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Hemyock Castle
Ancient Heart of the Blackdowns

Influential Women

These webpages honour six of the influential women associated with Hemyock Castle: Links to other webpages in this series.

3. Joan Illery – Civil War Widow

(Also known as Joane, Joanne, Iliery, Ellery, Illerie, Hillery, Illary, Hillary, etc.)

The pen is mightier than the sword: Widow of hanged Civil War defender of Hemyock Castle, who – as a "mere woman" – bravely, persistently, and successfully petitioned the courts & the English Parliament for justice.

Photo: Hemyock Castle Civil War Tableau

Henry Illery (Joan's husband) was one of the Parliamentarian garrison at Hemyock Castle when it was attacked by the Royalists under Lord Poulett (Pawlett), Sir John Berkeley, Sir Richard Cholmondeley and Colonel Blewitt (of Holcombe Rogus) in March 1644 (1643 by some calendars). During this second siege, the Parliamentarians were overwhelmed and surrendered Hemyock Castle to the Royalist forces. Henry Illery and two others were hanged on the spot; the rest of the defenders were dragged off to Exeter Castle in chains to be imprisoned in terrible conditions.

Joan Illery begged in a letter to Lord Poulett / Pawlett, for her husband's body to be cut down so that she could organize a proper burial. Cruelly, the Royalists refused even this. Joan was left destitute with three young children.

However fortunes later changed; the Royalists were pushed back and were soon losing as the Parliamentarians regained ground.

Under the Parliamentarians her case was heard first at Honiton at the Quarter Sessions. The Parliamentarian magistrates eventually awarded her 5 Pounds compensation. This was not the end of the matter. Bravely, Joan Illery continued to petition the courts and Parliament for justice. Volume 5 of the Journal of the House of Commons (1646-8) refers to her case:

Execution of Henry Illery.

The humble Petition of Joane Iliery, of Hemyock in the County of Devon, a poor distressed Widow, to the Judges of Assize for the County of Devon, was read; shewing that her Husband was barbarously murdered and executed by the sole Order and Command of the Lord Pawlett; was this Day read; and likewise a Certificate under the Hands of Nine or Ten Persons, certifying the same, and avowing themselves to be Ear and Eye Witnesses of the Facts and all the Proceedings therein.

Ordered, upon the Question, That the Lord Pawlett be referred to his Tryal at Law, concerning the Death of Henry Illerie, executed at Hemyock. Ordered, upon the Question, That it be referred to the Justices of Peace in the Eastern Division of the County of Devon, to examine the whole Matter of Fact touching the Death and Execution of Illerie, of Hemiock in the County of Devon, in order to the Tryal of the Lord Pawlett; and to certify the same to the House: And the Care of this Business is more particularly referred to Sir John Young and Wm. Fry Esquire.

Grant to Joan Illery.

Ordered, That the Sum of an Hundred Pounds be bestowed upon Joane Illery, the Widow of Henry Illerie, executed in the Parliament's Service, at Hemyock in the County of Devon, for Relief of herself, and her Three fatherless Children: And that the said Sum of One hundred Pounds be paid unto the said Widow, out of the Sequestrations of the County of Devon: And the said Committee of Sequestrations are hereby required and enjoined to take Notice of this Order, and to pay the said Sum of an Hundred Pounds to so charitable a Use and Relief accordingly.

(This was an enormous sum in the 1640s – well over 15,000 Pounds in 2018 values)

According to Hemyock Parish Registers of Births, Marriages & Burials:

These may be the same Joan Illery and a daughter.

Other webpages honouring six of the influential women associated with Hemyock Castle:

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Hemyock Castle, Hemyock, CULLOMPTON, Devon, EX15 3RJ, UK.
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