A few miles away in the small town of Birmingham, a very different story unfolded during the Civil War. The community there was predominantly made up of leather workers and tanners, self-reliant artisans who instinctively gravitated towards the puritanism that had come to dominate the Capital and Parliament. The followers of the King tended to be (although were by no means exclusively) traditionalists from the countryside, the agricultural workers of a big landowner who could call upon their feudal services. The people in the towns and cities had no feudal lord to tip their hat to and thus tended to mobilise around the urban churches which had become influenced by incomers from the continent, often hardline Protestant refugees from Catholic France. The French protestants were largely Calvinists, an uncompromising community which was in no mood to meekly bow the knee to an English King that had married a devout Catholic Frenchwoman of the ruling French Royal House - their great tormentors. These people moved to the heart of the new communities of manufacturers such as weavers and other like trades and must have been a great influence on the English townspeople around them. The English had always had a reputation in Europe for loose living and debauchery, but these influences even converted the notoriously immoral population of London to presbyterianism. Shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War, the Scots Covenanter Army marched south in protest at the ‘papist’ actions of the King the London crowds unbelievably turned out onto the streets in their thousands to cheer them as heroes and liberators.
Birmingham like London, opposed the King, and so it was that Prince Rupert, Charles I’s nephew and flambuoyant cavalry leader, and his army rode towards the town intent on preventing further depradations on the Royalist Army from that locality. The people of Birmingham had seized goods and even soldiers of the Royal Army, sending them to the city of Coventry where they were free to roam within the walls but were ignored as enemy prisoners (thereby giving rise to the well-known phrase). Rupert had just besieged and captured the Cathedral Close of Lichfield and converted it into a Royalist citadel. As he approached he was confronted by hastily-constructed defences in the form of mud walls that surrounded the fifteen or so streets.
There was desultory resistance from defenders which was soon put to flight, leaving the local population to face a rampaging army, some of whom were mercenaries with little interest in the well-being of those left behind. The reports of what happened next are contradictory. Rupert claimed that he restrained his army from going further than some limited reprisals. The stories of local people contradict this.