Bandoliers are a type of pocketed belt designed to hold ammunition. These 17th-century examples may have been used by North Devon soldiers fighting in the English Civil War. In Barnstaple, the majority supported the Parliamentarian cause. In August 1642, when Charles I officially declared war on the ‘rebel’ Roundheads, Barnstaple citizens had already begun fortifying their town in the expectation of coming conflict. By September, Barnstaple had garrisoned itself with a ‘Trained Band’ of around 100 men, four companies of foot soldiers and a troop of horses.
Barnstaple sent out soldiers to fight Royalist forces in nearby Torrington and South Molton, and to help raise the siege of Plymouth. Despite some initial success, by the summer of 1643 the Royalists had gained control of much of the South West and, following the surrender of Bideford and Appledore, Barnstaple capitulated on September 2nd.
Animosity towards Royalists remained high in Barnstaple, and in June and July 1644 the townspeople successfully overpowered the occupying forces, only for the town to be re-captured in September. The following year the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, stayed with Grace Beaple in Barnstaple for around a month, to avoid a plague outbreak in Bristol. By 1646 the Parliamentarians had gained the upper hand, and on April 1st the Royalists occupying Barnstaple surrendered to the Roundheads, under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax. These Bandoliers recall a period of great violence, one in which people in North Devon were forced to ask themselves where their loyalties lay.