<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Yorkshire Life today click here

Unearthing the past at Marston Moor

PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 June 2017

Battle of Marston Moor monument, overlooking the site of the biggest clash of the English Civil War in 1644

Battle of Marston Moor monument, overlooking the site of the biggest clash of the English Civil War in 1644

not Archant

The peaceful rolling fields of a York farm were once the scene of a battle which changed the course of English history. 
Richard Darn reports.

Jo Smakman who owns Marston Grange, one of several farms occupying the registered battle site Jo Smakman who owns Marston Grange, one of several farms occupying the registered battle site

It was the biggest battle fought on English soil, with over 40,000 soldiers desperately fighting for their cause on a summer’s evening.

Marston Moor on July 2 1644 was a turning point in the British Civil Wars when Royalist and Parliamentarian forces with their Scots allies clashed five miles west of York.

Over two hours fate swung against King Charles I, not least because of the generalship of Oliver Cromwell, whose cavalry charged and regrouped to unleash mayhem on the enemy ranks.

By nightfall more than 4,000 men were dead, many more injured or captured, and the north of England lost to the crown.

Some of the relics which have been found on the battle site Some of the relics which have been found on the battle site

The brutal encounter had a far more profound effect on the course of English history than more celebrated battles such as Towton Moor or Bosworth. But Marston Moor is often inexplicably overlooked or misunderstood despite its massive significance.

The Smakman family, who own Marston Grange, one of several farms occupying the registered battle site, are intent on keeping its memory alive.

The 406-acre arable business has been in the family since 1942 and is now run by David Smakman and wife Jo, who with an archaeology and marketing background, is in no doubt about the site’s immense significance.

‘Our farmhouse is located on the part of the battlefield where Cromwell’s cavalry and that of Prince Rupert faced each other,’ said Jo. ‘We have found belt buckles, muskets balls and spurs and we can never forget what happened here. It gives me goosebumps just to hold them. The lay of the land is now agricultural, but with a bit of guidance you can still see features that played a part in the battle such as hedges and woodland and the dip that hid some of the Parliamentarian army.’

Jo Smakman who owns Marston Grange, one of several farms occupying the registered battle site Jo Smakman who owns Marston Grange, one of several farms occupying the registered battle site

Jo and David linked up with the Royal Armouries in Leeds and the National Civil War Centre in Newark for the first time to host a battlefield day on the farm.

Glyn Hughes said: ‘Marston Moor is one of the best preserved and most evocative sites from the period. The battle was hugely important as it was the beginning of the end for King Charles. Most of the key figures were here; Cromwell, Fairfax, Leven, Goring and Prince Rupert. At the end of the day the Crown lost control of the northern shires, York and the North Sea ports, which was a terrific blow.’

The battle had its genesis in the Royalists’ successful move to relieve the siege of York, when the dashing Prince Rupert, the most feared solider of his day, arrived in the nick of time to stave off the threat. But instead of consolidating his hold on the city he choose to meet his enemy in a pitched battle at Marston Moor, citing orders from the King to destroy the rebel army, even though he was outnumbered by an allied Parliamentarian and Scottish force 28,000 strong.

Even so, the battle swung in favour of one side then the other. The allies’ right wing under Sir Tom Fairfax – whose tomb is in Bilborough church – suffered from royalist musket fire, while Cromwell’s cavalry, dubbed the Ironsides, tore into the King’s ranks on the other flank. Although Cromwell was wounded in the neck he recovered to sweep around the Royalist rear to relieve his beleaguered colleagues and seal the day. Many fled or were captured, but some stood their ground, including the Marquis of Newcastle’s Whitecoats, who were repeatedly charged by the Ironsides until just 30 were left alive. Their sacrifice has become emblematic of the day.

Reports of ghostly armies flanked by pillars of light appearing to re-fight the battle circulated for years afterwards such was the battle’s impact on the nation’s psyche. The more earthly reckoning was that King Charles never recovered from the setback (York fell two weeks later) and within two years he surrendered to the Scots at Newark, in May 1646.

‘It’s strange to think that such a beautiful location could have witnessed such events,’ added Jo. ‘These days we are nurturing a special place with two acres of gardens and wildflower meadows, while helping people understand what happened here 370 years ago.’

The event will run from 10am-3pm and includes refreshments and a buffet lunch in a well-appointed education barn, specially built to cater for battlefield and other events focusing on farming, wildlife, horticulture, crafts and literature.

More from Out & About

Wed, 19:22

The ‘Rural Oscars’ Are Back

Read more

It might be a record-breaking Capital of Curry, but there’s so much more besides on Bradford’s multicultural menu.

Read more
Bradford
Sunday, October 15, 2017

Halloween is all about remembering the dead particularly saints and martyrs but for most especially youngsters, the night before All Saints Day is about trick and treating, costume parties, carving jack o’ lanterns from pumpkins, watching horror films and visiting haunted houses.

Read more
Things to do in Yorkshire Autumn
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Take in the beauty of the North York Moors as you walk along its pathways and wooded tracks

Read more
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A recent Office for National Statistics survey found that residents of the Craven District were the happiest in UK. We’ve picked some our favourite places that show why this rings true with the locals.

Read more
Yorkshire Dales
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

There is almost too much to do in a North Yorkshire town that doesn’t believe in standing still, says Martin Pilkington

Read more
Monday, October 9, 2017

Tony Greenway visits the North Yorkshire market town and takes his young daughter for a second opinion.

Read more
Thursday, October 5, 2017

A group of Yorkshire knitting and craft enthusiasts have turned an unlikely bi-product of wildlife conservation into a range of fundraising products

Read more
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Cheers to charity

Read more
Tuesday, October 3, 2017

It is all too easy to forget the rich past that belongs to this South Yorkshire town, as Richard Darn reports

Read more
Doncaster
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory




Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Yorkshire Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Yorkshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search