Hythe, like the rest of Kent, was under parliamentary control throughout the first Civil War. The king’s lands were mostly in the west and north of the country. None of the major battles were fought in Kent and it was spared the horrors of Englishmen slaughtering each other and the inevitable looting and that retaliation that followed each confrontation. Most of Kent, although moderately parliamentarian until the war broke out, was thereafter moderately royalist but never effectively challenged the status quo. Some towns, particularly the Cinque ports, were notably parliamentarian. Dover and Sandwich were two, Hythe was another. In its choice of representatives for parliament, its welcome of a radical Puritan minister, in its support of the execution of the king, it was as firm a supporter of parliament as any town in Kent.
However, there was a mixture of loyalties in Hythe, as in most places. There were those who were firecely for parliament, or for the king, and those who were moderate in their opinions either way, and those who just wanted to get on with making a living or raising a family and wished things would get back to normal and stop changing so often.
There was a lot of change to assimilate. In 1642, parliament set up county committees, composed of local gentry, to run each county. Their authority was based not just on their commissions from parliament but also on their powers as deputy lieutenants and JPs. The Cinque Ports argued that their special rights and privileges meant that they should not be governed by the county committee of Kent. Sandwich acted as their mouthpiece, strongly arguing that any attempts by the committee to interfere were contrary to their ‘liberties, customs and freedoms’. But by 1643 some of the ports were beginning to cave in. Lydd, Folkestone and Hythe were the first. The King’s army was at this time advancing through Sussex and it must have seemed that these ports might be overrun. They chose the protection of parliament instead.
A Royalist plot had been hatched at Beachborough, the seat of Sir William Brockman, a mile or so north of Hythe. The king sent him a Commission of Array, entitling him to muster local forces and the Earl of Thanet was sent to assist him, marching eastward from Sussex. Unfortunately, a letter about the plot fell into parliament’s hands, Brockman was arrested and the earl surrendered, ignominiously requesting ‘an accommodation’, which was refused. His estate became forfeit to parliament.
The county committee was concerned with the raising of taxation and the provision of armed forces. Another committee was set up to in 1643 to seize the estates of royalists and Catholics. Then an accounts committee was set up with separate membership to audit the accounts of the first two committees. The sheer size of Kent necessitated ‘a numerous offspring’ of sub-committees and there were separate committees to run Canterbury and Rochester. By the mid-1640s there were twenty or so committees or sub-committees operating in the county at a number of sites, including Hythe.
Sir William Brockman of Beachborough