In 1645, several royalist plotters within the twin towns of Weymouth and Melcombe on the Dorset coast conspired to deliver the ports back into the control of King Charles 1. It has been suggested that he needed a safe south coast port at which to land a huge French army which he hoped would deliver a decisive blow and end the resistance of the Parliamentarians whom he had been fighting for almost three years.
The conspirator’s plans were almost successful, but their intended victim, Colonel William Sydenham, commander of the Parliamentary garrison and MP for Melcombe, managed to get most of his force into that town, though he lost a much loved and respected brother and fellow soldier, Francis, in the initial assault. Soon, a two-week-long internecine bombardment was taking place between the factions.
In the third week, what appeared to be the coup de grace arrived in the shape of the archetypal cavalier general, George, Lord Goring and his 6,500 strong army, which meant that Sydenham’s tiny but stubborn garrison of just 1,300 souls, were now outnumbered six to one. It would surely only be a matter of time before Melcombe too fell to the King’s Army.
Underestimating Colonel William Sydenham, the eldest son of a local Dorset landowner, was Goring’s first and biggest mistake, for not only did Sydenham succeed in retaking Weymouth, but he also withstood the full might of Goring’s military response, delivering a “miraculous victory” and ending the King’s aspirations of getting the upper hand in Dorset.