Hopton Heath, 19th March 1643

After visiting Adwalton Moor and Rowton Heath battlefield sites, I've started to get the bit between my teeth for visiting and documenting local Civil War battlefields.

The latest instalment saw me visit Hopton Heath in Staffordshire, where Sir John Gell (Parliament's Derbyshire commander) possibly took a marginal victory*. This is the same John Gell whose infantry standard is proudly exhibited at the National Army Museum and whose buff coat is on display at the Royal Armouries in Leeds

Sir John Gell

Gell's buff coat, Leeds

Early 1643, the war was at a hiatus, the Royalists were under siege at Lichfield, and Parliament wanted to take control of the Midlands (and thereby disrupt the King's supply route north from Oxford).

Gell took Lichfield in early March, the Earl of Northampton was tasked to retake Lichfield, but had to respond to Gell's march on Stafford. They met on the heathland outside the village of Hopton.

Gell had been joined by a force from Cheshire led by Sir William Brereton, their combined force numbered about 1500 men. Northampton fielded a similar number.

The battle was pretty indecisive; neither side being able to strike a definitive blow. Gell lost a number of artillery pieces, Northampton lost his life. Neither side was able to claim outright victory, nor admit that they had been defeated. Gell took Northampton's body from the battlefield and tried to ransom the body for the lost artillery pieces, and recover the embalming costs. Northampton's son refused!

The battlefield today is either covered by the mysteriously named MoD base "Stafford Site 6" or Heathyard's Farm. It is possible to walk the boundary of the battlefield, although a large part of the time you'll be walking along grass verges next to very busy roads.

There are two memorial plaques. One at the entrance to Hopton Village Hall: it is possible to just pull into the driveway to see this memorial or, if the hall is in use, park at the rear of the building.

The newer memorial is within "Stafford Site 6". This can be visited on foot: you will need to park in the layby on the A518. There is nowhere on Within Lane for you to pull off the road for a cheeky few minutes.

From the layby walk westerly along the  A518 (use the grass verge) for about 500 metres, turn right onto Within Lane.

Carry on, with care, along Within Lane for 800 metres where you will see...

Follow the footpath for 300 metres until you see the new memorial and interpretation board (behind a chainlink fence, which makes it really difficult to photograph).

Selected Bibliography
Forlorn Hope Guide to the Battle of Hopton Heath D.Frampton & P.Graham, Partizan Press

Postcodes for SatNavs
Hopton Village Hall ST18 0AW
Layby on the A518 ST18 0BA
Closest postcode for new memorial ST18 0AY
OS Grid Ref for new memorial SJ 953 261

* I'm biased, get over it

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  1. Loving the battlefield tour series! A very useful resource - thanks.

  2. No problems. It all stemmed from my frustration at visiting Naseby, being completely unprepared, and not being able to find places. Whilst I'm very happy to use OS grid references, my car SatNav isn't.

    You might have to wait sometime for the next installment, battlefields are getting further away!


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