Battle of Wigan Lane
|Wars of the Three Kingdoms|
|Part of Third English Civil War|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Colonel Robert Lilburne||Earl of Derby|
Between 600 and 1,500
|Casualties and losses|
|Lilburne states he lost one corporal, ten soldiers but many wounded. Royalists claimed 700 killed and more wounded. ||64 killed with 400 captured.|
The Battle of Wigan Lane was fought on 25 August 1651 during the Third English Civil War, between Royalists under the command of the Earl of Derby and elements of the New Model Army under the command of Colonel Robert Lilburne. The Royalists were defeated, losing nearly half their officers and men.
King Charles II accepted the Scottish throne which led to an invasion of Scotland by the New Model Army under the command of Oliver Cromwell. Although Cromwell defeated a Scottish army at the Battle of Dunbar, Cromwell could not prevent Charles II from marching from Scotland deep into England at the head of another Royalist army. The Royalists marched to the west of England where Royalist sympathies were strongest arriving at Worcester on 22 August 1651. He planned to rest his predominantly Scottish army there and await English reinforcements before pressing on to London. One Royalist contingent from the Isle of Man and Lancashire under the command of Earl of Derby, was heading towards Worcester, and it was the duty of Colonel Robert Lilburne to stop them.
On the day Charles II arrived in Worcester, Lilburne with a company of foot from Manchester, two more from Chester, and fifty or sixty dragoons marched to Wigan, where the enemy was gathering, hoping to surprise them but found they had moved off to Chorley. The next day, on hearing the Royalists were at Preston, Lilburne set off in pursuit. He bivouacked within two miles of the town and sent out patrols to harass the enemy. The next afternoon they retaliated. "A party of the enemy's horse fell smartly amongst us, where our horse was grazing, and for some space put us pretty hard to it: but at the last it pleased the Lord to strengthen us, that we put them to the flight, and pursued them to Ribble bridge (this was something like our business at Mussleburg) and killed and took about thirty prisoners."
Lilburne heard Cromwell's regiment of foot was approaching Manchester. Cromwell had detached the regiment with a troop of horse from Rutherford Abbey in Nottinghamshire on the 20th or 21st. Lilburne halted by the Ribble, thinking the foot would join him but though it had marched very rapidly as far as Manchester, it was now obliged to advance with caution as Royalists were reported to have 500 men in Manchester and some of Derby's levies lying between them and Lilburne.
On the 25th, Lilburne received intelligence that the Earl of Derby was marching towards Wigan and assuming his force was retreating gave chase. However, it was Derby's intention to fall on Cromwell's regiment of infantry before Lilburne's cavalry could join it. When Lilburne reached Wigan he found the enemy in considerable force, both infantry and cavalry, marching out of the town towards Manchester. Having arrived ahead of his own infantry and the terrain surrounding the town consisting of fields and hedges with narrow country lanes unfavourable for cavalry, Lilburne determined to avoid a fight. He instead intended to await infantry reinforcements before flanking the Royalists in Wigan, sending his cavalry around the town to the south while his infantry advanced into the town from the north encircling and preventing Derbys retreat from the town.
Derby, aware of Lilburne's inferiority in strength wheeled about and marched back through the town to defeat the Parliamentary forces piecemeal before they could combine. In spite of the unfavourable nature of the ground Lilburne decided to make a stand. Lilburne deployed his cavalry on Wigan Lane, and lined the hedge rows either side of the road with infantry creating a choke point. As the Royalists approached they were met with a volley of musketry. A fierce fight ensued in the same lanes through which Cromwell had chased the Scots in 1648. Derby divided his cavalry into two equal divisions of 300 men. Derby took command of the vanguard and gave the rear guard command to Sir Thomas Tyldesley. Three times during the day Derby led cavalry charges against the centre of Lilburne's line breaching but failing to break it. By the third charge, the ranks of the Royalists were severely depleted and they were overwhelmed by the superior numbers of Lilburne's arriving infantry, after an hour's fighting the remaining Royalists fled the field.
Lord William Witherington, Sir William Throgmorton (the Knight Marshal), Sir Thomas Tyldesley, Colonel Boynton and 60 others were killed or died of their wounds and 400 prisoners were taken. Cromwell's regiment, which had advanced to join Lilburne picked up many stragglers. Derby escaped badly wounded, and joined Charles at Worcester with only 30 horsemen.[nb 1]
The Earl of Derby, the Lord of Mann, enlisted ten men from each parish on the Isle of Man, a total of 170 men. David Craine, in Manannan's Isle states "those who did not fall in the fighting [were] hunted to their death through the countryside."
