Battle of Lansdowne

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Battle of Lansdowne
Part of English Civil War
Battlefield of Lansdown.JPG
The battlefield today, with Sir Bevil Grenville's Monument, at the place where he fell
Date 5 July 1643
Location Lansdown Hill, near Bath, Somerset
Result Pyrrhic Royalist victory
Belligerents
Parliamentarians Royalists
Commanders and leaders
Sir William Waller Ralph, Lord Hopton +
Strength
2,500 horse
1,500 foot
unknown number of guns
2,000 horse
4,000 foot
300 dragoons
16 guns
Casualties and losses
20 killed
60 wounded
200 - 300 killed
600–700 wounded

The English Civil War battle of Lansdowne (or Lansdown) was fought on 5 July 1643, near Bath, Somerset, southwest England. Although the Royalists under Lord Hopton forced the Parliamentarians under Sir William Waller to retreat from their hilltop position, they suffered so many casualties themselves and were left so disordered and short of ammunition that an injured Hopton was forced to retire.

Campaign and Battle[edit]

By late May 1643, Lord Hopton's royalist army had captured most of the south west of England. Joined by the Earl of Hertford, he then advanced eastward into Parliamentarian-held territory. Sir William Waller's army held Bath, to obstruct their further advance. On 2 July 1643 the Royalists seized the bridge at Bradford on Avon. On 3 July, skirmishes took place at Claverton and at Waller's positions south and east of Bath. Waller retired to a strong position on Lansdown Hill, northwest of Bath while the main Royalist force moved north through Batheaston to Marshfield.[1]

Hopton's forces encountered this position on 4 July and were unpleasantly surprised at its strength. They withdrew 5 miles (8.0 km) north-east to Marshfield, while their rearguard repulsed an attempt by Waller's cavalry to pursue. Early on 5 July, Waller moved to the north end of Lansdown Hill, where he built crude breastworks for his infantry,[2] and sent some of his cavalry against Hopton's outposts. They put to flight some badly-led Royalist cavalry, and the alarm caused all of Hopton's army to form up and began advancing west, till they came in sight of Waller's position.

Battlefield marker

There was indecisive skirmishing for two hours, and Hopton again tried to withdraw. Waller once again sent his horse and dragoons against the enemy rearguard, and this time they routed the Royalist cavalry, although the infantry stood firm. Hopton's army turned about, and defeated the Roundhead cavalry in a confused action. With his Cornish foot regiments already advancing without orders, Hopton at last attacked Lansdown Hill.

As they charged up the steep slopes towards the Parliamentarian position on the crest, Hopton's cavalry suffered badly, and many panicked. 1,400 of them fled, some as far as Oxford. Under Sir Bevil Grenville, Hopton's Cornish pikemen stormed Waller's breastworks, while Royalist musketeers outflanked Waller through the woods on each side of his position. Grenville was mortally wounded in hand-to-hand combat as Parliamentarian horse counter-attacked and were driven off. Waller's infantry fell back to a wall across the crest of the hill from where they kept up musket fire until dark fell. During the night, they withdrew silently, leaving burning matches on the wall to deceive the Royalists that they still held the position.[3]

Aftermath[edit]

The day after the battle, a Royalist ammunition cart exploded. Hopton was injured and temporarily blinded. The loss of the powder and the absence of most of their horses meant the Royalists could not fight another action. Meanwhile, Waller had retired to Bath, where he had been reinforced and was ready to attack again. Hopton's army retreated in low spirits to Devizes. Hopton's army was in such a poor situation before their retreat that Hopton's military opponent but old friend Waller offered him hospitality in Bath, though he refused it.

A Cornish officer describing the battle wrote that Waller was "... the best shifter and chooser of ground when hee was not Master of the field that ever I saw" (sic).

Sir Bevil Grenville's Monument, at the place where he fell

The site of the battle is marked by a monument to Sir Bevil Grenville, who died after the battle in Cold Ashton Rectory.[1]

Royalist commanders[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Barratt, John (2005). The civil war in the south west. Bernsley: Pen & Sword Military. pp. 44–56. ISBN 1-84415-146-8. 
  2. ^ "Lansdown Hill and Roundway Down". British Civil Wars site. Retrieved 9 January 2011. 
  3. ^ "The Battle of Lansdown Hill". The Battlefields Trust. Archived from the original on 12 December 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2011. 
  4. ^ Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.) The Visitation of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895, pedigree of Giffard of Brightley p.400

Sources[edit]

  • Colonel H.C.B. Rodgers, Battles and Generals of the Civil Wars, Seeley Service & Co. Ltd, 1968, 327 pages. Hardback.

Coordinates: 51°25′53″N 2°24′04″W / 51.4313°N 2.4010°W / 51.4313; -2.4010