(A quick Chronology of these events is online at MANCHESTER CIVIL WAR CHRONOLOGY         



                                                1/. EVENTS LEADING TO WAR IN MANCHESTER


 Manchester played a not insignificant role in the English Civil Wars, especially in the early years. 

Manchester in 1642 had a population of 6,000. Salford had 1,500 citizens. (Broxap) Its status as a cotton linen mill town was already drawing attention to Manchester in the early 1640’s. Influential merchants were already beginning to invest heavily in the region. Men trying to protect their financial business investments in the town’s economic development would largely conduct the war in Manchester.

The popular perception is that Manchester was very much a Puritan stronghold, and that the majority of its citizens sided with Parliament from the outset.  Dore (P.13) calls Manchester “that hotbed of Puritanism and disloyalty” It seems that this may be a class-biased point of view. The powerful local gentry were certainly pro-Parliament, but the civilian population was more inclined to have Royalist sympathies. Manchester was not by nature an anti-Royalist town. The King’s Privy Council for prompt collection and payment of Ship Money in Manchester in 1635 praised Sir Humphrey Chetham for getting the tax collected easily and punctually.  Many inland towns had protested at Ship Money taxation being introduced inland. It had been levied onto coastal towns for generations to pay for naval defences. The King’s imposition of it inland had proved as unpopular as the Poll tax. Manchester had failed to join the protests of neighbouring regions like Westmoorland. 

Salford, growing from a fording point across the fast flowing River Irwell that divides the town from Manchester, is actually an older city than its immediate neighbour. Many Salfordians still resent being called Mancunians, and having Manchester post-codes and telephone numbers today. Like Manchester, Salford was becoming affluent because of the wool and linen trade. When disease caused major hardship in Bolton in the 1630’s, Salford was wealthy enough in its own right to be able to donate £140 to a relief fund.

In 1641, Parliament issued The Oath of Protestation. This was a national petition, which the people of England were to sign as pledge of lifelong opposition to Papal Catholicism. The Oath was very emotive and political. There were still many openly practicing Catholics in England, and the King was married to a young French Catholic queen, Henrietta-Marie.  The Protestation was inspired by the success of he Scottish Covenant in blocking the King’s efforts to introduce the English Prayer Book throughout Scotland. 

Lancashire towns, including Manchester received the Protestation, which was sent to every ordained Protestant minister, who was then ordered to encourage all of his parishioners to sign it.  Catholics understandably refused to sign it. Wiganers proved particularly unwelcoming to the document. 103 recusant Catholics refused to sign it (14% of those asked) In Salford, a mere 57 people (0.4%) refused to sign the Protestation. (Statistics taken from Hilton. P.34). The best known regional opponent, Sir Alexander Radcliffe, or Ordsall Hall was repeatedly fined for refusing to sign the Protestation. He had to sell off a great deal of his property to survive. He would soon play a major part in Manchester’s Civil War.

Lancashire’s Catholic gentry were under fierce hostility and many faced persecution from Protestant neighbours. The King had married a Catholic, though he was still obliged to sign legal proclamations that stripped Papists of their rights and properties. However, there were clear indications that a Parliament victory in the impending struggles would make things considerably worse. Parliamentarians had made much propaganda mileage out of the atrocities committed by Catholic Irishry in Ulster. The indications were that Catholics would face horrendous reprisals if Parliament gained more authority than the King.

Charles found his initial recruitment drives floundering. He was in serious trouble in early 1642. He needed help and he had few cares about where it came from. He sent envoys to seek foreign mercenaries. The Catholics in England, including Lancashire, begged permission to take up arms on his behalf. It was a shrewd move. Catholic support for a Royalist victory might be remembered in peace times. Few Papists expected such leniency from the Roundheads.

            On the 4th January 1642 King Charles made his desperate and disastrous attempt to arrest five members of his own Parliament. All five men fled, and the King’s authority was usurped at every turn. Charles was forced to leave London on the 10th January.  War, though not yet officially declared, now seemed inevitable, and like many towns, Manchester made preparations long before the fighting would begin.  Leading landowners recruited men to arms throughout the North, provisionally and transparently to protect their own estates, but often with clear intent to support either the King or Parliament. 

Before the war began properly many people actively petitioned for peace. They included Richard Heydricke, the warden of Manchester, who took a petition signed by the freeholders of Manchester to the King, who was then based at York.  Heydricke petition had considerable support.  “It was subscribed by sixty-four knights and esquires, fifty-five divines, seven hundred and forty gentlemen, and of freeholders and others, over seven thousand.” (Halley p.179).

The King appreciated the petition’s declaration of loyalty to the crown, and called on the signatories to support him against those malignants who were prepared to fight against his divine prerogative. The response was vague enough to be inconclusive, and gave little indication of a desire by Charles to compromise with his Parliamentary opponents. Manchester’s efforts to avert the pending Civil War, had failed.

A June 20th meeting was called for the nobility to discuss the implications of the King’s ongoing campaign and his response to the petition. The meeting took place on Preston Moor. It was presided over by Sir John Girlington, High Sheriff of Lancashire. He concluded the meeting by reading out the King’s commissioned proclamations calling for all able-bodied men to raise their arms in defence of the Monarch. James Stanley, known then as Lord Strange, the Knowsley born MP for Liverpool, who was later to become The Earl Of Derby, closely assisted Girlington as he rallied the Royalists to his side with cries of ‘For The King! For The King!”  Four Hundred men moved behind Girlington and Strange, while just a few less moved to the opposite end of the Moor to the rallying cry “For King And Parliament. For King and Parliament.”  The county of Lancashire was severely but quite evenly divided.  The larger majority of people present took neither side, preferring to remain neutral or take further time to consider their position.  (Barratt p.4). 

Peace in the region was no longer an option. Matters had gone too far out of control. The King sent many of his trusted lords and earls out on a major recruitment drive. One such man was Lord Strange, who also intended to secure control of the powder supplies stored in Manchester, at the Collegiate Church Of St. Mary’s College, (which is now Chetham’s School Of Music near Victoria Railway Station).  Weapons, especially gunpowder, were kept in storage in castles, fortified houses, and in the crypts of large churches in various towns.

A race had now begun between Cavaliers and Roundheads for control of such supplies. Manchester, like many towns had increased its stockpiles of powder in fear of a Papist Catholic rising similar to that, which had occurred in Ireland, which had been in full-scale bloody rebellion since 1641.  Many Catholics lived and worked secretly in Salford, too, so in the minds of Mancunians the threat from the papists was all too real.  The fears had led to many rumors that such an invasion was already under way. There was widespread panic in Rochdale when claims were made that the Irish had reached Bolton. In fact, it proved to be a small group of English soldiers returning to England after a period of service in Ireland to address the crisis there.

Lord Strange had secured the supplies of Preston, and Lancaster without a struggle. His demand for the powder supply from Manchester came far too late. Sir Ralph Assheton of Middleton had already organised its removal to other secret locations.  He moved the powder on June 20th, the day of the Preston Moor meeting. It was not actually his to move. Lord Strange personally owned all ten barrels of powder and three fathoms of match. He also owned the Collegiate rooms, which had once been the dwellings of Catholic priests in the town. Lord Strange had bought the property under license from the crown. Assheton’s removal of the powder was an unlawful act.

Strange was furious and raised a modest band of troops with which to charge into Manchester from Bury. He threatened dire consequences if the powder was not returned to his control within three days, but Parliamentarians gave him cold shrift. The official records add: that

…. They likewise declared that if his lordship did take any other Course to seize upon it (the powder) violently, they would lose their dearest lives in defence thereof by reason the Country was in such great distraction and perplexity that they did not know how soon they might be disposed of all they had if so be they had not Arms to defend themselves withal. (Printed by order of John Brown, Cleric Of Parliament on July 9th 1642 for immediate print and publication. (Tracts)


There are claims that: Lord Strange made good his threats and attacked Manchester on July 4th and supposedly killed eleven defenders while losing twenty-seven men, but the claim is dismissed as Parliamentary propaganda. There is virtually no evidence to support the allegation.

Trouble was coming for the town and everyone expected bloodshed. The Manchester Militia was raised up to 8,000 strong, and they were drilling daily with some vigour.


Lord Strange arrived for a 15th July 1642 banquet in Manchester. In some accounts, Lord Strange was invited to Ordsall Hall for the banquet, but the part of Ordsall Hall in Salford was in fact to come after the riot that night, and not before it.  Strange was actually invited to the inn house known as the Eagle And Child, home and workplace of a vintor, one Alexander Greene in The Conduit, (Now Spring Gardens), just off Market Street. The Conduit is a name often given to a street, which provides drinking water pipes for a town or city. Strange rode to the banquet feast in style, in a carriage, flanked by some thirty cavalry riders. Other guests, including Lord Molyneux, brought their own cavalry support, so the Royalist army grew significantly as Manchester was approached.  The people of the town welcomed the Royalists at first. Crowds cheered in the streets and threw flowers. (At least if we believe the Royalist accounts of events).

