The Business of Yorkshire - Part 4.
The Fairfaxes planned to launch an attack on Wakefield with the intention of obtaining prisoners to exchange for some of their own captured men. Wakefield was well fortified and at this time held by Royalists under the command of Lord Goring with 3,000 infantry and 7 troops of cavalry.
20th May 1643 – Sir Thomas Fairfax approached Wakefield early in the morning under the cover of darkness with 1500 infantry and cavalry. Royalist intelligence was always good and they were aware of the possibility of an attack. Preliminary skirmishes with Royalist forces were successful and alerted the garrison to the approach of the attackers. It became clear that the Royalist garrison at Wakefield was far larger than Sir Thomas had been led to believe.
Sir Thomas realised it was now too late to withdraw and launched determined and swift attacks on Northgate and Westgate to which the Royalists replied with musket and cannon fire. The Parliamentarian forces captured sections of the defensive perimeter of the town in a battle which lasted an hour and a half and turned the cannon on the defenders.
The speed and intensity of the assault forced the Royalists back into the town hotly pursued by Fairfax and his men. Sir Thomas led the way with his own troop of cavalry followed by 2 other troops.
The Royalist commander, Lord Goring, had been in bed with a fever ( or drunk ) during the day but arose and led his cavalry in a counter charge at Fairfax’s troopers. There followed a lively confrontation in which the Parliamentarians prevailed and Sir Thomas himself had a narrow escape having charged in amongst a unit of Royalist infantry and, being unrecognised, succeeded in escaping by jumping his horse over the barricades and back to his own men.
The Parliamentarians were able to take numerous prisoners including the notable Lord Goring. Goring was held in the Tower of London until April 1644 when he was exchanged for the Earl of Lothian.
3 troops of Royalist cavalry and a regiment of infantry under Colonel Lampton prepared to make a stand in the market place. Major General Gifford sent a trumpeter with the offer of honourable surrender if they laid down their arms.
This the Royalists refused and Gifford turned one of his cannon on them before ordering his cavalry to attack and drove them out of the town. All the Royalist officers were taken prisoner.
Lacking the forces to hold Wakefield Fairfax withdrew taking with him 1,500 prisoners, 3 captured cannon, 27 Royalist standards and a large amount of weapons and ammunition.
News of this victory was celebrated widely and as far away as London where Parliament ordered public thanksgiving to be observed in the capital.