The Battles Manchester Fought

Between 1643 and 1644, the Earl of Manchester and his regiment fought numerous battles against the forces of King Charles I.

From securing East Anglia to taking Lincolnshire and, after the defeat of Sir Thomas Fairfax’s northern army, ensuring the forces of the Marquis of Newcastle could not join up with the King’s army at Oxford, Manchester’s men marched the length of England and formed an important, and effective, part of Parliament’s forces.

The Battle of Marston Moor was a vital turning point in the Civil War while the Second Battle of Newbury saw the conflict take on a new direction with the rise of Oliver Cromwell, Manchester’s own cavalry commander, and then onto the execution of Charles and the English Republic.

Scroll down or click on the list to the left to read descriptions of the battles in which Manchester’s Regiment fought..

Map Key

Yellow markers: events in 1642
Red markers: events in 1643
Green markers: events in 1644

Battles 1642-1644

Click to go straight to each battle's description:

September 1643
Siege of Kings Lynn

October 1643
Siege of Bolingbroke Castle and Battle of Winceby

May 3rd - 7th 1644
Siege of Lincoln

June 3rd 1644
Siege of York

July 2nd 1644
Battle of Marston Moor

July 4th 1644
Surrender of York

October 18th 1644
Second Battle of Newbury


Aug/Sep 1643: Siege of King's Lynn

Deep within the territory of the Eastern Association, although King’s Lynn supported Parliament’s cause the local families of Dereham and L’Estrange were ardent Royalists. On March 21, Oliver Cromwell occupied the town to investigate rumours that the governor, Sir Hammond L’Estrange, was disloyal to Parliament.

On August 13, L’Estrange declared for the King after refusing to pay Parliament’s taxes. With the Marquis of Newscastle’s Royalist army threatening from the north and Newark’s garrison holding out, Parliament sent the Earl of Manchester, newly appointed as commander of the Eastern Association, to capture the town.

The siege began on August 23 with Parliamentarian ships blockading the port. But Manchester did not have the upper hand - the Association counties were slow to send men and he complained that these troops were of poor quality and not well equipped.

The town held out until September 16, when it became apparent that no help was coming. The loss was a severe blow to the Royalist cause in the east. They were said, however, to have derived considerable satisfaction from the news that the Newark garrison had successfully repulsed not one but two attempts by the Parliamentarians.

9th Oct 1643: Siege of Bolingbroke Castle

By the summer of 1643, the Marquis of Newcastle had neutralised Sir Thomas Fairfax and his northern Parliamentarian army, which was besieged in Hull. The Royalists, unable to break Hull, decided to march south and take Lincolnshire, eventually taking Gainsborough and Lincoln. If they then took Boston they would control the whole county, but Newcastle’s men were reluctant to go further south so he turned back to Hull, leaving behind small garrisons. One of these, Bolingbroke Castle, controlled the main access route into eastern Lincolnshire.

Newcastle failed to secure the Lincolnshire side of the Humber, so Sir John Meldrum was able to cross with 500 infantrymen from Manchester’s army to reinforce Hull, while Sir Thomas Fairfax crossed into Lincolnshire with 21 troops of horse to join forces with Manchester at Boston. On 9th October, the Earl led this force of 6,000 men north to retake the county.

The force arrived at Bolingbroke the same day and summoned the castle to surrender. It refused and quickly called for reinforcements from the Royalist garrison at Newark. A Parliamentarian plan to fire explosive shells from mortars from the roof of a nearby church was prevented when the Royalists set fire to it.

On 10th October, sporadic fighting broke out but by now a relief force of 1,500 men from Newark under Sir William Widdrington and Sir John Henderson was on its way, their cavalry taking control of nearby Horncastle from the surprised Parliamentarians.

The next day, the Parliamentarians set out to meet Henderson’s force and at the Battle of Winceby routed them completely. With the relief force destroyed, the garrison was doomed but managed to hold out for another month, finally surrendering on 14th November.

Battle of Winceby

The cavalry skirmish at Horncastle had given warning of the approach of the Royalist relief column of about 80 troops of horse and dragoons. The Earl of Manchester ordered an advance to meet the enemy, leaving a small detachment to maintain the siege of Bolingbroke. The Parliamentarian force of 60 troops of horse and dragoons, under Oliver Cromwell, rode ahead of the infantry and came across the Royalists at the village of Winceby, about three miles west of Bolingbroke. Although seemingly a smaller force than the Royalists, the Parliamentarian companies were fully manned, so the two sides were probably about equal.