The banquet had either neared completion, or as seems more likely, barely started, depending again on which accounts you read when the town militia, led by Mr. Holcroft, surrounded the inn-house at the Conduit. The men adopted hostile stances around the cavalry and footmen waiting outside the house. Lord Strange’s own horse and carriage were confiscated. Lord Strange walked out through the angry cordon to take Alexander Radcliffe’s horse. As he went, at least two musket or pistol shots rang out from the upper windows of nearby houses. They missed their target. Further shooting was hampered by the incessant rain, which extinguished match. The would be assassin was one Thomas Stanley, a kinsman to Lord Strange, who had settled his support squarely with Parliament. (Tracts -p.37).  Both parties bitterly claimed that the other started the trouble first, The Parliamentarian Trained Bands clashed in angry exchanges with the Royalist Cavalry, though no one really wanted a full-scale pitched battle.

The gauntlet pressed on as Lord Strange got to Radcliffe’s horse and rode through to Market Street, with his cavalry pressing through the mob to protect him. One rider was suddenly clubbed down from behind and dragged from his horse by a man on foot. His assailant was instantly shot dead by one of Strange’s men.  He was Richard Perseval A local weaver, from Kirkmanshulme, and a staunch Parliamentarian, generally taken to be the first English casualty of the War. There had been a precedent in Scotland where the 10th May 1639 Bishop’s War attack on Towie Barclay Castle at Turriff had resulted in the death of one David Prat.  It also seems likely that men were killed in the siege of Hull, which had been under siege and intense musket fire since July 3rd and would be under fire constantly until July 23rd.

Perseval’s death seems to have dispersed many of the rioters, rather than aggravating them.  The Parliamentarians might well now have realized that they would fare badly if the Royalist riders were fully deployed against them. Perceval was buried in the Manchester Collegiate church on July 18th.

It was after this tragic killing, and not before, that Lord Strange rode to Ordsall Hall, where he spent the night in the company of Sir Alexander Radcliffe in the heart of pro-Royalist Salford. Alexander Radcliffe had attended the King at his 1625 Coronation.  The King had made him a Knight of The Order Of The Bath for his services. Radcliffe was a practicing Roman Catholic. His father had died at the Battle of Le Rochelle in France in 1626.  He would eventually be incarcerated for a year in the Tower Of London for his support for Lord Strange.

The Manchester Banquet Riot had taken place over a month before King Charles officially declared hostilities by raising the Royal standard at Nottingham on the 22cd of August 1642. . Lord Strange had advised the King to raise the Standard in Warrington, as he believed that Royalist support was at its height in Lancashire, but he had been over-ruled. Had his advice been heeded, Manchester and Lancashire might have seen much more action in the Civil Wars than they did in the end.

Initially, Parliamentarians in Manchester apologised to Lord Strange for his hostile reception, but they quickly changed their tune. They began to openly blame him for the weaver’s death. Richard Perceval became an early martyr to the Parliamentarian cause. On September 16th Lord Strange was impeached for his murder, which gave Parliament a great deal of propaganda power. Men were called to arms to avenge him. The pulpits of Manchester churches were used to call on men to defend their town with arms as well as with prayers.

. In that same September 1642 Lord Strange made preparations to march back on Manchester with an army 3,500 strong in order to seize control of the town. He had no approval for his action from Charles who was jealous of his lineage and popularity. Charles wanted the Earl to come to his court (then based at Nottingham). Strange planned to raise a Lancastrian army first.  Strange also had a young French Protestant wife, which may well have ruffled feathers for Charles’s French Catholic wife, Queen Henrietta Marie. 

Lord Strange’s remarkable wife, Charlotte, Countess Of Derby, was to hold Parliamentary forces off herself in the siege of Lathom House, which she defended against the advances of Thomas Fairfax from January 1644 to 27th May 1645. The house finally fell in her absence in December 1645.

In Manchester, many citizens, angered by his earlier incursion, prepared to offer Lord Strange fierce resistance.  Robert Bradshaw and William Radcliffe, a relative of the Alexander Radcliffe, who had been so willing to assist Strange on his previous visit, led the defenders. Their support came from men of ‘Dunham Massey, by Handford, Stockport, Harden, Duckinfield, Ashton, Hyde and Middleton to Heaton.’ (Tracts. P.43).

Lord Strange gained the respect and support of men from Mosely, Prestwich, Trafford, Tyldesley, Barlow, Tatton and Radcliffe. (Tracts p.43).  Lord Strange was a great benefactor to the North. He had supported a 1640-41 petition to make Manchester a university town, but jealousy from Oxford & Cambridge as well as the growing conflict between King and Parliament had led to the imitative being dropped.

Unlike Hull and Chester, Manchester had no walls or gated entrance ways surrounding the town. It was wide open to attack. A German military engineer, Johan Rosworm, a mercenary with experience of warfare from the ongoing European Thirty Years conflict, built earthwork walls and dug ditches across the streets, and advised the pro-Parliament defenders.  Chains & bars were stretched across the streets to help prevent a cavalry charge against the town. He also had large iron gates built across the approaches to Market Street. This has confused some commentators as Manchester is said rightly to have been unprotected by walls or gates. Rosworm put some up only for the duration of the Civil War.

Lord Strange had offered to buy out Rosworm’s services, and he was prepared to pay him three times whatever parliament offered for his work, but Rosworm had flatly refused to serve him. 

Rosworm was regarded as a bitter, foul-mouthed humorless individual. Whenever he was criticized or given some new duty, he would swear and lament not having taken up Lord Strange’s offers while he had the chance. He told all and sundry that he hated them and their town. Nevertheless, he worked tirelessly on his defenses. He would even remain in the city throughout the coming siege, leading much of the fighting personally for Parliament. He had no obligation to do so. His official role had been entirely advisory. 

Rosworm was asked to show Manchester men how to store and prepare the highly volatile mix of gunpowder safely, and in one demonstrative lesson, he destroyed the roof of the munitions house that he was using.

One Of Manchester’s best known philanthropists, Sir Humphrey Chetham, was doing his best to stay neutral as the war came to Manchester. Chetham was a wealthy merchant with considerable assets throughout Lancashire, but especially in Manchester and Bolton. The increasing tensions were affecting his income. He had friends who were committing themselves to one side or the other. Royalists and Parliamentarians alike pleaded with him for money to support their campaigns. Chetham was a friend to the strange family, and to their opponents, like Assheton. Chetham had avoided making a commitment to either army at Preston Moor. He was absent from Manchester at the Banqueting Riot and he would distance himself again during the siege. A kinsman, Thomas Chetham, of Nuthurst, near New Moston, was more firmly committed to defending Manchester on Parliament’s side. Sir Humphrey would not declare open support (for Parliament) until the outcome of the battle for Manchester was known

                        3/. THE SIEGE OF MANCHESTER.

The King visited Chester on September 22cd.  He seems to have made little effort to rally men to support for Lord Strange’s campaign.

Manchester missed being the first skirmish battle of the English Civil War by a single day. On September 23rd 1642, Prince Rupert had routed The Earl Of Essex’s men  when they crossed paths by chance at Powick Bridge, near Worcester. It was an early Royalist victory.

The more carefully planned attack on Manchester was well timed by Lord Strange. It was the height of the town’s annual trade fair, which was to have taken place at Acresfield, (Now St. Anne’s Square.). The event was almost certainly cancelled due to hostilities. 

Rosworm’s defenses were only just completed when Lord Strange drew his forces together in Warrington on Saturday the 24th September 1642 and prepared to March on Manchester for a swift victorious attack. Bad weather, a broken cannon-carriage wheel and other delays hampered the advance. The Royalists followed the Mersey towards Manchester, until they reached the Irwell, and then approached through Salford, with divisions on each side of the river. They had divided into two units at Stretford, the last potential crossing before the stone, three-arched Salford Bridge, close to the location of the present day Victoria Bridge, that led straight into Manchester’s town centre. Lord Strange had strong support in Salford, which he hoped to use to reinforce his army. 

Though seen from Manchester while still at some distance, Lord Strange faced no opposition before he reached Alport House, on Deansgate; Alport House had an ancient pedigree. Richard Neville, known as the Kingmaker for his work in getting Edward 5th onto the Throne of England, had stayed at Alport Lodge in 1470, staying there with the first Earl Of Derby.   Lord Strange, soon to become Lord Derby himself, at Alport Lodge, was positioned a quarter of a mile from the men serving under Lord Molyneux at Salford Bridge.  His men were exhausted from the grueling journey and most of them were ill equipped. Few pikemen had breastplate armour or protective morions. Few of his musketeers had swords. They reached Manchester at about midnight. As Lord Strange approached, two Parliamentary heralds were sent to ask him his intentions. He took one prisoner and sent the other man back with initial demands for his safe access to the town on the King’s business. He is unlikely to have been surprised that he was not taken seriously. Lord Strange had so many Catholics in his ranks that throughout the Civil War his forces were nicknamed ‘The Catholic Army’.  Strange himself was not a Catholic. Lord Molyneux was.  Another leading Catholic was Sir Thomas Tyldesley, a veteran of the Thirty Years War conflict, and of all Lord Strange’s men, the most experienced in battle. .

