Naseby Battlefield revisited.

Weapons and Equipment demonstration at Rupert Viewpoint

I was fortunate enough to be able to join Ian Dexter of the Naseby battlefield Project for a tour of the battlefield (a study day with parties from the Battlefields Trust and the Friends of Kettering Art Gallery and Museum) …

I have done Naseby several times before, of course, but – especially with a batttlefield like Naseby, where so much work goes on – each tour has things to offer.  This was my first with Ian (though we have debated many of the nuances on previous occasions).

Ian explains the history and significance of the Obelisk at Naseby

As well as driving out to all of the vantage points and monuments (and a fulsome lunch in the pub),  this event started with a full illustrated explanation of the battle in Naseby Village Hall, and added a weapons demonstration by reenactors at the ‘Rupert Viewpoint’.

contemporary matchlock musketeer’s equipment

The explanation of the battle was, of course, the Naseby Project’s orthodox view – stressing the ‘ordered’ fighting retreat of the Royalist army all the way up the old road to a last stand at Moot Hill and Wadborough.

This is not how contemporaries and eye witnesses saw the battle, and results from the interpretation of significant amounts of musket shot found all long the aforementioned line of retreat (until it ends in concentration on the high ground of Wadborough in sight of where the Royalist baggage was laagered ...).

Fairfax Viewpoint: Ian explains what Fairfax and Cromwell could see from this vantage point as the rode forward on the morning of the battle

I don’t contest the evidence, but I’m not convinced it requires us to change our interpretation of the decisive battle on Broadmoor: we don’t know who fired the bullets on the retreat line (or, indeed, when – although it is fair to presume they date from June 14th 1645) … but it doesn’t require a disciplined withdrawal for a few dozen muskets to be fired in patches to the rear as an army of 10,000 capitulates and doubtless many isolated parties try to escape, cover the flight of their King and/or fight a desperate and futile defence of the baggage as it is overtaken.

I was very pleased to go up to the retreat vantage points and discuss all this (I generally miss it out when I’m showing people around, to concentrate on the main battle and the assault on the New Model Army where it was drawn up on the crest and reverse of Closter Hill).

I have updated the resource page on Naseby battlefield with photos taken over the last few visits.   The terrain is very important.   The key features of this battle are …

  • The New Model Infantry is arrayed on the top of a ridge (initially about a thousand yards back) , so disappears from sight as the enemy close on the position.
  • They move towards the lip in the Royalists’ final approach, so there is no prolonged firefight before the infantry close to melee (‘push of pike’).
  • The Western flank of the position is very deep (Pride’s regiment seems to have been split into 2 rearguards, behind which was the protected laager of the artillery train): when Maurice’s cavalry overwhelm Ireton’s wing, they do not manage to find a way round the flank during the course of the battle.
  • The opposite flank is stationed in a rabbit warren with much of Cromwell’s horse out of sight on the reverse of Lodge Hill.   Charges are not vigorous due to the broken ground.
  • Most of the battlefield other than Lodge Hill was open field in ‘ridge and furrow’ cultivation: although cavalry are quite comfortable charging along the direction of the furrows, they only slowly will negotiate across the ridges.  This may have taken the edge out od Cromwell’s reserve lines as they wheeled across the fields to envelop the infantry in the centre (giving them time to lay down their arms) …
  • More than one line of regiments was engaged on Closter Hill, and at least one New Model regiment seems to have been driven back: shot is spread sporadically over a thousand yards of depth and a mile’s width where the infantry battle was settled.
  • The only attested ‘last stand’ is the Blewcoats’ wall of brasse stand on Broadmoor.  This may have bought time for the King to flee, but not his baggage which was subsequently captured (the camp followers being harshly treated).

Blewcoats memorial on Broadmoor

Please support every effort the Naseby Project makes to preserve and enhance this battlefield.   The A14 has already severed the southern part of the battlefield (Maurice’s attempt to find a way around the flank), and now Kelmarsh Windfarm will establish turbines towering over the north-eastern fringe of the battlefield.

The Project hope the next major development will be a positive one for the battlefield and the building of a dedicated Visitor Centre: but ‘big government’s’ record protecting heritage is not good (the heavy plant is already gearing up to plough HS2 through the historic landscape around Edgcote; permission has just been given to build on the most likely site of the Battle of Northampton).

The damage done to our heritage by development is permanent.

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