The Battle of Nantwich, Part Three: will Parliament’s relief force make it in time?


As well as giving you a taste of what’s happening with The Battle of Nantwich this weekend, we’re also looking at the build-up to the battle in 1644…


On 21st January 1644, Lord Thomas Fairfax set out from Manchester to relieve Nantwich in the teeth of a bitter winter.

He was accompanied by Sir William Brereton and a force of 1,800 cavalry, 500 dragoons and almost 3,000 infantry.

It was rare for an army to march or fight in the winter months but Fairfax ordered his men to march on, despite deep snow. Although he had provided many of them with a new uniform out of his own money, they had not been paid for some time and it was undoubtedly a mark of the respect his men held for him that they continued.

Three days later, Fairfax’s men defeated a force of 200 Royalists who had been attempting to block their advance as he passed through the forest of Delamere in Cheshire on the way to relieve the siege of Nantwich. With this threat brushed aside, the road to Nantwich was open.

Fairfax intented to reinforce the Nantwich garrison, rather than engage Lord John Byron’s army in besieging open battle, as he believed the Royalist force was larger than it actually was. The king had also brought in many veterans of the campaigns in Ireland, who were likely to be better soldiers than the fresh men Fairfax had raised in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire.

But by the time Fairfax he got to Nantwich, he found that the Royalist forces had been markedly reduced by the poor weather and disease. He probably faced no more than 2,400 foot and less than 1,000 horse.

After a Council of War, Fairfax decided to fight just outside of Nantwich where his horse would be more effective. He gathered his men just outside of the town at Welsh Row and prepared for battle…


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