Battle of Cropredy Bridge, 29th June 1644

The latest instalment of  'the travels of William Waller's Southern Association' visits Cropredy (pronounced cropper-dee): home to folk festivals (of the singing with one finger in their ear variety), a haunt of hippies in the '70s looking to hang out with Fairport Convention (some are still there, so don't be at all surprised to see Gandalf look alikes roaming the area), and 375 years ago a little dust up in the First Civil War.


You'll be pleased to hear that there is still a bridge, but not the titular 'bridge', it having been rebuilt and then widened in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

The Royalists had suffered several defeats in early 1644, Nantwich, Cheriton, and were now besieged in York (the Scots having arrived on the scene to bolster the Parliamentarian forces). A beleaguered Charles was holed up in Oxford.


The Sealed Knot march across Cropredy Bridge

On Saturday, 29 June, Charles headed north along the eastern bank of the Cherwell. Waller shadowed the King on the western side of the river, the armies could see one another but no shots were fired.

As they approached Cropredy a small detachment of Royalist dragoons were dispatched to capture the bridge. Meanwhile Charles's spies informed him that 300 extra horse would soon be joining Waller's force. Charles ordered his troops to get a wiggle on, in order to cut off these horsemen. The Royalist march reminded me of when I tell my boys to get a wiggle on - some take me at my word and speed up, whilst others slow down.

Waller saw his chance sent two regiments of horse and some infantry (under the command of Lieutenant-General John Middleton) over Cropredy Bridge (including wargamer's favourites Hessilrigge's lobsters) to isolate the rear of the Royalist column, and Waller led the bulk of his force over Slat Mill ford in an attempt to perform a pincer movement.

The dragoons at Cropredy Bridge were quickly overwhelmed but Middleton's force were met with stiff resistance at Hay's Bridge. Meanwhile Waller's led force were forced back across the ford at Slat Mill. Charles is informed that his rearguard is in action, so he orders his troops to about turn.

Middleton's forces were driven back to Cropredy Bridge, and eleven guns and their master of ordinance (Lieutenant-General Wemyss) were captured.

Middleton repulsed all attempts by the king to take the bridge, the two armies had a stand off throughout the night and most of the next day. Charles received word that the London Brigade were marching to join Waller, so the Royalists slipped away from the river under cover of the night.

Waller lost about 700 men (including many deserters) and eleven pieces of ordinance, the King minimal losses. The battle itself was pretty much a draw, but as a result of it Waller's force was seriously degraded, and Royalist spirits were raised. So those of a Royalist persuasion take it as a win.

What's there now?

Hay's Bridge is now a busy road bridge A361to the north of Wardington. The heaviest fighting took place near here. If visiting be very careful due to no grass verge, coupled with the speed and volume of traffic.


Cropredy Bridge is easily accessible and has a brand spanking new interpretation panel. This vantage point gives good views, north towards the main part of the battlefield. It also bears a faded memorial plate on its south side "The site of the Battle of Cropredy Bridge, June 1644. From Civil war Good Lord deliver us'.



View of the battlefield from the top of the church tower

Slat's Ford:  for the less adventurous/slightly less energetic park on School Lane and follow the footpath continuation of School Lane to Peewit Farm then follow the footpath that goes left (look carefully for some white arrow markers on Stiles) to the site of Slat Mill and the site of the ford (probably where the bridge now is). Alternatively the ford can be found on a bridleway south of Williamscot: the bridleway leaves the A361 at OS grid SP 476 447, and the site of the mill's ruins, and the ford (now a footbridge) can be  can be found at SP 472 450.


At the time of KeepYourPowderDry's visit there were one or two people from The Sealed Knot present - it was after all the 375th anniversary of the battle. Here's a few pictures of their raucous behaviour...


 

Selected Bibliography

Cropredy Bridge 1644: Battle and Campaign Toynbee & Young, Roundwood Press
The Battle of Cropredy Bridge 29 June 16544, A Forlorn Hope Guide D. Frampton, Partizan Press

Postcodes for SatNavs
Cropredy Bridge OX17 1PQ
School Lane  OX17 1PX

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