Todmorden Antiquarians: Walking Cromwell’s Northern Battle of 1648

Cromwells bridge over the River Hodder was crossed by 9,000 troops

Cromwells bridge over the River Hodder was crossed by 9,000 troops

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Nick Burton of Clitheroe described his own devised walk from Otley to Preston following Oliver Cromwell’s northern 4-day journey into battle in August 1648

Nick is an amateur historian, keen walker and writer for regional newspapers.

Through abundant slides of the countryside, with historic manor houses and Churches, and old linear maps, Nick vividly described Cromwell’s battling for power against 15,000 Royalists which changed the course of British history. Cromwell looked out from above Otley with Lambert, a Parliamentarian General born in nearby Malhamdale. They did not see the modern view, but wild lands with few features beyond church towers.

The Parliamentary army of 9,000 began following the River Wharfe, crossing strategic bridges wherever possible but often resorting to stepping stones. The logistics of 9,000 men camping or crossing stepping stones takes a lot of imagination! Jokingly, Nick told us that some lucky soldiers had been supplied with new shoes in Leicester en route north.

After their Scottish battles the Royalist army were coming south along the course of our present-day A6, with some soldiers ahead further towards Wigan. After leaving Otley, Nick said Cromwell led his army through Ilkley and Addingham then over high moorlands to Skipton and the Aire gap. The following day the army arrived at Gisburn, marching along stretches of former Roman Roads following the Ribble valley. From Clitheroe they crossed the river at Edisford Bridge and broke their journey at Stoneyhurst Hall, where Cromwell supposedly slept on a table in his full armour! Cromwell decided to intercept and fight the Royalists along the northern banks of the Ribble, hoping to add surprise and confusion. The Parliamentarians moved along south-westerly between Longridge Fell to the north and Pendle Hill to the south.

Nick’s enthusiastic footsteps finished his 15 mile-a-day/ 4 day journey near where the Battle of Preston took place. It was the last major confrontation, a decisive battle of the Civil War. Yet, ironically, here is just an ugly present-day retail shopping centre with car parking in the Preston area called Walton-le-Dale! There is not even a fact-board to mark this momentous historic occasion, just riverside flood-banking and some modern housing with Colonels and Generals street names! Nick added that the modern Brockholes Visitor Centre is nearby and that the Harris Museum in Preston has interests relating to Cromwell’s battle.