PHOTOS: storming the walls of Bolton!

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Well we couldn’t stop Bolton being overrun by the Royalists, but under the blazing heat we put up a damn good fight – and hundreds of people stood there and watched us!

The Storming of Bolton took place last weekend at Bolton School and proved to be a huge success! Over two days our tented village was visited by more than 1,000 spectators who learnt about life during the English Civil War and Bolton’s infamous part in it.

From the Gong Farmer to the Rat Catcher, from the Woodcut-maker to the Puritan Preacher, from the Ale House Landlord to the Wool Merchant, and from the Apothecary to the cooks, it was a fascinating dive back in time for people as they discovered what life could be like during the 17th Century.

The free event was part of a project aimed at teaching children about their town’s part in the Civil War, funded by a regional grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Bolton School hosted two Civil War education days for pupils in Years 5, 6, and 7 ahead of last weekend’s re-enactment.

Bolton was attacked in May 1644 by forces led by King Charles’ nephew, Prince Rupert. After defending themselves against the first assault, Parliamentarian defenders hanged one of Rupert’s officers, which led to a notorious massacre when the Royalists finally stormed the town.

We were kindly supported in putting on the event by our friends from the Sealed Knot, including those from the regiments of the Marquess of Newcastle, Sir William Godolphin, Sir George Lisle, Lieutenant Colonel John Lilburne, Sergeant Major General Phillip Skippon, The Earl of Essex, Sir Nicholas Slanning, Colonel John Pickering, Colonel John Hutchinson, Sir Gilbert Hoghton, Richard Deane, and Lord Grey, as well as troops from Colonel Hugh Fraser’s Dragoons and The King’s Guard.

The photos are starting to come through and they give a real flavour of the event – from the crafts on show to the battle itself, we’re hugely appreciative of the good work these snappers have done. We’ve included a selection below, but we encourage you to check their work out for yourselves:

Photos by Mark Power:

Photos by John Beardsworth

Some fantastic photos from a great report by The Bolton News:

Photos by Michael Parkes:

And with England playing Sweden in the World Cup, we had to bring our battle time forward so not only would we still have an audience but so half our soldiers didn’t go AWOL! In the end it was a victory for the English – and it managed to get Cavalier and Roundhead to put their differences aside … even if only for one evening!

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Photo by John Beardsworth

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This weekend: the Civil War returns to Bolton in a thrilling FREE event!

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Roundheads and Cavaliers descend on Bolton School on 7-8 July for ‘The Storming of Bolton’ – an exciting weekend of thrilling battles and fascinating ‘living history’!

Staged by The Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote, the local regiment of the Sealed Knot reenactment society, the event is 100% FREE!

Welcome to 1644 a time of great woe and strife…

For almost two years KING CHARLES has been at war with the PARLIAMENT in London over taxes, power & religion. Now, across England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, father fights against son, brother against brother, neighbour against neighbour, as families and communities are torn apart.

The small but prosperous weaving town of Bolton is on the front line of the civil war in Lancashire – known as the ‘Geneva of the North’ because of its staunch Calvinism, Bolton’s Puritans support Parliament but many in the countryside around them are Roman Catholic and support the King.

A defensive wall of earth has been built around Bolton and local Royalist commander James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby, has twice failed to take the town. Meanwhile, troops from Bolton have taken the towns of Blackburn, Preston & Lancaster – and have even besieged Stanley’s wife at nearby Lathom House! A humiliated Stanley has vowed to teach the Parliamentarians of Bolton a lesson!

But now word has reached local Parliamentarian commander Colonel Alexander Rigby that the King’s nephew, Prince Rupert is approaching with a mighty army, bound for York. No-one can stand in his way and Rigby has broken off his siege of Lathom House and retreated to what he thinks is the safety of Bolton’s walls – hoping that Rupert’s army will pass it by.

But the Royalists are coming – and Bolton is about to pay a terrible price for its defiance…

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In the grounds of Bolton Castle from 10am to 4pm, a fascinating living history encampment will be open where you can…

  • Learn about life in Bolton during the English Civil Wars!
  • Take part in a fun scavenger hunt around the fascinating historical encampment!
  • Listen to our fire-and-brimstone Puritan preacher, visit the apothecary, and discover the Gong Farmer’s smelly secret – but watch out for the Rat Catcher!
  • Find out what it’s like to be a Parliamentarian soldier – watch muskets firing and join them as they drill for battle!
  • Watch as cannons and muskets fire in a thrilling battle reenactment as the townspeople defend Bolton from the Royalists’ attack!

