Carmelite Friars or Whitefriars of Nottingham

by Joseph Earp 

Carmelite tradition traces the origin of the order to a community of hermits on Mount Carmel, which succeeded the schools of the prophets in ancient Israel or the Crusader states. There are no certain records of hermits on this mountain before the 1190s. By this date a group of men had gathered at the well of Elijah on Mount Carmel. These men, who had gone to Palestine from Europe either as pilgrims or as crusaders, chose Mount Carmel in part because it was the traditional home of Elijah. The foundation is believed to have been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Virtually nothing is known of the Carmelites from 1214, when Albert died, until 1238. The Rule of St. Albert was approved by Pope Honorius III in 1226, and again by Pope Gregory IX in 1229, with a modification regarding ownership of property and permission to celebrate divine services. The Carmelites next appear in the historical record, in 1238, when with the increasing cleavage between the West and the East, the Carmelites found it advisable to leave the Near East. Many moved to Cyprus and Sicily.

In 1242, the Carmelites migrated west. The Order grew quickly after reaching Europe. By the end of the thirteenth century, the order had around 150 houses in Europe, divided into twelve provinces throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. In England, the Order had 30 houses under four ‘distinctions’: London, Norwich, Oxford and York, as well as new houses in Scotland and Ireland. It has been estimated that the total Carmelite population in England between 1296 and 1347 was about 720, with the largest house (London), having over 60 friars, but most averaging between 20 and 30.

Sometime before 1271 a small group of Carmelite Friars acquired a plot of land to establish a new Friary between St. James Lane and Moothall Gate in Nottingham. They also acquired a row of houses which bounded their property to the north along the side of Beast Market Hill. The Friary itself was a modest group of buildings for the Carmelites were an order bound to a vow of poverty and relying on begging and charity for a living. Very quickly after the establishment of the Friary, Moothall Gate became known as Friar Lane, – a name by which it is still known today. The Friars where to remain on this site for the next 250 years.

The friary was dissolved as part of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was surrendered by Prior Roger Cappe on 5 February 1539. The friary was, at the time, home to six friars: William Cooke, William Frost, John Roberts, William Smithson, William Thorpe, Robert Wilson. The friary site was granted, in 1541, to James Sturley of Nottingham.

Nothing remains of the former Friary. It stood near to the south-west corner of Old Market Square; the priory precinct occupying the area between Friar Lane and St James Street. The area has been heavily developed since the dissolution and the site has been “almost solidly built over” It is remembered locally in the street name: “Friar Lane”.

Plan of the Carmelite Friary at Nottingham.

Carmelite Friar

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The Monks Way

Monks Way LogoMonks Way, Monks Path, Monks Steps and Pilgrims Path are all terms used locally to describe the traces of stone paving or causeway which can be found in Cossall, Strelley, Ilkeston and beyond.

The term ‘Monk’s Way’ is a general term frequently used to describe the network of ancient tracks which often linked monasteries and settlements to facilitate trade and communication.

The monastic connection for the paths around Cossall, Strelley and Ilkeston is not clear but it is known that the monks of Dale Abbey, Newstead Priory, Lenton Abbey, Felley Priory and Beauvale Priory had land and mining interests in the areas around the Erewash Valley as early as the 14th century. It is therefore possible that the stones are all that is left of routeways that perhaps linked the monasteries and provided access to Nottingham and the River Trent.

Ancient Routeways

As long as man has needed to trade there have been transport routes from the place of production to the point of sale. Many roads and paths originate from medieval times or even earlier when packhorses or mules were often the main method of transport for goods. These early tracks often linked to rivers where goods could be transported in bulk.

Canals and railways were a further development requiring new or adapted transport links to feed the barges or trains. Man’s activities, including mining and road construction, have obliterated many ancient tracks, but it is still possible to discover the signs of old pathways if you know where to look!

Who laid the stones?

Legend has it that the stones were laid by monks who brought a slab on the back of a mule each time they used the path. This may be true but equally there are theories that the stones are more recent having been laid for the transport of coal by packhorses during the 18th century.

No-one knows for sure the origins of the Monks Way although the stone paths almost certainly pre-date the canal ere (the Nottingham Canal was built in 1796) and may well be laid over an ancient route.

