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Our Connection to The Battle of Bossenden Woods

The Battle of Bossenden Woods....
took place on May 31 1838 near Hernhill in Kent and has been called the last battle on English soil.

Eleven men died in this battle, between a small army of labourers from the Hernhill, Dunkirk, Boughton area and a detachment
of soldiers sent from
Canterbury to arrest the marchers unhinged leader, the self-styled Sir William Courtenay, who was actually John Nichols
Thom a Truro wine merchant with a history of mental illness.

In early 1838, Courtenay began to preach to the labourers of the nearby area, claiming that he was the (Messiah) and, if they would join
him, he would lead them to a land of paradise. The local peasantry responded well to these claims; as one farm labourer later explained:

...he giv' em all the sacrament, and after that he anoints himself and all of em with oil, and tells em that then no bullet nor nothing could
harm em; - and Sir William, he sat upon the ground with his back against a tree like, and there was all the women crying
and praying to him, - and they says to him, Now do tell us if you be our blessed Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.' and says he,
I am he;' " and then he shows em the mark of the nails in his hands which was made when he was put on the cross.

Such behaviour naturally upset the local authorities and, fearing reprisals, Courtenay organised his followers into an armed
band on 29 May and began to travel through Kent, seeking to raise popular support for his attempted uprising. Although the local
people responded favourably, Courtenay was unable to attract more than forty men, mostly armed with cudgels.

This attracted a response from the authorities, who decided that Courtenay must be apprehended. At attempt on 30 May
failed, when one of the party coming to arrest Courtenay was shot and stabbed to death. The magistrates of Kent responded by
summoning military support.

The end of Courtenay's campaign came at Bossenden Wood, on the afternoon of 31 May. The 45th infantry surrounded Courtenay's
position and the leader of the force, Lieutenant Henry Boswell Bennett approached Courtenay to ask him to surrender; Courtenay's response
was to shoot him. This caused the soldiers to open fire on Courtenay's forces and, in a matter of minutes, the uprising had been
crushed, with nine deaths, including Courtenay and Bennett, and a number of serious injuries, which were to prove fatal for a
further three combatants.


The survivers of the riots were known as 'the Canterbury Rioters'

They were taken prisoner and committed for trial.
*Thomas Mears alias Tyler (the cousin of the murdered constable),
*Alexander Foad. *William Nutting. *William Price. *James Goodwin. *William Wills.
*William Spratt. *John Spratt. *John Silk. *Edward Curling. *Samnuel Edwards. *Sarah Culver.
*Thomas Myers alias Edward Wraight. *Charles Hills. *Thomas Ovenden. *William Coachworth.
*Thomas Griggs. *William Foad. *Richard Foreman.