John Poyer, d.1649
Held Pembroke for Parliament throughout the First Civil War but was executed for his part in organising an insurrection in 1648.
John Poyer was born at Narberth in Pembrokeshire. He made a fortune in the cloth trade and became a leading citizen of Pembroke, where he served as captain of the town militia from around 1630 and as mayor from 1640-2.
Poyer supported Parliament on the outbreak of civil war but in October 1643, the reigning mayor and corporation of Pembroke issued a declaration of loyalty to the King and his lieutenant-general in south-west Wales Richard Vaughan, Earl of Carbery. Poyer rejected the declaration and led a mob to seize Pembroke Castle for Parliament. After overthrowing the Royalist mayor, he governed as de facto mayor in his place.
Poyer co-operated with Colonel Rowland Laugharne to defeat Lord Carbery's forces in Pembrokeshire early in 1644 and personally took the surrender of Carew Castle. Poyer held Pembroke as a Parliamentarian stronghold when Lieutenant-General Charles Gerard overran south Wales during the latter half of 1644 and during 1645.
After the ending of the First Civil War, Poyer claimed that he had impoverished himself by personally financing the defence of Pembroke and unsuccessfully petitioned Parliament for reimbursement. His resentment increased when Parliament proposed the disbandment of military units in south Wales without settlement of the soldiers' arrears of pay. In February 1648, Colonel Fleming was sent to replace Poyer as governor of Pembroke Castle, but Poyer refused to hand it over until the arrears were paid. Early in March, Parliament passed an ordinance declaring that Poyer was to be considered a traitor unless he surrendered the castle to Fleming. Encouraged by Royalist agents, Poyer's response was to attack and rout Fleming's forces. His action led to widespread opposition to disbandment among the Welsh troops and encouraged a Royalist insurrection in south Wales.
In April 1648, Poyer joined forces with Colonel Rhys Powell and mustered between three and four thousand men. Major-General Laugharne took command of the rebel army but was defeated by Colonel Horton at the battle of St Fagan's in Glamorganshire. Laugharne joined Poyer at Pembroke, where they were besieged by Oliver Cromwell from May to July 1648.
After the surrender of Pembroke, Poyer, Laugharne and Powell were sent as prisoners to London. In April 1649, they were court-martialled for their part in the rebellion against Parliament and condemned to be executed by firing squad. It was ruled that the sentence would be carried out on only one of them, to be decided by drawing lots. The fatal lot fell to Poyer. An appeal for mercy by his wife Elizabeth was rejected, and Poyer was executed at Covent Garden on 25 April 1649.
After the Restoration, his impoverished widow petitioned Charles II and was granted £3,000 in recognition of Poyer's services.
Robert Ashton, John Poyer (d.1649), Oxford DNB, 2004
Ronald Hutton, The Royalist War Effort 1642-46, (London 1999)
Sir James Frederick Rees, John Poyer (d.1649) Welsh Biography Online