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Richard Bolle, The Hero of Alton Church

Back to The Bolles of Haugh and The Bolles of Haugh's Family Tree

The story of the heroic Colonel Bolles is well enough known and can be found in various versions online.  I am not a civil war historian who can give an informed opinion on the accuracy of those accounts so I will not repeat them here.

For an account of his heroism see:

The Battle of Alton section of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_St_Lawrence,_Alton




What is very notable though is the uncertaintly, or rather the abundance of contradictory certainties, of just who this Colonel Bolles was.

A Bolle family historian, John Augustus Bolles, author of The Genealogy of the Bolles Family in America (Boston, Henry W. Dutton & Son, 1865), writes confidently that "Sir Charles Bolles, son of Sir John, ..... was an active partizan of Charles I and from his tenants raised and armed a regiment of infantry which was commanded by his brother, Col. John Bolles.  ..... He was slain at Winceby, fighting as a Royalist in October 1643. .... Col. John Bolles, his brother, fought bravely at Edgehill and other places and was killed while defending Alton, 1643 Dec. 20".  (The English Bolleses, vi-vii)  In reference to Col. John Bolles he adds in a footnote "A monumental inscription in Winchester Cathedral, adjoining Bishop Morley's monument, commemorates his virtues, though by a strange blunder his name and date of death are both mis-stated.  It was composed and placed in the Cathedral, in 1689, by Richard Boles, Rector of Whitnash Church."

The Rev. Cayley Illingworth in 'A Topographical Account of the Parish of Scampton Together With Anecdotes of the Family of Bolle' (T. Cadell and W. Davies, London, 1810) echoes the above statement that Col. John Bolles was the hero of Alton Church.

In 'Records of the Bowles Family' (self published) Appendix I - 12, William Henry Bowles states that Illingworth's claim "Colonel John Bolle is the 'Colonel Richard Boles' who fell at the battle of Alton and is commemorated in the oft-quoted memorial in Winchester Cathedral will not bear a moment's investigation. .... and  Colonel John was certainly not killed on that occasion for helived until the year 1654".  Bowles then notes "There is some difficulty in identifying the hero of Alton but we must surely place him somewhere in the Wiltshire family of Boles, otherwise why should the composer of his epitaph (who would presumably be a kinsman) have described him as "Ricardus Boles Wiltoniensis dolens"?"

In a more recent source, P. R. Newman in his 'The Old Service: Royalist Regimental Colonels and the Civil War, 1642-46' (Manchester University Press, 1993) states (p. 163) "Richard Bolles of Theddlethorpe in Lincolnshire was a fifty-year-old veteran of Europe and the Scots wars when he assumed command of the infantry regiment raised by Lord Pagett, late in 1642.  He fought at the storm of Bristol, where so many officers fell, but survived to end his days in a sacrificial gesture of defiance to the rebels.  A memorial to the 'renowned Martialist Richard Bowles' was later set up in Winchester Cathedral to record his death at Alton Church in Hampshire on 13 December 1643."

The account of the battle of Alton Church which until recently was posted online by the Lisle Guild also stated that the hero of Alton Church was Richard Bolle of Theddlethorpe, the son of John Bolle and Margaret Mussenden.  The site was particularly helpful though as it included a full transcription of the Will of Richard Bolle of Louth dated January 31, 1641 (which is 1642 by the modern calendar) and which received probate in December 1647.  This is undoubtedly the Will of the hero of Alton.  The delayed probate in 1647 after his death in 1643 would be entirely as expected during a time of civil war.  Strangely though no comment is made regarding the Will stating specifically that it was written and signed by Richard Bolle of Louth rather than Richard Bolle of Theddlethorpe and also that it is clearly the Will of a single man while Richard of Theddlethorpe was married with several children.

A further complication to their conclusion is the fact that Richard Bolle of Theddlethorpe had been killed in a duel in 1631.  A full account of the duel is at Richard Bolle's Duel With John Legard

The Will clearly identifies the author as Richard Bolle of Louth, indeed the son of John Bolle and Margaret Mussenden as the Lisle site states.  See  Richard Bolle in The Bolles of Haugh Family Tree.  All of his Bolle relations mentioned in the Will can be found in the tree.  His Uncle and cousins Mussenden are his mother, Margaret Mussenden's, brother and nephews.

However he was not  Richard Bolle of Theddlethorpe, his cousin and namesake also found in that tree, a family man who died in a duel in 1631.  Richard Louth was unmarried and a career soldier whom I first found on record in 1624 when he served as Ensign to Sir Peregrine Bertie in the Netherlands, then he served in the disastrous Attack on Cadiz in 1625, in action against rebels in Ireland in 1626, in the failed Ile de Rhe expedition in 1627 and then in the Netherlands again until he was wounded and returned to England in 1630.  See the account of those events in The Bolles of Haugh in the Military  He may have fought for the King against the Scots Rebellion in 1639 but I haven't found any record of that.  According to his Will he was expecting to leave to fight the rebels in Ireland in February 1642 although due to the pre-Civil War tensions in England I don't believe that many troops actually left for Ireland that year.  According to the contemporary recorded histories of the Civil War he fought as a Royalist that October at Edgehill and 'other places' and died at Alton in December 1643.

John Augustus Bowles may have been correct when he stated that the plaque in Winchester was composed and placed in the Cathedral in 1689 by Richard Boles, Rector of Whitnash Church.  That would explain the 'Boles' spelling and the Wiltoniensis reference on the plaque.  The year 1689 is certainly stated on it.  The Rector of Whitnash Church, Richard Boles, was a noted eccentric of the Wiltshire line of Boles who are not thought to have any common ancestry with the Lincolnshire Bolles.  There is no reason to give any weight to the details given on it.

See also The Will of Richard Bolle of Louth


This site was last updated 01/21/20