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A Chronological History of Verwood from AD 0930
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Monmouth's Ash

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  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 Marlborough).

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 in Verwood.

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.



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