attempted Civil War 'Coup'
At the start of the Civil War Lady Mary Bankes, 'a virtuous and prudent
lady', saw to the castles arming
and victualing and called in the neighbouring gentlemen and tenants for its
defence. At Easter 1642 Sir John
Bankes was called away to attend the King at
To counter the castles arming Parliament gathered in a force from Dorchester and other local towns and on May Day 1643 this force, between 2-300 horse and foot, with two pieces of artillery, set out to seize the Castle.
All the local Gentry, Royalist supporters, gathered for their customary stag hunt as 'everie yeare on May Day to hunt, course, kill and carrie awaye such stags as maye bee founde in the westerne woodes.' The news of the Parliamentary forces coming dispersed the hunters.
Also hearing the news Lady Bankes closed the gates called in help and put the defence into the hands of an old soldier, Captain Bond. When the Parliamentarians arrived at the castle and tried to gain admittance they were refused. They now deployed on the hills and open fire on the castle, hitting four houses in the process. The castle was now summoned to surrender but when they refused the attackers packed up and withdrew.
Soon after the withdrawal the Poole Committee wrote to Lady Bankes demanding the four small pieces of ordnance that she held within the castle. After much discussion it was agreed that she could keep them, but would dismounted them off their carriages.
Some days later in early in the morning 40 seamen arrived to collect the ordnance. Lady Bankes went to the gates to discuss this surrender. While the seamen were occupied the garrison, all five of them, assisted by the maid-servants, remounted the guns and opened fire. 'Which small thunder so affrighted the seamen that they all quitted the place and ran away.' With this Lady Bankes summoned help gathering in tenants, friends, and issued them weapons.
Letters were now sent to the castle threatening all manner of dire things if the said ordnance were not given up. Those who had rallied to the castles support found that their families and homes were threatened. Orders were issued that food and supplies shouldn’t be sold to the defenders, on pain of having your house burned down.
Many within now returned home and unable to risk open defiance this agreement was reached that the ordnance would be give up the weapons if those within the castle would be left in peace.