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1643: Skirmishes in Kingsthorpe Hollow

An “incident” in the early stages of the English Civil War.

There is a small stream that lies beneath the road in Kingsthorpe Hollow. It originates in the Eastfield Park area, crosses Bradlaugh Fields, runs behind the Balfour Road houses and joins the Brampton arm of the River Nene not far from the corner of St Andrews Road before it joins Burleigh Road. Its name is Wallbeck, and has its own place in history as it was mentioned in a letter from Northampton to an unknown person London on 28 October 1643. This was during a lull in the wider English Civil War following the first battle of Newbury. The English Civil War took place in three phases between 1642 and 1651. The conflict arose over a bitter dispute about the power of Parliament over the monarch’s right to rule absolutely without the consent of the people. In England, about 190,000 people died directly or as a result of the conflict representing about 4 per cent of the population.

A True and Punctuall
Severall Skirmishes performed,
betweene the Northamptonshire Forces and a
party of the Kings Horse and Foot under
the command of Prince Rupert and Colonell Urry,
as they passed through those parts
into Bedfordshire, and the Counties

The writer, clearly local to the town and a Parliamentary supporter, sets the scene:


Though I feare my last Letter is not yet come to your hand, wherein I have answered your last, yet having something new that concernes this place. I know it will not be unwelcome. Upon Friday last was a Rendezvouz at Banbury and the adjacent Towns of foure Regiments of the Kings Horse, the Lord of Northamptons[1] six Troopes, Colonell Bellacis[2] six Troopes, the Lord Cravens 4 Troops, and Colonell —- foure Troopes, and two other Troops not regimenţed in all 22 Troopes, but few of them, if any full, to whom was joyned 700 Foote, choice men or more out of every Company in and about Oxford, they were 300 Redcoats, and 200 Blue, and 200 mixed coloured Coats, but no Colours or Ensignes amongst them, being a commanded party; these marched from Banbury on Saturday Octob. 14, to Daventry, and on the Lords day, they carne to Longbuck[3] where they stood all in one body, and about noone that day came Prince Rupert[4] and the turne-coate Urry[5], with about 24 horse-men, having lyen that night before at the Crowne in Banbury, as soone as they came they marched to Holdenby with the whole body, and having refreshed themselves awhile about midnight they marchey toward Northampton.

This map shows some of the places mentioned in the events described in the letter in their modern context.

Key locations associated with the 1643 skirmishes (north of Northampton)

We had first sent out a comanded party of 24 horse to give them an Alarum, who met their Scouts at Brampton-bridge[6] about two miles and half off the town, kild one of their men, & had one of ours wounded in the arme, who all retreated to Kingsthorpe to our body of horse within a mile of the towne; but suddenly their whole body of Horse or a great part of them came up to ours, who skirmishing retreated, and we closely followed to the walls of the town and calling to be let in at the North-gate[7] could not be admitted, untill first a volley of shot from the walls had removed the enemy backe to Walbaoke[8] about twice musket shot from the walls, where their horse made a stand about an houre,

Then events moved to the area along the present day St Andrews Road:

their foot in the interim being drawne up neere St. Andrews Mill[9], about musket-shot from our great mount,[10] whence our Canoneer let flie a piece at their Horse, and presently another from the North mount and killed two of them, which soone removed their body,

The Royalist forces retreated to the northeast of the town but were pursued by Parliamentary forces. They continued east and south-wards on into Buckinghamshire:

the Foote marching under the favour of the hill without any hurt, & so marched away by Moulton-parke[11] to Billing-bridge[12], all this by the light of the Moone, which shone clearly. As soon as it was day, our horse marched out againe, and tooke many of their straglers, about 40 in all most horse-men, and some very good lare horses, they marched to Castle-Ashby that day betimes, and the next day to Oulny[13]. I need not tell you their accustomed practice of pillaging all the way they went especially horfes both from friends and foes; but especially at Oulny, where they left but 4 houses of any worth unplundered, & took Carts to carry away their plunder with them & so marched to Newport[14], where they intend a Garrison,

Subsequently another attempt by the Royalists forces from Oxford to dislodge the Parliamentary forces:

though not of this, yet of another party shortly, as we are informed from Oxford; that so they may stop up the North west passage to London, which I hope you will not be mindfull of. This party it is said is to go into the associated Counties of Cambridge, Norfolke, and Suffolke, and are yesterday at Bedford, we kild 4 of their horsemen, as their prisoners say, besides 2 foot-men Irish-men, who with a third man, an able bodied and stout Irish rebell as he confesseth himselfe to be did assault with their Muskets six of our horse-men, who riding upon them, drove them into a River, where they swom with their Armes, our men followed through a Ford, they tooke the river again, but as I heare two of them were slaine, I am sure the third is prisoner.

Quite why Prince Rupert took this decision, whether by plan or mis/dis-information is not known, however, the Royalists seemed to have been focussed on Newport Pagnell which they successfully captured for a short period in 1643 only to lose it again three weeks later and not regain control. Newport Pagnell became a significant garrison town for the Parliamentary forces for the remainder of the Civil War.

There was another body of the enemies horse and foot came by Towcester, but Prince Rupert sent them word the service was already done, which made them returne to Banbury and report the Town was taken; but I hope if ever they attempt it, if it be not by treachery, (as wee have some reason to thinke was now intended) they shall finde it another businesse then their confidence and brags makes of it: for I never saw men more jocund to goe to a sport, then the souldiers were to goo take up their quarters about the Town for the defence of it.

The writer concludes:

The result of all is that you will helpe us to give thanks for the good hand of our God toward us, who together with the temptation hath hitherto given us a gracious issue, been our fort and fence when we were without, and I hope will still be, now he hath afforded us both, in a competent measure. I have been the more particular because you know the places.

The Troops of the Kings doe since fortifie in Newport daily, if helpe be not sent it will be a great mischiefe.

  1. Earl of Northampton’s Regiment of Foot

  2. Lord Belasyse’s Regiment of Foot

  3. Long Buckby, Northants

  4. Prince Rupert’s Regiment of Horse

  5. Sir John Hurry’s Regiment of Horse

  6. Brampton Bridge is on the Northampton Road, [52.281300, -0.925025]

  7. the town’s North Gate was located in the vicinity of Regents Square

  8. Walbaoke (Wallbeck) is a stream that flows from the Eastfield Park area west-wards to join the Brampton arm of the Nene in Kingsthorpe Hollow

  9. St Andrew’s Mill was located in St Andrews Road, Northampton [52.245382, -0.904309]

  10. the ‘great mount’ was probably located within the castle enclosure a short distance south from St Andrew’s Mill

  11. Moulton Park was a 450 acre country estate to the northeast of Northampton

  12. Billing Bridge crosses the Nene at Great Billing

  13. Olney, Bucks

  14. Newport Pagnell, Bucks

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