The Business of Yorkshire - Part 2.
18th December 1642 – Savile then moved to threaten Bradford with 200 infantry, 6 troops of dragoons and 5 troops of cavalry.
Advanced units of the Royalist force under Colonel William Evers moved forward to the outskirts of Bradford during the morning.
There was little in the way of a military presence in the town to defend it against the impending attack, almost all of the local militia and trained officers being away fighting with Lord and Sir Thomas Fairfax.
The situation in Bradford was desperate. Faced with a well equipped and numerically far superior Royalist force the local inhabitants could muster barely 80 muskets and musketeers between them. These were supplemented by local volunteers who were prepared to fight. The club-men as they were known were ill equipped and untrained for battle but not lacking in enthusiasm. A serious predicament was the lack of any captain or trained officer to lead this makeshift force.
In spite their lack of men, equipment and experience their Puritan fervour and commitment to the Parliamentarian cause made the inhabitants determined to resist. A demand from Sir William Saville, for the town to surrender was ignored.
This brave stand was seen as futile and hopeless by the people of neighbouring towns and villages who, at first, refused urgent pleas for help from the people of Bradford.
Chains and barricades were placed across the roads leading into the town and the people prepared for the ordeal that was to face them as best they could. This must have been an extremely unpleasant prospect and the cause of considerable apprehension.
Royalist sympathisers in the town were thought to have been prepared to hand it over but, faced with the commitment of the majority, made no attempt to do so.
A proportion of the Royalist army approached cautiously from the south expecting to face only token resistance at worst and to take the town without difficulty.
As they neared the town they were engaged enthusiastically by musketeers positioned in the church tower which proved a significant vantage point.
The Royalist advance stalled in the face of this unexpected show of defiance.
Saville ordered some of his men to occupy houses near the church and directed that a cannon to be brought up to fire into the town. Captain Goodricke with a troop of Royalist cavalry were ordered to the west of the town but driven back by more local musketeers.
From the houses near the church the cannon fired across the Beck up Kirkgate and the musketeers in the church tower fired volleys in reply.
At this stage reinforcements, mostly club-men, finally arrived from Halifax under the command of Captain John Hodgson, a trained officer. It is also thought that volunteers came from Bingley and probably other surrounding villages to lend their support.
The arrival fresh men must have greatly heartened the local defenders and resulted in an immediate attack on the Royalist positions around the church. This caused the Royalists to retire from the houses to positions in the enclosed fields close by hotly pursued by the club-men.
Fierce hand to hand fighting developed and the Royalist cavalry counter attacked in support of their infantry. The defenders rallied and drove them off with some loss.
Colonel Goring - later Lord Goring. Hard drinking, hard fighting Royalist cavalry commander.
It is recorded that some Royalists wounded or taken prisoner were killed out of hand by the club-men. One of these is thought to have been some relation of the Earl of Newport. It is also possible that Colonel Goring ( later Lord Goring ) was unhorsed and set upon by the club-men before being rescued by several of his troopers. Goring was later to become an important and successful cavalry commander for the Royalists during the First Civil War.
From more secure positions in the hedgerows Royalist musketeers fired with great effect on the defenders causing them to retreat taking several prisoners with them including Captain Goodricke and Major Carew, who had commanded the attack in the church.
The Royalist attackers retired to positions held by their main force and Saville later withdrew from the area giving the people of Bradford a temporary breathing space.
The defence of the town by irregular forces had been a significant achievement although they had only engaged part of the Royalist force. The fighting was notable for the determination, ferocity and fervour shown by the defenders in the face of a far superior enemy.
The Royalists abandoned their attempt to take Bradford and withdrew to Leeds.
Saville may well have been surprised by the resistance of the local people. He probably had sufficient forces to take the town but whether the effort and loss would have been worth it is debatable. When captured there was also the not insignificant matter of holding Bradford against the wishes of a hostile populous in the town and surrounding areas.
Bradford had no strategic and little economic significance but had considerable importance as a focus of Parliamentarian support, recruiting and supplies.
It may have been considered that, in the circumstances, Bradford was best left for the time being to be dealt with at a more suitable time. In any case Royalist forces were required for duties elsewhere.