The Civil War in Northamptonshire
This page covers a number of significant dates as recorded by William Andrews, F.R.H.S., in his book of 1891, "Bygone Northamptonshire". It might be noted that here and there in his accounts he shows his readers a degree of sympathy with the Parliamentarian cause!
A Skirmish at Canons Ashby
On the 18th of April, 1644, a skirmish took place at Ashby Canons, near Towcester, between a company of Parliamentarian infantry, sent by the Governor of Northampton to levy contributions in the neighbourhood of Banbury, and a body of two hundred foot and twenty horse from the latter place, then held by the Earl of Northampton for the king. The Parliamentarians had taken up their quarters at Canons Ashby House, the residence of Sir John Dryden, but on the approach of the Royalists, of which they had timely notice, they retreated into the church. The enemy disregarded the sacred character of
that edifice, however, and effected an entrance, on which the defenders took refuge in the tower. From that position their assailants were unable to dislodge them, and, after a struggle of two hours' duration, prepared to set fire to the building. The defenders then surrendered, and were taken to Banbury, but, shortly afterwards, were released by a force from Northampton.
Grimsbury Field and Cropedy Bridge
Two months later, a Parliamentarian force from Northampton, commanded by Major Lydcot, attacked a body of Royalists near Towcester, and defeated them, killing twenty-five, and taking a great number of prisoners. These desultory skirmishes were quickly followed by more important operations. On the 28th of June, a
Royalist army, commanded by the king in person, was drawn up in battle array on Grimsbury Field, near Towcester, and was faced by a Parliamentarian army, under General Waller, on the opposite bank of the Churwell. On the following morning, Waller having taken up a very advantageous position near Banbury, Charles drew off
towards Daventry, leaving a strong guard of dragoons at Cropedy Bridge, to defend the passage of the river. Waller, on attempting to force a passage across the bridge, was repulsed with great loss, and chased to a considerable distance ; but he succeeded in rallying his troops again, and, having effected a junction with the
forces of Major-General Brown a few days afterwards, entered Northampton on the 4th of July.
After Charles had captured Leicester, on the 31st of May, 1645, he arrived at Daventry on the 7th of June, and fixed his headquarters there, sleeping at the Wheat Sheaf Inn for six nights. His army, consisting of about 10,000 men, in nearly equal proportions of cavalry and infantry, was quartered in the neighbouring villages. He waited there several days for intelligence of the movements of Fairfax, who had drawn off from Oxford, and whose forces, he had heard, were in a disorganised condition. On the 12th, having had an alarm from a skirmishing party of Parliamentarians in the neighbourhood, he kept his army under arms all night on Borough Hill. Next morning, learning that Fairfax was at Northampton, with a larger force than had been reported to him, and in good condition, he fell back upon Market Harborough, with the intention of returning to Leicester; but the junction of Cromwell with Fairfax forced him to abandon that design, and risk an encounter. A decisive battle was fought on the following day near the village of Naseby, six miles from Harborough, in which Charles was defeated, and forced to retreat in confusion to Leicester, a distance of sixteen miles. "It is not a little remarkable," observes Mr. Baker, "that the battle which decided the fate of the first Charles, and the last struggle of the interregnum which terminated in the restoration of the second Charles, both took place in this county, and within a few miles of Daventry."
Bygone Northamptonshire, William Andrews, F.R.H.S., 1891