The two cavalry forces drew up on ridges facing one. The Parliamentarian horse was commanded by Cromwell with Sir Thomas Fairfax’s cavalry in reserve. The Royalists drew up in a similar formation, commanded by Sir John Henderson and Sir William Savile. The Parliamentarian infantry was still marching from Bolingbroke, so the Royalists may have decided to attack quickly.

The dragoons on both sides advanced and opened fire, and Cromwell advanced under point-blank fire. A shot killed his horse but he mounted another, despite being attacked by Sir Ingram Hopton, who was himself struck down and killed.

Savile’s cavalry counter-attacked, but Fairfax led the Parliamentarian second line in a devastating flank attack.

In the melee, the Royalists lost cohesion when a command by Savile to ‘about face’ was taken to be an order to retreat and his horse fled the battle. The Royalists then began to collapse and it turned into a rout.

The battle lasted barely half an hour - so swift that the Association infantry didn’t even reach the battlefield. Pursued relentlessly, almost the entire Royalist force was killed or captured. The Royalists lost about 300 men and the Parliamentarians about 20 with a further 60 wounded.

Significantly, this was the first military collaboration between Cromwell and Fairfax, who would go on to lead the New Model Army. It also saw the Royalists lose control of Lincolnshire and ended the threat of a march south by the Earl of Newcastle’s northern army, which also had its siege of Hull broken on the same day.

Siege of Lincoln

In March, the King’s nephew, Prince Rupert, lifted the siege of Lincoln and smashed Parliament’s Lincolnshire forces, leaving the county again dangerously open to Royalist occupation. However, he decided that he could not press on and, after garrisoning the city under the command of Sir Francis Fane, he retreated to Oxford to report to the King.

Cromwell’s cavalry steadily cleared Lincolnshire of marauding parties of Cavaliers that had attacked from Newark and the Earl of Manchester then marched to Lincoln, arriving on 3 May 1644. His army comprised 6,000 infantry and cavalry. The garrison of the town was about 2,000 strong. The Parliamentarians captured parts of the lower town and the Royalists retreated to their upper works surrounding Lincoln Castle and the Cathedral.

On 4 May, heavy rain thwarted the Roundheads’ attack by making the mound under the castle too slippery. Meanwhile, Cromwell ensured that his cavalry prevented any interference

from Lord Goring and his ill-disciplined Royalist horse, who had recently broken out of a beseiged York and arrived in Newark.

On 6 May, Lincoln Castle was stormed with scaling ladders, which proved to be too short, but the Parliamentarians nonetheless managed to scale the walls and enter the castle. The Royalists fled from the parapets, begging for quarter, which was granted. Parliamentarian casualties were eight killed and about 40 wounded. The Royalists had about 150 killed and between 650 and 800 taken prisoner.

The victorious Parliamentarian troops pillaged the upper town. On receipt of Manchester’s report the Committee of Both Kingdoms in London sent him their congratulations.

On 7th May, the Earl declared a day of thanksgiving and the next day the Eastern Association marched out of Lincoln to the north to Gainsborough via Torksey and across a bridge of boats across the river Trent, en route to York.

Siege of York

At the beginning of June, the Eastern Association joined Parliament’s Northern army and the Scottish Army under the Earl of Leven, which were then besieging York, the Royalists’ main base in the north. Manchester’s arrival brought the total number of troops besieging York to 25,000 and the Eastern Association occupied the previously unguarded northern approaches, completing the encirclement of the city.

During the siege, Sir Henry Vane arrived with orders from the Committee for Both Kingdoms - which co-ordinated Parliament’s military forces - for the commanders to confront Prince Rupert, who was gathering a Royalist army in Lancashire. The generals insisted they continue the siege. During these talks, the possibility of deposing King Charles was openly discussed for the first time.

The generals rejected the idea, and it is possible that the Earl of Manchester’s disillusionment with the Parliamentarian cause began at this time.

His men cleared the surrounding suburbs on the 6th June, which allowed Manchester to bring cannon to within 40 yards of the medieval walls and a mine was also started under St. Mary’s tower. On 16 June, however, the mine was exploded prematurely. Major-General Crawford sent 600 men through the breach but the Royalists counter-attacked, cut off the attackers and forced them to surrender, with up to 300 casualties.

On 30th June, the Allied Parliamentarian Army fell back from the walls of York in order to intercept the 25,000- strong Royalist relief force Prince Rupert had raised in Lancashire. They failed and, on 1st July, Rupert entered York.

Battle of Marston Moor

Arguably the biggest battle ever fought on British soil, Marston Moor was a decisive moment in the English Civil War. When Prince Rupert arrived in York, he wanted to strike immediately at the Allied army. Yet even though the Parliamentarians (who were worried Rupert would march towards Lincolnshire) had started to withdraw to cut off the road south, Newcastle had taken offence at Rupert’s brusqueness of manner and tarried. By the time the Royalists were ready, Parliament’s army had formed up.

