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History of Wakefield Battles 1886


The Rebellion against Charles I. and the Wakefield Battle of 1642.

Lawe Hill was the temple of the Druids in the time of the Brigantes (it is thought), and in the troublesome period of Charles the First became a battery of the Parliamentary forces, when seeking to dislodge the Loyalist troops from the stronghold at the castle at Sandal, according to one historian.

The King was foolish; he was a tyrant, and he had to deal with a Puritan Parliament. They resisted his demands and actions, so he dismissed them and levied taxes in his own name. Then Hampden arose as to the ship money, and the Scots signed the covenant, in resistance of episcopacy. The Roundheads (being cropped Puritans), took the field against the sovereign, and the Cavaliers defended him. He was chased to York in 1642, with his sons, Charles and James. A voluntary corps of 200 Yorkshiremen enrolled on the side of the King, who on the 27th of May, 1642 issued a proclamation requiring all the clergy, freeholders, farmers, and copyholders to meet him on Heworth Moor, near York city, on the 3rd of June; 70,000 persons assembled. His Majesty was received with acclamation, and made a speech. After a short expedition to Nottingham and Leicester, he returned to York, and the Loyalists met him again on the 14th of August, when he removed his standard to Nottingham. When he left York for Nottingham in September, he gave the command of his army to the Earl of Cumberland, between whom and Lord Fairfax, the general of Parliamentarians, an agreement was signed at Rodwell (or Rothwell) for a suspention of hostilities, the men of this shire being adverse to such a strife. William Savile and Francis Nevile, John Ramsden, Henry Bellasyse, Edward Osborne, and Ingram Hopton signed as Loyalists, and Thomas Fairfax, John Stockdale, Thomas Maleverer, and William Lister on the other side.

This document could not quench the raging passion of the time, and the signataries were soon in arms against each other. Skirmishes ensued, and a battle at Tadcaster lasted from eleven in the forenoon till five in the afternoon, when the lack of powder and match stopped the game, and in the night Lord Fairfax withdrew to Selby. Captain Lister, a local man, was shot by a musket ball in the head that day, and the slain numbered 200. The bold Fairfax then visited Leeds, Bradford, and Halifax, with his regiment of ploughboys and apprentices, and the riff-raff of the towns and villages, and came on to Wakefield with 1,500 men, assisted by Major General Gifford and Sir Henry Fowles. The town was held by General Goring, with the general consent of the inhabitants, and the numerous inns were the billets.

On Sunday morning, the 21st of May, 1643, as the bells of the Parish Church were tolling for early service, there was great tumult and consternation in the town, for the report had spread that the Puritan battalion was approaching from the Stanley Road, and an attack on the town was expected. The town garrison was on the alert and cannon was placed at the entrance to the town on that side, and earthworks thrown up. The enemy came on with dauntless courage, and had a warm reception-a baptism of fire; but they rushed upon the ordnance and pursued the gay Cavaliers through the streets of the town, killing many and taking more prisoners. Goring and his staff were captured with about 300 men, "27 colours of foot, and three cornets of horse." A panic had seized the loyal soldiers, or they might easily have withstood the attack. The revolutionists were too weak to keep the town, and therefore continued their march with the loss of only seven men, while others were hors de combat by shot and sword wounds. To this effect wrote Fairfax from Leeds to Mr W. Lenthall (the Speaker in the House of Commons) on May 23, 1643, and on the 28th Parliament ordered the Te Deum and special thanks to be offered to Almighty God in the London Churches for this victory over the King's supporters. The Roundheads had on this occasion (according to another account) three companies of dragoons, and eight troops of horse, with 1,000 infantry. Howley was left at midnight and Stanley reached at 2 a.m. on Sunday. Here some of the King's dragoons withstood the enemy for awhile, but had to give way, and 21 were taken prisoners.
On Stanley Hill the hedges were lined with musketeers; but they were soon put to the rout, and the sharpest encounters were in Northgate and Warrengate. At the Parish Churchyard on May 22nd and 23rd 35 soldiers were buried, and two others at Horbury.

The barricades in Northgate and Warrengate were defended by cannon, which were turned against their owners. On reaching the Market Place three troops of horse were found in position, with Colonel Lampton's regiment of foot. Gifford sent to the commander a trumpeter with an offer of quarter if they laid down their arms, but they refused to do so with scorn; whereupon Fairfax fired upon them with a cannon, and his cavalry made attack with the sabres, and the brave defenders were routed.

Colonel Bonivant (who held Sandal Castle for the King) surrendered it in October, 1645, and in the following year it was ruthlessly dismantled by order of Parliament. As the poet says:- "Gone is the baron's feudal state, Gone is the fame of the mighty and great; Gone is the prowess of martial Knight, Gone are the charms of his lady bright. Gone is the pomp of thy chivalry, Of thy pageant gay and thy heraldry, But cold is the heart and strange the eye That unheeded pass thee by, Nor read thereon the pest of fate, How war leaves grandeur desolate."

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