Tadpole's Outdoor Blog

February 10, 2013


Filed under: Neal Murphy — Freddie Keel @ 6:35 am






Perhaps you were like me and were taught the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” at an early age.  It was always portrayed as a large egg sitting on a rock fence that fell off and broke into pieces.  To refresh you mind, the rhyme went like this:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,

Could not put Humpty Dumpty together again.


The first recorded versions of the rhyme date from the early nineteenth century, and the tune from 1870 in James William Elliott’s National Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Songs.

The character of Humpty Dumpty was popularized in the United States by actor George L. Fox.  It origin is somewhat  obscure but researchers have discovered that “Humpty Dumpty” was at one time a colloquial term used in fifteenth century England which described someone who was obese.  Later it was used to describe a clumsy person.  Lewis Carroll helped to make Humpty Dumpty famous by the illustrations included in the Alice Through The Looking Glass novel.

Research has revealed that Humpty Dumpty was in fact, a large cannon.  It was used during the English Civil War in the Siege of Colchester from June through August of 1648.  Colchester was strongly fortified by the Royalists and was laid siege by the Parliamentarians.  In 1648 the town of Colchester was a walled town with a castle and several churches which were protected by the large city wall.  Standing immediately adjacent the city wall was St. Mary’s church.  A huge cannon, colloquially called Humpty Dumpty, was strategically placed on the wall next to St. Mary’s church.  References to the cannon detailing the siege of Colchester are well documented.

On June 15, 1648, St. Mary’s church is fortified, and a large cannon is placed on the roof which was fired by ‘One-Eyed Jack Thompson’.

On July 14th to 15th, the Royalist fort within the walls at St. Mary’s church is blown to pieces and their main cannon battery (Humpty Dumpty) is destroyed.

A shot from a Parliamentary cannon succeeded in damaging the wall beneath Humpty Dumpty which caused the cannon to tumble to the ground.  The Royalists, or Cavaliers, attempted to raise Humpty Dumpty on to another part of the wall. However, because the cannon was so heavy, all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.

This had a drastic consequence for the Royalist as the strategically important town of Colchester fell to the Parliamentarians after a siege lasting eleven weeks.


Now, the next time you read your young child the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty, you will need to decide if you want to describe it as a large egg or a large cannon.  Sometimes the truth just screws things up in your mind, doesn’t it?





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