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The Battle of
Stow-on-the-Wold

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ARTICLES BY RALPH GREEN FORMER ASSISTANT AT THE VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE STOW-ON-THE-WOLD

Morris Dancers

Stow on the Wold

Deserted Cotswold Villages

Cotswold Place Names

The Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold 1646

Tracks and Roads across the Cotswolds

The Cotswold Lion

An Early Cotswold Visit

The History of Bourton-on-the-Water

Cotswold Roofs

Cotswold Dry Stone Walls

Cotswold Ridge and Furrows

The Rollright Stones

The Gypsy Horse Fair at Stow-on-the-Wold

The Cotswolds - In the Beginning


Ralph Green

Ralph Green lives in Bourton-on-the-Water and used to work for many years at the Stow-on-the-Wold Visitor Information Centre.

For more Cotswold Articles:-

The Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold
21st March 1646

The English Civil War fought between 1642 and 1646, was a mobile war with rival armies forever on the move. This war did not consist of one or two major battles to decide the issue but continued for four years with sieges, skirmishes, small and veryEngraved Map of the Battle of Stow on the Memorial - Click on the image to Enlarge large battles ranging from the distant north to the far south west of England.

Stow-on-the-Wold lies on the junction of eight roads so consequently both the royalist and parliamentary armies frequently passed through the town. In 1644, King Charles, on route to Evesham, passed through with a small army. In hot pursuit was a larger parliamentary army under the command of Sir William Waller who went on to Winchcombe. The king came back through Stow-on-the-Wold a few days later, on his way to Witney again followed by Waller. One wonders what the inhabitants of Stow made of all this.

King Charles I came to Stow for a third time just before the battle of Naseby in 1645. This time he stayed the night, taking lodgings at the inn in the lower corner of the square now called The King’s Arms. His army camped along the Maugersbury road. After Naseby, Lord Fairfax, leading parliamentary forces passed through Stow-on-the-Wold on their way to Lechlade. It would only be a matter of time before these rival armies arrived in Stow-on-the-Wold at the same time. In March 1646, they did and this time Stow-on-the-Wold would provide the setting for the last battle of the English Civil War.

Despite the defeat of the Royalist army at Naseby the king still thought he could overthrow the parliamentary forces if he could gather the surviving royalist forces from the West Midland and Welsh borders and get them to his base in Oxford. The task of gathering the remaining soldiers and marching them back to Oxford fell to Sir Jacob Astley.

Parliamentary forces soon had news of Astley’s return march and started to converge on them from Gloucester, Evesham, Hereford and Lichfield. The parliamentary army under the command of Colonel Thomas Morgan blocked Astley’s attempt to cross the River Avon at Evesham and several days were spent marching and counter-marching. Morgan withdrew to Chipping Campden in the hope that Astley would cross the river and then engage him in battle. Astley eventually crossed at Bidford-on-Avon and marched through Broadway before climbing Fish Hill. Morgan did not attack as he was waiting for re-enforcements from Lichfield and he allowed Astley to pass by. Information reached Morgan that the royalist army was to be joined by cavalry sent by the King from Oxford so when his re-enforcements finally arrived he decided to attack.

Memorial to the Battle of Stow on the hill where the battle commenced - Click on the image to EnlargeBefore dawn on the 21st March, Morgan’s reconnaissance found Astley’s army drawn up in battle order on high ground close to the village of Donnington about 1½ miles north of Stow-on-the-Wold. As soon as it was light, Morgan attacked up the hill but his left wing were driven back in confusion and then overpowered. At first victory seemed doubtful. Morgans’s right wing of cavalry pressed the attack and successfully routed the royalist cavalry who left the field. In the centre, the royalist forces held their ground against the parliamentary attack, which was forced to withdraw.

A second parliamentary advance followed and this time the royalist forces were pushed back in the direction of Stow. Fighting continued into the Square and local legend tells that blood flowed down Digbeth Street such was the slaughter. Fighting in the town ended with the capture of Astley. A drum was brought for the royalist commander to sit and rest on; he was after all sixty-six years old and a true veteran of over forty years military service. He was clearly able to see the finality and the significance of this battle because he said to his captors:

'Gentlemen, ye may now sit down and play, for you have done all your Worke,
if you fall not out among yourselves!’

These prophetic words described the years that were to follow as people struggled to define a future role for parliament and the crown.

After the battle, the royalist prisoners were held overnight in St. Edward’s Church because it was the most secure building in the town and large enough to hold such a number. The dead were laid in Digbeth Street, which re-enforces the legend of blood flowing down the road. To this day, their burial site remains a mystery.

Subsequently the prisoners were marched to Gloucester and after further confinement; they were exchanged for parliamentary prisoners or released on oath not to take up arms again.

Sir Jacob Astley was imprisoned in Warwick Castle until his release in June when Oxford surrendered to parliamentary forces. He eventually retired to his family house in Kent after a long and most eventful life. He died in 1652 at the age of 72.

Colonel Thomas Morgan saw service in Scotland and was promoted to the rank of major-general. He fought in Flanders and was involved in the war with Holland when he became governor of Jersey. He died in 1679, a fine soldier who had served parliament and his country well.

Stone in churchyard in honour of those that died - Click on the image to EnlargeIn April King Charles I, realising his cause was lost, slipped away in disguise from Oxford and surrendered at Newark.

So, in and around this hill top town of Stow-on-the-Wold was fought the last battle of the English Civil War which was ultimately to lead to the execution of the king and to lay the foundation of our parliamentary democracy.

Less than half a mile to the west of Donnington, on a pubic footpath, stands a stone obelisk marking the sight where the Royalist forces spent the night before the battle and where they drew up to defend themselves. It is plain to see the commanding position they held and the difficult slope the parliamentary army had to climb in order to dislodge them.

Today a simple stone stands in the churchyard of St Edward’s Church, Stow-on-the-Wold, to honour all those men who fought and died for their beliefs.

Note: The English Civil Wars consisted of a series of armed conflicts and political machinations that took place between Parliamentarians and Royalists between 1642 and 1651. The first (1642–1646) and second (1648–1649) civil wars pitted the supporters of King Charles I against the supporters of the Long Parliament, while the third war (1649–1651) saw fighting between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament. The Civil War ended with the Parliamentary victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651.

Also see Baptist Hicks at Chipping Campden.

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Battle of Stow on the Wold

This page last modified Tuesday, 24-Jan-2017 16:25:00 GMT