A battlefield for Newbury

Second Battle of Newbury 1644

This year the plan for Colours was to do a presentation of the second battle of Newbury for the Pike & Shot Society and the Battlefields Trust.

The idea, of course, was to repeat the ‘Naseby‘ formula, but doing the battlefield most local to the show.    Of the two battles at Newbury I chose to focus on the 1644 battle because it is the stalemate which arguably brings about the ‘new modelling’ of the army over the winter.    In that sense it is a direct precursor to Naseby.

Donnington Castle, then and now ..

But there is also a simpler reason – one of the iconic landmarks of the battlefield is Donnington Castle (dominating the northern perimeter of the engagement) … and the remains of the castle are visible from the windows of the upper floor at the racecourse.  So, although you cannot really see any of the intervening details, the situation of the game does overlook the actual field.

The vista across the battlefield to Donnington Castle

Newbury 1644

After the disaster of Marston Moor, Royalists fortunes underwent a late year revival with the defeat of Waller’s army at Cropredy and of Essex at Lostwithiel.   The King moved into the west with a view to relieving forces at Basing House, Donnington Castle and Banbury as well as to prevent defeated Parliamentarians from reorganising and re-equiping.

The villages just north of Newbury became the focus of a campaign in which the King failed to relieve Basing, and where, after detaching forces for missions to Banbury and Bristol, he is outnumbered by a concentration of Parliamentarian armies in the lee of Donnington.

The Royalists are not overawed by this … the forces in front of them are mostly defeated men, and the terrain is a network of easily defended villages, lanes and enclosures.

Chris Scott’s map of the battlefield

Buoyed up by their numerical advantages, however, Parliament’s commanders determine upon an attack, and conceive an elegant outflanking plan to ensure they can bring their numbers to bear, rather than attack on the narrow front from the east between the rivers Kennet and Lambourne.

Waller’s army supported by a cavalry force under Oliver Cromwell march north, cross the Lambourne beyond Donnington and approach the field from the west in a plan which envisages coordinated attacks to drive in the defenders from both directions.

The Battlefield

The southern fringe of the battlefield was the river Kennet and its watermeadows.  It is late October, so they are marshy.

my interpretation superimposed on a satellite projection

The northern edge is the river Lambourne and the two fortified outposts beyond it, Donnington Castle in the west and Shaw House in the east.   Between the two rivers, in the west, the village of Speen was entrenched,  in the east, the village of Shaw was defended by existing barriers and boundary hedges.

Shaw House today

In the centre, around the apex of the roads, Speenhamland boasted a formidable boundary hedge and there were allotments and enclosures abutting the watermeadows.   A veritable boccage, then.

The Wargames Table

Following the success of the fold up battlefields, I decided to go with a reconfigured pasting table and a notionally 15mm battle recycling more of the Steve Ayers ‘Marston Moor’ veterans.    The southern edge would be the Kennet, and the Lambourne would run in from the north-west corner, with Donnington Castle just off table, Shaw House and the eastern approaches to it being on-table, as the north-eastern sector.

The hinges were switched around and the middle battens lowered as previously.   I then filled the space with 25mm foam insulation board and marked out the rivers and roads – dummying up with terrain items and figures to get a reasonable match between the maps and the game constraints.

the raw layout being worked out

The parameters fixed, I then cut down for the river beds and built up either side of the roads to ‘sink’ them.   The river bed was skimmed with filler to seal the foam.   Gravel was scattered into the road and river beds, and the whole layout was allowed to dry before painting*.

So … blue and green craft paint enhanced the river bed before tinted varnish was applied.   Several more coats were planned and will benefit the project (but were not done before the Colours outing due to time constraints).

Green, ‘prairie gold’ and terracotta emulsion shades were smudged into the open areas and ‘chocolate’  provided the base coat for the roads.   All this from cheap household paints (which take very well to insulation board).    I did not have time to do much flocking, but some areas and all of the roads were picked out with dry-brushing on the morning of the presentation**.

So a pretty basic job following Chris Scott’s maps – and not at all ‘over-worked’.   It looks quite good (without being ‘award-winning’) in a ‘watercoloury‘ way as a bare battlefield … but comes to life when the scenery and toy soldiers are added.

Action! Manchester’s attack falters

It proved a very workable base on which to move the figures and explain the battle to visitors.   We played through all the major areas over the course of the weekend – and people were very complimentary about the project.

I will follow this post with some action reports.

Shaw House: or, better, a suitable model to represent it …

*although I did not allow long enough for it to dry thoroughly – I never do …
**Crown emulsion ‘parchment’ has been a great discovery for groundwork dry-brushing.

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15 Comments on “A battlefield for Newbury”

  1. Peter Davies Says:

    Hi! My name is Peter. I am part of a wargaming club for Warhammer ->>> http://www.meetup.com/The-London-Warhammer-Gaming-Guild – I’d love to build a similar table! Do you have any guides available or where to build?

  2. […] my main article on the 1644 battle of Newbury […]

  3. Peter Latchford Says:

    What figure make are thr Generals?

    • yesthatphil Says:

      Hi, Peter …

      They are Minifigs personality figures riding Peter Pig horses and mounted on 20mmx20mm GW style plastic bases (which just about gives enough room for the name strips)

      Thanks for visiting my page


  4. Hi, how do I go about getting a copy of the water colour of Donnington Castle?

    • yesthatphil Says:

      Hi Terry …

      If you mean the one I think, it is a postcard from a ‘first day cover’ … which I found on google images. With a quick look today I didn’t manage to get it up again. However I did take a copy which I will post on the blog. But try image searching for it … it is a bit hit and miss so you might be looking. As for the original, it would be nice to know where it is …


  5. TWR Says:

    A very interesting set of articles.

    Looking back at your Naseby article the table seems to measure around 44″ x 34″ from memory. Is that correct for this table as well?

    What troop scale have you used? That is one stand of four foot represents what number of actual troops?

    • yesthatphil Says:

      Yes – same size table (made the same way) they are metric equivalents of 3’x4′ (so your spec in inches is about right)

      Troop Scale? … Great question. Numbers are quite tricky.

      What I have done is use a game unit for each brigade or tercio listed in Chris Scott’s order of battle* (exception: Cromwell’s 2 regiment brigade was obviously expected to be very powerful so for that force, each unit is a regiment): that pretty much preserves the tactical structure and gave me just under 100 bases to work with**.

      With total numbers for the battle at around 25,000, each base would be the equivalent of about 250 men.

      That is all a bit vague, but I tend to work from tactical units rather than actual numbers (FVs can always be adjusted for tactical units that are, say, known to have been numerically weak)… Anyway, I never really trust numbers …

      Hopefully that makes sense


      * … just to confuse matters, FT units are of 3 [30×30] square bases, each of 6 figures, HC the more traditional 2 [40×30] bases of 3 figures each … firelocks and forlorn hopes were whatever came to hand! 🙂

      ** … and from discussions at the weekend it seems clear the order of battle is just another minefield!

  6. Will Whyler Says:

    Phil you are amazing.

  7. […] Phil’s game used an Intro Scale version of Advanced Armati.  For more on the generation and setting up of the Newbury II, there is an article on ECW Battles in Miniature. […]

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