The Malvern Area and the English Civil War
Many battles were fought along the Severn Valley and the 1643 siege of Gloucester was a turning point in the civil war, whilst Worcester saw the first major skirmish and the final decisive battle.
The Battles of Powick Bridge, Worcester “The first and the last”
This mediaeval bridge spanning the river Teme as it meanders towards the Severn is most famous for it’s role in the final battle of the English Civil War in 1651 (spot the repaired spans).
It was also the scene of the first major skirmish of the Civil War on 23rd September 1642 in which the Royalists put the Parliamentarians to flight. How different was to be the outcome nine years later.
The fields over which the battle was waged are mostly built over now but the meadow beside the bridge and the bridge itself both survive. It’s worth combining with a trip to the Worcester battle sites.
The Battle of Worcester
On the 3rd September 1651 Oliver Cromwell and the Parliamentarians (“Roundheads”) defeated the Royalist forces of King Charles ?.
The King, marching and fighting his way from Scotland via Warrington headed for the Severn Valley where in the first war his father had found much support. Arriving in Worcester on 22nd August he rested his troops. Meanwhile the Roundheads, arriving via Evesham, took the crossing at Upton Upon Severn. They would then have marched along the valley below where the Cottage in the Wood now sits.
It went well for the Parliamentarians until Powick Bridge a little further up the Teme was held by the Royalists. They fought fiercely and the King ordered two sorties from the City.
Mysteriously, the Royalist cavalry were massed on Pitchcroft (now the racecourse) but received no orders to assist.
The Parliamentarians pushed the Royalists back to the City and their numerical superiority - around 30,000 troops to 16,000 - really became decisive.
Around 3,000 Royalists died and 10,000 were captured to a few hundred Parliamentary casualties, whilst the King evaded capture.
Thus ended the English Civil Wars just nine miles – and nines years – from where it began at Powick Bridge.
Civil War Landmarks
The Royalists attempted to demolish the bridge in 1644 but around 40 men were drowned as they fell into the river under collapsing masonry.
The replaced central arch is plain to see.
So pivotal in the start and finish of the Civil Wars, the northern spans over the mill race show clearly where repairs have been made.
Upton upon Severn
The original bridge was taken by Cromwell’s troops prior to the battle of Worcester and was demolished then. The original abutments are visible downstream of the existing bridge. The church beside the bridge of which only the tower remains, was occupied by the Roundheads. (The tower is known locally as the “Pepperpot”.)
Fort Royal was intended to face east and defend Worcester against attack from the high ground to the east. The outline can still be made out. It was captured by Cromwell during the battle of Worcester from when his troops pounded the city with cannon.
The Commandery used as the Royalist headquarters and where the Duke of Hamilton, a Royalist general died. He is buried in front of the High Altar in the cathedral. The Commandery is now a Civil War museum.
The Cathedral was abused by both sides in the Civil Wars and was used as a munitions store, lead from the roof used to make musket balls and the Bell Tower was demolished.
King Charles House in New Street was one of the many places the King hid after the battle.
City Walls in City Walls Road has remains of the old city walls as well as footings of St. Martins Gate which are still visible.
Perrywood now part of Spetchley Park was the scene of bitter fighting during the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
Gloucester sided with the Parliamentarians against the King. In 1643 following his capture of Bristol, the King demanded the surrender of the city. 35,000 men camped outside the city which was defended by only 1500 soldiers and “others”.
The city didn’t fall and was relieved by an army from London. Many regard this battle as the turning point in the Civil War.
When the monarchy was restored in 1660, King Charles II commanded that the city walls be razed and lands given by King Richard III in 1458 be stripped away.
The Battle of Tewkesbury Wars of the Roses - 4th May 1471
Tewkesbury was the final battle in the middle phase of the Wars of the Roses and virtually two hundred years later the Battle of Worcester ended the English Civil War – both sites local to The Cottage in the Wood.
Yorkist Edward IV (white rose) had returned from France to regain the throne, landed in Yorkshire gathering troops and defeated the ‘Kingmaker’ Earl of Warwick’s troops at Barnet. Meanwhile Henry VI’s wife, Margaret of Anjou landed at Weymouth intent on putting her son Edward, Prince of Wales on the throne.
Edward IV ordered Gloucester to be sealed to prevent the Red Rose army crossing the Severn causing them to march up the east side to the next crossing point at Tewkesbury. Exhausted they stood and fought and were heavily defeated.
Edward Prince of Wales was killed and his mother Queen Margaret, having sought sanctuary it is believed at Little Malvern Priory close to The Cottage in the Wood, was captured and imprisoned in the Tower.