Tag: English Civil War

Parliament Defeats Royalists at Battle of Langport 10 July 1645

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.

Ride Recommendation

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.

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

Battle of Marston Moor 2 July 1644

Having relieved the siege at York by out manoeuvering the Parliamentary Army, Prince Rupert wanted to engage Parliament’s Allied Army. Rupert believed (controversially) that he had orders from the King to do so. The Parliamentary backed Allied Army of the Eastern Association, local Yorkshire forces along with the Scots under the Earl of Levin accommodated him between York and Knaresborough. Rupert was outnumbered, especially, because he could not get the siege-relieved forces at York to get the lead out until the last minute. The Marquess of Newcastle, who had held York through the siege, was against offering battle at Marston Moor, going so far as to remind Rupert of one of his past failures due to hasty decisions. Rupert prevailed, but even with the mainly infantry forces from York, Rupert mustered only 18,000 to the Allied Army’s 28,000.

The two forces squared off late in the midsummer’s day after having had spent the better part of the afternoon so close to each other that insults were being traded across the lines. Persistent rain showers and the lateness of the day had convinced Rupert that battle would not begin that day. However, for debatable reasons, the allied front surged forward around 7 PM and the fight was on. Rupert could have felt vindicated to choose battle at first as Goring’s cavalry on the Royalist left broke through and routed Sir Thomas Fairfax’s right of cavalry and infantry. Goring’s forces pushed on and took the Allied Army’s baggage train behind the southern ridge. The Allied Scots’ infantry, however, doggedly held the line in the centre. Meanwhile, a wounded Cromwell pushed Rupert’s cavalry back in the vicinity of present day Kendal Lane on Tockwith*s eastern edge. After winning the cavalry engagement, Cromwell’s disciplined forces turned right and flanked the Royalist infantry. This envelopment turned the tide and the Royalist forces were reduced to the last stand by Newcastle’s best infantry, the Whitecoats, who defied Cromwell, until Scottish Dragoons came to finish off the battle near White Sike Close.

Ride Recommendation for the Battle of Marston Moor

This ride runs right through the battle area, which is centred on grid SE 491522 in between Long Marston and Tockwith. (Ordnance Survey Landranger map 105)

Check out the Battle of Towton from the War of the Roses not too far from Marston Moor.

The English Countryside, Military History and Motorcycle Touring

Having lived and worked in the United Kingdom for the last 12 years, I’ve had a good chance to see a lot of the countryside of the UK on my motorcycle rides to various history sites. I’ve travelled the length and breadth of England, Scotland and Wales. I’ve not made it to Northern Ireland on a bike yet, but someday!

However, my recent rides around the English Civil War battlefields have given me a new perspective on the countryside and how much of it remains. There is still a good amount and it is beautiful… and much against my gut, civil planning may have made this the case.

I am torn over the level of civil planning required to build in the UK. The liberal in me says, if you own the land, you should be able to do what you want to with it. However, the pragmatist in me knows that the countryside would be quickly overrun by the hordes building houses all over the place. Whilst it is understandable and even agreeable for this to be the case in place like the US, it is open to much more debate in a place the size of Oregon and a population of 60 million. Back on the other hand, why should urban dwellers be subjected to high housing prices and cramped, mid-20th century standards of living just because someone wants to see a 400 year old hedge retained instead of a string of houses. I think, in the balance, I still come down on the side of much less restrictive planning, but not as wholly as I might have at one time

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