‘An army marches on its stomach’ – Napoleon Bonaparte
The challenges of feeding an army were well known to Napoleon and we can imagine that they were equally relevant 150 years earlier when Charles I was engaged in war with Parliament during the English Civil War. How (and what!) the soldiers were fed is demonstrated in a number of fragmentary receipts which are within the Trust’s collection.
Gold Unite of Charles I (click for larger image)
These receipts were found as a part of the enormous Breckenbrough hoard. This hoard contained over 1552 silver coins in addition to 30 gold coins. One of the coins, a gold ‘Unite’ of Charles I is illustrated above. The hoard represents a huge accumulation of wealth, more than many would have seen in a lifetime. It was put it into the ground during the unrest of 1644 when Parliamentarian forces were active in Yorkshire, possibly in the period immediately before the Battle of Marston Moor. In a period before the advent of banks, a pot in the ground stuffed full of coins represented one of the more secure ways of burying your wealth.
Receipt for purchase of 10 1/2 stone of Cheese from ‘Woodall Field’ (click for larger image)
Hoards of civil war coins are not particularly unusual. We have others, such as those from Grewelthorpe and Middleham in our collection. What marks this hoard as very unusual is the fact that four fragments of paper were concealed alongside the coins. These fragments record the fact that John Guy, the ‘deputy provider general’ for the Royalist forces, had requisitioned 12 stone(!) of cheese to feed Charles’ army. These are dated to 17 January 1643 although this would be January 1644, as we would reckon it, given the different way we calculate dates. The date is visible at the top of each receipt and you may just be able to make out the curvy ’1643′ on the image below.
Receipt for purchase of 1 1/2 stone of Cheese from ‘Brekenbrough’ (click for larger image)
So why would you include receipts alongside your coins? Well, it is perhaps best to think of them as ‘IOU’s. The king had taken the cheese to feed his army but had not yet paid for it. Whoever buried the hoard would have been able to claim payment for this whenever Charles won the war. The receipt were thus valuable commodities and were saved alongside the coins. Now we know that Charles did not win the war but it is likely that whoever buried the hoard did not think that they would be leaving it there for any length of time. It is likely that they were killed during the Civil War’s fighting and could not go back and dig up their wealth, leaving it to be found in modern times.
The grand total of 12 stone (about a medium size person) of cheese and the enormous pile of coins suggest that there was significant wealth in the region during the Civil War. Much of it was lost, gobbled up (literally or metaphorically) by competing armies or hoarded in the ground never to be seen again. The receipts show the human side of this war and also that cheese could be as valuable as coinage!
Dat’ 17 January 1643
Rec’ from Woodall Feild 10 stone
1/2 of Cheese for the use of
dat’ 17 January 1643
Rec’ from Brekenbrough 1 stone
and 1/2 stone for the use of
John Guy deputie