The loyalties of Lancashire families were torn apart during the bloody turmoil of the Civil Wars in England from 1642–1651. For example, Parliamentarian Thomas Standish of Duxbury died for the cause, but his father and younger brothers were Royalists. Thomas was shot by a sniper during the Royalist siege of Manchester in 1642.Preston and Lancaster were strongly Royalist, but in south-east Lancashire, with some exceptions such as Salford, most towns supported the ‘Roundheads’. Bolton and Manchester folk were fierce supporters of the Parliamentarian cause. Ralph Assheton of Middleton and Alexander Rigby of Wigan, both MPs, were important Roundhead leaders.
The king’s commander in the county was James Stanley, Lord Strange (1606-1651), who became seventh earl of Derby in the autumn of 1642. One of the most famous episodes of the civil war in Lancashire was his wife Charlotte de la Tremoille’s heroic defence of Lathom House during the siege by Parliamentarians in 1644.
The Roundheads believed that the earl was responsible for a dreadful massacre in the town of Bolton in 1644, and after his capture they exacted a terrible revenge. The earl was tried at Chester and executed at Bolton on 15 October 1651.
The Civil War meant that many parish registers were not maintained, so genealogists must turn to sources such as the Royalist Composition Papers at The National Archives, which list the fines paid by Royalists for their part in the war. Of course, you can find out more about sources before civil registration in Tracing Your Lancashire Ancestors.
Images: Execution of James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby at Bolton on 15 October 1651. Pictorial History of the County of Lancashire, 1844.
Knowsley Hall, Liverpool. Seat of the Earls of Derby. Engraved by W. Taylor from a drawing by G. Pickering. People’s Gallery of Engravings Vol.2 (Fisher, Son & Co., 1845). Author’s collection.