At first light on Sunday 25th September, at about 4 AM as Derby’s men took up their battle positions, the church bells of Manchester were rung backwards, in a pre-arranged signal to the men of the town to come to its defense, which they did. Many had scythes, hoe and rakes rather than musket or pike.  There were still fewer weapons than men this early in the national hostilities.

Manchester held the advantage. The Irwell is steeper in bank on the Manchester side than on the Salford side. Any advance by Lord Strange’s forces was uphill against carefully defended risings. The River Tib, (Now culverted and buried under Tib Street) was at flood and it had reduced most of the area around current Mosley Street to a waterlogged marsh that would have been nigh on impassable to the Royalist cavalry. Both sides saw that the main areas that needed controlling were the Deansgate road itself (guarded by Lord Assheton and Lord Bradshaw) and Salford Bridge. (Protected by Rosworm).

Parliament also placed men at other less vulnerable spots. Captain Richard Radcliffe was stationed on Market Street. John Booth held Millgate. Lieutenant Berwick took his men to guard Hunt’s Bank. A division of soldiers with no commanding officers was given charge of Shudehill.  (Barratt p.7)).

The defenders took much pleasure in prayer and the singing of psalms. William Bourne, an old, ailing but highly respected preacher. Of Chadderton, led the morale boosting services.

The first day saw little shooting. Lord Strange repeatedly called on the town to surrender and lengthy talks ensued that took up most of the time. Derby said that he wanted permission to billet one hundred men in Manchester. None of his requests and demands was met.  That night, Lord Strange received some important news. His elderly father, the 6th Earl Of Derby, had died peacefully in Chester. Lord Strange was now the 7th Earl Of Derby.  He was keener than ever to bring Manchester under control quickly in order to be able to go home and mourn for his father.

The Royalists were still divided into two groups. Derby personally took charge of the Deansgate assault from Alport Lodge.  Lord Molyneux took charge of the campaign on Salford Bridge.  Any advance meant crossing the bridge, which afforded little cover, though there was a chapel at its center, which might afford some protection from Parliamentary musket fire, which was heavily trained on the route.

The Royalists had seven small cannons. Bradshaw had the only cannon held in Manchester Parliamentarian hands. The cannons were capable of firing balls of four, six and eight pounds in weight, but no bigger.

When the Parliamentarians rejected his demands on Monday 26th September, Derby demanded the immediate surrender of the town’s defenders. When that call was rejected with contempt, he immediately ordered his men to open fire. They did so, creating more noise than damage. The Earl Of Derby’s cannons roared and several of Rosworm’s men deserted immediately. Rosworm threatened to personally kill any other man who fled his post. He had started out by defending the bridge with only fifty musketeers. Only one man died in the initial barrage, and he was said to be merely a spectator who had stood too close to the action. The records list him as “A strange boy looking about him but not in armies.” (Tracts p.46).

The initial Royalist advance against Bradshaw’s well-defended position on Deansgate was launched but checked by smoke from two burning barns and up to ten burning houses, which obstructed their view. The Royalists had set the barns alight themselves, but they had not anticipated the way that the wind would blow the smoke against them. Initially the wind had been blowing against the enemy, but it quickly turned the other way instead.  Derby turned his attention onto Salford Bridge, but despite the crumbling resolve of his men, Rosworm held out well.  The assault that Derby had considered so easy was turning into a prolonged siege. 

The Royalists captured a house close to the Salford side of the Salford Bridge from which their musketeers kept firing on Rosworm’s men all night. The weather worsened as the Royalists found themselves facing well-organized defenses, and they were held at bay on Deansgate. Undeterred by the barn fires having turned into a Parliamentarian advantage, Derby ordered his men to fire burning faggots onto the rooftops of Manchester houses. None of the faggots ignited the wooden buildings, but the attempt made it clear to the defenders that Derby would probably sack their town and cause considerable death and destruction if he broke through their lines. They had more incentive to resist now than ever.

On Tuesday September 27th, the Royalists focused their attack on Rosworm’s defenses at the Salford Bridge. Desertions had continued and the German engineers were down to as few as fourteen musketeers out of his original fifty. Some deserted from lack of food or pay rather than cowardice under fire. Colonel Holland advised Rosworm to surrender the fight as a lost cause. Rosworm openly chastised the man for his cowardice and fought on. The Royalists seem to have been oblivious of how critical his situation was, and they failed to exploit their advantage before Rosworm was reinforced, probably with men from the relatively inactive Shudehill and Millgate reserves.  By the Tuesday evening, Rosworm was confident enough of his men to be able to move from defense to offense. He attacked the house Molyneux’s men had taken at the opposite end of the bridge, capturing or killing six Royalists. Rosworm lost two men in the attack.

The Royalists had little communication between the men fighting for the bridge and the men trying to take Deansgate. Their attacks were never co-coordinated.

That night, Derby called for fresh negotiation parley, which lasted until the Wednesday morning. Despite the parley rules creating a cease fire that let men of both sides rest a little, Derby’s men were plundering and attacking any isolated properties they could find on the outskirts of the town. Such a breach of protocol could only serve to jeopardize the negotiations for him. Derby now once again demanded the surrender of all arms in Manchester to his control, he created a brief lull in the fighting, but he received the blunt reply that he would get "nothing, not even a rusty dagger". It was brave wording, as Parliament’s defenders were running dangerously low on powder and match, especially on the Deansgate defences.

Derby’s men also successfully intercepted a group of one hundred and fifty soldiers marching in from Bolton to help defend the Parliamentarians, and killed three of them. 

Rumours in the Parliamentary ranks helped to demoralise the men. Derby was believed to be expecting heavy reinforcements at any time. Prince Rupert and the King himself were expected to arrive. (Broxap p. 40). They never did, and probably had no intention of doing so. 

On Thursday 29th September, a well respected Royalist officer; Captain Standish was washing his hands as he looked out from the Alport Lodge Derby used as his headquarters. He angrily shouted orders to some of his men, who were dawdling. A musket ball killed him instantly. A Parliamentarian musketeer positioned on the steeple of what is now the Manchester Cathedral had shot him at considerable range.

Derby made a final desperate concentrated push against the Deansgate defenders who killed up to one hundred of his men. Parliamentarians lost only four of their own men in the attack. It was the beginning of the end. The campaign had depended   on rapid capture of the town, but the Royalists had been held at bay for a week. They were low on ammunition, and food supplies were running out.

Parliament now launched a concentrated counter-attack on Salford Bridge, to re-capture a house, which the Royalists had secured there. The Royalists were routed successfully. Three men, including one Captain Snill, drowned in the fast flowing, heavily swollen River Irwell in the desperation of their escape attempt.

The effect of the loss of the well-loved Captain Standish on the Royalists was particularly devastating. Derby’s men began to desert on him in droves. He must by now have realized that he had little real chance of taking Manchester for the King. In many accounts, the death of Standish led to an immediate Royalist withdrawal, but they still fought on throughout Friday 30th September, the last full day of the siege. 

Royalist firing was now more sporadic and half-hearted. The Royalists also started to dig their own defensive trenches on Deansgate. The exact purpose of this new trench has produced several conflicting theories. One controversial theory has it that the well documented incessant rain that had ruined any further plans to cause a fire in Manchester now also caused the river Irwell to flood through the Royalist defensive ditches, ruining large portions of the powder supplies already secured from Liverpool. This may help to explain why Strange was digging a fresh trench so late in the fighting. It is possible that he had to move his men to higher ground as the waters swelled up dangerously nearby. The problem with the claim is that none of the primary accounts of the siege mention the river overflowing at all.  A better explanation for the fresh ditch was that it screened Derby’s men while they made a tactical retreat as they had already decided that they could no longer capture the town.  Open retreat would have put the men on exposed ground, and vulnerable to enemy musket fire.

Another claim is that Derby only retreated because he was ordered to join the King at Shrewsbury, but that seems unlikely. The King would have been only too happy had Derby stayed and taken Manchester. Derby had little left to fight with, and he had lost over a hundred men.  Retreat or surrender was his only realistic options.

The weather had definitely worked in Parliament’s favour. Bradshaw and his men thanked God in their prayers for the rain he brought; which prevented the Great Fire Of Manchester Derby had tried to start. Most houses were dry timber and plaster constructions. A hot day could have seen the town raised to the ground. One commentator wrote: “They sought help by fire. God helped us by water. God has melted the Royalists into a wet and weeping frame.”

Rivers in the 17th century were not culverted, and so heavy rain could turn fields into flood plains easily. The Irwell, Irk, Tib, Mersey and Medlock rivers and their tributaries crisscrossed Manchester then, as now. Much of the ground was swamped and waterlogged. The Tib was particularly notorious for overflowing. Had Derby attacked in fair weather conditions, he might well have been able to move men around the unwalled town of Manchester to attack from several directions. Salford had many fording points for crossing the Irwell on foot, but with the river in full flow from the rain, these were certainly all rendered impossibly dangerous for use. There had been drownings for men chased desperate enough to try to wade or swim through the Irwell to escape from Parliament pursuit. A few Royalist cavalry horses also drowned. Whether the water flooded into powder stores or manned trenches is mere speculation, but the water certainly hampered the Royalist cause in many other ways. As things stood, the Deansgate and Salford Bridge approaches were his only viable route.

