown above, was a son of Sir Randle and first cousin of William, but as William defended Chester for the king Philip was commanding a troop of cavalry in the parliamentary army.

Sir William Mainwaring was killed in October 1645, fighting on the walls of Chester. It was reported that he had been wounded by musket-shot under the arm and died on the following day. His widow Hester was left with two daughters and an infant son, who died a few months later. The elder daughter Hester had no children, but Judith married John Busby, who was knighted by Charles II in recognition of the service given by his father-in-law, and their daughter Hester married Thomas Egerton of Tatton Park near Knutsford in Cheshire; her descendants became barons and earls.

Engraved copy of the Civil War window prepared for the Very Reverend Hugh Cholmondeley, Dean of Chester, in the early nineteenth century; reproduced in Ormerod, History, volume II, between pages 408 and 409.

[1]       There is a general history of the war in Cheshire in The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester: compiled from original evidences in public offices, the Harleian and Cottonian mss., parochial registers, private muniments, unpublished ms. collections of successive Cheshire antiquaries, and a personal survey of every township in the county; incorporated with a republication of King’s Vale Royal, and Leycester’s Cheshire Antiquities, by George Ormerod (1785-1873), 3 volumes, Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor and Jones, London 1819 [archive.org] Ormerod, History I, xxxv-xxxviii, and a modern account in “Early Modern Chester 1550-1762: the civil war and interregnum, 1642-60,” 115-125; digitised by British History Online [BHO] from A History of the County of Chester, Volume 5 Part 1 “The City of Chester: General History and Topography,” published by Victoria County History, London 2003; online at british-history.ac.uk/vch/ches/vol5/pt1/pp115-125.

[2]       After the victory of Parliament in the civil war, gentlemen who had fought on the royalist side did not suffer a direct confiscation of their estates, but had to pay in order to keep them. The process was known as “compounding.”

[3]       The window is discussed, with photographs, at the following websites:

http://www.stchadschurchfarndon.org.uk/55.html;

https://vidimus.org/issues/issue-44/panel-of-the-month/;

              and https://vidimus.org/issues/issue-59/ feature/.

There is also an article on “Army Uniforms in a Stained Glass Window in Farndon Church, Cheshire – temp Charles I,” by Colonel C Field, in Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research V.22, 174-177 [https://www.jstor.org/stable/44227597].

There is an account of William Barnston at https://landedfamilies.blogspot.com/ 2020/01/403-barnston-of-churton-hall-and-crewe.html.

I also acknowledge the most impressive and helpful site cheshire-heraldry.org.uk, described as “A web site dedicated to the art and science of heraldry in the County Palatine of Chester.” It provides a quantity of information, with excellent sources, and has impressive illustrations.

[4]       Ormerod, History II, page 408. This introductory paragraph is followed by another with a description of the contents, which has been drawn upon for some of the discussion which follows.

[5]       His dates of appointment are given by Ormerod, History I, 221. Reproductions from the engraving are referred to below as the Cholmondeley copy.

[6]       Ormerod notes disagreement whether Sir Francis received a baronetcy or only a knighthood, and the shield in the window is unclear, but the Cholmondeley copy shows the red hand, insignia of baronetcy, in the centre of his shield.

[7]       Field, “Army Uniforms,” 176.

[8]       https://www.findmypast.com.au/search/results?lastname=berington&keywordsplace_proximity+20& eventyear=1644&eventyear_offset=20&sourcecounty=england.

[9]       “Army Uniforms,” 175.  He suggests that five bars [Gamull and Grosvenor] may have indicated a colonel, four [Mainwaring] a lieutenant-colonel, and three [Barnston]

[10]      “… two men of Captain Mainwaring:” Alice Thornton, quoted in Roger Hudson [editor], The Grand Quarrel: from the Civil War memoirs of Mrs Lucy Hutchison; Mrs Alice Thornton; Ann, Lady Fanshawe; Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle; Anne, Lady Halkett, & the letters of Brilliana, Lady Harley, Folio Society, London 1993, page 92.

[11]      Summary accounts of weapons, armour and tactics at this time appear in Austin Woolrych, Battles of the English Civil War, published first by Batsford, London 1961, then by Pan 1966, at 100-101; and William Seymour, Battles in Britain and their political background, volume 2 (1642-1746), Sidgwick and Jackson, London 1975 and Book Club Associates 1976, at 26-27.

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