How were men executed on Lyme Beach?
At Lyme on September 12, the scaffold had been erected on the west shore near where the Duke of Monmouth landed on June 11, 1685. The prisoners arrived from Dorchester in carts and large crowds waited at the edge of the town. Here a sledge had been made ready to transport the condemned across the beach. However, the horses broke their harness, and the twelve men walked, unshackled, to the place of their execution.
So many had gathered that the guards had to force a passage through the spectators, that included a great number of Baptists. They had come to take leave of their pastor, Sampson Larke who was due to be executed. Others had also welcomed the late Duke ashore only four months earlier. These had been joined by over 200 hundred friends of the poor Captain Christopher Battiscombe and young Lieutenant William Hewling, as both were local men of some renown.
The bloody executions took several hours, as the horrid business of hanging and quartering was slow and sickening to watch. Then as Mr Marders was turned off, the last to die was Sir John Kidd of Longleat. Although Kidd had just watched eleven of his friends being butchered, quartered and boiled, he called out to his Guards and all those present. “Do you see this?” He pointed to the eleven that were dead before him. “Do you think this is not dreadful to me, that Eleven of Twelve of us, that but a few hours since we came down together, are dead and in Eternity? And I am just going to follow them and shall immediately be in the same Condition.”
Someone in the crowd called out, “It must be dreadful to be Flesh and Blood?”
He replied, “Well, Gentlemen, I will assure you, so far as I am concerned, me thinks that they should be so long before me in Bliss and Happiness. But I’ll make haste to follow. I am satisfied this is the best Day that ever I saw. The Day of a Man’s Death is said to be better than the Day of his Birth. And truly so I find it as to my Flesh, And I shall be presently free from Sin and Sorrow. I am satisfied God hath done his best for me. I might have lived and have forgotten God, but now I am going where I shall sin no more. ‘Tis a blessed thing to be free from Sin, and to be with Christ. Oh, how great were the Sufferings of Christ for us, beyond all that I can undergo! How great is that Glory to which I am going!”
Then taking his leave of the spectators he prayed some small time very devoutly and with seeming great joy and comfort he allowed the executioner to do his duty. Of all the martyrs only the body of the young William Hewling was spared the butchery, instead his corpse carried off by his poor sister to be buried at the church in Lyme. From Lyme the Assize court travelled west to hold the Exeter Assize.
Who were the 12 Martyrs executed in Lyme Regis?
Ensign Josias Askew, of Long Arce London, in Red Regiment commanded rear guard at Bridport and Philips Norton
Captain Christopher Battiscombe, of Symondsbury and London, implicated in Rye House Plot, in Red Regiment
William Cox, husbandman of Musbury, in Monmouth’s Army
Lieutenant William Hewling, of London, student in Holland, in Red Regiment
Colonel Abraham Holmes, Major in Cromwell’s Army and fifth Monarchist of London, exile in Holland, Commander of the Green Regiment
Leonard Jackson, blacksmith of Lyme, broke down Lyme Town Hall door, in Monmouth’s Army
Dr Sampson Larke, Baptist Minister of Combe Raleigh, in Monmouth’s Army
Robert Machell, yeoman of Thorncombe, in Monmouth’s Army
Dr Benjamin Temple, chirurgeon of Nottingham, Monmouth’s surgeon
Henry Watts, of Whitechurch
Captain John Marders, constable of Crewkerne, in Green Regiment
Captain Sir John Kidd, gamekeeper of Longleat, knighted by Monmouth, investigated Thomas Thynne’s murder, and possibly the Scoutmaster of the Whig Army
May their souls rest in peace.