Edward Whalley, William Goffe, and John Dixwell were three of the 59 British judges who sentenced King Charles I to death in 1649, dissolving the monarchy and placing Oliver Cromwell into power instead. When Charles II, the son of the executed king, was restored to the throne in 1660, he exacted his revenge on the men who had his father beheaded. He issued an order that each regicide should be hanged, drawn, and quartered. In order to avoid this grisly fate, Whalley, Goffe, and Dixwell fled to North America.
John Dixwell stayed in New Haven, Connecticut, while Whalley and Goffe went to Boston. Even across the pond the judges were far from safe. Whalley and Goffe hid in constant fear of being recognized by royal informants. Soon after arrival, a warrant was issued for their arrests, so they joined Dixwell in New Haven, where he had taken on the alias of “John Davids” and been accepted into the community.
Local Puritans, generally Cromwell supporters, took pity on the judges and helped the judges on the lam. At first, they were hidden in the home of the Puritan Reverend John Davenport. When that didn’t prove safe enough, Whalley and Goffe were hidden into the woods of what is now West Rock Ridge State Park.
In that wilderness there is a large rock with a few cracks in it. It was here the two judges hid for an unknown amount of time, starting on May 15, 1661, and lasting some weeks on scraps brought to them by sympathetic locals. When a panther forced the pair to acknowledge the impracticality of living in the woods, they fled in the night to Hadley, Massachusetts, where they remained for the rest of their days. In honor of the infamous fugitives, the mini cave was named “Judges Cave” and the path leading up to it, “Regicides Trail.” Three diagonally branching streets from the center of New Haven were named after the three judges themselves.
The western side of the cave boasts a plaque which reads, “Here May Fifteenth 1661 and for some weeks thereafter Edward Whalley and his son-in-law William Goffe, members of the Parliament-General, officers in the army of the Commonwealth and signers of the death warrant of King Charles First, found shelter and concealment from the officers of the Crown after the Restoration. ‘Opposition to tyrants is obedience to God,’ 1896.”