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sat as judge. It was the appeal of Robert de Montford against Henry of Essex, the king's standardbearer, for cowardice and treachery, in having in a skirmish in Wales, at which the king was present, cast away the royal standard and fled, upon a report of the king having been killed. Essex pleaded that, at the time, he believed the king was killed. The combat took place, it is supposed, on an island by Caversham bridge. Montford was the victor, and the body of Essex, who was apparently killed, was given to the monks of the abbey for burial. He recovered, however, from his wounds, and being permitted to assume the habit of a monk, was received into the abbey. His estates were of course forfeited. Parliaments were held in Reading under several sovereigns, and on many occasions the court assembled here for purposes of business or of pomp, but it is not worth while to write a list of such oc currences. A far more important event was the dissolution of the abbey in 1539. It had undergone some fluctuations of fortune, but at the visitation of the commissioners it was extremely wealthy; besides the plate and valuables within the abbey, the annual revenue was returned at £116 3s. 9|rf., or a clear revenue of £1908 14s., or about £25,000 according to the present value of money: and there is reason to believe that these returns were generally under the real value. The letters of Dr. London, the commissioner, are in existence, and afford a vivid idea of these proceedings. The commissioner speaks well of the abbot, and of the regular performance of the religious duties; a sermon was delivered every day in Latin and in English, which was well attended. Reading abbey at this time contained some much-valued relics, which the commissioner states the abbot readily delivered. The chief of these relics was the Hand of the Apostle James, which was given to the abbey by its royal founder. But there was another more remarkable. London mentions, with something like glee, in a letter to Cromwell, that he has found here, and sent up to him, " the principell relik of idolytrie within thys realme, an aungell with oon wyng that brought to Caversham the spere hedde that percyd our Saviour is syde upon the crosse." He does not say what this one-winged angel was made of.
Hugh Faringdon was the abbot at this time, and he was distinguished for piety and learning, as well as for the patronage of learned men. London says of him, in writing to his master, "He desyres onlye your favour and no othyr thynge, and I know so muche, that my Lord shall find him as conformable a man as any in this realme :"— which was saying a good deal. But London had not measured his man aright, as a paragraph out of Hall's Chronicle will show:—" The 14th day of November (1539), Hugh Feringdon, Abbot of Redyng and two priests, the one called Rugg, and the other named Onyon, were attainted of high treason, for denying the king to be supreme head of the church, and was drawn, hanged, and quartered at Redyng. This abbot was a stubborn monk and utterly without learning. The same day was Richard Whiting, Abbot of Glascenbury, likewise attainted and hanged on Tower-hill beside his monastery, for the said case and other great treasons, which also was quartered; and the first day of December was John Beche, Abbot of Colchester, put to execution for the same confederacy and treason." I have borrowed a line or two more than was necessary, but it rounds off the matter prettily. Those were pleasant days for Lord Abbots!
Besides the abbey there was a priory of Grey Friars in Reading, established there in 1233. This was, of course, suppressed along with the abbey. The poor monks—there were ten of them with a superior—however, surrendered more meekly than the Benedictines, offering not the least resistance, expecting probably that they should thereby move the pity of the spoilers. London writes to Cromwell, "The most part of them be very agede men, and be not of strength to go much abrode for their lyvinges, wherefor ther desyr ys that yt myght please yr lordeschippe to be a mediator unto the kinges grace for them that they might during their lives enjoy ther chambres and orcharde." But it did not please his lordship; and so the old men were sent out, being first stripped of their monkish garments and clad in secular apparel, to find lodging and food where they might. When the friars were gone, the people of the town stepped in and set about the commissioners' work, even to the "stealing of the lead by night." London gives a dismal account "how he was servyd at the Fryars." "Forr as soon as I had taken the Fryars surrendre, the multytude of the poverty of the town resortyd thedyr, and all thyngs (hat myght be hadde they stole away, insomyche that they hadde convayd the very clappers of the bellys. And saving that Mr. Fachell, wyche made me great chere at hys howse, and the mayer dydde assist me, they vvolde have made no lytill spoyle." It is rather a curious circumstance that the people generally should have been so ready to participate in the spoil, but they probably thought that, as it must be seized by some one, they might as well have a share. The commissioners frequently complain of beingso " served."
In 1625, when the plague raged in London, not only the king and his court, but also the courts of law were removed to Reading. A few years later occurred the memorable seige. Early after hostilities commenced between Charles and the Parliament, Reading was seized and occupied by the royal troops. Being a place of importance, both on its own account and from its position, much consequence was attached to the possession of it. The Parliament determined if possible to obtain it, and Essex sat down before it on the 15th of April, 1643, with an army, according to Clarendon, who has given an elaborate account of the siege, of about 20,000 men. Charles had placed in it a garrison of about 4000 men, under Sir Arthur Aston, who added to the fortifications and formed entrenchments so as to render it very strong. Ten days after the commencement of the siege, the garrison hung out a flag of truce, but at the same time Charles and Prince Rupert came up to Caversham with some troops to endeavour to relieve it. They were driven back, however, with some loss, and then the garrison surrendered—the soldiers being allowed to join the King at Oxford. The Parliamentarians were greatly elated by their success, and the Royalists proportionably annoyed; but to the soldiers engaged on both sides the consequences were very unfortunate. The Royalist soldiers, after the surrender, were ill-used and plundered, and on their arrival at Oxford were received with such an ill grace by Charles, that Colonel Fielding, who had succeeded to the command of the garrison, the governor having been rendered incapable of giving directions by a hurt on the head, thought it necessary to demand a court-martial. He was found guilty of "not obeying his orders," which were to hold out to the utmost, and sentenced to be beheaded; and Charles was with great difficulty induced to grant his pardon. The soldiers of Essex, on the other hand, having been promised their pay and a gratuity to spare the plunder of the town, fell into a mutiny upon the failing of the performance, and many of them disbanded. Among those who remained there was a great mortality, occasioned by the infected air in the town of Reading,* "insomuch that my lord was forced to return and quarter his sick and weak army about Kingston, and those towns near London."t After the defeat of Essex at the first battle of Newbury, Reading again fell into the hands of the king, but he was not able to retain it long.
The only subsequent historical event that has happened here, was an encounter of the forces of James II. with those of the Prince of Orange. They met in the market-place on a Sunday morning in December, 1688. James's soldiers fled after a brief engagement, but there was lost on the other side the only officer who was killed in the whole of the prince's expedition. The anniversary of this skirmish was celebrated in Reading by ringing the bells in the different churches till within a few years. The townsmen were greatly frightened on the occasion by reports of the evil propensities of the king's Irish troops, and some rhymes were
* Other accounts say that it was induced by the army having been encamped during the siege in the marshes. . t Mem. of Col. Hutchinson.