Our Holiday: Winceby Battlefield

Not too far from where we were staying, there is a memorial to a battle fought during The English Civil War. I have always been interested in that period, and have been a member of The Cromwell Association for a long time. As we were going to be so close, I thought we could combine it with a trip into the nearby town of Horncastle.

Winceby is tiny. A ‘blink and you miss it’ village. I had expected some signs directing me to the battlefield, but after driving back and forth for twenty minutes, there was nothing to indicate where it might be. Giving up, I started to head back, on the busy main road. As we passed a lay-by on that road, Julie spotted a notice board that looked relevant. After turning round in a side road, I drove back and parked in the lay-by, and there it was.

(Both photos are full-frame, and can be enlarged for detail by clicking on them.)

Behind the sign, a hedge borders the fields where the battle took place, in a landscape virtually unchanged since that day in October, 1643.

If anyone is interested, here are some more details about the battle.

On 10 October at the village of Horncastle, approximately 6 miles west of Bolingbroke Castle, the Royalist force commanded by Widdrington came upon a cavalry detachment screening for the Parliamentarians sieging the Royalist garrison. A brief skirmish took place and the Parliamentarians withdrew. The Parliamentary detachment reported back to the main army that the Royalists were moving towards them.

The next day the two opposing forces simultaneously took steps to confront each other. Manchester took part of his force and arrayed them on Kirkby Hill to prevent the Bolingbroke garrison from leaving the castle and organizing an attack from the rear. With the remainder of his army, Manchester advanced towards Horncastle. Meanwhile, Widdrington and the Royalists moved out of Horncastle and advanced toward Bolingbroke Castle.

The Parliamentary horse, which moved faster than the infantry, met the Royalists advancing in the opposite direction at Winceby. The field of battle was not ideal as the land falls away into sharp gullies on one side, but it was not poor enough to prohibit a battle. The two forces were approximately the same size and composition, all cavalry.

The ensuing battle lasted about half an hour. Cromwell feigned a retreat and lured the Royalists from a good defensive position onto flat ground. A small party of Parliamentarians advanced on the Royalists who discharged their weapons at them. Cromwell then led his main body of horse in a charge hoping to press home his attack before the Royalists had time to reload. But dismounted Royalist dragoons managed to fire a second volley, hitting several of the Ironsides. Cromwell had his horse shot from under him, apparently by Sir Ingram Hopton (who was himself killed in the subsequent fighting and is commemorated by a memorial canvas found above the font in St. Mary’s Church, Horncastle.) The canvas’s inscription describes Cromwell as the ‘Arch Rebel’ and bears the incorrect date of October 6, 1643 for the Battle of Winceby.

Cromwell was only able to rejoin the battle after he had secured another mount. A Royalist cavalry division under Sir William Savile counterattacked Cromwell’s right flank. The Royalists were, in turn, attacked in the flank by Sir Fairfax’s horse. In the resulting melee, the Royalists lost cohesion when the command by Savile to about face was taken to be an order to retreat and Savile’s horse fled the battle. On the Parliamentarian’s left wing the Cavaliers enjoyed greater initial success, but the collapse of the Royalist left and centre meant that Widdrington had to retreat or face envelopment. A flanking attack by Cromwell’s reformed cavalry was enough to cause the Royalists to flee the field in confusion.

In Horncastle, at a place now known as “slash hollow”, some Royalists were killed or captured when they became trapped against a parish boundary gate that only opened one way (against them) and in their panic the press of men jammed it shut. For the remainder of the day the Parliamentarians hunted down Royalist stragglers not stopping until dusk, which in October occurs in early evening, when they were recalled by Manchester. The Royalists lost about 300 men and the Parliamentarians about 20 with a further 60 wounded

Given the fact that Cromwell was present at the battle, and it was a significant victory for the Parliamentary rebels, I would like to see the site better commemorated.

