Battle of Rowton Heath


Battle of Rowton Heath

Chester, Cheshire The 24th of September 1645 AD

Not as famed as Naseby which preceded it, Rowton Heath was in its own way as decisive a defeat for Charles as that better known clash. Poignantly, the king looked on at the latter stages of the battle from high in a tower set in Chester's walls, watching his hopes for a turning point favourable to his cause dashed into the Cheshire soil.
Chester was of great importance to Charles : his last port of any size at all, with the potential to receive aid from Ireland, it was also an economically important settlement, and with its position on the Welsh Marches the city had symbolic status too. The Parliamentary army was besieging the town, Royalist forces inside commanded by the capable and determined Lord Byron. On September 23 Charles with his Lifeguard and Charles Gerard's cavalry, a division numbering more than 500 men, their way into the city clear on the Welsh side. It was intended that the Parliamentary siege force be caught between the reinforced Royalist fighters inside the city, and the men of Marmaduke Langdale approaching from the south east.
The situation was complicated by the arrival of Parliamentary reinforcements under Sydenham Poyntz. Poyntz arrived at the rear of Langdale's troops in the early morning of September 24, having marched through the night to try and surprise them. An intercepted message lost Poyntz the element of surprise, however, and Langdale decided to meet his pursuers in battle.
The clash moved closer to Chester as the Royalists were forced back, and matters became complicated with men from Chester breaking out to help Langdale, and besieging troops under Colonel Jones arriving to support Poyntz.
The Parliamentary discipline as so often in the later stages of the wars was impressive, and the effectiveness of the musketeers on the Roundhead flanks proved crucial, their fire breaking the Royalist formation and sealing victory, though an attempt was made by yet more cavalry under Lord Bernard Stuart, cousin to the king and a brave if relatively inexperienced commander, to tilt the battle the Royalist way. Bernard Stuart was killed beneath the gaze of the king, and with him died too hopes of turning the tide.
Charles and a small force fled to Denbigh , leaving Byron to defend Chester as best he could. Chester in fact held out until the end of January the following year, when starvation and constant bombardment had worn the inhabitants down and forced the mayor to beg for an end to the resistance.

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