A devilish soldier


Percy Kirke – Governor of Tangier and colonel of the Tangier Regiment (Queens Royal Surrey Regiment)


His regiment’s badge was a lamb hence the name, Kirke’s Lambs…a twisted name when reading about some of their activities after the battle of Sedgemoor.


His time in Tangier fighting the Moors had clearly left its mark on him and his men. At Taunton after the battle, he ordered rebels to be hung up without a trial and apparently his men looked on with much amusement. It was reported that as the dying men’s legs twitched, music was ordered to play in time with the twitching.


After the battle Kirke was given the unpleasant duty of, ‘cleaning up,’ after the battle. This involved: dispensing justice, rounding up rebels, rounding up those who had aided and abetted rebels and looking after the royal army’s wounded and killed.


Richard Alford, the churchwarden of Westonzoyland recorded, ‘there was killed of the rebels upon the spot 300, hanged with us 22 of which 4 were hanged in gemmasses. About 500 prisoners brought into our church, of which 79 were wounded and 5 of them died of their wounds in our church.’


Kirke was soon found to be complaining about his new responsibilities. He grumbled that the locals were saying the dead had not been buried deep enough and that they had been put to great expense in building gallows and gibbets. He was forced to ask local authorities to, ‘press ploughs and men to come…where the rebels are buried, that there may be a mount buried on them.’

Percy Kirke, later in King James II’s reign resisted calls from the king to change religion to Catholicism. He was reported to have told the king that he had previously promised the ruler of Morocco that if he were to change religion he would embrace Islam.

What should go into a history visit?

When planning school visits obviously one of the key questions is, what does the school actually want?


Even if there is a very specific set of requirements I will still endeavour to put a spin on the day. This could be discussing a controversial argument (perhaps one not universally covered in schools) e.g. It would have been better for Great Britain to remain neutral in 1914 and not get involved in the Great War.


Researching and reading history as a hobby, I tend to veer off from mainstream publications and find myself reading sources such as:

The Artillery Train of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford 1640


The Mathematical and Military Sciences in Renaissance England


The Philomena of John Bradmore and its Middle English derivative:


A perspective on surgery in late medieval England


Maurice Kyffin;s advice on training infantry in Ireland, October 1597


A guide to the use of muskets during the English Civil War


The Cockpit of Ulster: War along the river Blackwater 1593-1603


The Sword of the Law, Elizabethan soldiers’ perception and practice of the law of armed conflict (1569-1587)


The Navy in the English Civil War

Networks, News and Communication: Political Elites and Community Relations in Elizabethan Devon, 1588 – 1603


Learning Lessons from War? Inclusions and Exclusions in Teaching First World War History in English Secondary Schools


On the frontlines of teaching the history of the First World War

“He Sees Now What He Looked Like”: Soldier Spectators, Topical Films, and the Problem of Onscreen Representation during World War I

Medieval Siege Warfare: A Reconnaissance


Some very random titles in this small selection – but every one offers fascinating insights, ideas and subjects to discuss which may not be able to be taught in a squeezed curriculum. Being able to offer this, ‘depth,’ for a subject will give more colour and inspiration to these wonderful subjects.


So what should go into my visits?


Colour, depth, unique perspectives and above all – passion for the very best of subjects!


The joy of research

When I receive an email with an academic paper attached, something strange happens. It's akin to walking into a secondhand bookshop or a charity shop and you find a book that you would never be able to get anywhere else. There is a buzz, a tingle, a sense of anticipation because maybe, just maybe you may find that, 'golden,' nugget of information which will transform the way you look at something. Or even better, to astound your reenacting friends with!

As I savour the latest title, 'The Tower Gunners and the Artillery Company in the Artillery Garden before 1630,' my mind is a whirl with contemporary maps and wonderful phrases. 

I cannot help to be swept away from my modern surroundings by lines such as, '...the Artillery Park where Schollars are toughte to shoot in great ordnance,' and, '...dothe not only pinch and spare of the wonted expence that they shall make but 3 shotte one day in a weeke.'

As i read these lines, I see powder-stained men hauling the clanking, groaning, sinister cannons about as London that surrounds the garden goes about its business. Men wheeling barrels of powder, tutors explaining the intricacies of angles, measurements and distances whilst the ever-present and intoxicating odour of burning slowmatch lingers in the air.

And what of the ordinary citizens of London as they walk the streets of London? Do they have warning of the colossal explosions from the great guns? Do they wonder what dark arts are being practised in the Artillery Garden? Do they live in fear, living and working so close to such vast quantities of gunpowder? 

I see strange, colourful, intriguing foreign soldiers and scholars going to and fro from the garden, maybe they are tutors themselves, or maybe they have come to learn from the professional master gunners of England. Do they speak English? Are they accompanied by an interpreter?

The paper, 17 pages in length is full of exciting and intriguing facts and tells wonderful stories of: embezzlement, dishonesty and mismanagement. But from this black and white document, I have invisaged a bygone period, full of colour, characters and excitement. Another patch of colour to use when I reenact and teach children about this wonderful subject!

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