Family Lessons 90: Surviving the Siege of Lathom

My 12th great-grandfather, Lawrence Breres of Adlington, near Chorley, spent some of the civil wars defending Lathom House, the Earl of Derby’s principal residence, which fell to Parliament in December 1645. Whether he had been a defender during the first siege a year earlier, or the final siege, it is not clear, but he evidently survived and returned to his home to find that the parliamentarian sequesters had been at work on his house and goods. These were officials who targeted the property of active royalists and impounded their wealth to assist with the parliament’s war costs. It also had the helpful effect of reducing their targets' ability to contribute to the King’s efforts. They had seized his cows, ‘his spoons, tools and odd things’, as well his feather bed, which might have been a prized possession. His losses amounted to £35, 15 shillings and fourpence.

My own sympathies are very much with the Parliament, and my religious disposition deeply puritan. The Breres family had certainly been Catholic long after the Reformation, and Grandfather Lawrence’s loyalty to King or Earl might have been commendable, or he might simply have been the Earl’s tenant who could hardly have refused to fight. Either way, he returned from the wars a far poorer man than he set off. His grandfather and cousins were gentry, yet his will of 1669 describes him as:

Lawrence Brears (sic) husbandman of Aldington (sic)

A 'husbandman' was a keeper of his own animals on rented land, below the status of a yeoman.

Thirty-five pounds was a not inconsiderable sum in the 1640s, especially when, the land being ravaged by war and famine, food, cash and livestock were in short supply. Yet he emerged from Lathom far wealthier than many others- he retained his life. It is only when our minutes are few that we realise the immense value of mere breath rather than possessions. The Lord Jesus admonished in Luke 12:15:

“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (New King James Version)

If Grandfather Lawrence understood this, he effectively spent his thirty-five pounds buying wisdom. 

Photos: top: the site of the siege of Lathom, the newer house in the background; below: Lathom Chapel, which survived the siege.