Where can the stones be seen?

The map of the Monks Way shows where the stones can be found. They are most obvious at Main Street, Strelley where they are incorporated into the footpath from the Broad Oak Public House up to the church. Traces can be found on the paths and bridleways linking with Cossall village and several sections have been uncovered on Mill Lane at Cossall between the Nottingham Canal and the railway.

It is known that the stones were removed from Park Road at Ilkeston when the road was constructed. A number of stones salvaged from this area can be found at the Erewash Museum, High Street, Ilkeston.

There is little doubt that other stones remain intact buried under grass or road surfaces, however sections were also borrowed to find new purpose as barn floors or walling in nearby farms and cottages.

Small areas of sandstone paving exist away from the route shown on the plan, one example being the path which links the Nottingham Canal with Nottingham Road near to Furnace Road on the Ilkeston/Trowell border. This seems to be an isolated path and is believed to be a remnant of the original Nottingham to Ilkeston Turnpike which was realigned in 1874.

Map of the Monks Way



All information above by kind permission of Peter Woodeward of the now defunct Broxtowe Hundred Website and Broxtowe Borough Council. 

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Franciscans or Greyfriars of Nottingham

by Joseph Earp 

In the year 1224 the Franciscans, – the last monastic order to come to this Country from France, – arrived in England. The Franciscans are among the few orders who, alongside their conventional brethren, have monks known as Friars. Today we might consider Friars as being a sort of ‘out-reach worker’ administering their faith amongst the local community rather than being confined to their Priory. Franciscan Friars were known as ‘Grey Friars’ after the colour of the habit. Nottingham seems to have been one of the first places in England to have a Franciscan Friary, which is mentioned in documents of 1230.

The Friars came to Nottingham soon after their arrival in England and immediately appealed for land to build their home. They would have found that there was no open space large enough within the town walls to accommodate their needs and so they were given, – possible by King Henry III, – marginal land to the east of the town along the banks of the River Leen, – Broad Marsh. Here they quickly established their Friary, which naturally enough became known as ‘Greyfriars Friary’. Perhaps the first thing they did was to erect the massive stone ‘Preaching Cross’ we know to have existed on the site. The precinct of the Friary extended between the road Broadmarsh, (now gone) to the north and Canal Street to the south and included all of the land now occupied by the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre. The first buildings on the site were of wood. Records show that between 1230 and 1261, the King donated to the Friars, vast amounts of oak timber, a valuable building resource, from the Royal Forest of Sherwood. In 1256, beginning with a new church, work started on rebuilding the Friary in stone. Once again Henry fulfilled his religious obligation by granting the Friars permission to use stone from his quarry in Nottingham. The church was not completed until 1303 the year in which it and the surrounding churchyard were consecrated. It took another seven years to complete the additional side-chapels which were consecrated in 1310. The new church would have served both the Friars and the community (as a parish church) and whilst in use was considered one of the finest in Nottingham.

The Franciscans monastery building in Nottingham did not survive past the 17th century. This photograph show us the ruins of the Franciscan monastery in Gloucester and gives us a good idea and scale of what the Nottingham monastery would have looked like. Photograph Credit: Joseph Earp/Nottingham Hidden History Team.

The Greyfriars had its beginnings with the help of King Henry III and it is somewhat ironic that it met its end 300 years later at the hands of another Henry, King Henry VIII. Like every other monastic site in the Country, was ‘dissolved’ (closed) with Henry’s ‘Dissolution of the Monasteries’. Greyfriers was surrendered to the authorities by its Warden (Prior) Thomas Basford and seven other Friars on the 5th February 1539. It is interesting to note that the last Warden was, judging by his name, a Nottingham man. Basford, once a rural village, is a suburb of the City.

We do not know what happened to the site in the nine years following the Dissolution, for it is not until 1548 that we get another mention of Greyfriars in the records. It was in this year that the Friary and all its estates were granted to Thomas Heneage. By 1611 we find that the site had passed into the hands of Nottingham’s Corporation. In that year the Corporation demolished the Friary’s boundary wall and removed the foundations of the Cross. From this time on the name Greyfriars disappears from the pages of history only to appear briefly as Grey Friar Gate as a street name. But that too has now gone, swallowed up by the shopping centre along with the memories of the Franciscan Grey Friars who for 300 year made the Broad Marsh their home.

