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Part 3

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The Business of Yorkshire - Part 3.

In December the Earl of Newcastle was forced to split his army at this time as the Queen, Henrietta Maria, was due to arrive from Europe by ship with an army and supplies for the Royalist war effort. This seriously disrupted Royalist operations in the north.

23rd December 1642. Sir Thomas Fairfax made a daring night march through Royalist held territory and arrived in Bradford with 300 infantry men and 3 troops of cavalry to reinforce the town.

Sir Thomas referred later to Bradford as

“ a Towne very untenable, but, for their good Affections, deserving all we could hazard for them.”

Here he planned to assemble a force from the locality to take the fight to the remaining Royalist forces in the West Riding. His first objective was Leeds held by Sir William Saville with 1,500 infantry, 1,500 cavalry and 2 cannon, demi-culverins, capable of firing a 10 lb shot. The town had been fortified with defensive works on the western side.


23rd Jan 1643.  Sir Thomas was able to amass an army of 1000 musketeers, 6 troops of cavalry, 3 troops of dragoons and no less than 2000 club-men. His intention was to take Leeds for Parliament.

He split his army into 2 parts. The smaller force, a company of dragoons, under Captain Mildmay, with 30 musketeers and 1,000 club-men marched on the south side of the River Aire to attack Leeds from the south over the bridge.

Fairfax and the main part of his force crossed the River Aire at Apperley Bridge and marched along the north side of the Aire valley to Woodhouse Moor.

2 requests from Fairfax to Saville for him to surrender the town were met with curt refusal.

The attack commenced in a snow storm along a line of fortifications that the Royalists had thrown up on the western side of the town extending from the newly built St. John's church down to the river.

Five companies of the most experienced soldiers of the Parliamentarian forces moved forward and threatened Royalist positions around St John's church which resulted in a fierce exchange of fire between the opposing musketeers.

More Parliamentary musketeers advanced under cover of a hill before reaching 'a great long trench', to the west of the town.

After considerable inconclusive firing, Sir Thomas led an assault on the defences of the town and, in a hard fight of some two hours duration, drove the Royalists back and occupied their positions.

Simultaneously Parliamentarian forces south of the river attacked and took the south end of the bridge. From this position musketeers and dragoons engaged Royalist positions on the north bank with continuous fire.

Saville ordered up one of his cannon which was positioned to cover the bridge.

Parliamentarian dragoons on the south bank ran down to the river firing on the Royalist defensive positions to the north forcing the Royalists to retreat.

The bridge was then stormed and taken by Parliamentarian infantry led by Sergeant-Major Forbes and Captain Hodgson.

Forbes and his force charged up Briggate capturing another cannon.

Here they met Sir William Fairfax, Sir Thomas’s cousin, who had led his force in breaching the Royalist defences at Red Hall and advanced up the Headrow.

The Royalist resistance was broken and Saville fled on horseback.

Leeds had fallen to Sir Thomas Fairfax and his men in 3 hours fighting.

460 Royalist prisoners were taken but released after taking an oath not to take up arms against Parliament again. As well as 2 cannon a considerable amount of gunpowder and weapons were captured.

27th January 1643.  Newcastle withdrew most of his army to York.

The Queen’s eventual arrival in England at Bridlington on the 22nd February 1643 meant that the Earl of Newcastle had to provide regiments to escort her south where it was her eventual intention to join her husband, King Charles I at Oxford.

The Parliamentarian cause in Yorkshire received a severe blow when the garrison at Scarborough changed sides and declared for the King. This left only Hull as the major only Parliamentarian major stronghold in East Yorkshire. The Parliamentarians also had a stronghold at Selby.

The Queen arrived safely in York on the 8th March and Newcastle was forced to divert some of his army south to Lincolnshire to confront the Eastern Association and Oliver Cromwell who were active in the area.

Lord Fairfax and his forces in Selby found entry to Hull temporarily denied to them due to the scheming of the Hotham family who commanded the port.

Lord Fairfax decided to march to a more favourable and safer location at Leeds although this could expose his army to surprise assault. Sir Thomas Fairfax led a force towards Tadcaster as a diversion.

The Royalists believed this movement  was preliminary to an attack on York and launched an attack.

 30th March 1643 - Royalist cavalry under Lord George Goring overtook and engaged the rearguard of the Parliamentarian force at Whin Moor near Seacroft on the outskirts of Leeds.

The Parliamentarians lost numerous soldiers, for the most part infantry, killed, wounded or taken prisoner but Sir Thomas Fairfax and Sir Henry Foulis led the remaining troopers to the safety of Leeds after a fighting withdrawal. Even so it was a serious reversal for the Fairfaxes

Rotherham and Sheffield were occupied by Royalist forces on the 4th and 6th May respectively


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