Civil War: Surrender of Oxford
Plaque at the place where the surrender was negotiated in 1646
‘Cromwell House’, 17 Mill Lane, Old Marston
In 1642 after the battle of Edgehill, Charles I was forced back from London and made Oxford his military base and centre of government. When the city was besieged by the New Model Army of the Parliamentarians, their supporter Unton Croke, the local grandee at Marston, made his manor house available to General Fairfax as his HQ in 1645. Cromwell himself is known to have visited the house at that time and is likely to have made other visits later as he was constantly present around Oxford during the siege.
In 1646, after the King’s departure for the north, the Privy Council instructed Sir Thomas Glenham, Governor of Oxford, to treat with Fairfax, a course of action endorsed by the King. Glenham still considered Oxford to be defensible against Fairfax’s assault, mounted from the Great Fort on Headington Hill, but felt obliged to accept the enemy’s overture. 13 commissioners were chosen by each side and the place appointed for negotiations was ‘Mr Croke’s house at Marston’ (contemporary sources).
Meetings between 18 and 23 May were unsuccessful as neither side was yet in a mood to concede much. Fairfax had more prescriptive Articles of Surrender drawn up and on 4 June the commissioners returned to Unton Croke’s house to consider the them. Terms respecting the ancient rights of Oxford and safeguarding the departing Royalist garrison were finally agreed at the house on 17 June and on the 20th formally signed by Fairfax and Glenham in the Audit House at Christ Church. Two days later the King’s nephews, Prince Rupert and Prince Maurice, were allowed to leave the city with 300 gentlemen. On 24 June up to 3000 of the Royalist garrison marched out of the city with full military honours, as agreed. They were disarmed and disbanded at Thame and issued with passes from Fairfax guaranteeing their safety and liberty. Fairfax placed guards on the Bodleian Library to protect it against looting.
Unton Croke, son of Sir John Croke of Studley Priory, had acquired the Marston house (above) when he married Anne Hore in 1617, and rebuilt it. The house has been divided since the nineteenth century, comprising two residences, no. 17 (known locally as ‘Cromwell House’ and no. 15, known as the ‘Manor House’). Number 17 (on which the plaque has been erected) is the western part of the original house and retains its seventeenth-century appearance as well as interior. In 1843 a fire had destroyed the frontage of number 15 (the eastern half) and this was restored as a nineteenth-century façade, although the seventeenth-century interior is substantially intact.
- Sources: the events are detailed in Frederick John Varley’s book The Siege of Oxford: An Account of Oxford during the Civil War 1642–1646 (OUP 1932), readily accessible on Wikipedia. He derived his account from documents held by the British Library.
- Oxford Mail, 19 June 2013: “Blue plaque marks Civil War surrender”
- Speech by Professor Peter Gaunt (President of the Cromwell Association)
- Photograph of Robert Evans, FBA (Regius Professor of History Emeritus and Chairman of the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board) and Professor Peter Gaunt
- Photograph of the Oxford Waits, who performed in the garden at the ceremony
The plaque was inaugurated on 16 June 2013 by Professor Peter Gaunt, President of The Cromwell Association.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
IN THIS PLACE
the Royalist surrender
was negotiated with the
The Cromwell Association