Battle will take place at 1pm as Royalist forces storm the town’s defences and the Parliamentarian troops stage a desperate last stand!

Schedule of the day:

  • 10am – The Garrison’s encampment opens
    Learn about life in Bolton during the English Civil Wars & take part in a fun scavenger
    hunt! Talk to the cooks, visit the apothecary, watch leatherworkers and weavers tend to their chores, and discover the Gong Farmer’s smelly secret – but watch out for the Rat Catcher!
  • 10.30am – Morning Prayers
    The people of Bolton were staunch Calvinists Puritans – watch as the Puritan preacher brings them & the garrison to prayer, then discover why Bolton was known as ‘The Geneva of the North’
  • 11am & 12noon – Displays of Arms
    Find out what it’s like to be a Parliamentarian soldier – watch muskets firing and discover how musketeers, pikemen, and drummers all worked together. Then join in with drill as the soldiers prepare for battle!
  • 1pm – Battle begins
    Watch as the Royalist army of Prince Rupert attacks the defences of Bolton! Col. Alexander Rigby’s Parliamentarian garrison and the townspeople must fight for their lives – but what price will they pay if they lose?
  • 4pm – Encampment closes

Please note, there is very limited parking at this event; please respect our neighbours when parking or use public transport where possible.

Meet the faces of the ‘Storming of Bolton’: Goodwife Gillian

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Almost 375 years since the notorious ‘Bolton Massacre’, Roundheads and Cavaliers will again descend on Bolton on 7-8 July for an exciting FREE event featuring thrilling battles and fascinating ‘living history’. Click here for more details…

Step into our encampment in the grounds of Bolton School and you’ll step back in time to 1644 – but who will you meet there and what will you discover?

Perhaps you’ll meet Goodwife Gillian and learn about why Bolton’s reputation as a forward-thinking weaving town is growing far and wide…

36500723_10157060156636756_5166704240994811904_n“Weaving is in my blood! I was born and raised in Bolton, the home of wool and weaving in Lancashire,” she says.

“My father was a wool merchant, my husband was his apprentice (which is how we met!) and my mother was a weaver too, in her younger years. Therefore I have known the skills of the trade from an early age and I use these to make the finest woven wears in the Lancashire!

“My husband, Henry, went to fight the noble war against the King’s malignant forces last year. Since then, he has sent his meagre earnings back to us – barely a penny a day after deductions for food and clothing, if he gets paid at all! But this just isn’t enough for our three young children and my elderly mother, as the cost of bread and meat has increased many times since the start of the war.

“As my father is now with the Lord (he succumbed to the smallpox, along with so many others in Bolton, in 1642) and my mother has arthritis of the hands, I have become the breadwinner of the family and I spend my days in the soldiers’ encampment in Bolton selling my woven wears.

“I use inkle and tablet looms to weave the popular, hard-wearing fustians, made from linen and cotton, as well as knitting socks and sock ties from wool, which I then sell to Parliamentarian soldiers, officers and travellers passing through.

“This supplements my husband’s war earnings so that I can purchase food for my family and wood for cooking and warmth. When I can, I also send fresh socks to my husband so that he does not get cold feet and succumbs to a chill.

“I like to think in my small part I am contributing to the noble war effort. Come see me at the Bolton encampment and have a go at weaving yourself. Are you a natural born weaver?”

Come along and meet Gillian at The Storming of Bolton at Bolton School, Chorley New Rd, Bolton BL1 4PA on 7-8 July, from 10am to 4pm with battle in the afternoon!

THIS WEEKEND: The Storming of Bolton!

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Cannon will fire, drums will sound, and swords will clash as the English Civil War returns to Bolton in a fantastic FREE event THIS WEEKEND!

Roundheads and Cavaliers will descend on Bolton School on 7-8 July for ‘The Storming of Bolton’ – an exciting weekend of thrilling battles and fascinating ‘living history’!

Staged by The Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote, the local regiment of the Sealed Knot reenactment society, the event is 100% FREE!

A fascinating living history encampment will be open from 10am until 4pm where you can…

  • Learn about life in Bolton during the English Civil Wars!
  • Take part in a fun scavenger hunt around the fascinating historical encampment!
  • Listen to our fire-and-brimstone Puritan preacher, visit the apothecary, and discover the Gong Farmer’s smelly secret – but watch out for the Rat Catcher!
  • Find out what it’s like to be a Parliamentarian soldier – watch muskets firing and join them as they drill for battle!
  • Watch as cannons and muskets fire in a thrilling battle reenactment as the townspeople defend Bolton from the Royalists’ attack!

Battle will take place at 1pm as Royalist forces storm the town’s defences and the Parliamentarian troops stage a desperate last stand!

Schedule of the day:

10am – The Garrison’s encampment opens
Learn about life in Bolton during the English Civil Wars & take part in a fun scavenger
hunt! Talk to the cooks, visit the apothecary, watch leatherworkers and weavers tend to their chores, and discover the Gong Farmer’s smelly secret – but watch out for the Rat Catcher!
10.30am – Morning Prayers
The people of Bolton were staunch Calvinists Puritans – watch as the Puritan preacher brings them & the garrison to prayer, then discover why Bolton was known as ‘The Geneva of the North’
11am & 12noon – Displays of Arms
Find out what it’s like to be a Parliamentarian soldier – watch muskets firing and discover how musketeers, pikemen, and drummers all worked together. Then join in with drill as the soldiers prepare for battle!
1pm – Battle begins
Watch as the Royalist army of Prince Rupert attacks the defences of Bolton! Col. Alexander Rigby’s Parliamentarian garrison and the townspeople must fight for their lives – but what price will they pay if they lose?
4pm – Encampment closes

Keep up to date with the Storming of Bolton Facebook event…

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Please note, there is very limited parking at this event; please respect our neighbours when parking or use public transport where possible.

Meet the faces of the ‘Storming of Bolton’: Royalist pikeman Conor!

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Almost 375 years since the notorious ‘Bolton Massacre’, Roundheads and Cavaliers will again descend on Bolton on 7-8 July for an exciting FREE event featuring thrilling battles and fascinating ‘living history’. Click here for more details…

Step into our encampment in the grounds of Bolton School and you’ll step back in time to 1644 – but who will you meet there…? We’ve heard from the Parliamentarians inside the walls, but what about the Royalist troops who will attack them?

While the Civil War in Lancashire was mostly fought by Lancastrians, the Royalist troops who attacked the earthworks of Bolton were anything but local – the force led by the King’s nephew, Prince Rupert, was drawn from across England and, shockingly to the Puritan population, included some Roman Catholic troops recruited in Ireland…

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Photo by Hendrick Pouls

“I’m not from round here. You can probably tell,” says Royalist Pikeman Conor.

“I’m from somewhere much warmer and less wet than this wretched place! Back home in Cornwall, I moved from farm to farm as the year went by, turning my hands to what work I could. Then a few years ago I caught word from my father and brother that our landlord was raising a regiment to help resolve this current unpleasantness and restore the King’s peace. I thought to myself, what nobler way could there be to earn an honest living?

“So far, it’s mostly been lots of walking and not having anywhere warm to sleep! I was taller and longer of limb than most men in our regiment, so I was drilled in the use of the pike. Our company ensign tells me it’s a gentlemanly arm, but I wouldn’t know much about that – all I know is it’s good for keeping these rebels far away from our shot!

“My first taste of action was seizing one of the county magazines – the store of weapons and gunpowder – where I found the armour I’m wearing today. It’s dreadful heavy on the march and hurts my shoulders fiercely, but I worry the day I leave it behind could be the day I need it most.

“We first came under the honourable Prince Rupert’s command at Shrewsbury. He pushes us hard and we march through some nights, but he’s a damned sight braver and more daring than anyone Parliament has to offer! We press north to relieve York, but we won’t pass up the chance to teach the Parliamentarians in Lancashire a lesson or two…

“Stockport was hard fighting, but I found myself a nice new (well—used) pair of shoes after we took it. Lately some soldiers have joined us from Ireland and some local men, too — Papists, would you believe it? — and so with numbers, our Prince and the Lord God on our side, I’m sure we’ll send these Parliamentarian curs running!

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Photo by Purdie Davies

“I hate this place. It feels like I’ve walked the length of England to get here, the people are backwards and strange, and it never seems to stop raining! Half the families we’ve quartered with haven’t even prayed from the same book as us. No wonder Bolton has no love for the holy church or their King. The sooner we put paid to such traitors as live there, the better!

“Til Prince Rupert’s command, you might find me playing cards at camp, cleaning my armour or schooling new recruits in the use of the pike…”

Come along and meet Conor at The Storming of Bolton at Bolton School, Chorley New Rd, Bolton BL1 4PA on 7-8 July, from 10am to 4pm with battle in the afternoon!

Meet the faces of the ‘Storming of Bolton’: Michael the Musketeer

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Almost 375 years since the notorious ‘Bolton Massacre’, Roundheads and Cavaliers will again descend on Bolton on 7-8 July for an exciting FREE event featuring thrilling battles and fascinating ‘living history’. Click here for more details…

Step into our encampment in the grounds of Bolton School and you’ll step back in time to 1644 – but who will you meet there…?

IMG_2106“A fit souldier must fight the Lords Battels, both before the fight, in the fight, and after the fight,” says Musketeer Michael.

“As a musketeer serving God and Parliament, my job is to arm my brave brothers in this miserable time of Warre, as we prepare for the upcoming attack by the royalists.

“My fellow musketeers carry muskets, and these shoot lead musket balls. I melt lead and cast these deliverers of death. The lead I need I get from lead ore, from the battlefields, but also from church roofs, from window frames and even from the coffins of the rich folke!

“And if our musket balls or gunpowder run out? Our officer will give us a new order, which we will follow by turning our spent muskets around to club the enemy most fiercely about the head until they fall like wheat before the Lord’s scythe.

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“So come to Bolton and watch me cast musket balls, talk about the fascinating history of muskets and musket balls, and the origin of such phrases as ‘X marks the spot’, and ‘Flash in the pan’. If you can’t find me, look and listen, I might be in your master’s house – stripping it’s lead!

“We will prevail, make our way prosperous, and have good success. Huzzah!”

Come along and meet Michael at The Storming of Bolton at Bolton School, Chorley New Rd, Bolton BL1 4PA on 7-8 July, from 10am to 4pm with battle in the afternoon!

The Prince, the Earl, his gift, and the Massacre of Bolton…

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Almost 375 years since the notorious ‘Bolton Massacre’, Roundheads and Cavaliers will again descend on Bolton on 7-8 July for an exciting FREE event featuring thrilling battles and fascinating ‘living history’. Click here for more details…

John Callow from the University of Suffolk, is writing a new biography of James Stanley, Earl of Derby, the Royalist officer and Lancastrian magnate who, it was claimed, led the assault on the defences at Bolton in May 1644.

John kindly agreed to write for us about Stanley, the so-called ‘King of Mann’, and his involvement in the attack – but what is revealed is that the people involved found the struggle for Bolton had gone from being an intensely local affair to a very different kind of war – something more brutal than anything they had witnessed before…

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When does a killing in battle become murder? How does chivalry descend to the level of a war crime?

Stanley, Earl Derby

James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby

For James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby, it all came down to a fight in a muddy street. Dampened powder flashes in the mirk and the lashing rain, blood running into the gutters, screams of women and the cries of children as the King’s men broke through the town walls and earth ramparts. ‘Nothing heard’, wrote one contemporary, ‘but kill dead, kill dead was the word in the town’, with ‘horsemen pursing the poore amazed people, killing, stripping, and spoiling all they could meet with’.

This was how wars ended and cities fell on the Continent, in the Germany of the Thirty Years’ War or during Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland. But these scenes unfolded right here, in Lancashire, at the prosperous market town of Bolton, on the afternoon of Tuesday 28 May 1644.

Bridling at earlier defeats, the searing scorn heaped upon him by his political enemies and the attack upon his own home at Lathom House, the Earl had begged Prince Rupert, the Royalist commander, to allow him to lead the assault upon Bolton, the most stubborn, independent and Puritan of Lancashire’s towns. No one could have doubted his bravery that day. Resembling a pitched battle rather than a formal siege, the early attacks by the king’s army had faltered and been thrown back with heavy losses before Stanley led a charge that cleared the outlying fields of the Parliamentarian Horse, and joined his own Lancashire regiments taking command of an assault that surged over the walls and sent the defenders streaming back through the streets, abandoning their arms, powder, and 22 standards, with all order gone.