The defeat was a blow to the king as this was the only English Royalist force of any size to attempt to ride to his standard in Worcester. Without large numbers of English Royalists to support him, his position was untenable and nine days later his predominantly Scottish army of about 15,000 men was decisively beaten at the Battle of Worcester by a Parliamentary army nearly twice the size under the command of Cromwell. This victory brought to an end Third English Civil War and ushered in nine years of republican rule. Charles escaped to France and lived in exile until his return at the Restoration in 1660.
- Draper, quoting a Robert Lilburne's letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons:
A List of the Prisoners taken at Wigan, August 25th, 1651.—Col. Throgmorton, Col Rich. Leg, Col John Robbinson, Col Baynes, Col Ratcliffe Garret, Adjutant General, Lieut.-Col Francis Baynes, Lieut.-Col Galliard, Lieut.-Col Constable, Major Oower, Four Captains, 2 Lieutenants, One Quarter-master, Twenty Gentlemen and Reformadoes, 400 Private Prisoners.—All their Baggage and Sumptures, Armes and Ammunition, the L. Derbies three cloakes with stars, his George, Garter, and other Robes.—Slaine and dead since they were taken :—The L. Witherington, Major-Gen. Sir Thos. Tilsley, Col. Math. Boynton, Major Chester, Major Trollop, and divers others of quality, whose names are not yet brought in, besides 60 private men.
Draper noted that Sir Robert Throgmorton, knight-marshal, was left for dead on the field of battle, but was taken up by a poor woman, and placed under the care of Sir Robert Bradshaw where he recovered.
- Draper, Chapter: Defeat of Charles and Capture of James, Earl of Derby
- The Regimental History of Cromwell's Army by Sir Charles Firth and Godfrey Davies, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1940
- Memoirs of James Stanley pg. 180 from, A description of the memorable sieges and battles in the north of England By Thomas Fairfax (3rd baron.), James Stanley (7th earl of Derby.)
- Stanford Baldock,p. 501
- Stanford Baldock, p. 500 citing "Lilburne to Cromwell, Cary, vol. ii. p. 338."
- Stanford Baldock, p. 501 cites "Lilburne's Letters to Cromwell and the Speaker, Cary,. vol. ii. pp. 338–344 ; Hodgson's " Memoirs," p. 153."
- Craine 1995
- Craine, D. (1995), Manannan's Isle, The Manx Museum and National Trust, ISBN 978-0-901106-10-0
- Draper, Peter (1864), "Defeat of Charles and Capture of James, Earl of Derby", The house of Stanley; including the soeges of Lathom House with notices of relative and co-temporary incidents, T. Hutton
- Stanford Baldock, Thomas (1809), Cromwell as a Soldier, K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.
- Beamont, William (1864 editor). Remains, Historical and Literary: Connected with the Palatine Counties of Lancaster and Chest Volume 62. Published by Chetham Society.pp. 70–78. Publication of a history written just after the Civil War called Discourse of the Lancashire Warr by Anon, although the Chetham Society surmised it was written by Major Edward Robinson (see preface xxiv-xxx) and it is written from the perspective of an ardent Parliamentarian.
- Morris, Adrian. Report of Wigan Lane by Robert Lilburne, Wigan Archaeological Society. Cites "A History of Wigan" vol II by David Sinclair 1883, Reprinted as "The Battle of Wigan Lane" by Smiths Books 1987
- Slingsby, Henry; Hodgson, John (1806) Original memoirs written during the great Civil war, the life of sir H. Slingsby [written by himself] and memoirs of capt. Hodgson, with notes [by sir W. Scott. Followed by] Relations of the campaigns of Oliver Cromwell in Scotland, 1650, Arch. Constable and Co. Edinburgh, and John Murray, 32 Fleet-Street, London. p. 152,153. Account by an Officer in Cromwell's own regiment.
- Wyke, Terry (2004). Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, Liverpool University Press, ISBN 0-85323-567-8 Page 425 "Wigan Lane Tyldesley Monument"
- Sir Thomas Tyldesley 1612-1651, Tyldesley Family History
- Sir Thomas Tyldesley's Regiment of Foote, Being part of The King's Army The English Civil War Society.