A Franciscan Friar.

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Beeston Pubs of Today and Yesteryear

by Jimmy Notts

Renowned the world over, the great British pub is not just a place to drink beer, wine, cider or even something a little bit stronger, it is a unique social centre, very often the focus of community life in villages, towns and cities throughout the length and breadth of the country.

Pubs can be traced back to Roman taverns, through the Anglo-Saxon alehouse to the development of the tied house system in the 19th century. In 1393, King Richard II of England introduced legislation that pubs had to display a sign outdoors to make them easily visible for passing ale tasters who would assess the quality of ale sold.

Most pubs focus on offering beers, ales and similar drinks. As well, pubs often sell wines, spirits, and soft drinks, meals and snacks. The owner, tenant or manager (licensee) is known as the pub landlord or publican. Referred to as their “local” by regulars, pubs are typically chosen for their proximity to home or work. Beeston is and has for a long time been known for its great many public houses. It has been suggested that Beeston has one of the highest concentrations of pubs-per-person in the United Kingdom. The town has clearly a lot of public houses for locals to call at least one of them their “local”.

Pubs of Today 

We will now turn to look at just some of Beeston’s existing pubs and have a look at a brief history of each establishment starting with The Jesse Boot. Known until very recently as The Greyhound, The Jesse Boot was built in 1741, one of the earliest owners were the Stone family who actually brewed on the premises. The present building was modernised in 1984. In the early 19th century in the days of the Industrial Revolution, it is said that Luddites called here and after raising the landlord from his bed to serve them refreshments, marched onto Nottingham to wreak their havoc. This Inn and the Durham Ox (now a Chinese Restaurant), were visited by Reform Act rioters in 1831. Having burnt down Nottingham Castle they marched to Beeston and caused the Silk Mill at Beeston the same fate.

The Last Post is a Wetherspoon’s chain pub which opened in 2000. It is situated in the building of the old Royal Mail sorting office and was adjacent to the town’s former post office. The Hop Pole is a local traditional community pub situated in Beeston. It is a very old, unspoilt pub dating back to 1870. With its lovely original beams and 2 fireplaces, this gives the pub a very warm, homely feel.

Beeston’s Old Post Office and The Last Post Public House, 6 September 2009- Photo Credit: Alan Murray-Rust.

The building, on Church Street in Beeston, we now know of as The Crown probably became associated with beer sometime between about 1835 and 1841, although the building itself probably dates from about 1800. The Crown Inn traces its history back to a Mr Samuel Starr who can be recognised as the man who established the pub. He had been brewing beer on the premises since at least 1841. As a ‘common brewer’ he would have sold his beer to anyone wishing to purchase it for consumption at home.

Crown Inn, Church Street, Beeston, Nottingham, 1998- Photo Credit: Bernard And Pauline Heathcote Photographic Collection.

The Victoria Hotel was built around 1839, named after Queen Victoria (1819-1901) – a popular monarch who is often featured on pub signboards. The pub is situated next door to Beeston Train station and like so many Victorian establishments was built to serve the passengers who used the station. In 1971 an eccentric landlord used to keep a small zoo at the rear end of the pub, as well as a python inside!! The collection included a puma, a lion, a leopard and a baboon.

The Star Inn located on Middle Street is an old Shipstones Pub. Not many people know that it has a connection with the television show Auf Wiedersehen Pet. Unlike many other pubs or bars used in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, The Star Inn is an actual pub used in the show, which fans can visit and have a drink. The pub featured in ‘The Return of the Seven – Part One’ episode, when Barry and Wayne take Pippa and Linda for a quick drink. Barry forgets the time, and ends up leaving his Fiancé Hazel and ‘The Wey Ling’. Dennis and Neville turn up in the Jag, and then Bomber, in a pink Ford Cortina.

Pubs of Yesteryear 

Quite a few of Beeston’s pubs have disappeared over time with a great majority closing in recent years. We will now look at some of these closed pubs.

