Sampford Courtenay, West Devon, was the end-point of the Prayer Book Rising, a protest in the southwest against the new Protestant mass. The rebels, who were repeatedly crushed by government forces (many of whom were German and Italian mercenaries), fought a decisive battle at Sampford Courtenay on 17 August 1549. On this day, a large contingent of rebels, under the command of Sir Humphrey Arundell, dug themselves into their camp and bombarded Lord John Russell’s Royal army with artillery fire. The government forces outnumbered the rebels (9,000 to 7,000) and, unlike the rebels, had cavalry. The rebels’ ‘surprise attack’ proved ineffectual and after suffering heavy losses they fled; large numbers of the retreating rebels fell to the Royal army. The reprisals for the failed Rising were brutal. Many rebels were later executed, with the ringleaders, including Arundell, were hanged, drawn and quartered after being found guilty of high treason.
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