With the accession of a Scottish King - James the First - the rise of Presbyterianism began to take effect. In 1607 Yeovil churchwardens were criticised over disorders, during their Church Ale, when ‘minstrelsie, dancing and carrying men on a cavell stafe’ took place on a Sunday.
Despite an order banning church ales by Wells Sessions the following year, some townsfolk declared their intention to increase rather than abandon activities when Robin Hood and Maid Marion performed their long-established enactments.
The usual dispute over market and other rights took place in 1612 when a new town lord, Sir Edward Phelips of Montacute, took over Yeovil manor. To add to discontent, the imposition by Charles the First of Ship Money amounting to £35 in 1635, was exacerbated when it was increased to £80 the following year. The town fell in arrears and in 1640 only £12 of that year’s tax had been paid. The next year Parliament declared Ship Money and ‘other unparliamentary taxes’ to be illegal.
Charles’ attempt to impeach and arrest five leading members of the Commons brought about the Civil War in 1642. One of the earliest engagements between Royalist and Parliamentary forces took place just outside the town on Babylon Hill. Royalist forces under the command of the Marquis of Hertford were garrisoned in Sherborne Castle and besieged by the Earl of Bedford’s troops for Parliament. Finding the castle too strong to assault, the Earl withdrew to Yeovil. Emboldened by this, the Marquis sent forces towards Yeovil, where they were observed from a post at Yeovil Bridge.
Mustering his troops in St. John’s churchyard, the Earl set forth to do battle and after a protracted engagement on the hill the Royalists withdrew back to Sherborne. The number of casualties varies according to which side’s estimates are given, but it is certain that some were buried the following day in St. John’s churchyard. The end of this conflict followed three years later when the King was defeated at Naseby in 1645.