The Royal Oak was situated on Villa Street, Beeston. This was a smallish Shipstones tied  house in the centre of Beeston.  The Cow was situated on Middle Street, Beeston. This pub used to be called the Beech Tree Lodge and was one of the oldest pubs in Beeston. Tesco bought the pub and demolished it c. 2005 – the store was finally built 2010 and there is now a Tesco petrol station on what was the pub. The Three Horseshoes was situated on Middle Street. This was a Shipstones tied house. The pub was demolished to make way for a tram line.

Three Horseshoes Pub, Middle Street, Beeston, 1998- Photo Credit: Bernard And Pauline Heathcote Photographic Collection.

Other pubs to have closed in recent years include the Prince of Wales which was located on High Road. Although the Durham Ox has not closed its doors it is no longer ran primarily as a ‘traditional pub’ and is now ran as a Polish restaurant.

Prince of Wales Pub, High Road, Beeston, Nottingham, 1998- Photo Credit: Bernard And Pauline Heathcote Photographic Collection.

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May in Nottinghamshire: The Wellow Maypole

by Frank E Earp

Wellow is a pretty, red brick village, made even more picturesque by the tall ‘English Maypole’ on the village green. The village was once a part of the estate of Rufford Abbey and is partly surrounded by a medieval earthwork and has the remains of a second circular earthwork nearby which is described as ‘probably Norman’. The maypole stands on a triangular green close to the parish church of St Swithern. How long a pole has stood on this spot we can only hazard a guess, but like other maypoles, the expression ‘since time immemorial’ has been used.

We know from Dean Hole’s ‘Memories Then and Now’ that there was a maypole on the green in 1835. In his book, Hole records the fact that both Washington Irving and the artist John Leech expressed their delight at seeing the maypole at Wellow. In 1856 the pole is mentioned in an account of a ‘public dinner’ held on the green to celebrate the signing of the treaty with Russia after the Crimean War.

Sometime early in 1860, the pole was sawn down by an inebriated person or persons unknown. On the 9th May 1860, a replacement pole was erected on the green. This had been brought to the village from Pittance Park in Sherwood Forest in the traditional manner, – carried on the shoulders of the villagers.

In the Folklore Journal, Vol.2 1884 there appears the following account of the Wellow maypole; ‘Passing through the village of Wellow, Notts, a few days ago I saw a maypole in the centre of the village. It was about sixty feet high and had three cross-pieces near the top, at intervals apart. I found that it was a real maypole and had been standing about a quarter of a century; It had replaced an old one which had become rotten and tottering; Many people remember when dancing round the maypole, climbing it when greased and other games were in full vigour’.

On 22nd June 1887, Sir John Savile of Rufford gave a new pole to Wellow, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. The pole had been allowed to ‘season’ in the yard of the Red Lion public house before being erected under the supervision of a Mr Cartlidge, who had also supervised the erection of the previous pole. Sir John’s pole lasted 23 years before it needed to be replaced in 1910. The 1910 pole stood for only 11 before it was burnt down in a freak accident. Fireworks, which had been stacked around the base of the pole ready for a firework party, were somehow prematurely ignited and the pole literally burnt to the ground.

There is no evidence to show that like a number of maypoles, Wellow’s, was ever taken down during the periods covered by the two World Wars. The maypole erected in 1921 was considered to be in an unsafe condition and was taken down in 1949. A replacement was erected early in 1950 and stood until 1966. In October 1974, the weather vane and iron work on the 1966 pole were removed for restoration work and it was found that the top third of the pole was rotted and decayed. The rotten portion of the pole was subsequently removed and May Day celebrations for 1975 were held using the reduced pole.

The current maypole at Wellow was erected on the 7th Feb 1976 and was paid for by a grant from Nottinghamshire County Council. It is 55’ high, – around 60’ including weather vane and is made from steel.

May Day celebrations still take place at Wellow annually on or around the late  Spring Bank Holiday. It is an event well worth visiting as the Wellow pole is one of only a handful of English Maypoles still standing. Money raised at the event goes towards the next year’s celebrations and preservation of both the maypole and the customs of May.

Foresters & Adelaide Morris at Wellow Mayploe, 2010- Photo Credit: Foresters Morris Men.

