A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Friday, 17 August 2012

ECW – In Darkest Lancashire

I’m doing a lot of reading at the moment about the English Civil War, and especially about my chosen wargaming theatre of Lancashire (and Cheshire, and North Wales...).

I chose this area for a number of reasons; firstly, I was born and raised in Lancashire, so it adds a personal touch to things, secondly, I am an awkward beggar at the best of times, so going for a “minority” aspect of the war suits me in a number of ways, one of which (thirdly) is that it is relatively poorly understood, which leaves a lot of scope for making stuff up where the history is sketchy. Almost an “Imagi-County”, which is particularly satisfying.

One advantage of coming new to the ECW at such an advanced age(!) is that I don’t have any preconceptions, other than the sort of folk legends which we are all brought up with. I am also able to judge what I read from a mature viewpoint – or at least I like to think so. A couple of things stand out for the newcomer:

(1) Some of current received wisdom is as beset with legends and silly bias as was my childhood. There are people who are rightly held to be experts – including some of the movers and shakers in the re-enactment fraternity – who appear still to be actually fighting the original war, and distortions do creep in. This is not new – some of the earliest of the “modern” writers are identifiably partial one way or the other. Fair enough – stand by with the odd pinch of salt.

(2) Some of the real history seems to have become confused with – in some cases partly replaced by – the activities of Sealed Knot regiments which have titles or associations founded in history. This is neither a poke at the Sealed Knot nor even a complaint, I hasten to add – it is just an observation that if you enter “Lord Molyneux’s Regiment” into Google (for example) you will learn far more about the recent activities of the re-enactment unit of this name than you will about the real unit back in the 1640s. Again, I wish to emphasise that this is a perception thing, and there is not necessarily a conflict – the re-enactors themselves are devoted to maintaining the correct traditions and to preserving the true history, and I have nothing but praise for their efforts.

(3) The particular situation of Lancashire is remarkable for the asymmetry of extant knowledge. I have acquired some splendid books on the subject – notably

A General Plague of Madness – The Civil Wars in Lancashire 1640-60 – Stephen Bull
Massacre – The Storming of Bolton – David Casserly
The Siege of Liverpool and the Lancashire Campaign 1644 – John Barrat
The Finest Knight in England – Stuart Reid (this is a booklet about Sir Thomas Tyldesley and his various regiments)

Sir Thomas Tyldesley

plus a couple of small publications by various local history societies and – of course – the relevant sections of the more general works.

I have done some pretty diligent note-taking, and a lot of scratching around on the internet, much of it directed at the rather humble and very personal aim of putting together an approximate OOB for my forthcoming miniature armies. It is very evident that there is about 5 times as much information available for the Royalist forces in the North-West, compared with the Parliamentarians. This may be for a number of reasons, and – again – I am coming to this subject for the first time, and I am learning all the time, so maybe I just haven’t hit the right sources yet:

  • Lancashire had a remarkably high proportion of Catholics in the 1640s – some of these had undoubtedly arrived from Ireland to escape the troubles there, but also a good many of the prominent families were Catholics (and thus Royalists by default).
  • There is an unmistakeable whiff of the Royalist side having somehow been the Good Guys – I guess this is connected with the retrospective view which came with the restoration of the monarchy. Whatever, it feels as though the individuals who had been prominent on the Parliament side tended to make rather less noise about the fact after the wars.
  • An absolutely invaluable source of information about Royalist officers and their units is the list of Indigent Officers published in 1663. This is a list of officers who had held commissions in the King’s armies, constructed to allow a £60,000 bonus fund to be distributed among them by Charles II. There is no equivalent record for the other side.
  • A good proportion of the Royalist units which fought in the area came in from elsewhere, involved prominent colonels and already had a significant reputation and war record. The Parliament side, by contrast, included a number of rather humble, local units which were effectively town guard or militia bodies – John Moore’s “Regiment of Foot”, for example, would appear to have consisted of Moore’s own retainers and citizens of Liverpool, armed very simply – on the wargames table, these might well be “clubmen”.
  • I have been very surprised how often identified units in Lancashire – even Royalist ones – do not rate any mention at all in (for example) Colonel HCB Rogers' Battles & Generals of the Civil Wars 1642-51 – the standard work. Unless they were at Marston Moor, of course.
  • All of this is absolutely fair enough – I have chosen to take an interest in what was, relatively speaking, a backwater sector of the war, and it is probably what I would expect.

