The Story of Monmouth's Ash.
One of the
romantic episodes associated with Verwood was the capture in
1685 of the Duke of Monmouth on Horton Heath, after the
massacre at Sedgemoor .
The Pretender to the Throne, the Duke of Monmouth,
landed on the beach at Lyme Regis with around 80 men on the
11th June 1685. It is reputed that one of the men was Daniel
Defoe (of Robinson Crusoe fame). The group marched north and
collected more supporters on the way to Sedgmoor in
Somerset. On the 6th July 1685 they met the forces of James
II led by John Churchill (he later became the Duke of
Monmouth and his army were defeated and he fled to
Dorset with 4 companions, one of which was Lord Grey. The
plan was to head for Poole and catch a boat for Holland. At
an Inn in Woodyates, tenanted by Robert Browning (ancestor
of the future poet) and owned by the Earl of Shaftesbury.
They separated with Monmouth disguising himself as a
shepherd and proceeding via Cranborne Chase towards Horton
heath, south of Verwood. An old woman, Amy Farrant, saw him
climbing over a hedge near her cottage and reported him.
A search was organised early the next day and
eventually Parkin (a militiaman) thought he saw a pile of
old clothes beneath an Ash Tree in Slough Lane in Horton, in a ditch forming the
boundary between Woodlands and Horton parishes.
This spot is known to this day as 'Monmouth's Ash' and there
is still an ash tree but it is probably not the same one.
The Duke (who had little food by then) was
identified by his 'Order of the Garter badge' given to him
by Charles II, his father. He was taken, by Magistrate
Ettrick to Holt Lodge, and from there to Ringwood where he
was kept for three days. He was taken away and beheaded on
the 15th of July on Tower Hill. Over 300 of his supporters
were executed at Judge Jeffrey's 'Bloody Assizes' after
being tried in Dorchester.
There are many references to this event in the
area, one of which is the naming of the 'Monmouth Ash' pub
While hiding in a churchyard during the escape,
Daniel Defoe saw the name Robinson Crusoe on a gravestone
and the rest as they say is history.