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The Beeston Maltings

by Jimmy Notts

In 2013 Beeston lost a chunk of its heritage for ever and lost a historical industrial site. The heritage and site in question was the former Beeston Brewery and later Beeston Maltings. The Beeston Brewery Company was formed in the late 1870s and a brewery was built in 1880 alongside the Midland Railway line between Nottingham and Derby. The company had its own railway sidings running off the mainline. The company had both malting and brewery functions on the same site. The architects were Wilson and Company and the builders were Waite, Corbould and Faulkner. It was the first brewery in England to have pneumatic maltings.

An extension to the brewery was made in 1884 and a new barley store was added in 1898. In 1881 the manager was Alexander Anderson and who was replaced by Samuel Theodore Bunning in 1883. Bunning continued to manage the company until it was taken over by James Shipstone and Sons Limited in 1922. Brewing ceased and in 1924 Shipstones converted the buildings to a maltings.

In December 2000 the production of malt ceased at Beeston Maltings. It was the last floor maltings to operate in Nottinghamshire. Malt had been produced there since 1878, but closure meant not just the end of malting at Beeston, but the end of Nottinghamshire’s once extensive floor malting industry.

In 2009, plans were submitted to Broxtowe Borough Council to demolish the site to make way for 55 new homes, these plans were initially withdrawn. The Beeston and District Civic Society attempted to get the buildings listed by English Heritage. This bid was unsuccessful as well as an unsuccessful attempt to include the building within a conservation area – which would have given it a greater protection against alteration and demolition.

In 2009 a spokesman for the then current site owners Heineken – who had applied for permission to demolish the building – commented: “The maltings at Dovecote Lane have been redundant for many years. Over the last decade, the four-storey building has become unsafe and unsightly and the building has been a target for many acts of theft and vandalism, which have used up valuable police time. We believe that demolition offers the most viable way to end the constant safety and security problems associated with the building.”

Despite all the plans and campaigns to save the maltings nothing could be done to save the site. The site was deemed “unsafe” and “beyond saving”. The remaining buildings survived until 2012 when demolition started. The site was completely cleared in early 2013.

Beeston Maltings, November 2000. Photograph Credit: B Phillips/ Picture the Past.

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Nottingham and the Invasion of France: The Expedition to Quiberon, 1795

by Michael Kirkby

Whilst watching an episode of the Hornblower series (Napoleonic maritime drama staffing Ioan Gruffudd, based on the books by C.S. Forester) the audience is provided with an excellent window into the life of the Royal Navy during the age of Nelson.

One particular episode, The Frogs and the Lobsters, sees the newly promoted Lieutenant Hornblower and his irascible mentor and ship’s captain Sir Edward Pellew (played by Ilkeston born actor Robert Lindsay) sent on an against-all-odds mission to land exiled Royalist troops supported by British infantry into France to raise an army of Royalist supporters and overthrow the newly founded Republican government that has deposed of the French King following the Revolution.

Robert Lindsay (left) and Ioan Gruffudd as Capt. Edward Pellew and Lt. Horatio Hornblower-Photo Credit: Meridian Broadcasting.

Both book and film of the affair were based on actual events that took place in 1795 under similar circumstances. Following the fall of Toulon, a Royalist stronghold, in 1793 to the French Republican army, many Royalist troops and sympathizers were forced into exile in Britain. However, not all Royalists quit France though and areas such as The Vendeè and Chouan in Brittany remained openly loyal to the Royalist cause.

Both the Chouan and Vendean approach to waging war on the Republicans differed greatly. The forces in the Vendeè were disciplined and a mobilized para military, who fought the Republican army in the field, the Chouans on the other hand, waged an underground guerilla war. Both forces were comprised mainly of Catholic peasants who did not want to see France become a newly liberal state which Republican rule threatened to bring. From their exile in England, King Louis XVIII conducted his counter revolutionary plans in the South of France with his brother the Comte d’Artois taking charge of the activities in Vendeè, Normandy and Brittany. Artois named Joseph de Puisaye, an officer in the Swiss Guards, head of operations in the Vendeè.

Puisaye took charge of plans to invade Brittany using the exiled émigré army and in Spring 1795 laid plans on the desk of the Admiralty to an expedition to the Quiberon peninsula on the coast of Brittany. Puisaye’s plan was to land troops and supplies and secure a foothold in France and wait for local Royalist supporters to join their expedition. Once the force was strong enough they would break out of the peninsula and join up with the Royalist supporters in the Chouan under General Francois Athanase Charette de la Contrie and together march on Paris, sweeping away all of the Republican army that opposed them along the way. It was decided that the invading force should all be French troops as this would secure loyalty from the people who might be cautious about allying themselves to British troops as they would view their presence as an invasion of foreign troops.

