The Civil War in Chester....
Starving townsfolk survived siege by eating cats and dogs

KING Charles I raised his Royal flag in Nottingham in August 1642 to commence England's bloody Civil War. Chester supported the King, pricipally due to the influence of the locally important Gamull family, plus of course, the fact that his eldest son was also the Earl of Chester.

Local Royalist support soon became very strong in Chester and when Sir William Brereton tried to rally support for the Parliamentarians in the city centre, there was nearly a riot. Sir William left Chester to try and raise support elsewhere, and his town house was burned to the ground.
Chester was important since it was the Gateway to Wales and as a port it was also a strategic position which the Parliamentarians were keen to control. Throughout the War they tried to break through the city's defences, but without success.

By October 1642, 300 armed men were trained and armed with muskets to defend Chester and over the months the city walls were strengthened and repaired.

However, from 1644 the Royalists armies were concentrated in the south of England, leaving the north to fend for itself. The knowledge that there would be nomilitary relief for Chester made the Parliamentarians more determined to win the city - making a siege situation almost inevitable.

Although most people lived within the city walls at that time there were houses in what is now Foregate Street, Northgate Street, Boughton and Handbridge. After a surprise attack on the eastern suburbs, which caused the Mayor to flee from his home in Foregate Street, the Royalists decided to burn all the suburbs down. This improved their view of Roundhead movements, and stopped the enemy from using the buildings for themselves.

This was obviously a drastic move, especially for the people who lived in the suburbs, but in the time of civil war great sacrifices were made. Initially all the Royalist soldiers were volunteers, but in June 1643 conscription was introduced.

Now all men in Chester had to fight to defend the city.
Taxes had to be levied on the Chester residents to pay the garrison of soldiers stationed there, and also for the building work involved in the defences.

However, trade was reduced by the war, and people found it difficult to pay. In the end silver treasures of the city had to be melted down. These were turned into coins to pay for the defence.
Sir William Brereton tried to blockade the city from camps at Tarvin, Christleton, Hoole and Puddington. In July 1643 the real attacks began and Chester was effectively under siege for almost two years.

The King visited Chester twice during the Civil War, once in 1642 and again in 1645 when he watched the Battle of Rowton Moor, from the Phoenix Tower, now known as King Charles' Tower. The Battle of Rowton Moor was long and hard fought. It was actually made up of three separate fights as the armies retreated and attacked again.

The fighting lasted all day until the Roundheads, led by Colonel General Poynts finally defeated the Cavalier troops.

Afterwards the situation worsened for the people of Chester and when the King left he gave instructions to the Governor, Lord Byron to surrender in twenty days if help did not arrive.

The citizens had suffered for nearly three years and were determined not to give in. The defences held firm until the winter of 1645-46 when the Roundheads intensified their blockade.

The citizens were now forced to eat cats, dogs and even rats to stay alive. Starvation finally forced Lord Byron to agree to an honourable surrender, and Chester officially capitulated on February 3, 1646.