Lord Russell remains in Exeter, believing rebellion is over
Russell wasted no time in setting in train stern measures aimed at restoring order in the troubled region. Gallows were erected in Exeter and other places, the intention being to execute a few prominent rebels as a warning to their erstwhile followers, as Protector Somerset had directed. The Council's proclamation permitting the appropriation of the rebels' properties was applied to the principal ringleaders, even though they had not yet been killed or captured. Sir Peter Carew was given all John Winslade's estates in Devon and Cornwall; to Sir Gawen Carew went all of Humphrey Arundell's lands, while William Gibbs, a Carew adherent, picked up all John Bury's property. Many others were given prisoners to ransom for their freedom.
The most high-profile rebel to be hanged in Exeter at this time was Robert Welsh, vicar of St Thomas. He was charged with preaching against the reformed religion and continuing to use the Romish rites and ornaments in his services. He was also implicated in the hanging of Russell's messenger Kyngeswell, and the court-martial sentenced him to death. His execution was entrusted to Bernard Duffield, the leading protestant on the city council; to emphasise the error of Welsh's ways he raised the gallows on the steeple of St Thomas's Church, and strung him up attired in his popish trappings thereby subjecting him to an excruciating lingering death. As a warning to would-be dissenters, his remains were left on the gibbet until 1553 when Catholicism was restored during the reign of Queen Mary I.
Since it was Welsh who dissuaded the rebels from attempting to torch the city during the siege it seems unjust that he should suffer such a cruel and ignominious fate, but these were troubled times and mercy was in short supply.
Meanwhile, in the ten days that Russell had been imposing retributive measures in Exeter, Arundell had been reorganizing what remained of the rebel forces - probably no more than 2000 men - at Sampford Courtenay where they laid a trap for the royal army. The Devon fighters set up camp on a hill to the east of the village commanded by Underhill, Coffin, and John Bury. The camp straddled what is now the main road from North Tawton to Winkleigh. Arundell and his better armed Cornishmen positioned themselves in the village, hoping to surprise the King's forces from the rear.
The Battle of Sampford Courtenay
On receiving the unwelcome news of Arundell's regrouping at Sampford Courtney, Lord Russell's army set out from Exeter on August 15th for the rebel encampment, progressing no further than the six miles to Crediton. The royalist forces having been augmented by Herbert's Welshmen now amounted to about 8000 men. They were soon to be joined by a detachment under the command of Sir Anthony Kingston. These gains offset the loss of the two ensigns of landsknechts that Somerset had recalled (after the battle of Clyst Heath) to assist in the suppression of Kett's Rebellion in Norfolk. The next day the vanguard consisting of most of the horse and the arquebusiers reached North Tawton, some 3 miles short of their destination, where they camped overnight. The infantry were strung out some way behind, Russell having delayed his own start.
On the morning of August 17th the scouts encountered a patrol led by the shoemaker Maunders, a signatory to the rebel Articles, who was captured by the River Taw crossing on the western edge of North Tawton. Soon after this, Grey and Herbert who commanded the van were ordered to advance to the camp and prepare their men for an attack on the rebels' well-entrenched position.
The rebellion is over
After a brief but hopeless attempt to rally the retreating rebels at Okehampton, Arundell sped across the Cornish border to Launceston where Sir Richard Grenville and other gentry were still languishing in gaol. Arundell in desperation tried to stir the citizens to assassinate these worthies; sensing the futility of further acts of insurrection, they opted to release Grenville and the others instead who in turn set about arresting the leading rebels including Arundell, William Winslade, and Holmes, thereby extinguishing this rebellion in Cornwall once and for all.
Retribution is harsh
Fleeing Devonshire rebels hunted down
The rump of the defeated Devonshire rebels under John Bury and Coffin made their way to Tiverton in an attempt to escape along the Exe Valley towards Somerset. A strong detachment under Sir William Herbert was sent in pursuit. The main body were finally overcome near King's Weston in Somerset on August 27th by a detachment led by Sir Hugh Paulet and Sir Peter Carew. One hundred and four prisoners were taken including Coffin. To give a stern warning to the local population, one or two of the prisoners (Coffin being among them) were hanged in the principal market towns of the county including Bath, Frome, Shepton Mallet, Ilminster, and Wells. The rest were released in batches.
Kingston pacifies the Cornish rebels mercilessly
Lord Russell appointed Sir Anthony Kingston as provost marshal with responsibility for rounding up and punishing the leading lights of the rebellion in Cornwall, including many parish priests. He appears to have discharged his duties with great relish, in the process acquiring a reputation for black humour bordering on the sick. Paraphrasing the original account in Grafton's Chronicle note4, Hooker gives two illustrations of his macabre brutality.
The first of these concerns the mayor of Bodmin, Nicholas Boyer (or Bowyer), a reluctant rebel who may have been coerced into supporting the cause. He replaced Henry Bray who had disappeared, possibly killed during battle. Kingston was told that Boyer had been 'a busy fellow among the rebels' and sought him out.
The second case relates to the untimely death of a hapless miller's servant who was duped by his master into pretending to be the owner of the mill in his absence.
The Council accuses Russell of overstepping his mandate
Russell, though not noted for his leniency, was surpassed in brutality by his subordinate Kingston who, alongside Grey and Herbert, was perpetuating a reign of terror in Cornwall, with hangings, and unbridled looting and confiscation. Somerset reprimanded Russell, saying that the proclamation threatening seizure of copyhold was intended as a warning at a time when he, Russell, was holed up in Honiton at his weakest. There was a danger that if it was carried out too zealously, then it would stoke up so much resentment that another rebellion would be fomented in due course. In any event, no man should have anything taken from him unless he has been attaintednote2 for a crime.
The final reckoning
Having completed the pacification of Cornwall, Russell returned to Exeter with a number of prisoners including Arundell, the Winslade brothers, Pomeroy, Holmes, and Bury. They were incarcerated in the city gaol prior to being transferred to London.
Those deemed to have been minor players were held in the Fleet prison before being discharged on November 1st. The four principals, Arundell, the elder Winslade, Bury and Holmes were kept in the Tower where they underwent cross-examination by members of the Council before being tried at Westminster Hall on November 26th. All four were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on January 27th, 1550 which was duly enacted.
The Council meanwhile wrote to Russell on September 12th ordering him to take down all bar the smallest of the bells from every church in Devon and Cornwall on the grounds that church bells had been used to summon the rebels, and the eventual resale of these bells would defray the cost of putting down the rebellion. The bells were to be removed quietly so as to avoid stirring a commotion.
In practice the commissioners removed the clappers or the iron framework instead of the bells which were left in the hands of some 'honest men' of the parish. The king granted the clappers by letters patent to two Devonians, Sir Arthur Champernowne and John Chichester, as a reward for their help in suppressing the rebellion. They profited handsomely from this windfall: before long their agents began touring the countryside selling them back (in most instances) to the parish from which they had been removed. note3
Although the events of 1549 which became known as the commotion time affected much of England, they were deeply traumatic for the people of both Devon and Cornwall. But the long-term repercussions of the rebellion and its aftermath were most profound for the Cornish. As Julian Cornwall put it: