This day in 1644: The Siege of Lincoln. When Manchester took the cathedral city…


368 years ago, Lincoln was a city on the front line.

With its lofty castle and commanding views of the surrounding countryside, Lincoln was on the frontier between East Anglia, which was held by Parliament, and the midlands, which were mainly held by the King. Over the course of the wars, it changed hands several times. In 1643, the Earl of Manchester’s Eastern Association had scored a number of victories against the Royalists in the region, with the Lincoln garrison surrendering to his forces in October.

Emboldened by their successes, on 29th February 1644 Parliamentarian forces from Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire then advanced on the Royalist stronghold of Newark in Nottinghamshire.

It took the King’s dashing young nephew, Prince Rupert of the Rhine to change the fortunes of the Royalist cause in the area. On 21st March 1644 he marched from Shrewsbury and relieved the siege of Newark by cornering Parliament’s forces – one of his most brilliant victories. Forcing the besiegers to surrender their weapons, his actions scattered panic amongst the Parliamentarian commanders, who promptly evacuated the vulnerable garrisons at Lincoln, Gainsborough and Sleaford.

However, Rupert decided that he could not press on and, after garrisoning Lincoln under the command of Sir Francis Fane, he retreated to Oxford to report to the King.

Over the next month, Oliver Cromwell’s Eastern Association cavalry steadily cleared Lincolnshire of marauding parties of Cavaliers that had attacked from Newark and the Earl of Manchester then marched to Lincoln, arriving on 3 May 1644 – his army comprised 6,000 infantry and cavalry but the garrison of the town was about 2,000 strong. The Parliamentarians captured parts of the lower town and the Royalists retreated to their upper works surrounding Lincoln Castle and the Cathedral.

On 4 May, heavy rain thwarted the Roundheads’ attack by making the mound under the castle too slippery. Meanwhile, Cromwell ensured that his cavalry prevented any interference from the Royalist Lord Goring and his ill-disciplined Royalist horse, who had recently broken out of a beseiged York and arrived in Newark.

On 6 May, Lincoln Castle was stormed with scaling ladders, which proved to be too short, but the Parliamentarians nonetheless managed to scale the walls and enter the castle. The Royalists fled from the parapets, begging for quarter, which was granted. Parliamentarian casualties were eight killed and about 40 wounded. The Royalists had about 150 killed and between 650 and 800 taken prisoner.

The victorious Parliamentarian troops pillaged the upper town. On receipt of Manchester’s report the Committee of Both Kingdoms in London sent him their congratulations.

On 7th May, the Earl declared a day of thanksgiving and the next day the Eastern Association marched out of Lincoln to the north to Gainsborough via Torksey and across a bridge of boats across the river Trent, en route to York.

The march on York and the Battle of Marston Moor, which would be one of the turning points of the war, had been opened…


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