1655, John Blackmore, army major, asks for his troops’ fuel and candle supplier to be paid so they can keep warm over the winter

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1650s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, John Blackmore, on behalf of the officers and soldiers of General Disbrowe’s regiment. SP 18/94 f. 46 (1655).

To the right honourable his highnesse councell

The humble petition of John Blackmore major to Generall Disbrowes regiment on behalfe of the officers and soldiers of the said regiment.

Humbly sheweth.

That two troopes of the said regiment are every night upon the guard at the mewes.

That since November the first they have had three bushells of coales, and one pound of candles to each troope allowed them, and provided by one Daniel Wynne the keeper of the mewes.

That the said Wynne, refuseth to supply the said guard any longer, for that hee is much in arreare, and hath been informed that hee is not like to be paid out of contingences as formerly, nor is there any way open for his satisfacton; soe that the officers and soldiers in the said regiment are like to bee put upon great streights in this cold season.

Therefore hee humbly praies, that this honourable councell would forthwith grant their order for moneys to pay the said arreares, and to provide this most necessary expence without which they are not able to doe the duty one night comfortably.

And your petitioner shall pray etc

J: Blackmore

Report by Mary Wiggins

In his petition of, John Blackmore, a Major in the regiment commanded by John Disbrowe, explained that the regiment’s officers and soldiers were engaged in guard duty ‘at the mews’. Daniel Wynne, keeper of the mews, was no longer providing coal and candles as he was owed for the supplies already made available. Major Blackmore asked that the Council provide money to clear Wynne’s arrears, as without these provisions the regiment could not in the cold season ‘do the duty one night comfortably’. The petition arrived on 11 January 1655 and was immediately followed by an order for payment to Wynne.[1]

John Blackmore

John Blackmore was the son of John Blackmore of Exeter, Devon. He attended Exeter College, Oxford and was awarded a BA on 16 January 1640 and an MA on 19 May 1649 when he was a Major in the army (he is listed as a Major in Disbrowe’s regiment from 1648). In April 1650 the Council enrolled Blackmore in its campaign against disaffected ministers in Exeter. John Blackmore was also a politician and was elected as an MP for Tiverton in Devon in the first Protectorate Parliament but this election was called void. He then sat for a seat in Cornwall, the combined seat of East and West Looe.  He was also the High Sheriff of Devon in 1657.[2]

John Disbrowe

John Disbrowe (or Desborough), 1608-1680, was the younger son of James Disbrowe of Eltisley, Cambridgeshire. He was baptised in November 1608 in Eltisley and died in London in 1680. He married one of Oliver Cromwell’s sisters, Jane, in June 1636. Disbrowe was a leading Parliamentarian army officer and politician, the first Major-General to be commissioned. He was a member of Oliver Cromwell’s cavalry regiment at the start of the Civil War and distinguished himself in subsequent campaigns. He commanded the field army and the garrisons in the south west from December 1649 with his headquarters in Salisbury. He became active as a militia commissioner and for three years from 1650 to 1653 was the main figure in both military and civil government in the west country. In September 1651 he fought in the Battle of Worcester as a Major-General and almost captured King Charles II near Salisbury. In March 1655, he was appointed Major-General of the western counties, with wide-ranging civil and military powers to suppress the Penruddock uprising. His role became a model for the Rule of the Major Generals, established in October 1655. Despite the family links he had to the Cromwell family, Disbrowe opposed the potential attempt of Oliver Cromwell to assume the crown. After the Restoration he escaped to the Netherlands, was then subsequently ordered home in April 1666 and imprisoned in the Tower of London from July 1666 to February 1667.[3]

There is no information as to the precise whereabouts of Disbrowe’s regiment in the winter of 1654/55. What is known is that after the Battle of Worcester in 1651 it served in England but had ‘a rather uneventful time’.[4] Guarding a mews appears to be one aspect of this humdrum existence.

Civil role of the army

The army was often heavy involved in local administration from 1649 to 1660. They carried out various tasks such as guarding timber, watching over local supplies, guarding and moving state prisoners, transferring the pay of the fleet and providing a military escort for judges on circuit. Soldiers also policed disturbances, protests and riots, with troops being quartered in the relevant areas where necessary.

Rule of the Major-Generals

The rule of the Major-Generals was a 15-month period of direct military government during the Protectorate. The first Protectorate Parliament failed so Oliver Cromwell did not want to continue to try to work with civilian politicians. Moreover, a series of Royalist conspiracies and uprisings made him decide to adopt stringent security measures. During August and September 1655, he worked with John Lambert, John Disbrowe and Sir Gilbert Pickering to set up a new system. The Major-Generals were formally commissioned in October 1655. The country was divided into 12 regions, each governed by a Major-General who was directly answerable to the Lord Protector. John Disbrowe was appointed as Major-General for Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucester, Somerset and Wiltshire.[5]


[1] ‘Volume 94: January 1655’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1655, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1881), pp. 1-30, British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/interregnum/1655/pp1-30.

[2] ‘John Blackmore’, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Blackmore; ‘Colonel Bartholomew Vermuyden’s Regiment of Horse’, BCW Project, http://wiki.bcw-project.org/new-model-army/horse-regiments/bartholomew-vermuyden; Henry Reece, The Army in Cromwellian England (2013), pp. 144-45.

[3] ‘John Disbrowe (Desborough) 1608-80’, BCW Project, http://bcw-project.org/biography/john-disbrowe; ‘John Desborough, English Soldier’, Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Desborough; Roberts, Stephen K. “Disbrowe [Desborough], John (bap. 1608, d. 1680), parliamentarian army officer and politician.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004, https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.bbk.ac.uk/10.1093/ref:odnb/7542.

[4] ‘Colonel Bartholomew Vermuyden’s Regiment of Horse’, BCW Project, http://wiki.bcw-project.org/new-model-army/horse-regiments/bartholomew-vermuyden.

[5] ‘Rule of the Major-Generals’, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_the_Major-Generals#:~:text=The%20Major-Generals%20and%20their%20regions%20%20%20,on%20t%20…%20%206%20more%20rows%20.