Cromwell’s Northern Journey

The first talk of the season was off to a flying start with  a super turn out to hear Nick Burton’s talk of Cromwell’s northern journey. Nick took us on a tour of Yorkshire and Lancashire tracing the route followed by Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army, in a difficult to comprehend four days, as his Parliamentary forces marched to engage with the Royalist forces marching south from Scotland into North-West England.

Pendle Hill from the Ribble Valley. Attribution: NIck Burton

Starting from Wharfedale’s moorland ridges near Knaresborough and down to the Ribble Valley Plain and the Battle of Preston, many of the places were familiar to the audience of the Friends and guests.

Oliver Cromwell. Lord Protector of the Commonwealth. Attribution: Gaspard de Crayer. Public Domain.

The death blow to the Royalist army was dealt at the Battle of Preston  1648.    The opposing forces met on the bridge over the River Ribble and this was a decisive battle that heralded the end of the English Civil Wars. Seven thousand dead royalists, five thousand captured versus five hundred Parliamentarian dead.

The talk followed  closely the route recorded in Cromwell’s own dispatches to Parliament, a route that took  in Otley, Ilkley, Skipton, Gisburn, Clitheroe, Stonyhurst, Longridge and Preston. Its difficult to envisage such large numbers of soldiers, however there were less hedgerows and enclosures in those times.  There are many stories and myths abound and the truth is unknowable one such story is that Longridge Fell was named by Cromwell who was salso aid to have slept on an oak table in a suit of armour.

Along the way we followed majestic stretches of the Rivers Wharfe, Aire, Hodder and Ribble and encountered a rural landscape of forests and parkland, medieval castles and churches, hill forts and ruined abbeys. Nick uncovered a landscape that, in places, had barely changed since the 17th century.

Did you know?

The foot regiments were provided with red coats.  This was because  Venetian red was the least expensive dye.