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King Charles I Flees London 10 January 1642

The Five Members Indictment

On 4 January 1642, King Charles ordered the issuance of an indictment of treason against the “five members” of parliament. The members were John Hampden, Sir Arthur Hasilrige (multiple spellings), Denzil Holles, John Pym and William Strode. John Hampden died at the Battle of Chalgrove the very next year. Battlefield Biker favorite, Sir Arthur Hasilrige, fought throughout the war with his regiment of cuirassiers, or “lobster” cavalry.” Denzil Holles fought at the Battle of Edgehill, but was later a leading proponent of a negotiated settlement of the war. John Pym was the driving force in Parliament to curb the King’s powers, but died two years later of cancer. William Strode, after being imprisoned for eleven years at the King’s behest, was probably only second in vociferousness in the war party to Pym.

King Charles I Flees London

On 10 January 1642, King Charles I had to leave London as the unrest against him grew. He had recently tried to arrest five members of parliament on treason charges, but failed. His coach had been surrounded by a mob when he had demanded that those who were sheltering the five members should give them up. This was enough to scare Charles and his Queen, Henrietta, into leaving London. They first decamped to Hampton Court, then Windsor Castle and finally to Oxford to set up an alternative government to the Parliament in London. Parliament was busy activating its militias, called the “Trained Bands.” Although there were some attempts at reconciliation, the train of events leading to the English Civil War was already underway.

King Charles I Flees London Motorcycle Ride

I’m sure it was faster for King Charles I by horse and carriage, but if you don’t mind fighting London traffic, you can retrace the royal route to exile. Start in Whitehall, then to Hampton court, then to Windsor, then to Oxford. I’m not joking about London traffic. I recommend taking this ride in the mid summer and starting in London very early in the morning, say 5AM. You will have plenty of daylight in the summer and you can avoid the atrocious London traffic. Once you are in Windsor at 6:30-7:00AM, stop for a Full English Breakfast while the rush hour passes. Then take the ride through the English countryside on the way to Oxford. The area around Henley-on-Thames is especially beautiful. Check out the Battle of Chalgrove and the ride around the Oxfordshire countryside.

The Battle of Cropredy Bridge 29 June 1644

Just three days before the disaster of Marston Moor for the Royalists, King Charles I himself directed a rebuff to a prowling Parliamentary army under William Waller at the Battle Cropredy Bridge, near Banbury.

Waller had been observing the King’s movements for some time when he spotted an opportunity to strike over the River Cherwell near the present day Oxford Canal as it passes through the village of Cropredy. The King had allowed a gaping hole to develop between his lead / centre elements which were near Hays Bridge and his rear which was more than a mile behind. Seeing his chance to bite off a whole chunk of the King’s rear end, Waller pounced.

The Battle of Cropredy Bridge

Waller sent Lieutenant General Middleton’s cavalry (including Battlefield Biker favorite, Haselrige’s “lobsters”) to make contact with the King’s rear. This was a raging success, but as so often happened with successful cavalry charges of the time, the pursuit went too far. The Royalist rear guard commander, the Earl of Cleveland, took the opportunity to wade into the Parliamentary foot and guns which had been left behind by Middleton at Cropredy Bridge. Middleton’s cavalry realized what had happened and returned to scatter Cleveland’s cavalry, but not until after they captured the Roundhead guns and their commander Colonel Wemyss (unfortunate name for an artillery commander). Cleveland did not get all of his own way in Middleton’s absence as the Roundhead infantry stood their ground, crucially keeping Cropredy Bridge.

In the meantime, Waller with cavalry crossed the Slat Mill ford and attacked uphill near Williamscott and was promptly sent packing by the Earl of Northampton’s cavalry. Waller decided that discretion was the better part of valor and retired to Bourton Hill to over-watch continuing skirmishes around the bridge. Finally, the result was Parliamentary forces staring down the King’s forces from Cropredy Bridge for the better part of two days. The King stole away when he learned of re-enforcements coming to Waller.

The Battle of Cropredy Bridge was a Lost Parliamentary Opportunity

Although a tactical stalemate, at the Battle of Cropredy Bridge the King kept most of his Oxford army to fight another day and Waller’s opportunity to hurt Charles significantly was lost as Waller’s army disintegrated with mutiny and desertion soon thereafter.

Ride Recommendation

This ride rides takes in battlefield area around the eponymous town and bridge and then opens up into some great A roads to Daventry, Southam and Banbury. Finally, I’ve included a short finish on the farm lanes around the older battlefield of Edgcote, where a major battle of the War of the Roses was fought.

Use Ordnance Survey Landranger 151. The battlefield is centred on SP 477460. If using a road map, the battlefield is located east and northeast of Cropredy Bridge.

Royalists Win Battle of Roundway Down 13 July 1643

Roundway Down

Roundway Down may have one the most dramatic geographical features of any battleground, bar the cliffs at Pont du Hoc on the Normandy coast. The escarpment that falls away from the back of Roundway Hill is a sheer drop off and was the scene of a desperate retreat in the English Civil War that ended with many cavalrymen and their horses going over the cliff.

After the stalemate at Lansdowne Hill a few days earlier, Waller wanted a decisive engagement with the Royalists that were working the area, so he set siege on Devizes in Wiltshire. Royalist Hopton, who had been injured in an accidental gunpowder explosion after the Lansdown Hill battle, knew he needed help, so he sent Prince Maurice on a end run to Oxford to get more forces to come to his aid. Those forces, under Lord Wilmot and Sir John Byron, approached from Oxford and Waller met them on the sweeping expanse of Roundway Down with a numerically superior force. Waller had what he wanted.

