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Posted by on May 19, 2006 in Village History | 0 comments

Battle of La Hogue

What has the village of Chippenham in Cambridgeshire got to do with a plot to depose the King of England and re-establish the Catholic Church in Britain?

The battle of La Hogue took place in May 1692 between an allied British and Dutch fleet and a French force, on the northern and eastern sides of the Cotentin in Normandy. The French allied with Jacobite exiles were preparing to cross the English Channel to attempt to put the exiled James II back on the throne of England.  Although the French force was weaker than the British, the French commander (Tourville) believed that British captains would defect to join the service of James II.  The British commander was Edward Russell, afterwards earl of Orford.

The British government, aware of the Jacobite intrigues in its fleet, and of the prevalence of discontent, took the bold course of appealing to the loyalty and patriotism of its officers. At a meeting of the flag-officers on board the Britannia, Russells flag-ship, on the 15th of May, they protested their loyalty, and the whole allied fleet put to sea on the 18th. On the 19th of May they sighted Tourville.

Tourville bore down on the allied fleet and attacked about mid-day, directing his main assault on the centre of the allies. On the centre, where Tourville was directly opposed to Russell, the fighting was severe. The British flag-ship the Britannia, and the French, the Soleil Royal, were both completely crippled.

After several hours of conifict, the French admiral, seeing himself outnumbered, and that the allies could outflank him and pass through the wide intervals in his extended line, drew off without the loss of a ship. Until the 23rd May, the two fleets remained off the north coast of the Cotentin, drifting west with the ebb tide or east with the flood, save when they anchored. During the night of the 19th/20th some British ships became entangled, in the fog, with the French, and drifted through them on the tide, with loss.

On the 23rd both fleets, were near La Hague. About half the French, under D'Amfreville, rounded the cape, and fled to St Malo through the dangerous passage known as the Race of Alderney. The others were unable to get round the cape before the flood tide set in, and were carried to the eastward. Tourville now transferred his own flag, and left his captains free to save themselves as they best could. He left the Soleil Royal, and sent her with two others to Cherbourg, where they were destroyed by Sir Ralph Delaval. The others now ran round Cape Barfleur, and sought refuge on the east side of the Cotentin at the anchorage of La Houque, called by the English La Hogue, where the troops destined for the invasion were encamped. Here 13 of them were burnt by Sir George Rooke, in the presence of the French generals and of the exiled king James II. From the name of the place where the last blow was struck, the battle has come to he known by the name of La Hogue.

The connection with Chippenham is that Edward Russell (created in 1697 Earl of Orford) purchased the estate at Chippenham in 1689, a purchase probably financed out of the profits of his naval career. During 1689 he served in the Channel, enforcing a total blockade of France, and in 1690 was promoted admiral of the fleet. In May 1692, Louis XIV’s French invasion army and James II were gathered at Cape La Hogue in the Cotentin peninsula, ready to embark to invade England. At the Battle of La Hogue, which lasted five days, the combined Dutch and English fleets, led by Russell, defeated and destroyed the French fleet.

Between 1698 and 1712 Russell had his Chippenham house reconstructed by the architect Thomas Archer, and the Chippenham estate remodelled, relocating the village and creating a walled park. The map he commissioned from Heber Lands celebrates the grandeur of his enterprise.

The staircase at Chippenham Hall was embellished with paintings of Russell’s victory at La Hogue. Two lines of lime trees in the park are said to have been planted to represent the positions of the French and Anglo-Dutch fleets at the battle.

La Hogue lives on in Chippenham at La Hogue Farm….

For information about Chippenham Park Gardens – go here