We’re now just 24 hours away from taking to the field at Nantwich in Cheshire for the traditional annual Holly Holy Day re-enactment!
It really is a spectacle for the whole family, with a massive parade through the streets, plus a battle and other events throughout the day. You can go here for more information.
We can’t wait to get stuck in tomorrow, so come and join us for a great, family-friendly day as we mark 368 years of British history … and more than 40 years of re-enactment history!
So we reach the climax of the account of the Battle of Nantwich, with Lord Fairfax’s forces preparing to attack the divided army of Lord Byron on the outskirts of the town…
As the Parliamentarians approached Nantwich, a sudden thaw set in and it began to rain heavily – the River Weaver became so swollen that Royalist commander Lord Byron transferred his artillery and most of his infantry to the western bank where the ground was higher.
The Royalist army was suddenly split in two when the flood swept away Beam Bridge to the north of Nantwich – leaving Byron and most of his cavalry still on the eastern side. He was forced to march to the next bridge over the Weaver at Minshull to try and reunite his forces. In Byron’s absence, the Royalists on the western side of the river drew up around Acton church, four regiments deployed to block the road from the north along which Fairfax was marching, and another to cover the approach into Nantwich itself.
The Parliamentarians approached Gibson’s position at around 2pm just as news reached Fairfax that Byron’s cavalry was approaching the rear of his Parliamentarian column. Fairfax calmly sent two regiments to hold the Royalist cavalry at bay and continued his advance towards Acton, his troops smoothly moving from a marching column into a fighting line. Fairfax planned to defeat the Royalist infantry at Acton before the cavalry arrived to reinforce them.
Unable to operate effectively among the small fields, hedgerows and lanes, Byron’s cavalry were held back while Fairfax attacked the Royalist infantry. Despite the lack of cavalry support, the regiments on the Royalist wings held firm and inflicted heavy casualties on the Parliamentarians. In the centre, however, they began to give ground and a second charge saw them start to give way.
At this critical moment, a force of musketeers from Parliament’s garrison inside Nantwich marched out and swept aside the Royalist reserve regiment guarding the road into the town. With the added pressure of reinforcements from the garrison threatening the rear, the Royalist centre collapsed completely. Fairfax’s Parliamentarians swept through the gap in the centre of the Royalist line and quickly overwhelmed the regiments holding out on the flanks. The Royalists fell back to Acton church where the Royalist Colonel Gibson surrendered to Fairfax. The artillery and baggage train were captured, and about 1,500 officers and men were taken prisoner, many of whom changed sides.
Lord Byron retreated to Chester with his cavalry and what was left of his infantry. Although he had enough forces for the defence of the city he would be unable to go on the offensive in the area for some time.
The defeat at Nantwich thwarted King Charles’s plan to create a field army in the northwest around English regiments that had been fighting the long-running rebellion in Ireland. It also gave Parliament room to organise itself more effectively, as well as bolstering the reputation of Fairfax, who would go on to lead Parliament’s army to victory…
Tomorrow, we march into Nantwich 374 years later to re-enact this victory – why not join us?