Sir Thomas Fairfax comments on his arrival in Bradford
“After this ill success, we had small hopes of better, wanting all things necessary in Bradford for defence of the town, and no expectation of help from any place. The Earl of Newcastle presently besieged the town; but before he had surrounded it, I got in with those men I brought from Halifax."
The Earl of Newcastle set up his headquarters at Bolling Hall overlooking the town and spent two or three days in preparing for the siege and bringing down his cannon. The besieged party again converted the church steeple into a fortress, and hung, says Joseph Lister, wool packs on that side of the steeple which faced the enemy's battery. The Royalists' cannon was positioned close to the steeple and "gave it many a sad shake." When the shot cut the cords whereon the sheets of wool hung and down they fell, the assailants loudly cheered. The store of ammunition of the defenders consisting of only twenty-five or twenty-six barrels of powder, was consumed at the beginning of the siege and they had not one match for their muskets other than what was made of twisted cord dipped in oil. The next day being the Sunday the Earl of Newcastle sent a trumpeter ( messenger ) to offer conditions; which Fairfax agreed to accept to save the inhabitants further suffering. He sent 2 captains to negotiate with Newcastle and there was a cease fire during that time.
The negotiations lasted most part of the day but the Royalists took advantage of it to move their cannon and placed them in a better position to fire directly into the heart of the town. Fairfax, suspecting that Newcastle planned to surprise him, sent commissioners to obtain the Earl’s answer.
They did not return till 11.00 p.m. and then with only a curt reply.
Sir Thomas Fairfax describes what followed
"Whilst they were delivering it to us we heard great shooting of cannon and muskets; all run presently to the works, which the enemy was storming. Here for three-quarters of an hour was very hot service, but at length they retreated.
They made a second attempt, but were also beaten off; after this, we had not above one barrel of powder left, and no match: I called the officers together, when it was advised and resolved to draw off presently, before it was day, and to retreat to Leeds, by forcing a way, which we must do, for they had surrounded the town.
Orders were dispatched, and speedily put in execution. The foot commanded by Colonel Rogers was sent out, through some narrow lanes, and they were to beat up the dragoons' quarters, and so go on to Leeds.
I myself with some other officers went with the horse, which were not above fifty, in a more open way.
I must not here forget my wife, who ran the same hazard with us in this retreat and with as little expression of fear; not from any zeal, or delight in the war, but through a willing and patient suffering of this undesirable condition. I sent two or three horsemen before, to discover what they could of the enemy; who presently returned, and told us there was a guard of horse close by us.
Before I had got forty paces, the day beginning to break, I saw them upon the hill above us, being about three hundred horse. I, with some twelve more, charged them; Sir Henry Fowles, Major-General Gifford, myself and three more brake through;
Captain Mudd was slain, and the rest of our horse being close by, the enemy fell upon them, and soon routed them, taking most of them prisoners, among whom was my wife, the officer William Hill, behind whom she hid, being taken.
I saw this disaster, but could give no relief; for after I was got through, I was in the enemy's rear alone; those who had charged through with me, went on to Leeds, thinking I had done so too; but I was unwilling to leave my company, and stayed till I saw there was no more in my power to do, but to be taken prisoner with them. I then retired to Leeds.
The like disaster fell among the foot, that went the other way, by a mistake, for after they had marched a little way, the van fell into the dragoons' quarters, clearing their way; but through a cowardly fear, he that commanded these men, being in the rear, made them face about, and march again into the town, where the next day they were all taken prisoners, only eighty or thereabout of the front that got through, came all to Leeds, mounted on horses which they had taken from the enemy, where I found them when I came thither, which was some joy to them all, concluding I was either slain, or taken prisoner."
From Leeds Sir Thomas continued his fighting retreat to Hull, the Great Ride as it is known. It was a masterly achievement of courage, leadership and determination by a great soldier.
The road taken by Fairfax and his followers in retreating was the old Leeds Road to Leeds by way of Barkerend Road. The point where Lady Fairfax was captured would be about where the road to Eccleshill branches off. Probably the bottom of Otley Road near the roundabout.
"Not many days after," Fairfax continues, "the Earl of Newcastle sent my wife back again in his coach, with some horse to guard her; which generous act of his gained him more reputation than he could have got by detaining a lady prisoner upon such terms.”
The people left in Bradford were very afraid of what was to become of them as it had been rumoured that Newcastle had given orders that the town’s people were to be put to the sword in retribution for the killing of some of his own men during the 1st Siege.
There is no evidence however that Newcastle gave such an order. Legend has it that during this night at his headquarters at Bolling Hall, he had a dream in which a lady appeared begging him to spare the people of the town.
The next morning the soldiers of the Earl entered the town and pillaged it. Some light resistance was dealt with but there was no wholesale slaughter as had been feared.
Lister says, "The women gathered grain in the streets, of which there was plenty; for the soldiers emptied the grain sacks into the streets, and filled them with any thing they found that was more valuable."
The Royalists, having encamped near Bolling Hall, and emptied the town of what was worth carrying away, now sat down and sold the things that would sell. It seems, too, that they were not content with one payment of the purchase-money; for Lister relates that he was sent by his employer to the camp, and bought a cow in the afternoon which was driven away again before night; and that another day he went and bought another cow, which was also taken.
The cannon used in this and the former siege were probably no larger than 8 pounders. Two or three cannon balls were found during demolition of buildings in Bradford many years ago and some marks were visible on the church where cannon balls had hit were evident.
Bradford was now left under the control of the Royalists for the rest of the year. The main Royalist army moved on elsewhere but a small garrison was remained in occupation. The war moved on the other parts of Yorkshire and the north of England and the town resumed some semblance of normality, or as much as it could be expected with a hostile occupying force in control.
The Lancashire and Yorkshire fugitive Parliamentarians to the west of the Pennines became encouraged with the more optimistic news from outside the region and mounted several raids east from Heptonstall towards Halifax. There were a number of lively encounters involving the forces of Colonel Bradshaw’s Heptonstall Roundheads and Sir Francis Mackworth’s Halifax Cavaliers through to the end of 1643. In particular the attack on Howley Hall and the Battles of Heptonstall and Sowerby Bridge are worthy of note.
Ivegate - Bradford
Modern day Ivegate pictured in Jan 2010. In 1643 this was a prominent little street in the town. The building where Fairfax set up his HQ during the Second Siege was near this spot - probably on the left which was the site of the Sun Inn.. A plaque on the wall on the right ( pictured at the bottom of the page ) records the event. Bradford Beck ran left to right along the bottom of Ivegate just behind where the first photo was taken. Photos courtesy of Andrew Eatch.