The Business of Yorkshire - Part 8.
19th January 1644 - The Scottish army invaded England in support of Parliament.. This drastically changed the whole military situation in the area with Newcastle being forced to move a substantial part of his army north to counter this threat leaving Yorkshire vulnerable to renewed Parliamentarian operations.
Sir Thomas Fairfax and his new army ( including many veterans from Adwalton Moor who had headed south to rejoin Black Tom in Lincolnshire ) were ordered west to Cheshire to relieve Nantwich and his great victory there over Lord Byron in January 1644 opened North Wales to the Parliamentarians.
In the West Riding there had been a period of relative calm. The Royalist governor of Yorkshire, Sir William Saville, died in office and was replaced by Colonel Sir John Belasyse.
In January raids by Parliamentarian irregulars across the Lancashire/Yorkshire border became more frequent and the security of the West Riding again became an issue for the Royalists.
Belasyse was also faced with the considerable threat of the expected invasion of the Scots army from the north and also the Parliamentarian forces at Hull who were still holding the port. Lord Fairfax was mounting vigourous lightning sorties from Hull with cavalry which, if not of major importance, were certainly a significant irritation.
After his victory at Nantwich Sir Thomas Fairfax ordered Colonel John Lambert with a column, including John Bright’s Regiment of Foote, back into the West Riding. Lambert was a Yorkshireman from Malhamdale near Skipton.
Amongst Lambert’s force was Captain John Hodgson of Halifax who was commander of the irregulars at Bradford in December 1642.
Lambert’s force marched over the Pennine hills to Sowerby and on to Halifax. From there they marched to Keighley and down the Aire valley to Bradford. Quite probably they gathered support along the way.
3rd March 1644 - They arrived in Bradford and found the town held by a small Royalist force with musketeers in the church tower. The opening Parliamentarian cavalry attack was driven off but the defenders were dislodged and put to flight by a determined infantry assault.
After a short pursuit the Parliamentarians withdrew back to Bradford.
The war in Yorkshire slowly began to turn in favour of Parliament.
From their new base at Bradford a Parliamentarian force took Tadcaster and held it. On the night of the 5/6th March they won a sharp action against Royalist cavalry south of Leeds at Hunslet. More fighting took place around Kirklees
In the East Riding Lord Fairfax launched his forces against Stamford Bridge which was taken and held.
The threat posed by Colonel Lambert and his force in Bradford and Lord Fairfax in Hull was now such that John Belasyse was forced to take action.
With Newcastle now away facing the threat of the Scottish army advancing south into England Belasyse had a considerably reduced force at his disposal.
He chose to move much of his army from York making Selby his base of operations. By doing this he controlled the bridge over the River Ouse and was able to secure the route between Bradford and Hull. Belasyse then received reinforcements from the now relieved garrison at Newark and advanced into the West Riding to attack Bradford. on the.
25th March 1644 - Colonel Lambert and his defenders fought off several determined assaults by the Royalists until low on ammunition. The Parliamentarians attempted to break out of the town and took the Royalist cavalry, commanded by General George Porter, by surprise. Porter’s force was routed and fled. Lambert took advantage of this unexpected victory and returned to Bradford to resume its defence.
Belasyse, now deprived of much of his cavalry, abandoned the attack and withdrew to Leeds and on to Selby. Porter returned to Nottinghamshire in considerable disgrace after the poor performance of his cavalry and refused the orders of Belasyse to return for some days.
This was the last serious fighting in and around Bradford which was now firmly in the control of the Parliamentarians and the town was now able to resume some sort of normality as the war continued elsewhere in the region.