Treasonist: Someone who betrays his country by committing treason.

In post civil-war England, in the late 17th century, the country was a hotbed of dissent both against the restoration of the crown in the form of Charles Stuart, son of the deposed and executed Charles I and for it. Add to this the heady mix of the continuing fear of Catholicism, the counter reformation in Europe and the shaky re-establishment of the Church of England and any outside observer would see England as wrought with schism, ready to explode. Northern England was in turmoil with many Presbyterians suspicious of what they considered to be the continued Catholic practices of the Church of England.

Unsurprisingly, there were plots within plots and one of the major plots for an uprising was started in Farnley Wood, in Yorkshire, England in 1663. Many local landowners and even the squire, began a plan to overturn the monarchy.

Amongst the plotters was a squire, Joshua Greathead, who had fought alongside Oliver Cromwell in the Civil War. Another major figure was Captain Thomas Oates. These men were the leaders of an insurrection planning to storm the Royalist stronghold in the city of Leeds and from there seize power and remove Charles II from the throne. Unfortunately for the plotters, Greathead became unhappy and disillusioned with the movement when overruled at a meeting on the timing of the insurrection. Secretly he informed Royalist forces about the planned revolt. Paul Hobson, who was a Baptist preacher and involved in the planning of the rebellion, was arrested on 20 August. He too turned informer.

The 12th of October 1663 was the date set for the revolt, but at the meeting point only twenty-six men turned up. These were mostly local farmers and businessmen and were far from happy at the prospect of having to fight in battle. The plot was a failure, and the meeting broke up in disarray and recrimination. However, Greathead and Hobson’s information had singled out the main participants of the plot and twenty-six men were arrested, among them, Greathead’s cousin Captain Oates. The men were taken to await their trial at the assizes in York and were remanded in Clifford’s tower.

Of those tried, found guilty and sentenced to death for treason most were executed on a single morning in York. Three were executed in Northallerton. Surprisingly, due to lax security, three of the men managed to escape to Leeds where they hid at an inn but were hunted down and finally re-arrested. On the 14th of January 1664, these three were sentenced to death for treason and set to be made a particular example of what happens to a traitor. They were transported to Chapeltown Moor, where some gallows had been constructed. They were hung by chains, before being dissected. The executioner cut off the three heads and preserved them before eventually sticking them on the railings of Moot Hall. Three years later the skulls were blown down in gale force winds.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2021

The Brittle Sea
“Very engaging and compelling page-turner, which keeps you hooked right to the end. Well worth a read and I’m looking forward to the next instalment of this series.”



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