POLITICAL HISTORY in readiness. By July 28 the number of trained men from Surrey had been raised to 1,871 ; of these 1,000 were ordered to join the Earl of Leicester's army, which was gathered on the Thames with head- quarters at Tilbury, 500 were sent to the force near London, under Lord Hunsdon, which was to guard the queen's person. 1 To Leicester too went the scanty cavalry force, 8 lances, gentlemen in full armour with servants attending them as perhaps demi-lances, and 90 light horsemen.* On July 19 the Spanish fleet had been first seen off the Cornish coast, and by this time was known to be coming to the narrow seas. They reached Calais roads on July 27. It was doubtful where they might attempt to throw troops on shore, but appearances pointed now to an attempt on Kent or Essex. The watchers in every county stood by the beacons, prepared to flash the news of the landing far and wide. This was the purpose for which the beacons were prepared. They were never lighted in this year. On July 23, when the court at Richmond was in possession of the news that the Armada was coming up the Channel, the orders of the Council to Surrey are explicit, that the county levies were to hold themselves in readiness to march when the beacons were fired, the direction from which the signal came giving warning of where the landing had been made. 3 Twice before the beacons had been fired by mistake or by mischievous intent. On December 28, 1579, Walsingham himself wrote to apologize to Sir William More, explaining that the alarm had been raised ' by an error conceaved throughe a fyre made about Portsmouth downe by hunters that had earthed a badger, and thought to have smouthered him.' 4 Forces had then hurried off to the seaside. We were not actually at war then, but a Spanish force was known to be assembled in reality for the conquest of Portugal, but regarded with suspicion in England. Again on July 14, 1587, persons were discharged from the Marshalsea who had been committed for firing the beacons. 6 We trust not the unsportsmanlike hunters of eight years before. The alarm in 1 579 must have come over Hindhead. Now in 1588 the watchers in Surrey looked anxiously eastward and north-eastward, to Knockholt and Shooters Hill ; or south-eastward, where Crowborough Beacon would catch up the alarm from Hastings cliffs or from hills far off above the Medway. There was great discouragement at Richmond 'that my Lord Admiral hath suffered them to passe on so farre without fight, and that he pre- vented not the opportunity they have now gotten of refreshing their men.' 6 Lady Lincoln so wrote to Sir William More, asking him to come to her house at Horsley, with small hope that he could stay there. In fact two nights before the letter was written the fire-ships had been sent down into the Spanish fleet, and the decisive action, as it proved, had begun. But it was not recognized as decisive for long. On August 2 the whole muster of Surrey was called to arms. The eastern 1 Acts of Privy Council, ERz. 1588. * Stowe's Chronicle. 3 Acts of Privy Council, ERz. July 23, 1588. 4 Loseley MSS. date cited. 5 Acts of Privy Council, ERz. 1587. ' Loseley MSS. July 30, 1588, xi. 172. 391
Page:VCH Surrey 1.djvu/463
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.