November is upon us and speedway fans in the northern hemisphere are now in hibernation, but at least two or three of the top clubs owe their roots to the events of the seventeenth century. Following our article on rugby clubs and the “Wars of the Roses” , here they are:
Somerset Rebels are based at the Oak Tree Arena, Edithmead, which is about twelve miles from Westonzoyland, where the Battle of Sedgemoor took place on 6 July 1685 as the last stage of the Monmouth Rebellion. Had speedway existed then, this would have been close to the middle of the season.
Rye House Rockets are based by the residence near Hoddesdon where there was an April 1683 plot, also involving the Duke of Monmouth, to assassinate Charles II and James Duke of York on their return from Newmarket. It failed possibly because the royal brothers were prevented from watching the horse racing by a fire. A dozen executions (at Tyburn, Smithfield and Tower Hill) and a suicide, the Earl of Essex, followed. The surviving plotters fled to exile and returned for the rebellion two years later.
Ipswich Witches are surely named for more than just the sake of assonance. The town was not quite the epicentre of Matthew Hopkins’ activities as “Witchfinder General”. Up to 300 people were executed within a forty mile radius of Ipswich between 1642-7 as a result of his activities. Hopkins was the son of a Puritan rector of Framlingham and then Great Wenham, where Matthew was born. He died at about twenty-seven in Manningtree, where he had been based..