Derby had achieved too little and too late. He realized that he had fought a doomed campaign. On Saturday 1st of October, he called for a mutual exchange of prisoners, which he was allowed, Parliament released twelve prisoners. Lord Strange released the six men he had captured. Derby now retreated quickly and empty handed. Manchester had indeed not offered him so much as a ‘rusty dagger’.   It is estimated that the Royalists lost up to one hundred and fifty men while Parliament lost only about twenty.  The retreating Royalists left behind powder and arms and other supplies, and this all fell to Rosworm’s protection.

The records conclude;


Thus the Lord hath preserved an unwalled towne from being destroyed or detained by a great armie, consisting as some say, of 4,000, some say 3,000, seven pieces of ordinance, two hundred dragooners, a hundred Horsemen. To god alone be the prayse. 


The ‘prayse’ was really for Bradshaw and Rosworm.

The Parliamentary forces were kept at their stations for another twenty-four hours in case Derby returned in force, but once it was apparent that he posed no further threat, the defenders were allowed to disperse and return to their homes. 


On October 10th 1642, Parliament offered an official vote of thanks to the men of Manchester for their defense. Much praise was lavished on the town from that day on. One Parliamentary report stated:

          Tis not unknown to all the kingdom that Manchester men, since the beginning of these distractions, have behaved themselves like men, and to their lasting fame, have expressed themselves faithful servants to the Parliament in defending their privileges.”  (Dore p. 16)


The catch phrase ‘Manchester-Men’ caught on. Men from Blackburn and Warrington fighting on Parliament’s side were surprised to be called ‘Manchester Men; for their bravery under fire too.

Three weeks after the siege of Manchester, the Royalists and Roundheads engaged in the first official major battle of the wars at Edgehill on October 23rd. 1642. William Radcliffe, who had met with Lord Strange on the eve of the Manchester riots, was wounded and captured by Parliamentarians here. The outcome was indecisive, and both sides were able to claim victory. The Civil War that would claim the lives of half a million men, and result in the execution of a King, had now begun in earnest. Men from Manchester were frequently involved.

Not every Manchester engagement was victorious. Men from Manchester served with Thomas Fairfax (who set up headquarters in the town for a time) in his disastrous battle at Adwalton Moor. (30th June 1643).  The Royalist Marquis Of Newcastle’s men chased the Manchester Men as far as Halifax, and threatened to come and destroy Manchester if the men did not surrender to him. The Manchester men chose not to surrender. Defenses were set up and manned at Rochdale and on Blackstone edge in a first line of defense against Newcastle’s forces, but they never came.

When Fairfax left the Manchester HQ, he put the Manchester garrison under the competent command of John Seaton. 

Seaton took Preston for Parliament in 1643 after just two hours of fighting.

Many Scots were billeted in Manchester during their period of support for Parliament’s cause.

  Neutrality now became dangerous. Many people were bullied into taking sides when they had previously decided not to. George Chetham 2cd of Crumpsall, North Manchester, had faced a two-month prison sentence for trying to keep him out of the fighting. To the now dominant Parliamentary forces in Manchester, neutrality was a bi-word for having Royalist sympathies.

Only now, possibly spurred on by the fate of his Crumpsall kinsman, did Humphrey Chetham openly stand up for the Parliamentary cause. He became their main financier and bookkeeper for Lancashire, tirelessly taxing the people to fund the war effort. He made some of the biggest fiscal contributions to the war effort. He was Parliament’s Receiver General for Lancashire. This came despite a great deal of loss to his personal fortunes. The Mosely family was heavily indebted to Chetham, and they had sided with Derby. (It was their property at Alport Lodge on Deansgate that Derby had used as his Headquarters during the siege). Chetham accused the Moseley’s of taking the Royalist cause to evade their debts, but they had actually pledged their allegiances before he did.

On November 3rd 1642, Parliament presented Manchester with a new cannon.

On May 23rd 1643, Manchester Men marched to Parliament’s aid in the battle of Warrington.  Fairfax marched through the town on route to his victory at Nantwich in January 1644. Royalist prisoners taken at Nantwich were kept in Manchester.

Sir Ralph Assheton’s men fought alongside Cromwell at the battle of Preston in 1648.

There were no further direct attacks on the town of Manchester itself, which remained heavily fortified throughout the wars. The effects of the war were nevertheless very serious on commerce and food supplies.

Plague hit Manchester in 1645. Money was sent from London to help alleviate the crisis. Despite problems with his payments (he had been offered £30 for his services) Rosworm remained in Manchester for another six years after the siege. He was advised to leave when the plague hit the town, but he refused to go before the borders were closed, preventing any one from entering or leaving. He led a musket division round Manchester to deal with looters and pillagers.  He did not contract the plague

Though strongly in support of Parliament, many Manchester Men opposed the idea of executing the King. Holland & Assheton both openly criticised the King’s trial, as did Thomas Fairfax, but they were powerless to prevent it.

The execution of the King shocked the nation. Few had predicted or expected it.  Many Parliamentarians now turned Royalist, and the Protectorate feared an early attempt to overthrow it. There were many ill omens in the air.

On 6th February 1649, a month after the execution, a proclamation was read at the Manchester Cross forbidding any man to declare himself the new King Of England. Similar proclamations were read throughout England. Monarchy itself had now been officially abolished.  On the 26th February 1649, three daytime moons were reported in the skies over Manchester, causing much alarm and speculation about God’s anger over the death of the King.

The Collegiate Church was sequestered in 1649, and badly ransacked as it was ransacked by the Roundheads. Stained glass windows were destroyed. A statue of Bishop Oldham was smashed. Heydricke, still the warden of the church, protested but no one took notice. The College rooms which had been owned by Lord Strange, and which had stored the powder that had fuelled early trouble sin Manchester, was now turned into a prison.  Interestingly, prisoners from Manchester, including Heydricke, were moved to London, possibly to deter protest marches and make escaping more difficult.

In Blackley, North Manchester, in 1650, John Pendleton was reaping corn when the corn appeared to bleed red blood under his scythe. The area became a pilgrimage point for a ‘multitude’ of visitors eager to seethe phenomena for themselves.

Manchester was criticised for openly celebrating the birthday of Charles 2cd in 1650. Parliament had called for the day to be marked with fasting rather than feasting, the people of Manchester decided otherwise.

Of course, Charles 2cd, from exile in France, wanted his kingdom back. His campaigns lead to the doomed Third Civil War. Manchester Men fought at the Battle for Wigan Lane on the 25th August 1651, where Lord Derby’s men were routed in 1651, as they fought for Charles 2cd. It was the last full scale Civil War engagement in Lancashire. Derby was captured later as he tried to reach Charles at Worcester.

The Republic was to hit Manchester harshly. Sequestration and confiscation of properties and estates belonging to known Royalists began almost immediately Heydricke lost ownership of The Collegiate Church. He was arrested for plotting to reintroduce the Monarchy and narrowly escaped being sentenced to death.

In 1652, Rosworm’s now crumbling siege defences were dismantled and the debris removed. No trace was left behind.

Manchester’s first MP was Charles Worsely, of Platt Hall, Rusholme. It is said that when Cromwell called out for the confiscation of the mace, in the House Of Commons with the words ‘Take away that bauble”’ Charles Worsely personally took the mace for hiding away by way of an answer. (Bruton p. 156).

On 12th October 1653, Sir Humphrey Chetham died. He was buried in the Collegiate Church. A philanthropist to the last, his will bequeath the city with its hospital and library, which is now the world famous Chetham’s Music College.

The Protectorate years were not good ones for Manchester. There was considerable religious division, and many people were unforgiving to neighbours and family over which sides had been served in the conflict.

Richard Heydricke, the warden of Manchester, now reinstated, wanted the town to be governed on similar lines to the Scottish Presbyterian Churches. This involved committees of ministers (ordained) and lay elders, working in a hierarchy of bureaucratic committees. Parliament experimented with such models in Lancashire during the war years, as the Scots who wanted Presbyterianism introducing throughout England influenced them. Parliament had agreed to such an introduction in order to secure the support of the Scots, but they had later abandoned such agreements (much to the offence of the Scots). Many in Lancashire had tasted Presbyterianism, and they liked it. Heydricke was one such man.

