Chalgrove Field, 18th June 1643

A trip down south to that there London gave the ECWtravelogue an excuse to have a teeny detour on the way home to visit Chalgrove Field.

April 1643, Reading falls to Parliament's field army led by the Earl of Essex: Oxford is now open to assault by Essex to the East; and Waller, and the Southern Association, who are in the Gloucester area. There is no love lost between Essex and Waller, which is fortunate for the King and Oxford, as if they had coordinated their armies on attacking Oxford the King would have been in very hot water. As it was, Waller became preoccupied by Hopton, and Essex was faced with the problems of  his men being sick, and disaffected due to not being paid.

Then a stroke of luck for Charles: Sir John Hurry (often Urry) defects to the King (Sir John is oft described as a Scottish mercenary) providing details of Essex's garrisons and also a convoy carrying pay for Essex's men. Needless to say Prince Rupert is dispatched with a force of 1800 'hand picked' men on the 17th June to pick Essex's pocket.

Information board adjacent to the monument

Early on the 18th Rupert's men storm Essex's positions at Postcombe and Chinnor, but fail in taking the pay convoy. The convoy got wind of Rupert's manoeuvring and hid. Unable to find the convoy, Rupert set out for Oxford. However, he was followed and harried by Parliamentian forces led by Twistleton and Hampden.

Rupert halted his march at Chalgrove, setting a trap for his pursuers at Chislehampton Bridge. 

Part of the Prince Rupert 'myth' was created at Chalgrove when he led the charge by leaping over a hedge on horseback. Rupert's men would quickly rout the Parliamentarians. 

During the short fight, John Hampden would be mortally wounded; he would die from his wounds six days later.  

What's there now?
Postcombe and Chinnor have no evidence of the events of June 1643, which is unsurprising as Rupert's men set fire to both villages. 

St Andrew's Church

The mainly C13th St Andrew's Church, in Chinnor, being one of the few remaining buildings to have witnessed the events.

The actual site of the battlefield is hotly debated. But its most likely location remains, largely as agricultural land and a Second World War era airfield. To the east of Warpsgrove Lane there is extensive industrial development.

The 'likely' battlefield, adjacent to the airfield

There are no public rights of way across the battlefield, but fortunately Warpsgrove Lane runs right across the battlefield  into an area of what was in 1643, pasture closes. A monument to John Hampden stands at the crossroads on Warpsgrove Lane.

There are differing accounts of Hampden's wounds: two carbine wounds in his back, or injuries caused by his own pistol exploding. The 'exploding pistol' is believed to have been a 'slander' initiated by Sir Robert Walpole in 1721. Hampden's body was exhumed in the 1820s to ascertain his cause of death, but the exhumation provided no further clues.

The southern arches of Chiselhampton Bridge

Chiselhampton Bridge (known as Doyley Bridge in 1628) still exists, albeit much altered: the bridge has been rebuilt, widened, strengthened. The southern four arches are "substantially from the C16th". There are a number of cottages adjacent to the bridge dating from the C17th, most likely built during the Commonwealth.

A recent release from Helion books covers the battle, and John Hampden's importance within the Parliamentarian cause. The book also covers, at length, the story of his exhumation and debate as to Hampden's cause of death.

Postcodes for SatNavs
St Andrew's, Chinnor OX39 4PG
John Hampden memorial and battlefield interpretation board, Warpsgrove Lane OX44 7XZ
Chiselhampton Bridge OX44 7UX

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