Battle of Bosenden Wood

The Red Lion Inn at Dunkirk

The Red Lion Inn was a significant location in the story of the ‘Battle of Bosenden Wood’, where on 29th May 1838, the army opened fire on a band of local agricultural workers who had defied an order to disperse. Lead by the former Parliamentary candidate and ex lunatic-asylum inmate, the notorious ‘Sir’ William Courtenay, who earlier in the day murdered the parish constable in cold blood, these men were inspired to confront the soldiers armed with little more than wooden cudgels. Following the brief but bloody battle, the bodies of Courtenay and six of his men were taken to the Red Lion and laid out in the stables, to await post-mortem examinations. A young officer called Lieutenant Bennett, the first man killed in the melee, was also carried to the inn, and taken to an upstairs room. In addition many wounded rioters and soldiers, including one officer, were also treated on the premises, which thereafter became an operational base for amongst others, a correspondent from the Times. In the week following the battle, an estimated 20,000 sightseers and souvenir hunters visited the stable block of the Red Lion, which is now the inn’s main dining area.

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