The 1715 Battle of Preston at The National Archives

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2015 saw the commemoration of the 300 year anniversary of the Battle of Preston, thought to be the last battle to take place on English soil. The anniversary was marked with events across Preston including re-enactments, talks, tours and workshops, and included participation from local history and community groups, cultural services, the University of Central Lancashire and local schools, amongst others.

The records created from these events which are currently held at the Harris Museum, are to be deposited at Lancashire Archives where they will be catalogued and made available for research. As part of this project it was decided that it would be beneficial to acquire copies of documents relating to the 1715 rebellion from other cultural institutions. After researching this further it was discovered that there are a large number of relevant documents held by The National Archives (TNA) in Kew, and in January 2017 I, a Freelance Archivist currently working with Lancashire Archives went to TNA to examine and photograph these records.

As someone who has spent the past eight years on the other side of the search room desk it was initially a slightly daunting experience, TNA is much bigger than any archive I have previously visited. Despite this navigating around was fairly straightforward and there were staff on hand to give advice and point readers in the right direction. I had pre-ordered several documents so once I had cleared the reading room security checks, I was off with my camera to examine and photograph the records.

The main focus of my visit was the Forfeited Estates Collection which was established as a result of the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion, to seize and sell the land of those attained for high treason. Amongst the collection were included lists of those attained for high treason in the county, registers of those who claimed for loss of goods or damage to property during the battle, depositions against those who took part in the rebellion and documents relating to the sale of the land of individuals.

One of the most interesting documents I discovered was a list of those in Preston who were recommended to serve on the Commission, these individuals being described as ‘hearty and zealous in his Majesties interest’ and included individuals with a range of useful skills from those who were able to survey land or value livestock, to those who could offer their homes for the use of Commissioners and clerks (FEC 1-1335).

An amusing story which caught my eye was one relating to a gentleman who, upon realising his estate would be forfeited to the Crown, ensured that all his richest goods, along with various livestock were moved to the house of another to avoid confiscation by the Forfeited Estates Commissioners. Unfortunately someone visiting the house recognised to whom the possessions belonged and swiftly informed the Commissioners that the goods had been moved to avoid discovery (FEC 1-730).

In total I photographed 29 items which amounted to 239 document images. These images will be added in the future to the collections held at Lancashire Archives. It is anticipated that through volunteer involvement the information contained in these images can be indexed or transcribed to make them more accessible for research.

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A register of claims by people who incurred losses at Preston as a result of the rebellion (National Archives FEC 2/101)

Overall it is hoped that by obtaining images of these documents from TNA researchers visiting Lancashire Archives will be able to gain a clearer understanding of the impact the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion had on the people of Lancashire.

Lindsey Sutton, Freelance Archivist, Lancashire Archives, January 2017

The Last Battle on English Soil – Commemorating the anniversary of the Battle of Preston 1715. Preston City Council received £49,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for this exciting project.

 

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