Construction

Building fortifications could take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Most offensive operations involved rapid construction of batteries and trenches while the position was under fire. Numerous accounts speak of enemy siegeworks being built in a matter of hours although some of the large forts built could take much longer. Town defences in many cases were an ongoing concern and great care was taken to keep them in good order as they were all that stood between the enemy and safety. Fines could be levied for damage to them.

Individual accounts exist of the building of fortifications during the Civil War and some of these appear below. In general, the construction of a fortification involved marking out the sites to be built using pegs and string, earth-moving on a large scale, mounding-up soil and mud into a variety of structures, excavating ditches and trenches, cutting planking, sharpening poles into palisades and storm poles and making wicker baskets and filling them with earth. Wooden posts with sharpened horizontal pieces were placed on roads to function as turnpikes, and a variety of small sharpened iron and wooden implements were made to hinder the movement of attacking cavalry and infantry. Turf was very important as a means of binding the earth together and limiting erosion, and there are many accounts of grass sods being cut for placing on the earthworks. In some cases, masonry structures were built, and stone and brick were added to the earthworks. Woolpacks were frequently employed as protection for cannon in batteries as rui-.ira.-2.. v„ - -

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Wicker Defences Earthworks

Various structures were used to fortify or block-off roads during the Civil War. Turnpikes were used in addition to other forms.This engraving from Theatro Militarc of 1617 shows one example of a fortified barrier.

they could absorb enemy shot. Before ground was broken, existing buildings were often demolished to make space or remove potential cover for attacking forces. Similarly hedges were often cut down.

A range of tools was employed, spades and axes being the most common, and wheelbarrows were the means of moving earth from one place to another. In fact, such tools were as important as weapons in this war, anil accounts of attacks and sieges speak of tools being captured. An order issued on 15 June 1644 by the Royalist Lord Hopton requested that 60 labourers meet at 7 o'clock the next Thursday 'with good and serviceable spades and pickaxes', to work on the defences of Fort Royal near Brandon Hill, Bristol. At Gloucester, it was agreed that 'there shal be 20 or 30 pickaxes and 20 or 30 spades and shovells and some ten or 12 wheele barrows presently provided to helpe to make baracadoes by digging of ditches to prevente horses entrance into this city'.

When places were captured, fortifications were often slighted or rebuilt depending on the need. 'We are slighting the works here [Reading]', noted one Royalist in May 1644, 'and by Thursday night we shall make them unserviceable for the enemy if he should settle himself here.' In September of the same year, we read of Parliament dispatching an engineer named Culembourg to examine the remains of the defences with a view to rebuilding them, and the following month, the Committee of Both Kingdoms congratulated the governor and the committee of the town 'for their care and pains in fortifying the town'.

The Royalists drastically rebuilt the Parliamentarian fortifications at Bristol after they were taken, and extensive plans were drawn up for Liverpool but the work was never completed. Bernard de Gomme, Engineer General of the Royalist army, submitted a report in 1645 on the condition of the line of Parliamentarian fortifications about Bristol and this provides a glimpse of the scale of some defences of the period:

The line, generally, was three feet thick. The height of it, five feet, where it was highest.

The graft' |ditch| commonly six feet broad, and, where it was widest, but seven.

The depth, in most parts, four feet, and five where deepest. Between Prior-hill Fort, Stokes Croft-gate, and beyond the little river, towards Lafford's-gate, in which places the enemy entered, not five feet high.

The graff five feet broad, and all that part of the line much decayed. The ditch of the great fort, on the right hand, the gate before the face of the bulwark, was not four feet deep, and eighteen feet broad, so that horses did go up and down into it.

The highest work of the fort was not twelve feet high, and the curtains but ten.

Within one hundred feet of the fort, there was a deep hollow way, where the enemy might lodge what numbers he pleased, and might be in the graff the first night, and in that part the fort was minable. Brandon-hill fort was about twelve feel above the level of the great fort; and that being not able to make any long resistance, the enemy gaining it, would command the other.

The hedges and ditches, without the line, were neither cut nor leveled, so that they lodged their men securely near our works, at their first approach.

For the duration of tlie war, thousands of civilians and soldiers toiled on the construction and upkeep of fortifications and siegeworks. While the majority of town defences were made by civilians under military supervision, siegeworks were constructed by soldiers. Work on defences was often mandatory and failure to appear for work could result in fines or even death, as Prince Maurice mandated for Worcester in 1645. Even the Military Orders and Articles established

Engraving Model Fortification

Detail from a Spanish engraving of 1579 showing troops performing various tasks involved in building siegeworks. Some men dig with shovels and spades, others move earth on stretchers and wheelbarrows, while several mark out a battery with poles and wicker fencing.

by His Majesty printed for the RoyaJist army in 1643 included the stipulation that 'No common Souldiere shall think himselfe too good, or refuse to worke upon any peece of fortification, or other place where they shall be Commanded for Our service'. The work in the towns disrupted daily life, caused financial hardships for individual parishes and towns, destroyed houses and fields, ruined the economy and disrupted the livelihoods of many, and was a source of friction within the civilian population.

Detail from a Spanish engraving of 1579 showing troops performing various tasks involved in building siegeworks. Some men dig with shovels and spades, others move earth on stretchers and wheelbarrows, while several mark out a battery with poles and wicker fencing.

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