David Flintham - Military Historian
The ECW defences of London
The ECW defences of London
At the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, London was the country’s chief port and financial centre, the seat of government and, in the Tower of London, the nation’s chief arsenal. With London so strategically important, by fleeing the capital at the beginning of 1642, King Charles I placed his cause at a distinct disadvantage. To many Parliamentarians, it was obvious that the King would attempt to regain the capital, by force if necessary. So, between the autumn of 1642 and the spring of 1643, an 18-km circuit of forts and bulwarks connected by ramparts and ditches was thrown up around London. It was the largest feat of military engineering undertaken anywhere in the country during the conflict and at the time was amongst the largest urban defence systems in Europe.
Above is George Vertue's map from the 18th century superimposed on a map of modern London (with thanks to Charles Blackwood of the Fortress Study Group for his assistance with this). Hyde Park fort is one of the two forts highlighted (the other is close to the site of the Imperial War Museum). In 1644, the Prague-born engraver Wenceslaus Hollar draw this fort. His sketch can be viewed at the John Rylands Library (click here to view a digitised version - Hyde Park fort is the subject of the two drawings on the right-hand side of page 31). Vertue's plan should be treated with a degree of caution.
There is new research into London's fortifications currently underway. The research will be published in due course.
Over the years, much of my research into London's Civil War defences has been published. The published works are:
- ‘The Topography of the Lines of the Communication - Mapping the Civil War Defences of London’ in London Topographical Society Newsletter, 45, (London Topographical Society, 1997)
- ‘Archaeological investigations into the English Civil War Defences of London’ in London Archaeologist, 8, (London Archaeologist, 1998)
- ‘Whitechapel Mount and the London Hospital’ (http://www.mernick.org.uk/thhol/whimount.html - Tower Hamlets History Online, 1999)
- ‘Whitechapel Mount’, Fort, 35, (Fortress Study Group, 2007)
- ‘London's Fort Royal’, Casemate, 80, (Fortress Study Group, 2007)
- London in the Civil War, (Partizan Press, 2008)
- ‘Civil War fortifications of London’ (http://www.fortified-places.com/london/ Fortified Places, 2008)
- ‘London's Civil War Defences’, Arquebusier, 32, (Pike and Shot Society, 2010)
- ‘A Tale of Two Forts - London's Hyde Park and St. George's Fields Forts’, (Part 1 and Part 2), Fort, 38, (Fortress Study Group, 2011)
- ‘The Defence of London’, Military History Monthly, 24, (2012)
- ‘Fortress Islington’, Journal of the Islington Archaeology & Historical Society, 2, (Islington Archaeology & Historical Society, 2012)
- The English Civil War Defences of London, (The Stuart Press, 2014)
- Civil War London: A Military History of London Under Charles I and Oliver Cromwell (Helion, 2017).