THE SECOND BATTLE OF MIDDLEWICH
The evitable second battle of Middlewich…, Account of the Second Battle of Middlewich 1643 by Allan Earl
Kinderton Hall was the opening scene of the next battle, a Royalist household in a Parliamentarian controlled area.
Kinderton Hall at Middlewich had been a refuge and rallying point for a number of Mid-Cheshire families with Royalist sympathies. Peter Venables, Baron of Kinderton (1607 – 1669) married for his first wife Mary, daughter of Sir Richard Wilbraham of Woodhey. For his second wife he married Frances younger sister of Sir Robert Cholmondeley of Cholmondeley (Bart)
Peter and Mary had one son Thomas (the heir apparent) who died before his father, but he had married Grace Daughter of Sir John Fenwick of Northumberland. Peter’s marriage to Francis (his second wife) produced 6 children.
Early on the morning of 26th Dec the first stage of the battle took place, Peter Venables, 2 of his sons and 1 of his daughters plus approx. 26 of his servants were in the Hall; earlier on in the year his friend William Leversage (of Betchton and Wheelock) and his wife Elizabeth, his brother Randle and his sister Frances, sought refuge at Kinderton, they had arrived with their cattle, horses and a number of servants. Also at the hall at this time was Elias Ashmole, he organised any army resistance that would be necessary should the parliamentary forces approach the moated hall. After giving instructions as to how the building was to be defended he left the hall to see the County Sheriff at Chester. Soon after his departure a large party of parliamentary soldiers from Middlewich came to the hall demanding food and other provisions, at this juncture William Leversage took over Ashmoles’s command and directed how and when his men should fire on the enemy should the parliamentary soldiers fire first. Some sources say that 400 men of the Parliament forces came to the hall that morning, and demanded of Raphe Lingard, who was the cook and servant of the Baron of Kinderton, more than he could provide in the form of victuals. They threatened to kill him if he could not provide the food they wanted. The atmosphere was beginning to intensify and in fear of his life Raphe and the butler Israell Yatts crept away from the hall as soon as they could, first to Kinderton Lodge and then to ask for help from Lord Byron’s army at Sandbach Heath.
At the same time during this morning a force of some 1,500 men under the Parliamentarian Colonel Rigby arrived at Middlewich to an agreed rendezvous with Sir William Brereton whose forces were already stationed around Middlewich following their victory in the First Battle of Middlewich late 1642. It is very probable neither knew of each other’s positions at this time. Meanwhile Raphe Lingard and Israell Yatts arrived at Lord Byron’s position and told him of the situation at Middlewich. Sir William Brereton (The Cheshire Parliaments Commander in Chief) was renowned for his network of spies and messengers, he heard of a skirmish at Sandbach which caused him to take up positions in Booth Lane in anticipation of an attack. He lined the hedges and ditches with his muskets and pike men; the cannon were moved onto the middle of the road and the cavalry flanked at either side.
Lord Bryon upon learning that Brereton’s force had quartered about Kinderton Hall, he concentrated his forces and marched rapidly upon them. The next day his advance guard under his brother Robert Byron found them drawn up south of Middlewich and engaged them until others came up on either flank.
Lord John Byron and his brother Robert were to the fore in the 2nd Battle of Middlewich, John was a Nottinghamshire man of considerable standing in that County and a native of Lancashire, and he was also related to Sir William Brereton, his civil war enemy. He distinguished himself over the other Royalist commanders by uncompromising loyalty to the King; he had no sympathy for the Long Parliament even from the beginning. He had distinguished himself at Edge Hill and won Roundway Down with a brilliant cavalry charge. He was not about to fail in his attempt to oust Sir William Brereton from Cheshire and Lancashire, he was not a man for half measures, and the troops he led from Ireland were toughened to warfare under the worse conditions. The war in the North West was at crisis point; Lord John Byron and his brother Robert were well equipped to tackle the positions of Sir William Brereton drawn up at the junctions of Brooks Lane and Sutton Lane on the Lewin Street – Booth Lane Road.
Lord Byron the experienced Loyalist Commander could see his forces were superior in number to the Parliamentarians and launched his attack. An hour of fierce fighting ensued, some of it hand to hand, as the parliament men held their ground. The smoke from the cannon and musket fire together with the deafening noise of cannons within feet of either side of the foot soldiers must have been horrific; there was no time to deal with the dead or dying on the ground between the opposing sides. Lord Byron’s Royalist men, although larger in number, could not breach the lines of soldiers behind the hedges and in the ditches so they withdrew to reform.
The cavalry took the initiative and charged, they soon over ran the parliament position, welding their swords and firing their pistols to good effect. Colonel Gibson (Royalist) who had his Foot soldiers to hand, then attacked. He would have charged mainly on the road and into the mouth of the cannon and on top of the pike-men and foot soldiers either side. Sir William Brereton’s forces scattered and ran back towards the church, some took refuge in the houses lining Lewin Street, leaving in their wake approx. 200 dead and many wounded. On the Royalist side it is not known how many dead & wounded they sustained. From Thomas Malbon’s account in Memorials of the Civil War, published in 1889 James Hall editor, ‘Many were slain and wounded on the other side’ although no numbers were actually recorded. Several hundred Parliamentarians took refuge in the church and grounds, having abandoned their cannon in the face of the cavalry. They later surrendered
The noise, the shouts and cries of the dying and wounded men, the galloping horses, the deafening noise of cannon fire, the smoke and destruction, must have terrified the people of Lewin Street. To see the bodies of men and horses lying outside their front doors must have been a sight, they would never forget.
Two factors worried the commanders of both armies the first concerned men returning home to help and direct the harvest, the pay was also intermittent, the second was the shortage of food both for men and horses, ammunition and running repairs to all aspects of armies largely on the move. Lord Bryon’s commissary at this time was William Hassal of Hankelow near Audlem; he was in charge of procuring all types of provisions, plus ammunition, gunpowder and arms. He had married Frances fourth daughter of George Cotton of Combermere, they had 2 sons and 2 daughters, and he died in 1647 aged 47.
After the 2nd battle of Middlewich and unavailing attempts to get the supine earl of Denbigh, titular commander of the West Midland Association, to move, Parliament turned to Sir Thomas Fairfax. He was wintering in southern Lincolnshire with 1,800 of his cavalry after a hair-raising escape from Adwalton Moor, a period of inactivity in Hull, and some interesting experiences fighting Newcastle’s greatly superior forces in the company of Oliver Cromwell. He objected at first that his men lacked arms, clothes and pay, but when answered by nothing but an order to march he supplied these deficiencies from his own credit and set off north-eastwards, pointing out to his masters that in their haste they had forgotten to tell him his destination. Very typically he refused to make this a reason for further delay but said he would expect the information en route. In the early days of 1644 he moved across the midlands to Stafford and Newcastle-under-Lyme, where he hoped to recruit the infantry necessary to any raising of a siege and where he contacted Brereton. Their sights set on Nantwich…
Lord Byron was invested with the chief command of the army in Cheshire, and made governor of the city of Chester. He soon after attacked Sir William Brereton and Colonel Ashton, near Middlewich, and cut off near 200 of their men, which was followed by the surrender of Northwich to the royalists. Crewe-house, after a stout resistance surrendered and Doddington-hall and Acton church were taken without much opposition. There was not now one garrison in this neighbourhood that held out for the parliament, except Nantwich. Upon this place Lord Byron made a sudden and violent attack; but being repulsed here with considerable loss, his lordship with some difficulty, made good his retreat to the garrison of Chester.
(The siege, Civil War Account)