Battle of Stratton, 1643

The Civil Wars of the mid seventeenth century were a reflection of a profound, constitutional, religious and social conflict which was expressed in a struggle for control between King and Parliament.

On 15 May 1643 a Parliamentarian army of 5,600 men, commanded by the Earl of Stamford, advanced into Cornwall and camped upon the flat summit of Stamford Hill close to the town of Stratton.  The following day Sir Ralph Hopton, with a Royalist force barely 3,000 strong, oved to attack the formidable Parliamentary position.

The battle raged inconclusively for several hours until Parliamentarian resistance finally collapsed as a determined attack by converging Royalist columns drew near the summit of the hill.  With casualties of 300 killed and 1,700 taken prisoner, almost half of Stamford’s army had been destroyed and the gateway to Devon was open to the Royalists.  Hopton’s victory, gained by a force that was desperately short of food and ammunition, was a remarkable achievement.

Although many private houses have been constructed on the summit of Stamford Hill the remains of the defensive earthwork used by the Parliamentarians can still be seen.  Plantations have obscured the eastern slope of the hill, but otherwise landscape changes have been minimal.

Site of the Battle of Stratton, 1643

Enjoy a circular walk incorporating the battle site with the Stratton Battlefield Walk.  Each May the Sealed Knot re-enact the battle during Bude’s Battle of Stratton Commemoration Weekend.

“In this place ye army of ye rebells under ye command of ye Earl of Stamford receiv’d a signall over-throu by ye valor of Sir Bevill Granville & ye Cornish Army on Tuesday Ye 16th of May 1643”

The above wording appeared on the first memorial place at the site of the battle by Lord Lansdown in 1713.

This memorial tablet is placed here by the Bude-Stratton and District Old Cornwall Society A. D. 1971.

The English Civil War 1642 – 1649

The event which triggered of the Civil War occurred on January 2, 1642, when Charles I and a body of armed soldiers marched into the House of Commons to arrest John Pym and four other members of the Long Parliament who opposed the king’s arrogance and ways.  Warned in advance the wanted men had gone into hiding.  Charles’s action united the House of Commons and House of Lords, who ordered the military to overthrow him.  Seven months later Charles gathered his troops at Nottingham, a Royalist stronghold.  Known as Cavaliers because of their skilful horsemanship, the Royalists were opposed by Parliamentary soldiers, called Roundheads from their cropped hair.  The Royalists drew most of their support from the north and west, while the roundheads strength came mostly from the south and east, particularly in London – which Charles aimed to take.

To begin with the Roundheads were badly organised and undisciplined but in February 1645 Parliament formed the 22,000 strong New Model Army, equipped with muskets and swords.  Trained by Sir Thomas Fairfax, it was a highly-efficient fighting force.  Together with Cromwell’s Ironsides – a superb cavalry regiment which bore its leaders own nickname – the New Model Army brought about the monarch’s final downfall.

The war was over.  King Charles was defeated.  He became a prisoner of the Scots, then of the army which now held the power in England.  Probably Charles could have continued to be King if he had been able to accept that his power would be greatly reduced.  However, Charles had not fought for so long and suffered so much to give in now.  He continued to plot and attempted to escape and left Cromwell with no option other than that the King must die.  Although other members of Parliament objected no one dared to oppose Cromwell.  A trial was held and the King charged with making war against his own people however Charles refused to plead either guilty or not guilty.  ‘This trial is illegal’, he argued.  The Chief Judge, Bradshaw, would not listen to the King and as the soldiers shouted for justice Bradshaw sentenced the King to death.  On January 30th 1649 King Charles I of England was executed at the Palace Yard, Westminster.

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