The Battle of Nantwich was one of the most significant battles of the English Civil War. Fought on 25 January 1644 between the Parliamentarians and Royalists, the battle proved to be a major setback to King Charles I’s campaign. Nantwich, located near the Royalist stronghold of Wales, had long been a Parliamentarian stronghold.
Nantwich knew that to break Parliamentarian superiority in the border regions, it needed to attack Nantwich.
Royalist commander Lord Capel first launched an attack on Nantwich in October 1643. However, it failed and allowed Middleton to advance into North Wales. However, this advance was only temporary as they were driven out of the Principality by 1,500 English troops who arrived in the region.
After Capel’s failure he was dismissed. His replacement, Sir John Byron. Byron, commanded a victorious attack on a Parliamentarian force based at Middlewich. The survivors fled to Nantwich or Manchester to seek refuge. Byron was rewarded for this success with a promotion - he was promoted to Field Marshal of Wales and the Marches.
Nantwich was an important town to Parliament. It offered a number of Irish Royalists, meaning that Parliament could seriously threaten the movement of Royalist supporters by taking the town. Parliamentarian leaders were desperate to stop the Irish troops from making it to Chester, where they could join up with other Royalists.
In December 1643, Sir Thomas Fairfax led his troops across the country to support Parliament forces in Nantwich. By the time Fairfax reached Manchester his troops numbered 3,000 foot soldiers, 500 dragoons and 1,800 horses.
The winter of 1643 was a harsh one and the army struggled to march and fight in the freezing conditions. The soldiers were cold and they had not been paid for weeks, resulting in growing unrest. However, despite these setbacks they followed Fairfax out of loyalty and respect for his leadership.
It was rare for an army to march or fight in the winter months. Poor conditions invariably led to desertion and the winter of 1643/44 was no exception. Fairfax ordered his men to march in deep snow. Fairfax had provided many of his men with a new uniform and paid for these out of his own money. However, morale in the ranks was low - his men had not received their full pay for some time and they only followed Fairfax out of respect for his leadership.
When Fairfax arrived in Nantwich, he found that Byron’s force had been significantly reduced as a result of the bad weather. Following a Council of War, Fairfax made the decision to fight on the borders of Nantwich. He gathered his men at Welsh Row.
The battle, which took place on 25 January 1644, was extremely bloody. Fairfax benefited from a superior strategic position, but he was held back by boggy ground. As the battle was fought in three parts, communication between all three sections became almost impossible.
Fairfax called on his reserves from Nantwich. With an extra 800 musketeers, his army managed to force the Royalist regiments back.
The Royalists surrendered at Acton Church. With his force in chaos, Byron gathered who he could and moved to Chester.
The Battle of Nantwich proved to be a major setback for the king. It meant that the Royalists had lost their opportunity to take Lancashire. The defeat also allowed Parliament more time to organise an attack on Chester.
"The Battle of Nantwich". HistoryLearning.com. 2015. Web.