My draft OOB at present is just a list of notes, and it is based on units I can identify as having been in the area in the period 1643-44 – to date I have the following [no laughter, please! – if you know better, or you have some good information on this period, please do get in touch – all clues will be most welcome!]:


Prince Rupert’s Horse
Prince Rupert’s Lifeguard
Sir John Hurry’s Horse
Col. Marcus Trevor’s Horse (ex Lord Capel’s)
Col. Henry Washington’s Dragoons
Lord Byron’s Horse
Sir William Vaughan’s Horse
Lord Molyneux’s Horse
Sir Thomas Tyldesley’s Horse
Prince Rupert’s Foot (ex Henry Lunsford’s)
Col. Henry Tillier’s Foot
Col. Robert Broughton’s Foot
Sir Michael Earnley’s Foot
Col. Henry Warren’s Foot
Col. Richard Gibson’s Foot
Lord Byron’s Foot
Col. Robert Ellis’s Foot
Sir Thomas Tyldesley’s Foot
Lord Molyneux’s Foot
which is probably more than enough to be going on with, though I also have a goodish list of Royalist units which are known to have fought at Malpas and Nantwich (Cheshire), but may not have got to Lancashire


Sir William Brereton’s Horse
Sir William Brereton’s Dragoons
Col. Henry Brooke’s Regt (foot?) (this is not Lord Brooke, of purple uniforms fame)
Col. Robert Duckenfield’s Regt (foot?)
Col. Henry Mainwaring’s Regt (foot?)
Col. Ralph Ashton’s Foot
Col. John Booth’s Foot
Col. Philip Egerton’s Foot
Col. Richard Holland’s Foot
Col. John Moore’s Foot
Col. Alexander Rigby’s Foot
Col. Richard Shuttleworth’s Foot
Col. Robert Aspinall’s Regt (foot?)
plus some 12 or so unnamed units of horse, most of which appear to have been descended from the Northern Association, and thus originally from Northumberland and Yorkshire. It seems that the Parliament troops in Lancashire were particularly impoverished in local cavalry.

So - where am I? Well, for a start I cannot promise that all the above units ever appeared on the same field at the same time – in fact I’m pretty sure that there are a number of instances here of impossible combinations – units that may never even have existed at the same time. I do not intend to worry too much about such technicalities at the moment...

I have to crack on with my reading – in particular I want to find out more about the Northern Association. I really am having a whale of a time!

Uniforms – very little known, overall. I have a good idea about some units and even some of the flags, but a lot of my first guesses are going to be just straight fiction. A number of the Royalist foot units who had fought in Ireland (e.g. Tillier’s and Broughton’s) are thought to have worn green, though whether there is an actual correlation I have no idea. Tyldesley’s lot wore red, probably, and Prince Rupert’s units were in blue, and it seems that a good proportion of the more soldierly of the Parliament units were probably uniformed in good old Northern grey or off-white. Booth’s Foot are thought to have had a black flag. There may have been a fair amount of civilian dress - I’m working on it!


  1. A great post lots of useful info and I love that map!
    Check out the Baccus site its got lots of info on uniforms and flags, you may find it useful.


    1. Thanks Ray - the Baccus site is useful - thanks for that too.


  2. Great read Tony, I'm glad it's coming together for you. How funny that you should post this just at the moment when I have decided to embrace all things 'Knot' and base my new armies upon those fine upstanding fellows :-) But seriously I do take your point of course.

    Lovely map.


    1. Hi Lee

      Hey! The Sealed Knot are fine fellows - I didn't mean to have a go at them - great source of info for an army, but they don't have much in the North West. I was actually thinking of emailing the Lord Molyneux website, so see if they could give me some additional historical stuff.

      Cheers - Tony

  3. A cracking post Foy, some interesting stuff there. Are you counting the troops Sir Thomas Fairfax led at Nantwich? Off the top of my head, they were from Lincolnshire and Manchester, and were so badly equipped that Fairfax had to pay out of his own pocket for clothing

    1. Thanks very much Tim - I am learning that I always have to look more widely than I expected - I've got a couple of useful books on the war in Yorkshire, and have a couple of the excellent little books by the Stuart Press on order, including the ones on the battles of Nantwich and Montgomery - I'll watch out for Black Tom's boys!

      Cheers - Tony

  4. Tony,

    Good to see you back in the saddle - I must admit to becoming really quite partisan about the ECW. It's Royalists or nothing!

    CV Wedgewood seems to have written about it a good deal and I've grown very fond of her.

    Are you going all metal for your armies?

    1. Good day to you, Bold Kinchmeister!

      I am also very taken with CV Wedgwood, she was a class act - I wish she had been more interested in the nuts and bolts of the armies! On the other hand, I am getting more disappointed by the day with the HCB Rogers book - I think, like a lot of military history, it was probably good in its day, but I was coming to think that it covered too much ground too thinly - now I am starting to think that it misses rather a lot of ground also!

      All metal, yes - I have most of the armies in Lead Mountain form now - Les Higgins, Hinton Hunt, some SHQ and the odd Tumbling Dice. Haven't expanded to Scotsmen yet (though I will), and I'm not sure where I'm going to find clubmen/hooligans in 20mm, but my consultants are working on it. A little cross-period licence may be necessary...