BLOG from Monday 22nd August 2016
As our contribution to Stockfest, SASHA arranged for a speaker on the 2nd Battle of Newbury, it was felt this would be a good idea as it is of such local interest to the Stockcross area.
Dr Christopher L Scott has written a book called ’The Battles of Newbury"
The battle, which took place on the 27th October 1644, was just after a successful battle for the Royalists in Cornwall where the Royalist army had broken the terms of the surrender. These dishonourable actions had a significant bearing on the 2nd battle of Newbury as the Parliamentary regiments involved here fought bitterly against the Royalist men responsible for their suffering and humiliation. The King had been intending to go to Basing, but on reaching Kingsclere he found that the Parliamentary army had got there before him and so he pulled back to Newbury. The town was of great strategical importance because of its geographical position in the middle of so many routes through England.
This was not a battle in which Oliver Cromwell had a very important role. Indeed owing to the great dislike for him felt by his Commander the Earl of Manchester he was sidelined at several times during the day. Manchester and Waller, his second in command, also hated each other and so the Parliamentary side was not a cohesive body. The night march from Clay Hill through the countryside of Hermitage, North Heath, Boxford and the ridge at Stockcross is locally a well known event. The journey took much longer than planned instead of arriving at 9am the regiments didn't arrive until 1pm and so the impatient Manchester had already ventured some unsuccessful advances from his Clay Hill position.
The battle proper started at about 1.30pm and was finished by 4.30pm when it would have been getting dark. There were about 15,000 men and some women on either side and each side lost about 1,200 during the battle. At one point the King was at the top of Goldwell Park hill and could have been killed or captured by a small parliamentary force, who had been fighting in the Speen Lane area. This would have shortened the war however the opportunity was lost by the the hesitation of the Parliamentarians. There is a local myth that King Charles was just missed by a bullet fired at him when he was at Shaw House however
although Shaw House was very heavily fortified with about 1000 men and withstood at least two attacks the King was not there.
At the end of the battle neither army had won the day, the Royalist troops were ordered by the King to march north toward Oxford while he went off with a small group to Wantage. Oliver Cromwell followed the Royalists and planned to attack them however his superior the Earl of Manchester was furious at Cromwell taking such incisive action and ordered him back refusing to allow him to follow again the next day. Indeed Cromwell was sent off to a small unimportant area well away from any action.
We all enjoyed the evening very much. Something that made the talk easier to follow was the way Dr Scott used local landmarks both by name, for example where Waitrose now stands, and photographs we could recognise to help us keep track of the different places events occurred. We also had the pleasure of handling a replica musket, which was very heavy, musket balls and bandoleer and two types of swords used. This again gave us a small insight into some Civil War equipment. Just over 40 members and visitors enjoyed the talk and Dr Scott fielded questions whilst refreshments were served.
About Dr Scott
Dr. Christopher L. Scott has lectured extensively on the second battle of Newbury. He has been walking battlefields for over 30 years, analysing ground and tactics. In 2002 he co-founded the International Guild of Battlefield Guides. Dr Scott has lectured for the British Councils Organisation, was part of a British delegation to the Zulu War Centennial Ceremony and represented Great Britain at an International Congress of Historical Sciences. He has also lectured for the British Commission for Military History, The Historical Association and The Battlefields Trust for whom he is a Trustee. He is also a member of the Royal Historical Society, and gained his PhD in seventeenth-century military history at Cranfield University under Professor Richard Holmes