No less than five armies were involved: Prince Rupert’s and the Marquis of Newcastle’s armies for the Royalists, with Lord Leven’s Scottish Army of the Covenant, Manchester’s Eastern Association and Fairfax’s Northern army for the Parliamentarians.

It was early evening and soldiers, convinced it was too late for a fight, began lighting fires to cook. But after encouragement from the Scottish commanders and under cover of a sudden hail storm, the Parliamentarians - singing psalms - attacked.

The right Parliamentarian flank under Cromwell smashed the Royalist horse, but on the left Fairfax’s cavalry were routed. Meanwhile, Parliament’s infantry began to crumble and Leven and Fairfax left the field, believing all was lost. The Earl of Manchester remained, now effectively commanding only his own Regiment of Foote near the Allied rear.

Scottish brigades of the Earl of Crawford-Lindsay and Viscount Maitland stood firm against cavalry attacks and slowly the Allied centre began to regain its strength. Behind them, the Earl of Manchester’s regiment repulsed and scattered a brigade of Royalist cavalry. By now it was nearly dark and Cromwell’s disciplined Ironsides had rallied and, with the Royalist horse in disarray, attacked Rupert’s infantry. Famously Newcastle’s men, the ‘Whitecoats’, held a last stand in a ditched enclosure, refused quarter and repulsed constant cavalry charges until they were cut down with barely 30 survivors.

Over 4,000 Royalists were killed and around 1,500 taken prisoner while the Allies lost only 300 killed.

Surrender of York

After Marston Moor, the Royalist generals and their routed troops reached York. The governor, Sir Thomas Glemham, allowed only those who were part of the city’s garrison in, in case Parliamentarian cavalry entered the city.

Two days later, Rupert rallied 5,000 cavalry and a few hundred infantry and marched back over the Pennines, making a detour to Richmond to escape interception. Lord Goring headed for Scotland to aid the Royalists there.

Once the allied army had reformed, they resumed the siege of York. Under an agreement that no Scottish soldiers were to be garrisoned in the city,

York surrendered on honourable terms on 16 July. It ended Royalist power in the north and was a fatal blow to the King’s cause.

The Allied forces soon parted. Leven took his troops north to besiege Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Carlisle, while Manchester’s army returned to Lincolnshire and eventually moved into the south of England to take part in the Second Battle of Newbury.

Newcastle, having spent his entire fortune in the King’s cause, decided that he would not endure the "laughter of the court" and went into exile in Hamburg with many of his senior officers for the rest of the war.

2nd Battle of Newbury

After marching south, Manchester’s Eastern Association army advanced from Reading to occupy Basingstoke, where William Waller’s Western Association arrived on 19 October. They were joined by the beleaguered remains of the Earl of Essex’s army and had orders to engage and crush the King’s army, which was coming up from the West Country.

Manchester, having gathered all available Parliamentarian forces, arrived at Thatcham, three miles east of Newbury on 26 October. The Parliamentarian force was almost 17,500 strong, significantly outnumbering the Royalists, but the commanders argued with one another and morale was low.

The forces met at Newbury in Oxfordshire. Waller and Manchester decided to split their forces and attempt an audacious wide out-flanking pincer movement, with simultaneous attacks from the east and west. Waller led his troops in a 10-mile flanking march, leaving the Earl of Manchester to attack from the east with the Eastern Association infantry and a small body of horse.

Manchester’s army was detailed to take Shaw House, which was garrisoned by the Royalists. At dawn on 27 October, while Waller was still on the march, Manchester launched a feint attack to distract the Royalists from the flanking manoeuvre.

A swift counter-attack threw back the Parliamentarians and pinned them down in a firefight, from which they withdrew after several hours.

Although the Parliamentarians had planned that Manchester should attack simultaneously with Waller’s attack, it was not until 4 o’clock that he made his second attack on Shaw House. Despite their superior numbers, the Parliamentarians were reluctant to press on in darkness and Manchester called off the attack. This allowed the King to extricate the defenders and escape the pincer movement.

Senior officers requested permission to pursue the retreating Royalists but Manchester refused. Cromwell and other officers were furious over the failure to trap Charles - especially when, after picking up reinforcements from Oxford, the Royalists drew up around Newbury and offered battle but despite urging from his own officers, Manchester was reluctant to risk an outright defeat. Later, Cromwell and Waller would officially complain to Parliament about Manchester, Cromwell in particular launching a withering attack on the Earl’s conduct in the House of Commons.

It was Second Newbury, as well as Manchester’s lack of action, that helped provoke the Self-Denying Ordinance and led to the creation of the New Model Army.