Under his supervision, Lancashire was divided into nine ecclesiastical districts, known as the Classis. Manchester Collegiate Church was the headquarters of one Classis. Most towns were happy to comply with the system.  Birch, Didsbury, Stretford and Gorton, were among those that refused to co-operate.  The system fell into such disarray that Cromwell abandoned it nationally in 1653.  Now only Papacy (Catholicism), witchcraft and outright atheism would face intolerance from the State.  Many independent religions found that they could flourish openly with little immediate fear of reprisal or retaliation

At the height of Protectorate rule, Cromwell divided England and Scotland and Wales into regions to be controlled by his Major Generals. Charles Worsely was the first Lord-General in charge of Lancashire. His main job as such was to be a tax collector, which he achieved admirably. He was also a prohibitionist, closing up to two hundred alehouses. He described them as ‘dens of sedition and iniquity’. Constables with poor arrest records were relieved of duty, transferred or even dismissed from service under Worseley’s orders. He was deeply disturbed to find that many people were living in sin in Lancashire, or under illegal marital arrangements. He was uncertain about how to deal with the Quakers, as they were both disruptive, and sincere God-fearing men. He frequently wrote to London for advice on how to proceed against them

Horseracing was a subject on which he had no such moral confusion. He wrote to his ally, Thurloe, “Sir, there being a horse-race appointed in this county this last week, being informed of it I sent a party of the troop. They apprehended the chief actors and they took the horses, which I have, since I came to Manchester and still, in custody. I desire your direction what to do with both.” (Espinasse p.109).


He is described by Jill Groves as the most zealous of all the Major Generals, and one who worked himself to death by exhaustion by 1656. He was only 35. He was buried with some pomp at Westminster Abbey. Four Regimentes led the funeral procession. His successor as Lancashire & Cheshire’s Major General was Tobias Bridge, who was regarded as being much more moderate. The generals, under Cromwell, collectively imposed a puritanical ban on theatre, dancing and much more besides, including Christmas.

Upon Worsely’s premature death Richard Radcliffe, became Manchester’s second MP. In the Restoration period, Charles 2cd stripped Manchester of its right to have any MP’s in Parliament as punishment for their part in the early hostilities. It would be the Reform Act of 1832 before Manchester had a representative in Parliament again. His name was Mark Phillips.

In 1659 after the death of Cromwell, and at the height of the rule of his weak son, Richard, Sir George Booth led the doomed Cheshire Rising. He wanted an army of Royalists to lead against the Protectorate. His forces were easily crushed at Winnington Bridge on August 19th 1659, but many Manchester Men had supported him. Little did they know that plans were already afoot for a more peaceful return for their King?  

The Quakers, (The Religious Society Of Friends) began in the Civil War years, and they were highly active throughout Lancashire. George Fox, their founder, frequently visited and preached in Manchester.

  Manchester, like much of England, celebrated the Restoration with street parties and carnivals. The day was declared a national holiday. Another party took place on the day of the St. George’s Day official Coronation of Charles 2cd (23rd April 1661). The Spring Gardens Conduit that normally gave water to Manchester ran with Claret for the occasion.

The celebrations soon ended though. Despite the label of ‘Merry Monarch’, Charles was a tough taskmaster, in 1662; his Act of Uniformity declared that only ministers ordained by official Church Of England Bishops could recite from the Prayer book. Many refused to comply with such a law, including Heydricke, though unlike many, he did not face any serious reprimand for his defiance. Charles tried to have Heydricke removed from office once and for all and even lined up a man called Dr. Woolley to replace him, but Heydricke had a powerful ally, Montague, Earl Of Manchester, the former Parliamentarian General, now a close friend to the King, who persuaded Charles to allow Him to stay in office. It was one of Lord Manchester’s few direct involvements with the town that gave him his title.

Manchester had become the epicenter of the Non Conformist Movement, The Rev. Henry Newcome would complain about it in his diaries. Newcome had been preaching at the Collegiate Church from 1655 until 1662. He fully accepted the wisdom of the King’s Act of Uniformity, and resigned from office, expecting, and demanding that fellow ministers followed suit.

That at least was his visible position on the matter. In reality, he was preaching illegally under cover in private houses and at open air Conventicles. He conducted services in a barn owned by one Thomas Stockton on Shudehill.  Newcome would not be granted a license to preach legally again until 1687, when James 2cd issued declarations of toleration for all religions.


Charles had a lavish lifestyle and he son faced the same central problem that had plagued his father and even the Protectorate. He was needed revenue. He was perpetually broke. He created a new and widely despised form of taxation, Hearth (or Chimney) Tax.  People were taxed for the number of chimneys and fireplaces in a dwelling (three or less was generally grounds for exception).  700 people played Hearth Tax in Manchester in 1666.



Surrounding towns that are now part of Greater Manchester also played a major roll in events in many ways. Here are some of the events affecting the region. Of course, many of the towns covered, including Manchester, were then part of Lancashire. The County itself remained predominantly in Parliament hands.  Bolton fell to Royalist attack, but Derby never dared hold on to the town. In Lancashire, only Lathom House held off Parliamentary attack for any substantial period of time.  



John Soundiforth, two men, each called Dean Shott, of Ashton, and Robert Ashton of Sheply, were severely fined for refusing to accept knighthood awards bestowed by the King in 1628-9.  The awards were made merely to oblige on gentry to have to pay tax for their status, and the men of Ashton were not alone in opposing he unpopular policy. It was one of the acts, which caused Charles 1st to begin to lose the respect of many of his subjects in the decade leading to Civil War.


Men from Ashton were called upon to support King Charles in the disastrous and costly Bishop’s Wars of 1639 and 1641.  The wars, (against Scotland) were started when the Scots refused to accept English changes in the way they worshipped, such as only reading a Book of Common Prayer authorized in London. The King was under-funded and many on his own side sympathised with the Scottish stance, so the King was forced to accept defeat in both Bishop’s Wars.


John Harrison, Minister for Ashton, obliged most of his flock to sign the Parliament Protestation in early 1642. 149 Ashtonians chose to do so.


Ashton became a leading magazine town in the months leading to hostilities.  Many of its men served at the siege, which is not surprising given their loyalty to Sir Ralph Assheton. They were on the defensive after the Siege of Manchester in case Derby attacked them to try and take their own powder stores, but he never tried.

Sir Ralph Assheton became a Puritan in some contradiction to his Catholic beliefs.


Sir George Both had supported Parliament from the outset of the troubles and promised his soldiers good rewards for their services to him. His control of the lease of their estates ensured their loyalty to him. Booth had strong family connections to Parliament. His son-in-law, William Breton, led the Parliament army in Cheshire. Breton’s Mother was a cousin to Colonel Holland, of Denton, the Governor of Manchester.


Ashton’s rector was Henry Fairfax, an uncle to Thomas Fairfax.


Edmunde Ashton, and Sir Cecille Trafford both openly sent men to serve in the King’s army while secretly selling muskets and powder to Parliament supporters in Manchester.


Though predominantly pro-Parliament, Ashton had a few Royalist supporters in its bosom.  Sir John Hotham had strong financial interests in Hull, a town the King had failed to capture early on in the Civil War.


Nicholas Lilly give up his horses to men riding for Nantwich on April 2cd 1642, long before the fighting began in the town there.


Ashton men were involved in a battle for Preston in 1643, which was then in Royalist hands.  Thomas Stansfield lost a hand in the battle there. He received a compensation pension right up to Cromwell’s death, when his payments ceased.


Ashton men helped to liberate Wigan for Parliament, but failed to capture Warrington. It was taken in May 1643 without involvement by Ashtonians who were to serve at Adwalton Moor, where they were noted as being concerned by their lack of wages for their ongoing duty to the Roundhead cause.


When Prince Rupert took Stockport, Ashton, being a few miles away, became nervous. Duckinfield sent a division of men from Ashton and his own town to force Rupert to retreat, but he was driven back, and 800 of his men were taken prisoner. There was much resentment and bitterness between the neighbouring Ashton and Duckinfield communities for generations to follow.


When the Scots marched into England in support of the Parliament cause, Ashton men signed the Solemn League & Covenant pledging support for Scottish Presbyterianism. It was a promise betrayed in due course throughout England.


On March 20th 1643, Alex Davie, a farmer, sold his horse under extreme duress (having no choice) to the High Constable Of Oldham.


Ashton was ravaged by plague and smallpox outbreaks with devastating effects on the community   at the height of the Civil War.


In the Protectorate years, the Sandifords lost their Ashton estates as punishment for their service to the Royalist cause. The estates were given to the Puritan Stopford family. Joseph Stopford of Audenshaw was to sail to Cromwell’s Plantation estates in Jamaica.  Stopfords also served under Cromwell in his campaign in Ireland in 1650.


With Cromwell’s death, and the weak leadership of his son, Richard, the second Protector, George Booth tried to start a fourth Civil war in an effort to restore the monarchy. He raised 4,000 men and quickly captured Chester Castle, but he was quickly defeated at Northwich. He was captured trying to flee the country disguised as a woman His doomed rising nevertheless showed that there was wide national sympathy for a return to Monarchy, and so he had helped pave the way towards the restoration.


There is a totally groundless legend that Sir Thomas Fairfax, once Cromwell’s closest Parliamentary al, lies buried in Ashton Church cemetery. (Harland & Wilkinson) In fact, Fairfax lies at rest in Bilbourne, near York.