Whilst the landing troops would all be French Royalists there was still the small issue of being ferried across the channel. For this, the Royal Navy was chosen to work closely with the French Royalist commanders to safely carry them across the sea.

The commander chosen for the expedition was Sir John Borlase Warren, a member of parliament and experienced seaman.

Born in Stapleford, Nottinghamshire, Warren had attended Emmanuel College at Cambridge University in 1769 and attained his B.A. in 1773 and M.A. in 1776. Whilst conducting his studies Warren joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman in 1777 during the outbreak of the American War of Independence and rose to Lieutenant a year later and was a Captain by 1781. Owing to his experience and capability at sea and his academic excellence, Warren was thought of as the ideal man to lead the expedition which required a mixture of caution, cool headedness and strict discipline.

Portrait of Sir John Borlase Warren by Mark Oates. Property of Greenwich Hospital Collection,National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

To conduct the mission effectively, Warren commanded a squadron of 10 frigates and ships of the line, including his own, HMS Pomone, and also took charge of 2 luggers, 5 gunboats, 2 cutters and 55 transports carrying the Royalist émigrés. Warren’s fleet set off on the 13th June 1795 with the expectation that on the 15th it would meet up with the Channel Fleet commanded by Vice-Admiral Alexander Hood, Lord Bridport, and together they would sail to Quiberon.

The voyage to Quiberon was no easy feat. Prior to joining up with Warren, Bridport had encountered the French Republican fleet under Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse and had engaged them in battle. Whilst Bridport had been successful, the encounter had taken its toll on Bridport’s fleet rendering him short of supplies, ammunition and he had to send some of his ships back to England due to heavy casualties and damage, rendering them unfit for further service. Warren too had encountered and beaten back an attempt by the French navy during the voyage but again, whilst this was successful, it had alerted the Republicans that something was afoot and a large Royal Navy presence was making its way toward Brittany.

On the 27th June the Royal Navy reached their destination at the village of Cramac and the 2,500 émigrés were landed in two divisions. At 1am on the 27th a small Republican force fired on the landing Royalists but were easily beaten back and by 3am all Royalist émigrés were back on French soil and the order was now given for all stores and supplies to be brought ashore to equip Puisaye’s force and the expected number of 16,000 Royalists coming to them. Three hundred British marines were also disembarked alongside the Royalist force.

The first few days of the landings appeared to be a success and Warren wrote to Bridport informing him that many locals had cheered, wept and ran out to greet the émigrés as they advanced up the peninsula offering them food and wine. It would seem that the landings had been a success.

Problems soon began to arise for the mission when it became apparent that Puisaye and the other Royalist commanders, the Comte d’Hervilly and Comte de Sombreuil, were at logger heads and could not agree on an effective course of action. It was even discovered that d’Hervilly, whilst second in command to Puisaye, was considered more experienced and capable a leader and had privately been given permission to over-rule any bad decision made by Puisaye.

The internal politics within the Royal Navy were also equally bitter as Bridport made no attempt to hide his resentment that Warren had been given command of this expedition as a mere commodore, whereas Bridport, a full admiral, thought the leadership of the task should have fallen to him.

Upon learning that the landings had been a success, Bridport informed Warren that he would be taking the Channel Fleet back to England for repair after their engagement with Villaret-Joyeuse.

Warren wrote back to Bridport pleading with him to remain as Bridport’s presence was holding off Villaret-Joyeuse’s fleet from trapping Warren’s squadron in the Bay of Quiberon. Another issue facing Warren and the Royal Navy was that far more Royalists were converging on the area than anticipated, in numbers far greater than the number of supplies could be brought ashore to sustain them. The Royalist commanders were also pressing Warren for cannons which he needed to secure permission from the elusive Bridport for.