On one level, this should have been the high point of James Stanley’s career. The day had brought a stunning victory that had brought Lancashire back under the King’s control. All resistance was broken, with more than 600 prisoners set upon the road south and 50 officers taken. Furthermore, it was Stanley’s leadership of the attack that had marked the crucial turning point in the battle. It was said that he was the first man in the Royalist army to fight his way through the defences, the first to get into the rebel town, the first in valour and prowess, scribing an arc through his enemies with the blade of his sword. As thanks, he gave Prince Rupert an expensive ring; in the hopes that he might be restored to his command of Lancashire.

Yet, in fact, this marked the nadir of his fortunes. The Prince had other ideas about the Earl’s abilities, confided the county to his own men and ordered Stanley back to his post on the Isle of Man: if not quite in disgrace then left in no doubt that control of the war had passed from the heads of traditional aristocratic families to a violent new breed of professional soldiers, grouped around Rupert. Worse still, contemporaries were unanimous in their opinion that what had happened after the Royalist storming parties entered the town was of far greater significance than the conduct of the battle, itself.

The English, we are told do not ‘do war crimes’ – and certainly not on their own doorstep. The idea certainly doesn’t fit with the romantic landscapes fashioned by the novels of Sir Walter Scott and Harrison Ainsworth, and still less with the image of gallantry created around the Cavaliers by Eliot Warburton and the popular historians of the Victorian age.

Yet, the ‘massacre of Bolton’ as the Parliamentarians termed it, certainly was a war crime. The town, and everything in it, had been declared as the Royalist ‘soldiers reward’ and theft, murder, extortion and rape became the order of the day once the enemy had fled. Reaching beyond the brief noting of 78 burials in the parish register, the accounts of suffering still have the power to move, to shock and to challenge our modern pre-conceptions about the nature of the English Civil War. A preacher’s widow was left shivering, violated and stripped to her smock; a 72 year old woman was run clean through with a sword; and Elizabeth Horrocks was dragged at the end of a tether, from one end of Bolton to the other, and threatened with hanging unless she surrendered all her savings to jeering soldiers. Even Stanley’s bravery and conduct came to be questioned. It was now said that he had not killed Captain Bootle in the midst of the fight, but in cold blood and fury after the town had fallen and the guns had been silenced. Though this was almost certainly untrue – the product of propaganda and malice on behalf of his enemies – what cannot be doubted is that Bootle had once been the Earl’s own servant. The civil war was bitter and personal, the occasion for score settling and rough justice. The sense that Bootle had sought to challenge the existing order, to rise within society and to challenge, both politically and militarily, his former master could not have been lost upon James Stanley, even in the heat of the melee.

War itself is nothing but tragedy: the tragedy of the great, and the small, alike. In the case of James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby, it lay in his inability to adapt to what he famously called this ‘general plague of madness’, as the conflict tore apart all of his pre-existing assumptions and all that he held dear. Highly intelligent and cultured, he had distinguished himself as a supremely gifted peace time administrator, but he had suddenly found himself thrown into the maelstrom of a civil war for which he was neither prepared nor militarily suited. This, then, was the tragedy of a bright and reflexive courtier, conscious of the need for compromise, who was destroyed through his role in the massacre of Bolton in 1644, and by the mistrust and ingratitude of Prince Rupert, and of successive Stuart monarchs.

It had been Rupert, rather than James Stanley, who had given the order for ‘no quarter’ to be given to the citizens of the town; but it was the earl rather than the prince who came to pay the price. Parliament neither forgot, nor forgave his actions. Consequently, when Earl James – the erstwhile man of peace – was condemned to death, in 1651, for his role in continuing and fuelling war; it was decided that he should be executed in the market place of Bolton to atone for the innocent blood that he had shed there.

Unknown artist: The Execution of James, 7th Earl of Derby.

Unknown artist: The Execution of James, 7th Earl of Derby.

Whether he contemplated the slaughter during his last hours, or recalled the face of Captain Bootle and the cries of Elizabeth Horrocks, he might have brooded that the ring he once gave to Prince Rupert, on the field of battle, was probably the most expensive and misplaced gift of his life.

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John Callow is a Visiting Tutor at the University of Suffolk who has written widely on Early Modern culture, belief and politics. His books include James II. King in Exile, (History Press, 2017) and Embracing the Darkness. A Cultural History of Witchcraft, (I.B. Tauris, 2018). He is currently working on a biography of James Stanley, Earl of Derby: Cavalier and King of Man for Helion Publishers.