Twice, Lord Derby attacked the town known even then as the ‘Geneva Of The North’, in February and March 1643, without success. It was the town in which he had been educated before he went on to Oxford University study. Like Manchester, Bolton kept him out, but the murders of captured pro-Royalist Irish Mercenaries by Boltonians, when a loyal body of Irish infantrymen served under Prince Rupert, helped to provoke a savage reprisal attack. The corpses of the captured Irishmen were hung over the town wall as a warning to the enemy. They served only to enrage them. Prince Rupert stormed the town on the 28th May 1644, supported by Lord Derby. Lord Molyneux and Sir Thomas Tyldesley were also present. They rode through Barlow Moor and Trafford Park on their way to Bolton. It was the closest they would ever get to Manchester again. In Bolton, 1,600 people (Soldiers and civilians alike) were simply slaughtered. Cavalry horses trampled people down in the streets. It is possible that more than half of the town’s population died.  Manchester and Salford raised £140.00 to help relieve the suffering in Bolton.

Sir Humphrey Chetham had been in Bolton as the town fell, but he fled to Yorkshire and escaped from the massacre itself.

Lord Derby was arrested seven years later, during his campaign in Wigan for Charles 2cd. Derby was tried for his part in the Bolton massacre. He was even found personally guilty for the death of Richard Perceval; He was sentenced to die. He spent his last night on earth in Bolton’s Man Of Scythe inn, a bar that had been built in 1251, and rebuilt in 1636. James Cockerel then owned the bar. The execution took place just outside the pub at the Bolton Cross, which is on the corner of Deansgate. It’s a coincidence that Derby had faced an earlier defeat at Manchester’s own Deansgate.



Many people in the town wanted to support Parliament, but Isaac Allen bullied most of them into neutrality or opposition. Allen was the rector for Prestwich, who was married to Anne Assheton, of Chadderton Hall, daughter of Richard Assheton

Sir William Radcliffe, who built Chadderton Hall in 1620 died at Edgehill fighting for the Royalists. His son, also called William Radcliffe but known as the Foxdenton Redhead to his friends, served for Charles at the Battle Of Lostwithiel in 1644 and got knighted for his services. He was defeated, and surrendered to Parliament at Truro in 1646.

Sir William Assheton, another tenant of Chadderton Hall, and a relative of Parliamentarian Ralph Assheton’s, served the King, and surrendered at Oxford in 1644.

Chadderton Hall and the Foxdenton estates were sequestered under the orders of Sir Ralph Assheton.

            . DIDSBURY


Thomas Hebblethwaite, a Royalist, killed in the Siege Of Manchester, was brought to Didsbury on 28th September 1642, for a burial conducted by a schoolmaster called Mr. Turner.


Thomas Birch was a staunch Parliamentarian from Didsbury. He helped to capture Preston, and Lancaster. He took charge of Manchester’s Collegiate Church after the siege in the town. His men did considerable damage to the stained glass windows and pews there.


Birch was a magistrate in the trial of The Earl Of Derby. He was in charge of Sequestration activities in Manchester following the end of the First Civil War in 1646. On Cromwell’s behalf he took The Isle Of Man. He also arrested the Countess Of Derby and her family


After Charles 2cd was defeated at Worcester by Cromwell’s forces, the Scots Army who had marched for the new King retreated tired, cold, hungry, and in many cases, wounded, through North West England on their increasingly desperate journey home. They found themselves picked off by Parliament supporters at every turn. Some were attacked mercilessly as they tried to march through Didsbury, and it said that some of the Scottish dead are buried on what is now the main golf course in Didsbury. There are rumours that Charles 2cd himself narrowly avoided being shot in this rout, but such claims are unfounded. He certainly did not try to escape through Lancashire.



            Many soldiers from here took part in Parliament’s defence of Manchester. Lord Duckinfield had led the attack on Wythenshawe Hall. The main claim to fame for the town in the Civil War period is that it was an early preaching point for George Fox, the founder of the Quakers (The Religious Society Of Friends). Fox gained converts in Duckinfield in 1647. He wrote in his journal:

          Passing on, I went among the professors of Duckinfield and Manchester, where I stayed a while and declared truth among them. There were some convinced, who received the Lord’s teaching, by which they were confirmed and stood in the truth…. The professors were in a rage, but the Lord’s power was over all.”  (Fox p.11)


The Friends Centenary booklet declares that this is the earliest record of Fox successfully gaining converts. (Pp. 7 –8).

Fox had no set organised church at that time. The Quakers were not named as such until 1950 (Due to the way they would tremble and quake as the spirit of the Lord took them). They were in frequent trouble with the authorities because they refused to take oaths, which Puritans were keen to enforce. Quakers also disobeyed the hateful post Restoration Conventicle Acts of 1664 and 1670, which forbade any unauthorised gathering for worship for more than four people. The only church practices allowed were those of the Protestant faith. Fox returned to Manchester in the 1650’s to find an angry reception. Stones, and water were thrown at him, and he was soon arrested. He impressed the town magistrates when he criticised Manchester for its drunkenness and debauchery. They released him.

Fox did not establish a fixed Quaker community in Manchester or Duckenfield. That task fell to Thomas Briggs, a convert from Bolton-Le-Sands, near Morecambe. He established a Quaker community on Jackson’s Row, near Deansgate. They met illegally in each other’s houses. In 1673, they bought some land on Jackson’s Row to use as a cemetery, but they also established the first Manchester Friends’ Church on the plot. The Quakers were fully accepted in Manchester in 1830 with the opening of the Mount Street Friends’ Meeting House, which is still in use today.


Failsworth men were predominantly puritan. They fully supported Parliament. When the national Protestation petition (calling for an oath of allegiance to the anti-Papist faith) was circulated in Failsworth, on the 28th February 1642, Humphrey Barnet, the minister for Newton Chapel not only signed it himself, but openly encouraged his congregations and parishioners to sign it too.  Failsworth men proudly marched to the defence of Manchester during the siege.

            In 1644, Fairfax bought four packhorses from Failsworth at 6d each, to carry his supplies for the Nantwich campaign.


After the Manchester siege, Royalists still moved as close to the town as they dared. They had to pass through the region repeatedly in moving men from the North to the South as they were needed for different stages in the war. During such movements, a Cavalier division was almost ambushed near Atherton, between Leigh and Bolton on November 27th 1642. Many of the townsmen, famous for their production of nails, joined in for Parliament with homemade swords and battle-axes. Lord Derby’s forces fled but up to two hundred were captured by men drawn from Manchester as re-enforcements. This was the Battle of Chowbent. Rosworm fully liberated Atherton and Leigh n December 24th 1642.


            North Manchester town where Parliamentarian Major General, Sir Ralph Assheton was born and later, buried. He lies at rest in the grounds of St. Leonard’s Church). Unusually, his tomb is made in Brass, which is highly unusual for Parliament was in a habit of destroying such over-decorous monuments as idolatrous symbols of royalist Catholic interests. He had helped to protect the powder supplies in Manchester during Lord Strange’s visit, and had been presented with a brass cannon with which to protect Middleton Hall for his services.  The church has a number of connections to the Assheton family ornate windows depict the archers who served under the Assheton banner at the battle of Flodden.


            On Monday November 22cd 1643, on route to take part in the Siege at Wythenshawe Hall, ‘Manchester Men’ Roundheads led by Colonel Robert Duckenfield marched through the nearby villages Didsbury and Northenden. They attacked Northenden’s parish church of St. Wilfred’s. The minister, Mr. Thomas Mallory, an ardent Royalist, was a good friend of the Tattons of Wythenshawe (Who worshipped at St. Wilfred’s). Windows, pews, fonts, and more, were damaged in the rampage. Mallory himself fled, initially to The Tatton Arms, just across the road from the magnificent church, which still stands today.

Many of the Tattons and their friends are buried in the churchyard at St. Wilfred’s, as is Sir Robert Radcliffe who died duelling in 1686.


            The immediate post-war years had given rise to a number of radical independent church bodies, such as the Duckinfield Quakers mentioned above. A related group, and possibly a splinter sect from the Quakers, was Oldham Greengate Congregational church founded by The Reverent Robert Constantine in 1647.  His refusal to take an oath of Loyalty to Cromwell’s Commonwealth in 1650, and Sir Ralph Assheton forced him to leave the community. He returned freely in 1654.

Constantine’s troubles were far from over. In 1662, Charles 2cd ordered all clergymen to make use of the new Prayer Book. Constantine refused, and again, he was stripped of his ministry and forced into exile, this time in Salford. Charles relaxed the laws in the Act Of Indulgence of 1672.  Constantine was free to preach once more, in Oldham Heyside.


Rupert captured Stockport on the 25th May 1644, but quickly lost interest in it when he marched on Bolton. While at Stockport, Rupert made approaches to Johan Rosworm, hoping to gain his support for the Royalist cause. He failed to impress the man.

Peter Davenport owned Stockport’s Bramhall Hall during the Civil War Years. He insisted on maintaining neutrality throughout the conflict, and wished only to be ‘left quiet’. Parliament fined him £750 for his non-involvement. He would complain bitterly when Parliamentarian troops requisitioned his horses for their cavalry.

