Letters to Thurloe 1-3
Monday September 3, 1646.
My dear Thurloe,
My journey from London to Falmouth was long and not without discomfort though it was,
for a man like me whose life has been spent in London and the south east, a journey of
discovery. I overnighted in Exeter and Plymouth, both towns wedded to the Parliamentary
cause. I will not dwell on my time in those places, suffice to say that the roads left much to
be desired – dark uneven tracks, occasionally flooded and in pitiful repair.
We travelled across Dartmoor and crossed into Cornwall, whereupon we settled in
Launceston for two nights, a town awash with Roundheads gleaning the rewards of their
victory. It was here that a misfortune occurred - our carriage wheel buckled, much to the
delight of locals who are suspicious of anyone from beyond their own Cornish realm. A
noisome group surrounded us, along with a few soldiers who were the worst for wear. The
coachman alerted an officer and it was only upon his arrival that they quieted themselves.
The officer apologised and verbally reprimanded the soldiers, though no further action
was taken, and my carriage was speedily repaired. Yet the thought remained that, had I
not produced papers validating my official status, I would have been left at the mercy of
cut throats and would not be writing to you now.
I must say, Thurloe, the folk here speak a strange rough-hewn accent that mirrors the jagged
coastline of the county. It is difficult to reconcile that they and we are of the same breed.
Indeed some Cornish folk consider themselves an independent nation, like the Scots, Irish
and Welsh. It pains me to encounter such ideas. It seems that our hallowed isle will forever be
riven with notions of separatism. Such, Thurloe, is our country at this moment in time; and
such is the fear and heartlessness of its people.
Tuesday 11th September 1646.
I have been staying at a grand building in Falmouth town, Arwenack House. It is being used
as the Parliamentary headquarters. Since my arrival I have dined on a number of occasions
with the Colonel - a no-nonsense veteran of the european wars - and our conversation has
been enlightening. He told me that on the day Fairfax entered the town Arwenack House was
put to fire on the order of Pendennis Castle’s governor, Sir John Arundel. The flames were
doused by Fairfax’s men before too much damage was done but the incident gives an insight
into the callous nature of the siege that followed.
The Colonel seems confident that it is only a matter of time before the king bows to the
inevitable and makes his peace. Parliament has routed the Cavalier army in the south west,
preventing foreign mercenaries in the pay of the monarch from landing on our shores. There
is, simply, nowhere else for the king to go, the Colonel said, although he tempered his
assessment with a warning: ‘Cornwall remains firmly in support of Charles’ he said ‘and it
would be wise to remember this as you go about your business. The populace should be
treated with the lightest touch. Fairfax also acknowledged this fact and is respected all the
more for it.’
In return I outlined my mission. I informed the Colonel that Parliament had instructed me to
investigate an incident that took place during the siege of Pendennis Castle. I was to report
my findings, as well as make recommendations towards the fate of a certain prisoner. The
Colonel remained silent for a moment as if carefully considering his response. Then he said
that the siege had been a particularly brutal affair. Along with the usual instances of terror and
misconduct on behalf of Royalist troops, there had been rumours of supernatural interventions which were difficult to comprehend. He told me that the locals are naturally
inclined to witchcraft, a trait that can be explained by the extreme poverty and lack of
education that exists in the county. Before we parted he advised me to remain on my guard at
all times. I thanked him. His words have left me with much to ponder.
Thursday 13th September 1646.
Yesterday I visited Pendennis Castle in order to speak with the principal prisoner about the
charges levelled against him. What I discovered, dear Thurloe, was not what I expected.
The cell was dark and my gloomy outline must have caused the prisoner some concern.
With my black hat, cloak, leggings and buckled shoes, I suppose I cut a fearsome sight, for
upon my entering the cell he scurried into a corner of the far wall. I asked, as protocol
dictates, if he was the person known as Edmund Dawes. He replied that he was. I summoned
the guard to bring torchlight, placed my satchel on the floor and prepared to conduct an
Newly lit, I saw that the cell contained a hard bed and a bucket. A small grating offered a
single beam of light. The ancient brickwork was damp and surfaced with mildew. I told
Dawes to be seated and introduced myself. 'I am a lawyer' I said 'acting on behalf of Parliament. I
have come to speak with you about certain events that took place during the siege.'
It was now that I was fully able to study the infamous Edmund Dawes. He is much younger
than I had anticipated – sixteen years was the age he offered – and slight of build. A month
sitting in a dark gaol had left him sullen-eyed and disorientated. He scratched constantly at
the exposed skin on his arms and once seated on his bed rocked to and fro in a vague manner.
He reminded me of an animal: a dog, perhaps, recently whipped by its master.
He spoke intermittently – short bursts of thought that lapsed into deficiency. He is not, he
said, a Cornishman born and bred - he was born in Kent. His father was a rogue who was
done for by drink; his mother fled with her child to Cornwall to escape a debtor's bond. She
died many years past and so Dawes remained with his aged grandmother in a squalid
dwelling to the north of Falmouth town. It was during the outbreak of our island’s conflict
that Dawes sought to ease their predicament by enlisting in the Trained Bands, for he is much
concerned for his grandmother’s welfare and asked me, several times during our
conversation, whether he would be allowed to visit her. 'She cannot fend for herself; she is
reliant on the charity of neighbours' he said and I was left with the impression of an old
woman on the very edge of madness. Of course, I told him that, under the circumstances, it
would not be possible to get permission for such a visit but I offered to seek her out if my
schedule allowed me to do so. At this point Dawes began to shed tears, tears that accumulated
with such ferocity that I handed over my kerchief in order that he might dab the trickles of
fluid from himself.
'She is alone' he said.
'We all stand alone in the eyes of God' I countered.
He leaned forward, scratching still, and asked suddenly: 'Are you here to send me to the
I must confess, Thurloe, that I hesitated before I answered. My role here is not that of
executioner – I am merely a collator of facts. And yet, as hard as I now find, the machinery of
the law has been set in motion. Justice must be served; truths must be told.
‘I am a lawyer under orders to collect information, that is all. I shall make
recommendations where I see fit but any punishment will be determined by officers of
There followed a period of silence and an unexpected calmness washed over him. It was,
dear Thurloe, as if a tender act of mutual contrition had passed between us.
Go to chapters 4-6 here: https://www.abctales.com/story/kilb50/letters-thurloe-4-6