The Tudor Society

Battle of Woodbury Common – 4 August 1549

The heath at Woodbury Common

The heath at Woodbury Common

The Battle of Woodbury Common, part of the Prayer Book Rebellion, took place on 4th August 1549 on Woodbury Common, near the village of Woodbury in East Devon. The battle took place at 4am and happened when the rebels, who had been defending Clyst St Mary, marched to Woodbury Mill where Lord Russell and his troops had camped for the night. The rebels were defeated.

In The ancient history and description of the city of Exeter (1765), John Hooker writes of the battle:

"Accordingly, about six days after, on Saturday 3rd August, he [Lord Russell] set out from Honiton, and marched in good order, towards Exeter, with about 1000 fighting men under his command; but leaving the direct high road, he came over the down towards Woodbury, and there pitched his camp that night at a windmill belonging to one Gregory Carie, Gent. When the rebels of St. Mary Clyst heard thereof, they forthwith assembled all their force, and marched forward until they came to the aforesaid mill, where they gave battle; and notwithstanding they fought most valiantly, at length they were defeated, and a great number of them slain."

The 1549 Act of Uniformity had established The Book of Common Prayer, which set out the new legal form of worship in England. It was made compulsory in June 1549 which led to the Prayer Book Rebellion - also known as the Prayer Book Revolt, Prayer Book Rising, Western Rising and Western Rebellion - a series of revolts in the south-west of England which then spread into the east of England. The rebels called for the rebuilding of abbeys, the restoration of the Six Articles, the restoration of prayers for souls in purgatory, the policy of only the bread being given to the laity and the use of Latin for the mass. The final battle of the rebellion was the Battle of Sampford Courtenay on 17th August. The rebels were defeated and those who survived the battle fled to Launceston Castle, where they were captured and taken to the Tower of London.

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