With tensions building on all sides, it was decided that on 3rd July the Royalist force would assault Fort Penthievre. The assault was a success and allowed the Royalists to establish a forward base and supply depot for the breakout into France. Three days later news arrived that Republican commander General Lazare Hoche was close to Nantes with 12,000 men. That same day a Republican attempt to retake the fort was beaten back by the use of Royal Navy gunboats and a Royalist counter attack.

Puisaye’s inactivity to break out of the peninsula had allowed more Republican forces under Hoche, numbering now at around 20,000, to converge on the area cutting off further reinforcement for the Royalists from Charette’s Chouans.

The lack of discipline or cohesion of the Royalists were further compounded by the increasing number of Chouan guerrillas joining their numbers. The Chouans refused to fight like regular troops and only interested in attaining arms and supplies to fight their own agenda. They had also brought with them large numbers of women, children and civilians who required regulation, feeding and supplying, which the plans had not accounted for.

On the 11th July 5,000 Royalists broke out and attacked the Republicans holding the north of the peninsula. They were successful but only succeeded in driving the Republicans back to an entrenched position they had dug in the bottle neck of the peninsula effectively cutting off all reinforcements to the Royalists.

Warren was becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of communication and support from Bridport and the ineffectiveness of the Royalists. On the 16th July he took matters into his own hands and issued his own cannons to support the attack on Hoche’s right flank when the Royalist army attempted to break out of the peninsula.

In what was a 3 point attack, the main Royalist force would attack by land, simultaneously 1,100 Chouans assembled into gunboats to attack in the east, and a further 5,000 Royalists would attack the Republican force on the Sainte Barbe. The main Royalist force met heavier resistance than expected and they were forced to retire suffering close to 300 casualties including the Comte d’Hervilly amongst their number. The Republicans pursued the retreating Royalists until they were stopped by the combined force of British gunboats and marines who opened fire into their flanks.

Original map taken from This Disastrous Affair, The Age of Sail Vol. 2, 2003 by Tom Wareham.

No further attack could be made until Warren had received more ships, reinforcements and supplies. Warren at this time had already lost 3 of his 10 ships due to blockading duty and an outbreak of scurvy. Unbeknownst to Warren, the Admiralty were in the process of preparing to send another fleet to support him, this time 4 regiments of British troops, the 12th, 78th, 80th and 90th Foot, were also being dispatched with more Royalists on transports.

Due to the recent failure to break out of the peninsula the Royalist enthusiasm began to crack with dozens of Chouan guerrillas deserting daily. Late on the 20th July a party of Royalist troops (suspected recruits from Republican prisoners of war) sneaked out of Fort Penthievre and returned a short time later with a force of Republicans who entered through a side entrance. Completely surprised, the Royalists garrison was completely routed by the Republicans, a good deal of the garrison fled, joined the Republicans, and those who stood their ground and fought were killed. Puisaye, who was stationed in the fort, fled back to the British ships. Fort Penthievre was now back in Republican hands.

On the 21st it was apparent that the expedition was not going to succeed, little or no ground had been gained and the little discipline and enthusiasm the Royalist cause had had before the expedition was now totally gone, made even worse by the dwindling numbers of Royal Navy ships. The Royalists had suffered over 1,000 casualties and the expedition had cost the British government 10,000 arms, magazines and supplies for well over 40,000 Royalists which were left abandoned on the beaches and the fort. In addition to the 1,000 casualties, 6,263 Royalist supporters were captured and arrested of which 748, mainly Chouan guerrillas, were shot on the orders of General Hoche.

Whilst the initial expedition had been a failure there was still an opportunity to consolidate and launch another attack from the mouth of the Loire River. On 20th July the Ilè d’Hoedic surrendered without opposition to Warren which he planned to use as a new forward base off the French mainland. From here he could safely store supplies, station troops, and make plans without being harassed by an approaching superior enemy. He also had control of the coast so long as Bridport remained to cover his rear from the French fleet.

On the 11th August Warren received news that a new plan was being put in place to land Royalists on the island of Noirmoutier. General Charette’s forces in The Vendeè were still active and a new Royalist excursion looked promising here. Unfortunately, Warren had lost a further two ships from his squadron and if his new objective was to be a success, he desperately needed more ships.