45 thoughts on “Our Holiday: Winceby Battlefield

  1. Thank you for sharing this very interesting part of history, Pete! When I looked up Wikipedia, I discovered this information board as it looked a few years ago.;-) Very sparse information on Wikipedia, except that there is a large petrol station in Winceby. Lol xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have reminded me of another path to explore. I had a forebear who fought with Cromwell but I don’t know where. I will have to find out. He was actually an ancestor of that same Aunt Lucy who went off the China.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The signs often make more of the battles, especially if that is the only thing the village is known for. That area was also predominantly Royalist during the Civil War, so losing to Cromwell probably doesn’t go down well. 🙂
      Cheers, Pete.

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  3. „I had expected some signs directing me to the battlefield, but after driving back and forth for twenty minutes, there was nothing to indicate where it might be. Giving up, I started to head back, on the busy main road. As we passed a lay-by on that road, Julie spotted a notice board that looked relevant. After turning round in a side road, I drove back and parked in the lay-by, and there it was.“

    I‘m glad I‘m not the only one familiar with that sort of experience — although of course primarily I‘m sorry it happened to you. It definitely shouldn‘t have … at all, and especially not at a place of legitimate historical interest. And by this I don‘t mean to imply that we‘re one iota better at taking care of our historical legacy … outside the genuine „big guns“, good and bad, that is. It just grieves me to see how difficult it is sometimes made to learn about the history „along the way“ of wherever we happen to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true, Themis. Unfortunately, it is often left to individuals or small groups to fund such signs and to develop sites commemorating historical events. Local councils rarely have the funds to spend on such things here. Winceby is a tiny place, and unlikely to have much money available to make more of its history.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, fascinating Pete, thanks for sharing, I enlarged the photo and read about the battle, alone with your information. I don’t know much about your civil war but I have visited our memorials with the family some time ago. Warmly, C

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a minor battle, mainly notable for Cromwell’s involvment, and his use of cavalry tactics to overwhelm the Royalists. I would still like to see it (and many others) better celebrated though.
      Thanks, Mary.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing this piece of English history. I was aware a Civil War took place, but I didn’t know battles during the conflict. My husband and I went to Virginia years ago and toured the American Civil War battlefields.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would dearly love to visit the US Civil War battlefields, Molly. They are mostly very well preserved, and treated with great respect. Our civil war took place 220 years before that, and when the new King was given back the throne in 1660, the rebellion fell out of favour. Winceby was a very minor battle during our civil war, there were much larger and more destructive ones.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We spent two weeks in Pennsylvanis and Virgina. When we were at the Crater, there was a history professor from Lee university where they train military personnel lecturing about how the battle progressed. Their assignment was to write a paper on how they would have handled the situation knowing a huge mistake had been made by the -people in the chain of command above you. Ironicly, he received his degree from the same university Rooster and I worked for before we retired.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree, Pete. After all it is part of Britain’s history. My mother’s family were from Wiltshire, near Devizes and I believe there was a battle at Roundway Hill? I went up there one summer’s evening, long ago and found it amazing to look out and think of that battle. You could almost hear the ghosts.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for sharing this, Pete. It’s very interesting. I love the hedge, that it is still standing. I wonder, did you walk up to it and touch it?…There is a rock hedge, if you will, on a park trail I used to hike with my dogs. It was part of a confederate fortification. Still, there, after all these many, many years, just rocks, carefully piled into a barrier. These barrier, or fences, are all over Tennessee, here and there. When ever I can, I stop and sit next to them, or touch them. It is a marvelous feeling to touch history.

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    1. I leant against the hedge to take the photo of the battlefield, Pam. We have many battlefield sites here, most date from The Civil War, or long before that. Some are well commemorated, others less so. I have been to many of them over the course of my life.
      The English Civil War took place well over 200 years before The US Civil War, so many of the locations that were fought over have changed a great deal in 380 years.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. The worst way is to bombard a blog with links and annoy the blogger and his followers. Here are some posts that offer tips for you.

          How to have a popular blog

          Blogging: Lead By Example

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          Blogging: A Question Answered

          New bloggers: Following Back


          I hope they can be of some help to you. Remember, it takes a long time. I have been bloging since 2012, and it was years before I exceeded 2,000 followers. It doesn’t happen overnight, I’m afraid.
          Best wishes, Pete.

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