Battle of Aylesbury

The Battle of Aylesbury was an engagement which took place on 1 November 1642, when Royalist forces, under the command of Prince Rupert, fought Aylesbury's Parliamentarian garrison at Holman's Bridge a few miles to the north of Aylesbury town. The Parliamentarian forces were victorious, despite being heavily outnumbered.

Battle of Aylesbury
Part of the First English Civil War

Plaque commemorating the battle
Date1 November 1642
Location
Result Parliamentarian victory
Belligerents
Royalists Parliamentarians
Commanders and leaders
Prince Rupert Sir William Balfour
Strength
2,000[1] 1,500[1]
Casualties and losses
500 killed[1] 90 killed[1]

Background

Prince Rupert took possession of Aylesbury with a force of several thousand infantry and cavalry but subsequently received intelligence of the impending arrival of a brigade of Parliament's troops from Stony Stratford.[2]

The battle

Prince Rupert marched out with most of his force to confront the enemy at a site a few miles north of the town. He arrived at a ford and encountered a unit of 1,500 Parliamentarian troops under Sir William Balfour on the opposite bank.[1] Prince Rupert, supported by Sir Lewis Dyve in reserve, charged across the ford and engaged the enemy.[2] However Prince Rupert was driven back across the stream and was forced to retreat towards Thame.[2] Some 500 of Prince Rupert's men fell and over 90 of the Parliamentarian forces died.[1]

Legacy

In 1818, remains were discovered in a field at Holman's Bridge (near the old ford), outside Aylesbury, by labourers digging pits for gravel, which were believed to belong to the fatalities from the battle. Many appeared, from the way they were laid, to have been graves of officers.[3] They were buried in a common grave in St Mary's churchyard in Hardwick.[4]

Controversy

There have been mixed claims surrounding the scale and even the existence of the battle largely due to the alleged lack of archaeological evidence. It has also been claimed that its existence is a piece of parliamentary propaganda and that the bodies found in 1818 were far earlier, potentially being of the Saxon era.[5] The only record of the battle was a Roundhead pamphlet entitled Good and ioyfull nevves ovt of Bvckinghamshire, the 'somewhat bombastic' account which is said to have a bias of a similar nature to other material they produced.[6][7] Monitoring of a sewage scheme by archæologist Bob Zeepvat in 1995, found no trace of the burials at Holmans Bridge.[8] Zeepvat concluded that the battle, if it actually happened, may have instead been a skirmish as opposed to a full scale battle as previously thought.[9] Furthermore, the journal of Prince Rupert's marches pinpoints him in Abingdon on the day of the battle.[10]

In 2002, the site fell under scrutiny as it was the proposed location of a new housing development. Doubts of the existence of the battle was used as ammunition for the developers and the County Council to push forward the development.[5][11] A spokesperson for Bucks County Museum at the time said: "All newspapers and leaflets at the time backed one side or another so there probably would have been a tendency to exaggerate. Something on this scale would certainly have made contemporary histories of the war. Some accounts suggest the battle took place in 1642 while others say it was 1643. There may have been two or three different engagements."[11]

References

  1. Hammond, John. "Was Cromwell present at the Battle of Aylesbury?" (PDF). Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  2. Quick, Kevin (8 November 2000). "Account of the Battle of Aylesbury by Lord Nugent". GENUKI. Archived from the original on 20 December 2006. Retrieved 20 November 2006.
  3. George Nugent-Grenville, Baron Nugent (1832). Michigan, University of (ed.). Some Memorials of John Hampden, His Party, and His Times (Volume 2) (1st ed.). John Murray. p. 325. ISBN 978-1358523953. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  4. Quick, Kevin (8 November 2000). "The Battle of Aylesbury, 1642". Genuki. Archived from the original on 4 August 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  5. Payne, Stewart (18 August 2002). "Town at war over historic battle that never was". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  6. Bickersteth, Edward (1863). "A Brief Historical Sketch of Aylesbury". Records of Buckinghamshire (Or, Papers and Notes on the History, Antiquities and Architecture of the County of Buckingham). Aylesbury: Buckinghamshire Archæological Society. 2: 260. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  7. "Extracts from ORIGINS" (PDF). Origins. Buckinghamshire Family History Society. 10 (3): 6. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  8. "Buckinghamshire - Weedon, near Aylesbury (SP 8115)" (PDF). South Midlands Archaeology. Council for British Archaeology, South Midlands Group. 25. 1995. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  9. "Historian claims Battle of Aylesbury is a myth". Bucks Herald. 1 June 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  10. Unknown (1898). "Prince Ruperts Journall, in England: From September 5. 1642 to Julye 4. 1646" (PDF). The English Historical Review. XIII (LII): 729–741. doi:10.1093/ehr/XIII.LII.730. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  11. "Was There Really a Battle of Aylesbury?". Bucks Herald. 21 August 2002. Retrieved 21 October 2018.

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