With Bridport still threatening to quit the mission and take the Channel Fleet home, and Puisaye determined to go back to the mainland to join the remaining Royalists, Warren was left with little option but to inform the Admiralty that unless reinforcements arrived by the 10th September, he would need to begin embarking the remaining troops, destroy the fortifications of the islands under the control of the Royal Navy and transport all the civilians to Guernsey and Jersey.

The Admiralty quickly wrote back confirming that Major General Doyle was on his was with the four British regiments and more reinforcements and supplies, and begged Warren to hold his position a little while longer. Again, Warren turned to Bridport for advice but, receiving no response, felt there was now no other option for him but to begin the re-embarkation of the Royalist troops and to begin destroying the fortifications on Hoedic.

The reinforcements did arrive as promised but by then it was too late. With the majority of the Royalist force back on their transports and the fortifications destroyed, the attack had lost its momentum and any forward base was now rendered indefensible.

On the 19th September, Bridport, who since the beginning of the expedition had been pestering the Admiralty to allow him to return home with the Channel Fleet for reasons of his own personal illness, was allowed to come back and was replaced by Admiral Harvey who took control of the Channel Fleet.

Back in France, Warren, Harvey and the newly arrived Doyle and his 4,000 reinforcements devised a final cast of the die to land the Royalist army at Bourgneuf Bay on the Ilè de Yeu. A spot had been found that was protected from enemy fire and like on Hoedic, afforded a good foothold to land stores, supplies and station the troops for a full on amphibious assault.

It was whilst the preparation for the assault was in place, Warren intercepted dispatches from an American vessel that that the French were planning an attack on San Domingo in the West Indies. The captured dispatches were sent hastily to the Admiralty who in light of this new threat informed Warren that they would need to requisition some of his ships and troops to be sent to the West Indies,.

On the 27th September Warren, Doyle and the senior naval and infantry officers met in Warren’s cabin on the Pomone to discuss the future of the doomed expedition. It was decided to completely abandon the attack on Noirmoutier but at the request of the Comte d’Artois the Royalist troops should still try launch an assault from the Ilè de Yeu.

The Ilè de Yeu fell without opposition and by the 12th October all troops had been disembarked. However, quite quickly it became apparent that the Ilè de Yeu was not the ideal landing base as Warren had been informed as he could not get the landing crafts close enough to transport the troops from the island to the coastline. By this time, Warren, completely fatigued with the whole expedition wrote home to England to say that the expedition had lost all momentum and was doomed to failure. The British government was also forced to acknowledge that as enthusiastic the Royalist cause was, it lacked the initiative, discipline and drive to raise the whole county in rebellion. As a last act to salvage the expedition, Warren was ordered to still land any men, arms and stores for those who wanted to join up with General Charette’s forces and to embark and bring home any British troops stationed on Ilè de Yeu.

With the expedition in complete tatters, on the 5th December Warren was so exhausted and broken by the futility of his task that he wrote to the Admiralty requesting that he be replaced as the commander of the expedition and be allowed to return home to recuperate. The following week all British troops were removed from the Ilè de Yeu and embarked onto the Navy transports homeward bound.

Whilst the expedition was an utter disaster, the French Royalists in France still continued to resist the Republican ideology through regular armed resistance. In March 1796 Charette was captured, and because he had quickly back-tracked over the signing of the Treaty of la Jaunaye in February 1795, he was summarily executed by firing squad on the orders of General Hoche.

Upon his return to England, Warren returned home to his family seat at Stapleford Hall, Nottinghamshire, to recuperate. He would remain here until March 1796 until he returned back on duty in his new role as Commodore, where he would continue to rise through the ranks of the Royal Navy for the period of the Napoleonic Wars in the following two decades.

Stapleford Hall in the early 20th century. The house was rebuilt in 1788 and demolished in 1935- Photo Credit:

Plaque commemorating Warren in St Mary’s Church, Attenborough, Nottinghamshire- Photo Credit: Micheal Kirkby.


  • Fleet Battle and Blockade: The French Revolutionary War 1793 – 1797

(Caxton Pictorial Histories, Chatham Publishing, 1996)

  • N. Tracey and M. Robson, The Age of Sail Vol. II

This Disastrous Affair: Sir John Borlase Warren and the Expedition to Quiberon Bay, 1775 by Tom Wareham (Conway Maritime Press, 2003)

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