John Bradshaw (the regicide) was baptised in Stockport Church on 10th December 1602.  The entry about this in the church register has been grafitied with the word ‘traitor’.  In his will, Bradshaw had left £10 to the blind poet, John Milton (himself an ardent admirer of Cromwell).

Henry Bradshaw was at Lord Derby’s trial, and one of the few there to argue for leniency in the sentencing. He was over-ruled.


            The town was strong in its support for the Protestation, with 129 members of the village signing the Protestation petition.



 Sir Cecil Trafford, an ardent Royalist and Catholic, described as ‘an arch papist’, was arrested by Parliamentary forces in December 1642.


1,000 riders from Derby’s Cavalry captured parliamentarian Colonels, Bradshaw and Venebles in December 1642 on the Westmoreland moors. The Parliamentary forces were hopelessly outnumbered.


            The town declared for Charles from the outset of conflict, but it fell to Sir Ralph Assheton in spring 1643. It would not see direct military action again until the Second Civil war battle of 1648 when Cromwell came to the town on the 18th August to intercept the Scots who were marching South under Lord Middleton, who had splintered away from Hamilton’s main forces who were now at Preston. Cromwell devastated Middleton’s men and rode north through the town to intercept Hamilton’s forces at Preston in one of the most brutal battles the region ever saw.

In 1651, the Scots led by Charles 2cd in the Third Civil War, marched relatively unopposed through Wigan. Lord Derby’s men, trying to unite with them, were however, captured on the 25th August, and by Parliamentarians led by Robert Lillburne. The Royalists were besieged and fought at close quarter with appalling casualties. Sir Thomas Tyldesley was killed in the battle. Lord Derby himself was wounded, and later captured and sent for his infamous trial and execution in Bolton.


Prince Rupert and Lord Derby maintained a fixed camp of their forces in the Lancashire and Cheshire borderlands. It was as close to the Puritan stronghold as they dared. They gained support from Wythenshawe Hall though they seldom visited the Hall themselves.

Robert Tatton, who owned the Hall, had helped recruit many of the men Derby had marched against the Manchester garrison. He knew that he was in danger from reprisal attacks. He began fortifying Wythenshawe hall almost immediately on receiving news of the Royalist retreat from Manchester. Robert’s wife, Anne was also in a difficult position, as of all of her family, she alone proved to be staunchly Royalist. Her sister, Katherine, was married into the Assheton family.

Neighbors and friends from Wythenshawe, Northenden and Etchells villages’ cam to assist in fortifying the house, and many would take part in the siege to come. Others came from Baguely, Stockport, & Altringham to offer their services, which shows how much respect the Tattons had in the South The Hall had been built with a moat surrounding it, but this had been clogged with leaves and debris which now needed clearing out.

The Parliamentarians made several abortive efforts to drive the Royalists out. The defenders, mostly household servants, and local friends, rather than trained soldiers, held off a continuous assault over three months. Some of the defenders used bow and arrow. One defender, Thomas Gerrard, of Timperley, who brought food to the house during the siege, shot himself in the thigh with a pistol, showing how dangerous it was to have inexperienced amateur soldiers crammed into a relatively small building. One lady, Eleanor Legh. Was heavily pregnant throughout the siege.   

The extreme winter conditions favored the people besieged. The Parliamentarians were out in the open field fully exposed to the elements while those in the house had some shelter and possibly fires to give them warmth. In milder conditions, the muskets   fired at the house would have had dry powder, and the dry timber frame of the house would have been easily damaged and breached.

Many of the Parliamentary troops were inexperienced, and the best of them were drawn away to take part in the battle at Nantwich. For most of the siege, Parliament had one hundred men to spare against a well-fortified, moated house prepared and stocked up on food and arms for a long siege battle.

In one dramatic attack, Roundheads got into the kitchens and killed six defenders before being driven back outside. It is estimated that at the height of the siege there were fifty-two people stationed at Wythenshawe Hall, including twenty-five domestic household servants. Sixteen were freeholders such as Richard Grantham of Davenport Hall, in Hale, who brought along his twelve year old son, Robert.  Their kinsman, Richard Grantham, also of Davenport Hall, was a soldier in the Parliament army. 

The Royalists asked for a truce in which to recover their dead for a decent Christian burial, but the attackers would not relent for any such cause. The fallen were therefore buried in unconsecrated ground close to the house, at considerable risk for their gravediggers.  During one of the many attacks on the house, a certain Captain Adams was killed by musket fire by a servant girl who had noticed that he was standing in her line of fire. The story comes in several versions. The serving girl was called Mary Webb. In some versions of her action, she is merely an opportunist who saw the gun and realized that one of the Roundheads was in her line of fire. It is believed that he may even have been killed on the last day, and possibly even after Tatton had agreed to surrender. In other tellings, Mary was purposely, avenging the death of her lover at the hands of this Roundhead, Captain Adams, earlier in the siege. Her action was therefore an act of war, or a brutal vengeful murder of a man who may not have been armed when she shot him. His ghost is said to haunt the property to this day, though others say that it is the ghost of Mary herself, lamenting her lost love and dammed forever for her murderous act of vengeance.

It was the arrival of Thomas Fairfax and a division of. Manchester Men’ on the 25th February 1644 that finally succeeded in storming the main Wythenshawe Hall house. Two cannon were trained on the house with threats being made to raise the property to the ground. The defenders had virtually no protection against such firepower. They quickly capitulated. They were virtually out of food, water and ammunition anyway. Even without the cannons being brought along, the house may not have held out much longer. But Sir Robert Tatton escaped, to join the King in the disastrous battle for Chester, and later reunited with Charles at Oxford.

There was a final act of violence when Dukinfield’s men snatched three horses from Tatton’s stables for the use of the army, and some of the defenders made an abortive attempt to prevent them being taken.

In 1646 Sir Robert Tatton was forced to buy back the house for £707 15s 4d from the London based Committee For Confiscations And Delinquencies. Charles 2cd presented him with a lavish silver snuffbox for his services after the Restoration.

The Quakers, and their founder George Fox himself, visited and passed through Wythenshawe several times in the 1650’s, gaining some converts.

The Hall make a rather over-simplified case of stating that Wythenshawe was attacked by ‘Cromwell’s Men’ though Cromwell was not then of the rank and power that he would develop as Marston Moor loomed in 1644. It was Fairfax’s forces that over-ran the house, and Colonel Robert Duckinfield led them. 


Cheshire property owned by John Bradshaw, who was a leading regicide, as the lawyer who presided over the trial of The King. And having signed the King’s Death warrant. Though Bradshaw died in 1659, his body, like Cromwell’s, was exhumed, tried, executed and destroyed, when the monarchy was restored.



            I am a re-enactor in the Sealed Knot and though Mancunian, I am actually in the Midland Association and Sir Philip Skippons regiment of the New Model Army. This often leads to the question of why I didn’t join the Knot’s Manchester’s Regimente. The simple answer is that I met the Scots first. Many of the O’Cahans Regimente lives in Manchester, as well as in Scotland, Ireland, and throughout the UK. Manchesters Regimente is a truly fine Foote regimente in their own right, good sports and great drinking buddies to The Scots and the many other regimentes in the Knot. Historically speaking, their actual civil war period founder, Edward Montague, the second Earl Of Manchester, a status he inherited in 1626, actually had little if any direct contact with the town. He mainly took charge of The Eastern Associations, in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, etc. He is perhaps best known for his contempt for Cromwell, and Manchester was happily able to use the Self Denying Ordinance ruling, with which Cromwell laid off many of his opponents, to get out of the war from 1644 onwards.  He was a fierce opponent of the execution of the King, and one of the few leading Parliamentarians to be later welcomed into the post-restoration governments serving Charles 2cd. He died peacefully in 1671.

            The Sealed Knot also has regiments for Lord Derby and Lord Molyneux.

                                                THE CIVIL WAR IN MANCHESTER TODAY

            The city commemorates the Civil War history in many ways. The Deansgate plaque is just one memorial.

A more controversial one is the Bronze on granite statue of Oliver Cromwell, made by Matthew Noble and first unveiled on 1st December 1875. And now located in Wythenshawe Park, looking towards the nearby Hall. . 

Elizabeth Salisbury Heywood, whose family had been involved in the Civil War on the Parliament side, bequeathed it to the city.

Until the 1980’s it stood on the corner of Cateaton Street and Deansgate, close to the Cathedral. Deansgate’s role in the Siege Of Manchester influenced the decision to put the statue there, though of course Cromwell was not involved in the siege in any way. It cost £1,600 to produce. It was never popular. Many Royalists saw it as a Parliamentary statement of contempt against Queen Victoria. She had herself refused to personally open the then new Manchester Town Hall unless the statue was removed. Its own Lord Mayor therefore opened the Town Hall instead.  The statue is still regarded by many as an insult to the many migrant settlers to Manchester, especially the large Irish population, given the massacres Cromwell perpetrated in Drogheda and Wexford during his brutal occupation of Ireland in 1650.  It has its supporters. Members of the Jewish communities still sometimes lay flowers at its base, as Cromwell had been supportive and influential of the wishes of the Jews to be allowed back into England. They had been driven to exile by the Normans and only returned towards the end of the Protectorate.

