English Civil War Wraps up in the Southwest
By July 1645, Royalist fortunes were on the wane and Lord Goring was using all of his strategic wiles to evade the confident New Model Army under Lord-General Fairfax. Knowing that Fairfax outnumbered him nearly two to one, Goring sent 3 cavalry Brigades under Lieutenant General Porter to threaten the nearby Parliamentary town of Taunton, probably as a diversion, in the hopes of dividing Fairfax’s force. However, Fairfax caught up to Goring after capturing most of Goring’s cavalry diversion between Langport and Taunton. Fairfax came to the battle weaker than ideal, but still with the determination to break up Goring’s force for good.
Battle of Langport
Goring took up an easterly facing position on Ham Down northeast of Langport overlooking the Wagg Rhyne, a small stream running generally north to south. Fairfax approached from the east (follow Tengore Lane for a good simulation of the movement) and occupied a westerly facing position on Pitney Hill, also overlooking the Wagg Rhyne. The two positions straddle the present day B3153. There was an obvious “pass” and/or ford over the Wagg, which both forces identified as the key terrain to own. There are 3 credible geographic points (on the A372, on the B3153 and an ancient footpath near the railway underpass) for the pass and academic debate is far from settled on the issue. Up to this point in research and on the ground viewing, Battlefield Biker reckons it is the middle one near the present day railway underpass. There is a footpath that leads right through the likely pass and up Ham Down.
Goring placed artillery, cavalry and musket over-watching the pass, the narrowness of which gave him confidence of holding. Wasting no time in taking the obvious action, Fairfax took out the Royalist artillery with his own and then ordered Cromwell to take the pass and press the attack up Ham Down. The pass only allowed a 4 horse abreast attack. Under fire from Goring’s over-watch, the lead troops of Cromwell’s cavalry, led by Major Bethel were able to secure the pass and deploy on the slopes of the Down. The Roundhead infantry followed and established the fighting in earnest.
After some fairly fierce fighting on the Down, the Royalists were broken and they retreated whilst setting Langport alight. This did not stop Cromwell, who chased the fleeing Royalist through Langport and beyond.
Here is a nice, relaxing ride of 33.4 miles. The route leads down to Langport and its environs. On the Wagg Drove you are bisecting the battlefield. Around Langport you can get several viewing angles of the battlefield from Ham Down, Wagg Drove and Pitney Hill. The ride finishes at the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton. Use Ordnance Survey Explorer 129. The battlefield is centred on ST 441276. If using a road map, the battlefield is located 15 miles east of Taunton.