The Bloody Ditch

The battle opened with a cavalry charge by Sir Arthur Haselrige’s cuirassiers or “lobster” cavalry that was beaten back on the Parliamentary right flank after two tries. Haselrige was lucky to have his beating early when several escape routes were still available to him and he took one from the field. The other flank was just as decisively engaged with charges and counter-charges swirling around the flanks of Waller’s lines. Waller’s infantry could only watch as their cavalry flanks were decimated by determined Royalist charges. Finally, to the horror of everyone watching, Parliamentary forces were cornered and fled over the cliff to their deaths in “Bloody Ditch,” the steep escarpment off the back of Roundway Down. Some Royalists were in such hot pursuit that they followed the Roundhead cavalry over. After such a fight, Waller’s infantry was left stunned and almost defenseless to the Royalist cavalry and a large detachment from Devizes that had marched to the sound of the guns, but arrived late.
What had begun as an overwhelmingly favourable position for Waller, ended up with one the most decisive Royalist victories of the war. Roundway Down would affect Waller for years to come and made him overly cautious in future battles, especially those with his old friend, Hopton.

Recommended Ride

Good ride here. Take the A361 Northeast out of Devizes to Beckhampton, where you turn left onto the A4 and go to Calne. Take a left onto the A3102 to Chittoe. Near Chittoe, take a left on the A342 and go to Rowde. Just after Rowde take the lane to Roundway. At Roundway, take the farm lane north to a “Y” and take the left fork. This fork will give away to a very good, solid gravel road where you can view the whole of the battlefield on the down. You can also park up and walk about 500 yards to Oliver’s castle and look over the edge into “Bloody Ditch.” If you have the time, try the A360 from Devizes to Salisbury across the Salisbury Plain (additional 27 miles).

Waller Defeats Hopton at Battle of Cheriton on 29 March 1644

Introduction

In the summer of 1644, the Royalist forces were threatening London in the English Civil War with the Parliamentarians. The Royalists confidently blocked a Parliamentarian force near Winchester and forced a battle. They would regret it. The battle was a turning point in the southern campaign and suddenly stopped the Royalist pincer strategy on London by destroying the lower jaw of it.

This is one of my favourite local rides. The battlefield is highly accessible by bike and foot with multiple farm tracks and lanes. Additionally, this part of Hampshire is beautiful and the lanes and good “A” roads around here make it a great Sunday morning ride.

The Battle of Cheriton

Around 27 March 1644, the Royalist forces of Lord Hopton, joined by the Earl of Forth had succeeded in halting Hopton’s old friend William Waller’s Parliamentary forces from securing Winchester by blocking the main road between London and Winchester near Alresford. Two days of skirmishing in the area left Waller’s army near the village of Hinton Ampner and Hopton’s army northeast of Cheriton with pickets on a ridge overlooking Hinton Ampner to the south.

Hopton’s pickets and Waller’s patrols skirmished in the night of 28/29 March. Waller had flanked Hopton’s pickets on the south ridge to the point of making it untenable. Thus the day of the battle began with Waller on the south ridge and Hopton on the north ridge. Upon seeing the ground between the two forces, Waller saw that Cheriton Wood would be the key to Hopton’s left flank and dispatched 1,000 musketeers there. Understanding this threat, Hopton countered with 1,000 musketeers of his own under Colonel Matthew Appleyard. The two forces met in the dense Cheriton Wood and by all accounts fought a fierce hand-to-hand melee with Appleyard’s forces securing the ground. Hopton had been frustrated by previous attempts to bring his old friend, Waller, to battle, due to Waller’s pessimistic nature and previous defeats, most notably Roundway Down and Lansdown Hill. Alas, Hopton would be frustrated, but not by Waller this time.

Although intending to hold their position on the north ridge, one of Hopton’s lieutenants, Royalist Sir Henry Bard, on his own initiative, led his regiment on a ill-starred attack from the right on Sir Arthur Haselrige’s regiment of horse, known as the “lobsters” for their 3/4 armour suits. Haselrige made Bard pay for his folly and destroyed the entire regiment in plain sight of the Royalists. The Royalists were so horrified by what they saw in front of them that they felt compelled to send re-enforcements to Bard. However, they were sent piecemeal without supporting fires or flank protection. The Roundheads met the challenge and soon the entire front became engaged between the two ridges.

Parrying between the two forces ended up in close quartered fighting along the hedges. Meanwhile, several cavalry actions played out over a period of hours with the Parliamentary cavalry gaining the upper hand. Finally, Waller’s infantry enveloped the flanks and forced Hopton to salvage his troops and guns with an orderly retreat up today’s Scrubbs Lane towards Basing House, passing the point where the commemorative stone sits today.

Ride Recommendation

This is a good ride with the tour of the battlefield in the middle of the ride along the farm lanes northeast of the village of Cheriton. Use Ordnance Survey Landranger 185. The battlefield is centred on SU 598294. If using a road map, the battlefield is located northeast of Cheriton village. It is 42.8 miles beginning and ending near Winchester, Hampshire. There is a National Trust property at Hinton Ampner, a good pub called the Flower Pots in Cheriton, a Husqvarna dealership (Husky Sport) in Cheriton and a BMW Motorrad dealer (Bahnstormer) at Lower Faringdon.

Google Map Link

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