1642-1649: Walkern in the Civil War

by janet on 16 October 2012 · 3 comments

Walkern in the Civil War

Adapted from Walkern Local History Notes by H & M Venster

We have related elsewhere how the Rev. John Gorsuch was replaced by the Rev. Nathaniel Ward during the period of the Civil War.

Walkern appears to have been on the side of Parliament and in 1643 whilst Ward was Rector the Solemn League and Covenant was signed in Walkern Church.

The Solemn League and Covenant was an agreement between the Scottish Covenanters and the leaders of the English Parliamentarians. The Protestant leaders of the embattled English parliament, faced with the threat of Irish Catholic troops joining with the Royalist army, requested the aid of the Scots. The Presbyterian Covenanters promised their aid against the ?papists?, on condition that the Scottish system of church government was adopted in England. This was acceptable to the majority of the English Long Parliament, as many of them were Presbyterians, while others preferred allying with the Scots to losing the Civil War.

The Covenant bound the English to the “reformation of religion in the Church of England according to the example of the best reformed churches and according to the Word of God”. A Sunday was set apart on which the minister read the terms of the Covenant from the pulpit, the whole congregation being “uncovered” and then signifying assent by raising their right hands bare. Their names, or their marks to which their names were added, were signed in the Churchwarden’s Book.

The signing of the Covenant might be regarded as an attempt by the Scots to make the English adopt the Presbyterian form of service. It was certainly pro-Parliament and anti-Royalist. Consequently when Charles II was restored to the throne all records offensive to the post-Restoration clergy were generally destroyed. But Walkern’s record still exists. The lists of names have been torn out of the Churchwarden’s Book and lie before us as we write these notes. There are 82 signatories and well over 50 using marks to indicate that they were not literate and could not write their own names. Surnames appearing in the list that may be of present-day interest are Chawkley, Yonge, Edwards and Wright.

Before leaving the subject of the Parliamentary wars another interesting document is worth mentioning. It was sent by the “Militia of the county of Harts to Wm Capell for Walkhorne”. It commands him to send to the King’s Arms in Hertford “one able horse, bridle and saddle, with burrs, his rider armed with sword, back, brest, headpeece, and a pair of pistolls at his saddle-bowe”. The Capels, who were Lords of the Manor at Walkern were not in sympathy with the cause of Parliament. And Arthur Capel was later executed in 1645 and the manor was forfeited. It was then bestowed on Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who received the command of the Parliamentary army. Personally he was brave but he proved to be a very poor general. He died in 1646 and his title died with him. At the Restoration, Arthur Capel, son of the executed Arthur Capel, who “had sealed his loyalty with his blood”, had not only the manor restored to him but the title, Earl of Essex, was revived in his favour. The Earls of Essex continued their connection with Walkern. The Capel family lived at Hadam Hall until they moved to Cassiobury.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John Flewin December 3, 2019 at 9:08 am

Hi Janet (if you are still there after seven years). I’ve been researching the Humberstones (actually, Humbastones) of Walkern. Did you ever get back to that list of those who signed the covenant in 1643 and, if so, were there any Humbastones among the signees?


Carole Moulton November 19, 2012 at 10:42 am


I have waited 30 years to break down the brick wall in my family history that links me to the Chawkleys of Walkern but having done that (through a bequest of land) what a gem to find that they are recorded in this way at such a time! My 8x great grandfather was Edward Chalkley, yeoman (1613-1665), and the land that was later divided between two of his grandsons was Five Acre Close and Church End Field (also a plot of about five acres).

Where can I see whether Edward is amongst those signing up? And does anybody have any information that would help me discover the present-day location of his farmland?

Carole (Chalkley)


Janet Woodall November 19, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Hi Carole
The list of those in Walkern who signed the covenant in 1643 is in a folder of notes, newspaper cuttings and pictures about the church and Rectory, ref DP 114/29/10 held at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) in Hertford. It is one of the documents I also want to transcribe, but haven’t got around to yet. Is it possible for you to get to HALS to photograph the document? If not, I will be able to do it at some point but not sure quite when…

I’m sure I can help pinpoint 5 Acre Close and Church End Field for you – I’ll email you separately with my findings.
With best wishes


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