Colyton Parish History Society

Colyton -- The Most Rebellious Town in Devon

Colyton, Rebel Town

1685. Against the wishes of the Protestant majority, the Catholic James II was crowned king in 1685.  Four months later on the 24th May his nephew the Duke of Monmouth, exiled in Holland, sailed to England hoping to raise an army to overthrow the king.  He landed on the coast of Dorset with 83 followers and began a recruitment march; he arrived at Lyme Regis on 11th June 1685.

Colyton's  peace and prosperity  were overshadowed by the increasing influence of Catholics and the resulting persecution of the dissenters who were in the majority in Colyton. In fact Colyton was one of the main areas of religious dissent in East Devon. As a result 105 Colyton men (more than any other Devon town) chose to follow the Protestant Duke of Monmouth. Troops loyal to the king were also active in the town and valley trying to prevent others from joining the rebellion.

Most of the Colyton rebels were hard working tradesmen who would not have joined the rebellion if they had been free to worship in their own way. Yeoman Roger Satchel known for his strong anti-papist views emerged as their local leader. Generally only one member of a family joined the rebels, but exceptionally there were six Bagwells and three named French. The youngest rebel, John Abraham aged 14 had only just married.

None had experience of battle but they believed that widespread popularity for the cause and sheer force of numbers would win the day. Sadly, inadequate preparation, tactical errors and fatal misjudgements resulted in defeat at the battle of Sedgemoor. Monmouth had failed to ensure the support of the gentry in advance of his landing.

An unknown number of Colyton men were killed in the battle and thirty three were taken prisoner.  Those that escaped faced long lonely days on the run, hiding in hedgerows and deserted barns.
Some made it back to Colyton but were either captured or betrayed. Zachary Drover aged 21, was found hiding under a water wheel but was one of the few who were pardoned. Many were hanged and others were sent into slavery.

The book The Most Rebellious Town in Devon gives a full account of that period of history and the rebels' individual experiences. Click the Publications button on the menu for full details.

Click HERE for a list of Colyton rebels, their details and their fate.

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