On Friday 5th of September 1651 the future king Charles II hid in a Shropshire barn. It was Francis Wolfe of madley who provided this shelter from imprisonment and death, as Charles fled from defeat at the Battle of Worcester. Years later, after his restoration to the throne, the king gave a magnificent silver tankard to the Wolfe family in recognition of their kindness and bravery in concealing him. “King Charles’ barn” still stands in Madeley today.
|King Charles II of England|
What actually happened?
After his campaign went badly and finally finished at Worcester in 1651, Charles fled north out the Worcester and rode through the night, arriving in Shropshire on the morning of Thursday 4th. One of his companions advised him to make for “White Ladies”, a large timber-framed house on the site of a medieval nunnery. The property was owned by a Catholic family sympathetic to the Royal cause. The owners were away, but luckily for Charles, their servants the Penderel family were staunchly Royalist.
They gave Charles some bread and cheese, disguised him as a woodcutter and hid him in Spring Coppice, a nearby wood. Just an hour later a company of parliamentary soldiers arrived and searched the area but failed to find the royal fugitive. Thet evening Charles travelled with Richard Penderel to Hobbal Grange where Richard lived with his mother, Jane. They ate a meal and set off westward.
|The Penderel grant, 1675. Letters Patent of Charles II granted at Westminster 24 July 1675 in generous recognition of the help given by the Penderel family|
Charles hoped to cross the River Severn and make for a Welsh port to sail to France. The pair headed for madeley, planning to cross the River at a ferry point, probably near Coalport. They had a scare at Evelith Mill (near Kemberton) where they ewre challenged by the miller and ran away down a “very deep and very dirty lane” and hid behind a hedge in fear of pursuit.
|King Charles II disguised to woodcutter|
They arrived in Madeley early on the Friday 5th September and made for Upper House, home of Francis Wolfe, a Roman Catholic known for his Royalist sympathies. According to the King’s own account, dictated to diarist Samuel Pepys 30 years later, Richard Penderel asked Francis Wolfe to shelter “one that had escaped from the battle of Worcester” Wolfe replied “I would not venture my neck for any man unless it was the King himself”, Penderel now revealed the true identity of his companion, and Wolfe offered to “venture all he had in the world to secure him”.
|Upper House barn, or The King's barn, today|
That evening they decided there were too many soldiers to risk the river crossing and instead they headed back east. This time they made for Boscobel House, another property in the care of the Penderel family. Charles arrived at Boscobel on Saturday 6th September and was obliged to spend most of the day hiding in the now famous “Royal Oak” while soldiers scoured the woods for escaped Royalists from the Battle. He was able to return to the house for the night and left on Sunday evening for Moseley Old Hall near Wolverhampton.
Charles later made it to Bristol, disguised as the groom of Mistress Jane Lane of Bentley Hall, Staffordshire. After Many more adventures he eventually left British shores from the south coast in October 1651, in the coal brig Surprise to seek shelter in France. Here he remained in exile until 1660 when Parliament invited him back to resume the throne.
|The King and Jane Lane heading the coast|