On December 13, 1643, a little more than a year into the English Civil War, St. Lawrence’s church in Alton became a makeshift fortress and battleground. During the Battle of Alton, Parliamentary forces marched upon the town and its overwhelmed Royalist defenders were forced to retreat to the parish church of St Lawrence. With no time to further barricade the church’s thick doors, the retreating Royalists gathered their dead horses into a temporary fortification
Unrelenting, the Parliamentarians continued their assault from outside, with windows smashed, grenades thrown, and sustained gunfire, the attacking forces eventually gained entry to the church. Once inside, they killed the Royalist colonel, Richard Boles, upon the steps of the pulpit.
The death of Colonel Boles is said to have so affected King Charles I that he requested his mourning scarf, and declared Boles “one of the best commanders in this Kingdom.”
Following the assault, the church returned to its regular ecclesiastical functions but has borne its battle scars ever since. The church’s south door remains pitted and punctured by the gunfire of the battle. During restorations of the church in the late 19th century, more than 200 years after the battle, bullets were even found embedded in the church ceiling. These bullets are now displayed within the church.