Newbury has a lot in common with Newark, and I don't just mean the letters 'N-E-W'. Both saw significant action during the Civil Wars, both have 'showgrounds' and both are host towns for wargames shows.

Your little, and not so little, ones can dress as pikemen at the museum.

The First Battle of  Newbury, 20th September 1643
The war isn't going so well for Parliament, Charles has taken Banbury, Oxford, Reading and stormed Bristol. He has now set his sights on Gloucester, cue the Earl of Essex to the rescue. Essex had marched from London to beat off the Royalist threat, but now he had to return to London.

'Arty' camera angle to avoid sun's reflection

The King's army wanted to halt Essex's march to London, and the two sides crossed paths at Newbury. The King arrived first, taking up position slightly to the south and west of Newbury. Essex drew his army up to confront the Royalist army  to the west of the King's lines (parallel to the modern A34).

Interpretation panel at the museum

The battle basically involved  both sides advancing towards one another and knocking seven bells out of  each other. In the centre of the battlefield, the Parliamentarians took Round Hill, an area of high ground (the clue is the word 'hill') that commanded the centre of the battlefield and which the Royalists had failed to secure despite forming up their lines before the parliamentarians had arrived (as Mr H. Simpson would say "doh!"). Whenever the Royalists seemed to be getting the upperhand in the fighting, the London Trained Bands (held in reserve) bolstered the Parliamentarian line and saved the day.

The Falkland Memorial

By night time neither army had gained an advantage, both sides were exhausted, and the battle was at stalemate. Charles was appalled by the casualty figures (approx. 3500 for his army alone) and the loss of senior figures (Lord Caernarvon, Lord Sunderland, Viscount Falkland), coupled with the almost exhausted gunpowder supplies meant he withdrew his army. Essex was free to march back to London.

The Second Battle of Newbury, 27th October 1644

The armies of the Southern Association (Waller), the Eastern Association (Manchester) and remains of the Earl of Essex’s Army joined forces at Basingstoke. The King had advanced to a position near Newbury, and his troops took up a strong defensive position between Donnington Castle and Newbury.

Interpretation panel at the museum

The Parliamentarian force besieging Donnington Castle abandoned the siege and joined with the now, sizeable Parliamentarian force – about 17500 strong. This enormous army was not an effective fighting force as morale was low, and the commanders where arguing amongst themselves.

On the morning of the 26th October, the Parliamentarians advanced to Clay Hill, a few miles east of Newbury; where they set up an artillery battery. Essex had retired to his sick bed, and Waller and Manchester decided that a frontal attack on Donnington Castle and Shaw House would be too costly.

They opted instead to divide their forces. While Manchester was to mount a diversionary attack upon Shaw House, Waller would take the Southern Association, Essex’s army, the London trained bands and all the cavalry on a long march of 13 miles around the Royalist position to fall on Speen from the west.

The Royalists observed Waller’s march to Speen but failed to warn the Royalists defending Speen that they were coming. Prince Maurice’s troops had gone foraging and had left their positions, they initially repulsed Waller but his troops rallied and took the village.
The sound of Waller’s artillery opening salvoes was supposed to be the signal for Manchester to start his attack, but he failed to do so, only starting his attack late in the day. His attack was repulsed.
Whilst Charles had held off much of the Parliamentarian assault, he knew that he would not be able to sustain another day of fighting, withdrawing under cover of the night. He left his baggage train, artillery and wounded behind at Donnington Castle.

A Royalist army returned to Newbury in November and rescued the artillery from the Castle. Manchester putting up no opposition whatsoever.

What's There Now?
Newbury Museum has a number of artefacts/displays interpreting the battles. 

Scott's "The Battles of Newbury" has an extensive walking tour guide to both battlefields.

The events of the first battle are commemorated at the Falkland Memorial, erected in 1878, commemorating Viscount Falkland and the Royalist dead. There is an interpretation board close to the monument. The town of Newbury has expanded onto some of the battlefield, the remaining countryside has lost it's seventeenth century field pattern losing it's maze of lanes and hedgerows, becoming more open. However one can still get a feel for the topography of the battlefield.

The second battle took place in the area of Speen recreation ground, where there is an interpretation board. Most of the battlefield has been built upon, although the ruins of Donnington Castle survive, as do the defensive earthworks. Donnington Castle is managed by English Heritage. Sadly no tea room at Donnington, in fact there is nothing but a car park and the ruins there (it is free to enter though). Incidentally, in the C15th Donnington was held by Geoffrey Chaucer's son Thomas.

Selected Bibliography
First Newbury 1643 K.Roberts, Osprey
Forlorn Hope Guide to the First Battle of Newbury Frampton & Garnham, Partizan Press
The Battles of Newbury: Crossroads of the English Civil War C.Scott, Pen & Sword

Postcodes for SatNavs
Newbury Museum RG14 5AS
parking  RG14 5QP (Library) or RG14 5AN (Corn Exchange)
1st Battle:
Falkland Memorial RG14 6QW
2nd Battle
Speen Recreation Ground RG14 1UD
Donnington Castle RG14 2LE - your satnav will try and send you through the grounds of Donnington Grove Hotel, don't listen to it, drive past and it will soon sort itself out

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  1. Great post- You've got some really nice pictures. I wonder if the armour was that dark during the day or is a result of time and/or some sort of preservative the museum uses to keep it from rusting.

    1. Thanks for your kind words.

      If you look at SK/ECWS armour it seems to have a similar hue, not quite as dark (which I'll attribute to time factor), so I'm guessing it's an 'authentic' colour rather than as a result of preservation methods/materials.


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