Battle of StowStow on the Wold
 
 
 
 
On the 21st of March 1646 a decisive English Civil War battle was fought between the Parliamentary (Roundhead) forces and the Royalist (Cavalier) forces of King Charles I.  The battle took place on a hillside just north of Stow-on-the-Wold in the north Cotswolds and culminated in the defeat of the King.  It was the last battle of the First Civil War.
 
The English Civil Wars in the 17th century are often referred to as if they were one long war fought between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists lasting from 1642 to 1651.  That is not correct:  the First (1642–1646) and the Second (1648–1649) Civil Wars pitted the supporters of King Charles I against the supporters of the Long Parliament.
 
The Third Civil War (1649–1651) saw fighting between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament. The Civil War ended with the Parliamentary victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651 and Charles’ flight to Europe.
 
The First Civil War was a mobile war with rival armies forever on the move.  It did not consist of one or two major battles to decide the issue but continued for four years with sieges, skirmishes, small and very large battles.  The fighting  ranged from the distant north to the far south west of England.
 
Parliamentary & Royalist Armies
Both Parliamentary and Royalist armies frequently passed through Stow-on-the-Wold pursuing each other on their way to skirmishes in other parts of the country.  It was only going be a matter of time before they met at Stow and confronted each other.
 
Despite the defeat of the Royalist army at Naseby in Leicestershire, the king still thought he could overthrow the Parliamentary forces if he could gather the surviving Royalist troops from the West Midlands and Welsh Borders and get them to his base in Oxford. The task of gathering the remaining soldiers and marching them back to Oxford fell to 66 year old Sir Jacob Astley, a seasoned campaigner.
 
The Parliamentary forces under the command of Colonel Thomas Morgan caught up with Astley and his troops on their way to Oxford.
 
Before dawn on the 21st March, Morgan’s reconnaissance found Astley’s army drawn up in battle order on high ground close to the village of Donnington about 1½ miles (2.4 km) north of Stow-on-the-Wold. As soon as it was light, Morgan attacked up the hill but his left wing was driven back in confusion and then overpowered.
 
At first victory seemed doubtful. Morgan's right wing of cavalry pressed the attack and successfully routed the Royalist cavalry who left the field. In the centre, the Royalist infantry forces held their ground against the Parliamentary attack, which was forced to withdraw.
 
A second Parliamentary advance followed and this time the Royalist forces were pushed back in the direction of Stow. Fighting continued into the Square and local legend tells that blood flowed down Digbeth Street, such was the slaughter.
 
Fighting in the town ended with the capture of an exhausted Astley. Some accounts say a drum was brought for the Royalist commander to sit and rest on; others say that he sat on the steps of the market cross.  Whatever the details, he clearly understood the significance of this defeat and said to his captors:
 
“'Gentlemen, ye may now sit down and play, for you have done all your Worke, if you fall not out among yourselves!”
 
These prophetic words described the years that were to follow as people struggled to define a future role for Parliament and the Crown.
 
The Parish Church of St Edward, Stow was used to house Prisoners of War - The Royalist prisoners of war were confined in the parish Church as it was the largest and most secure building in the town.  They were subsequently marched to Gloucester and after further imprisonment were either exchanged for Parliamentary prisoners or released after swearing an oath not to take up arms again.
 
The dead were laid in Digbeth Street, which gives credence to the story of blood flowing down the road. To this day, their burial site remains a mystery but they are not forgotten.  A simple stone stands in the churchyard of St Edward’s honouring all those men who fought and died for their beliefs.
 
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Visiting the battlefield
Less than half a mile (804 metres) to the west of Donnington, on a public footpath, stands a stone cairn marking the site where the Royalist forces spent the night before the battle and where they drew up to defend themselves. Unlike many battlefields it is easy to understand the course of the battle.
 
Plain to  see is the commanding position held by the Royalists and the difficult slope the Parliamentary army had to climb in order to dislodge them.
 
Google Map - Battle of Stow