Plunderer of Colnbrook to be celebrated by Parish Council 375 years after devastating visit

He may have devastated the village 375 years ago but parish councillors are preparing to host a celebration for the notorious Prince Rupert of the Rhine, leader of the royalist cavalry who sacked Colnbrook during the English Civil War.


It was 1642 when the notorious Prince Rupert plundered Colnbrook following the Battle of Brentford but, nearly four centuries later, a spirit of forgiveness is in the air: the village could mount a celebration later this year in his honour.

Colnbrook is associated with various events in national history: the conspirators against Henry IV met at Colnbrook in 1400.  In 1516 Henry VIII is said to have stayed in the long gone coaching inn The Catherine Wheel, and in 1537 the people of Colnbrook lined the streets to pay their respects to the passing funeral cortiege of Queen Jane, one of his wives, en route to Windsor.   In 1558 Princess Elizabeth reputedly stayed a night at The George Inn on her removal from Woodstock to Hampton Court as a prisoner.  However it is from the English Civil War that most historical references to Colnbrook orginate.  

PRINCE RUPERT.  Son of German prince Frederick V and nephew of King Charles I, Rupert became a noted soldier and fought in the Thirty Years War against the Holy Roman Empire before being appointed commander of Charles I's cavalry during the English Civil War, and eventually the entire Royalist army.  He fought in the first major battle of the war at Edgehill in October 1642, developing a formidable reputation on the battlefield. But surrender to Parliamentarians in Bristol in 1645 saw him dismissed by the king.

Cllr Hood informed fellow councillors of his research into the history of Prince Rupert’s visit to Colnbrook in 1642 at the last meeting of the Finance & Policy Committee on 21st February.  Cllr Hood commented on “the opportunity to celebrate this anniversary and to make recognition of this by having a blue plaque put on Abingdon House (apparently built on the site of The Catherine Wheel) to say ‘Prince Rupert Stayed Here before the Battle of Brentford on 11th November 1642’”.

After the defining Battle of Edgehill in October 1642 the petition for proposals of peace was presented in Colnbrook after King Charles I decided to encamp here.  Prince Rupert went on to win the Battle of Brentford.


Princess Diana’s brother, Lord Spencer, could be invited to unveil the plaque.

Shortly after, Prince Rupert is said to have plundered the town and imprisoned ‘all the well-affected to King and Parliament’, according to a respected archive put together by 17th century bookseller and publisher George Thomason.  

The Parish Council’s plan is to hold a re-enactment at St Thomas’ Church and a living history display, similar to that put on for the Magna Carta celebrations.

The Parish Council says it may invite Lord Charles Spencer, younger brother of Princesss Diana, to unveil the plaque.  Lord Spencer wrote a biography of Prince Rupert in 2008.

There is still a lot of work to be done and popular local history expert Julian Hunt will be asked to assist.

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