Colonel John Hutchinson (1615-1664) in 1643, during the Civil War, was appointed the Parliamentarian Governor of Nottingham Castle. As a judge in the trial of Charles I in 1649, he was one of the signatories on the king's death warrant.
During the period of the Commonwealth he moved back to his family seat at Owthorpe near Nottingham and lived in retirementfrom 1651 until 1659 when he was made Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, the year he resumed his seat in the 'Rump' of the Long Parliament. However, after the Restoration in 1660, Charles II soon called to account those who were involved in the execution of his father. Many of the regicides were hanged; others were imprisoned or lost their property. At the time of the Restoration John Hutchinson was a Member of Parliament, and in 1660 admitted to the House 'he had made shipwreck of all things but a good conscience.' His contrite behaviour was not enough and on 11 October 1663 he was arrested and sent to the Tower of London. In May 1664 he was transferred, along with another prisoner, Captain Gregory, to Sandown Castle, taking a boat to Gravesend and then on horseback through Kent. The colonel was never charged nor brought to trial.
Lucy Hutchinson was a woman of formidable independence and intellect who wrote a biography of her husband, Memoirs of The Life of Colonel John Hutchinson. apart from writing the memoirs of her husband, she also wrote Order and Disorder; possibly the first epic poem written by a woman in the English language, the first five cantos were printed anonymously in 1679; it has much in common with Milton's Paradise Lost. She translated Lucretius' De rerum natura (The Nature of the Universe) into couplets as well as part of Virgil's Aeneid, although the latter manuscript does not survive. This was a time when a woman writer was an unusual phenomenon; however, apart from the anonymous Order and Disorder, none of her work was published until the early 1800s.
John Hutchinson married Lucy Apsley in 1638, although, unfortunately she caught smallpox just prior to her marriage. Lucy's father, Sir Allen Apsley was victualler to James I's navy and in 1617 was appointed Lieutenant of the Tower of London, where Lucy was born in 1620. She probably had mixed feelings forty-three years later, when her husband was imprisoned in the Tower.
The Memoirs records Sandown Castle in some detail, and first impressions were not good:
'When he [the Colonel] came to the Castle he found it a lamentable old ruin'd place, almost a mile distant from the town, the rooms all out of repair, not weather-free, no kind of accommodation either for lodging or diet, or any conveniency of life. Before he came, there were not above half a dozen soldiers in it, and a poor Lieutenant with his wife and children and two or three Cannoneers, and a few Guns almost dismounted, upon rotten carriages; but at the colonel's coming thither, a company of foot besides were sent from Dover to help to guard the place, pitiful weak fellows, half-starved and eaten up with vermin. . .'
There were no beds at the castle so he had to hire three beds from a nearby inn: one for himself, one for his servant and one for Captain Gregory. It appears Gregory was an abominable loud-mouthed character, he is described as 'being a carnal person' with 'scandalous conversation', probably the worst person to be imprisoned with. The Colonel's friends suspected he was probably acting as an agent for the Royalists.
The colonel's room was bleak, he had to glaze his own chamber, and Lucy describes a constant battle against the damp and mould, as well as the rain which seeped in through the gaps in the stonework.
Lucy Hutchinson tried to get permission to stay at the castle with her husband, but it was refused. So, along with her son and daughter, she had to lodge in Deal and walk up and down to the castle each day. The food was so bad the lieutenant's wife (Mrs Moyle) offered to provided meals for him and his servant, so they dined with them at a cost of twenty shillings a week; in addition to this the colonel had to provide his own wine. The captain of the castle, William Freeman, had a better room (slightly warmer, but still very dark and gloomy) which a prisoner could upgrade to, but only at a price of another twenty shillings a week. The colonel refused unless his wife could also reside with him. William Freeman stated he didn't have the authority to allow this.
Sir Allen Apsley (Lucy's brother), who incidentally had been the Royalist Governor of Barnstable, helped to improve the conditions of his brother-in-law. An order issued by Henry Bennett, Secretary of State, and dated 8 August 1664, was brought from London by the Colonel's brother, George Hutchinson, and allowed the Colonel to walk under escort along the seashore. A short-lived privilege as John came down with a fever on 3 September 1664 and he died about seven o'clock in the evening of 11 September. His body was taken back to his family seat at Owthorpe near Nottingham.
Colonel John Hutchinson was part of a network of intermarried families; during the Civil War family members found themselves on opposing sides. While the colonel supported the Parliamentarian cause, his uncle, Sir John Byron was a Royalist General and in 1643 his other uncle; Sir Richard Byron was in command of the Royalists attacking Colonel Hutchinson at Nottingham. Sir Richard later became Governor of Newark until 1645.
He also found himself in direct opposition with his step-cousin, Philip Stanhope, who was in command of the Royalist forces at Shelford House in 1645. Colonel-General Sydenham Poyntz and Colonel Hutchinson commanded the Parliamentarian forces laying siege to the house. Little quarter was given to the defenders they 'put to sword' 160 men. Lucy Hutchinson says that Philip Stanhope (son of the Earl of Chesterfield) was 'wounded and stripped, and flung upon a dunghill'. It was her husband who found him and took him to his own quarters and 'procured him a surgeon. Despite his best efforts he died the next day. The house was burned to the ground; it was not clear if this was an accident or arson.