The reason for moving Cromwell was simply pragmatic. He was proving to be a traffic hazard, as the road had to veer around the statue and slowed the cars down. The Hall seems a more fitting location for Cromwell’s statue, as it had been a billeting camp for Parliamentary troops from its capture and onwards throughout hostilities; the statue is now in a very sorry state. Its sword. (Visible in pictures from its days on Deansgate) has been broken off and stolen, and the Lord Protector has no protection from graffiti spray and bird droppings.

Victorian Pre-Raphaelite artist Ford Maddox-Brown, created a large mural tapestry to commemorate the siege, creating a spectacular, if rather over-dramatic romanticized vision of the events. It is one of a set of tapestries that now adorn Manchester Town Hall’s main banqueting room. See my  (ENGLISH) CIVIL WAR ART IN MANCHESTER  pages.

A common mistake, one made even by Ford Maddox-Brown, is the assumption that Robert Bradshaw was the regicide that took part in the trial of King Charles 1st and signed the death warrant. In fact, that was John Bradshaw, a relative of Robert’s, who would be dug out of his grave and hung for his part in the execution, on the orders of Charles 2cd.  The same fate befell the bodies of Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton.  John Bradshaw was a Manchester Man though, having been born in Stockport.

Bolton.  - An excellent novel, by Allen Clarke, John o’ God’s sending, (AKA The Lass At The Man And Scythe) came out in 1887-89. A play based on the book and events was staged in Bolton in 1989.  The Old Man And Scythe Pub still takes great pride in its part in the Civil Wart. A plaque on the wall, (repeated inside the pub) declares; “In this ancient hostelry James Stanley, 7th Earl Of Derby, passed his last few hours previous to his execution on Wednesday 15th October 1651.” The execution is re-enacted at and around the pub every October 15th. Inside the bar, a number of pictures depict aspects of Derby’s fate. They even have the chair that he sat on as he awaited his end. The chair is now locked in a display cabinet. It was not always so, and people drinking at the bar have done some damage to the chair over the years. One act of vandalism committed upon it was apparently during a drinking session by members of The Who rock band who were performing in Bolton in 1965. The pub has a delightful museum room dedicated to the history associated with the bar. It even has a picture of the skull of Derby’s executioner on the wall.  Staff at the bar is happy to give visitors a full-guided tour, though pre-booked appointments may be needed if they are busy.

In Middleton, there is a pub named after Sir Ralph Assheton, and like many towns, Manchester has its share of Royal Oak bars (named after the Oak Tree in which Charles 2cd hid after his defeat at Worcester in 1651.

            The great houses at Wythenshawe, Ordsall, etc, often still stand, and are open to visitors. The place names of Manchester also attest to the families who fought in the battles; Radcliffe, Ashton, etc.


Aspin, Chris – THE MAKING OF MANCHESTER 1999. Manchester Evening News Publications.


Axon, William E. A. – THE ANNALS OF MANCHESTER 1886. John Heywood Ltd. Of Manchester.

Bailey, John E – OLD STRETFORD – A LECTURE. 1878 T.J Day Of Manchester.


Ball, Dennis – THE STORY OF FAILSWORTH 1973. Failsworth Urban District Council.


Barrett, John  – THE SIEGE OF MANCHESTER –1642 Stuart Press.

Bateson, Hartley – A HISTORY OF OLDHAM 1949. Oldham County Borough Council.

Beever, John – A HISTORY OF OLDHAM CHURCHES 1996. Neil Richardson Publications.

Blackwood, B. G. – THE LANCASHIRE GENTRY AND THE GREAT REBELLION. 1640-1660. 1978 Chetham Society. 

Bowman, Winifred M – ASHTON UNDER LYNE 1642 (1960) Sherrat & Hughes.

Boyflower, Andrew – PERSONAL REMINISCENCES OF MANCHESTER CATHEDRAL 1916 Manchester Faith Press.

British Association, The – MANCHESTER AND ITS REGIONS. 1962. Manchester University Press.

Broxap, E – THE GREAT CIVIL WAR IN MANCHESTER 1973 Manchester University Press.

Brumhead, Derek, and Wyke, Terry – A WALK ROUND MANCHESTER STATUES 1990 Walkround Books.

Bruton, F. A. – A SHORT HISTORY OF MANCHESTER AND SALFORD 1924 Sherratt & Hughes Press.

Bull, Stephen – THE CIVIL WAR IN LANCASHIRE – 1991 Lancaster County Museums Press.

Clark, Allen  – JOHN OF GOD’S SENDING (Or The Lass At The Man And Scythe) 1887-1889.

Palatine Books Of Blackpool. 1987 edition.

Coward, Barry - THE STANLEYS, LORDS STANLEY AND EARLS OF DERBY (1385-1672) 1983 Manchester University Press.

Cross Street Chapel, Manchester – TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS 1672-1922 (1922) Sherratt And Hughes.


Espinasse, Francis LANCASHIRE WORTHIES 1874 Simkin Marshall.

Fletcher, Mike – THE MAKING OF MANCHESTER – 2003. Warncliffe Books.

Forster, Greg – ST. WILFRED’S CHURCH – NORTHENDON Parish History. 2004.  Church Pamphlet.

Fox, George – THE JOURNAL OF GEORGE FOX 1694 – 1924 Everyman Edition.

France, E. & Woodall, T. F. – A NEW HISTOEY OF DIDSBURY 1976. E. J. Morton Ltd.

Gaunt, Peter – THE CROMWELLIAN GAZETEER 1987 Wren’s Park Ltd.


Guscott, S. J. – HUMPHREY CHETHAM 1580=1653. 2003 Booth & Walton Of Manchester.

Halley DD, Robert – LANCASHIRE, ITS PURITANISM AND NONCONFORMITY 1872. Tubbs & Brooks Of Manchester.

Hampson, Charles P – SALFORD THROUGH THE AGES 1950. J. J. Morton Ltd.

Harland, John & Wilkinson, T. T. – LANCASHIRE LEGENDS 1873 George Routledge Press.

Hilton, J. A. CATHOLIC LANCASHIRE. (1994) The Phil more  Press.

Howson-Ray, John – A GUIDE TO MANCHESTER July 1902. The British Medical Association.

Lawson, Michael, - CHADDERTON CHAPTERS 1972. Chadderton Urban District Council.


Manchester County Council Education Dept. – HISTORY IN MANCHESTER – THE SIEGE OF MANCHESTER. Also – SIEGE OF MANCHESTER A to G Documents & illustrations to Accompany HISTORY IN MANCHESTER.

Martindale, ADAM – THE LIFE OF ADAM MARTINDALE  c.1680 manuscript – 1968 edition – The Chetham Society.

Newman, Peter R – COMPANION TO THE ENGLISH CIVIL WARS 1990 Facts On File. .


MANCHESTER FRIENDS MEETING HOUSE CENTENARY 1830-1930 The Mount Street Centenary Company.

Palmer, William – THE RIVER MERSEY 1944. Robert Hale Ltd. Of London.

Portland, Peter – AROUND HAUNTED MANCHESTER 1989 AMCD Publishers. Ltd.

Punshon, John – PORTRAIT IN GREY – A SHORT HISTORY OF THE QUAKERS. 1984 Quaker Home Service.

Riley, Peter – A HISTORY OF ALTRINGHAM AND BOWDEN 1983. Prism Books.

Riley, Peter – WYTHENSHAWE HALL AND THE TATTON FAMILY – 1987 P & D Riley Publications.

Saintsbury, George – MANCHESTER 1897 Longman, Green & Co. Ltd.


Sterling, Jane – THE CIVIL WAR IN LANCASHIRE 1971 Dalesman Publishing Co.

Thomson, W. H. – HISTORY OF MANCHESTER TO 1852. 1966 John Sherratt & Son.

Wedgewood, C. V. THE KING’S WAR 1641-1647.  1958 Penguin Books.

Wyke, Terry -& Cocks, Harry – PUBLIC SCULPTURE OF GREATER MANCHESTER 2004 Liverpool University Press.

                                    INTERNET RESOURCES. Article on the life of Sir Ralph Assheton. The Middleton brass of Sir Ralph Assheton. Biography of Lord Derby. My review on the Life Of Adam Martindale. Website of Molyneux’s Regimente in the Sealed Knot. Manchester history pages. - The Manchester statue of Cromwell controversy. The Radcliffes of Ordsall Hall.

THE SEALED KNOT If you wish to learn more about the Civil Wars in your region, the Sealed Knot is your best starting point, and of course, you are more than welcome to join as a re-enactor yourself.


I am indebted for the support of many Sealed Knot Re-enactors for their advice and feedback on this project, especially Mark Scoular, my Sear gent in Manus O’Cahan’s Regimente Of Foote.

            The staffs of Wythenshawe Hall was co-operative in giving me free copies of their deleted stock publications, which proved to be very useful, as did work studied in the library of the Friends’ Meeting House in Mount Street, Manchester.

© Copyright. Arthur Chappell