The Civil War
At the beginning of the seventeenth century the Cotswolds saw an economic decline which brought with it social unrest. The wool trade collapsed, war raged on the Continent and irresponsible royal fiscal policies had a long-lasting impact on the people of Cirencester, who depended on the wool trade for their livelihood. By the 1630s political and religious opinion in Gloucestershire was increasingly polarised and there was open opposition to the personal rule of Charles I (r.1625–1649). When war finally broke out between the king and Parliament in 1642, the kingdom was plunged into turmoil. The people of Cirencester, led by a number of prominent citizens, declared for Parliament and established a formidable garrison. Owing to its strategic central position the Cotswolds was fought over throughout the Civil War, and Cirencester, at the junction of three major roads, was the key to its control. On 2 February 1643 Prince Rupert launched a successful attack on the town. Over 300 defenders were killed and 1,200 prisoners were taken and marched to prison in Oxford. The town was ransacked and wool, cattle, sheep and horses were seized. The war brought financial ruin to many in Gloucestershire and near-famine conditions to parts of the county.