On this day … 20 March 1689

Portraits of William III, Thomas Bellingham and James II
Portraits of (from left) William III, Thomas Bellingham and James II

Thomas Bellingham’s Preston diary entry for the day illustrates the disorder and disruption that affected the town following William of Orange’s invasion and James II’s flight to France, the events now termed the Glorious Revolution:

Ye 20th. A very wett day. I went to ye house of Correction, and spoke to Nicholas Collier, one of ye Irish men, who confess’d yt he heard yt K Ja was in Scotland, that Newcastle had declar’d for him, and yt ye Lancashire men would rise to his assistance. I saw Tho Whitehead, lately escap’d from Ireland. He goes to Kirkham …

The previous day, as recorded in Bellingham’s diary, seven Irish men had been sent to Preston by Sir Richard Standish, a lieutenant-colonel in the county militia. They were being held in the house of correction, the county jail at the time.

Nicholas Collier’s confession indicates the extent to which wild rumours about Jacobite activity were circulating, with an invasion by James II threatened from either Scotland or Ireland. It was feared that supporters of James in Lancashire were planning attacks in the county.

The prisoners had been arrested heading for Scotland to join forces thought to be led by Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe (1650-1702), who, according to his biography was ‘a rake and a thug’, who, having been deprived of his commission as brigadier-general in December 1689, retired to his estate at Westbroke, near Godalming, Surrey, ‘to dabble in Jacobite intrigue’.

The description of Thomas Whitehead, ‘escaping’ from Ireland, rather than ‘fleeing’, the description applied to earlier arrivals from Ireland, could indicate that Bellingham and others in Preston now believed the threat to Protestants from Catholics in Ireland had increased.

The accounts of their sufferings those Protestants brought with them, no doubt exaggerated by the rumour mill operating in the town, made the position of Preston’s Catholics increasingly dire. The situation was made much worse by the presence of thousands of unruly soldiers camped in the town, waiting for their embarkation for Ireland.

Thomas Whitehead was possibly the person who was briefly the Preston schoolmaster, appointed in the September of 1689 and dying just three weeks later.

One thought on “On this day … 20 March 1689

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s