Brunswick Square, then ‘Gaudy Green’, played a key role in changing the course of English History. In 1643, the King’s troops were on the ascendant across the south of England. Charles I’s troops, led by Prince Rupert, the quick-thinking, energetic and combative commander of the Royalist cavalry, had enjoyed a series of important military victories, culminating in the fall of Cirencester. They then faced a decision; whether to turn and attack a weakened London, or take Gloucester, and connect with Royalist forces in Wales by securing the most southerly crossing point of the River Severn.
The King decided at a Council of War in Bristol that the Royalists would attempt a rapid capture of Gloucester, and set in course a series of events that would change the course of the Civil War, and provide a source of inspiration for a popular children’s folk song.
Gloucester residents and the Parliamentarian army were challenged to surrender, but their leader, Colonel Edward Massey steadfastly refused. The King’s Army established a battery of cannon and army camp on the site of Gaudy Green. Strategically, the Royalists had to break down the Parliamentarian support and control in Gloucester to secure the river crossing.
From Gaudy Green, the Royalists attempted to dig tunnels leading under the City walls, where Parliament Street is today. The King used these tunnels to send in spies and infiltrate the rebel city, as well as attempt to blow up the city walls themselves. Aided by flooding and successful forays to sabotage the Royalist Camp on Gaudy green, the City’s resistance was resolute but supplies short. In an attempt to turn the tide of the Siege, Prince Rupert had a huge cannon brought from the Low Countries up the river Severn and set it up near Gaudy Green. Unfortunately the inexperienced gunners only succeeded in blowing their own cannon into pieces, this failed intervention is thought to be a likely source of the Nursery Rhyme ‘Humpty Dumpty’, all the King’s horses and all the King’s men being unable to reassemble the cannon.
After several weeks the siege was lifted, the Royalist army had been delayed, their advances across the country stalled. London had time to receive reinforcements and Gloucester became a stronghold for Parliamentarian forces as they harried Royalist forces and repeatedly cut their lines of communication from their wartime Capital in Oxford to the west.
The resistance of Gloucester to Royalist forces changed the course of the Civil War, a war that would result in fundamental reform to Parliamentary Democracy and the foundation of the modern United Kingdom of Great Britain. Brunswick’s Square holds an important place in that history; key moments on Gaudy Green could have turned the tide of the Civil War.
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