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Part 7

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The Business of Yorkshire - Part 7.

Sir Thomas Fairfax arrived in Leeds later on the morning of the 3rd July. Here he was reunited with his 5 comrades who had broken out of Bradford with him and also 80 of his infantry who had also escaped. Sir Thomas immediately resumed command of his little force and the small Leeds garrison left as a rearguard by his father.

After a Council of War it was decided that they should set off immediately for Hull. Sir Thomas plus 4 troops of cavalry, 300 dragoons and 300 infantry arrived at Selby after 20 hours hard riding and without incident. When nearing Selby Sir Thomas was informed that Lord Fairfax and his force were just ahead and in the process of crossing the River Ouse by ferry. Royalist cavalry from nearby Cawood Castle were approaching Selby and about to attack.

After enjoying a swift jug of ale from local woman Sir Thomas and 40 troopers galloped into Selby attacking the Royalist cavalry in the main street and driving them down a narrow lane that ran to Cawood. Here a fierce action developed and Sir Thomas was shot through the left wrist. This caused him considerable pain and loss of blood. His bridle fell from his hand. Near to collapse he took the bridle in his right hand, in which he was holding his sword, and managed to pull his horse out of the melee although he was close to collapse. The Royalists fled and his men lay Sir Thomas down and his wound was attended by his surgeon who was able to staunch the flow of blood. Within 15 minutes he was back in the saddle and ordered some of his troopers across the river to cover his father on the last stages of his retreat to Hull.

Sir Thomas decided to take a different route along the south bank of the Ouse and Humber.

4th July 1643 - Lord Fairfax arrived at the safety of Hull early in the morning. Sir Thomas, with fewer than 100 troopers left, headed along the south bank of the Humber engaged in a running battle with Royalist cavalry who attacked from both front and rear. Mary Fairfax became very ill at this point. The whole episode must have been quite terrifying and gruelling for a little girl. Sir Thomas was able to stop briefly and leave his daughter and her tenacious and loyal nursemaid  in the care of a farmer and his wife at a house near the River Trent before resuming his escape. He promised to send a ship from Hull to collect them the next day but comments later that had “ little hopes of seeing her ( his daughter ) anymore alive.”

On arrival at Barton he was met by a ship which was able to provide refuge and protection and evacuate this little force across the estuary to Hull where they  arrived on the evening.

This epic fighting retreat made by Sir Thomas Fairfax from Bradford to Hull in 40 hours hard riding and with hardly any rest or refreshment was a monumental achievement and a testament to the determination, resourcefulness and leadership of this great man. Even more so when one considers that, for the final half of the ride, he was suffering a quite serious and incapacitating wound in the left wrist and was also under attack for most of the way..

His capture would indeed have been a serious blow to the Parliamentarian cause, not only in Yorkshire but in England as a whole.

His thoughts on arrival at Barton and evacuation to Hull make interesting reading :-

“ Here I lay down to take a little rest, if it were possible to find any in a body so full of pain, and a mind yet fuller of anxiety and trouble. Though I must acknowledge it as the infinite goodness of God, that my spirit was nothing at all discouraged from doing still that which I thought to be my duty. I had not rested a quarter of an hour, before the enemy came close to the town. I had not above 100 horse with me, we went to the ship, where under the security of her ordinance we got all our men and horse aboard; crossing the Humber, we arrived at Hull, our men faint and tired. I myself had lost all, even to my shirt, for my cloaths were made unfit to wear with rents and blood. ”

Sir Thomas sent a ship across the Humber to collect Mary and her nursemaid the next day. They were both found alive and well and taken to Hull to be reunited with a relieved Sir Thomas. Mary was clearly a resilient child and very quickly recovered from her ordeal. The condition of the nursemaid is not recorded. The poor woman had endured a most trying 2 days.

Lady Anne Fairfax was soon reunited with her husband thanks to the good services of the Earl of Newcastle.

Newcastle’s forces by this time had taken possession of Leeds and Halifax which had been evacuated by the Parliamentarian garrison. He then moved south into Lincolnshire taking both Lincoln and Gainsborough.

Newcastle was created Marquis by the King in October 1643 for his services to the Royalist cause in the North.

More and more of the Fairfaxes men managed to reach Hull during the following days and weeks and soon they had built up a force of 1500 infantry and 700 cavalry.

For the remainder of the summer the Fairfaxes fortified themselves in Hull and mounted enterprising and energetic raids on Royalist positions. Sir Thomas took all the cavalry and 700 infantry to Beverley and from there launched an attack on Stamford Bridge forcing Newcastle to withdraw back to Yorkshire and lay siege to Hull.

By doing so they kept Newcastle's army occupied in the north and prevented a Royalist advance into East Anglia. Newcastle was to waste considerable time, effort and resources in his attempts to capture the port which was almost impregnable.

Sir Thomas Fairfax left his father to command Hull and crossed the Humber into Lincolnshire with a force of cavalry in September 1643. Here he met and collaborated for the first time with Oliver Cromwell, who was a colonel in the Eastern Association army.

11th October 1644 - The Battle of Winceby.  In this mainly cavalry action Sir Thomas was again to distinguish himself with a perfectly timed second charge in support of Cromwell’s first assault. This resulted in a complete rout of the Royalist cavalry which fled the field suffering heavy casualties as a result. This battle was the first major reverse for the Royalist cavalry and Lincolnshire was now securely in Parliamentarian control.

In the aftermath of the battle, Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire fell to the Parliamentarians and the Royalist siege of Hull was broken.

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 Caviliers 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.


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