Battle of Heptonstall

The Battle of Heptonstall was a battle that happened in November 1643 in Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall, West Yorkshire during the First English Civil War. An army of 800 Royalists under the command of Sir Francis Mackworth attacked the Parliamentarian-held village of Heptonstall, which was located atop a steep hill. The defence, led by Colonel Bradshaw, was able to fend off the attack with well-placed defensive works, and captured several of the enemy.


By August 1643, the First English Civil War had been going on for a year. The north of England was predominantly under Royalist control after significant victories at the battles of Seacroft Moor and Adwalton Moor. However, they were embedded in a siege of Hull which they finally lifted in October without success, and were also defeated at Winceby in Lincolnshire, letting the Parliamentarians re-establish their presence in the north.[1]


The village of Heptonstall in Yorkshire (now West Yorkshire), 6.6 miles (10.6 km) west-northwest of Halifax, was held by a Parliamentarian force of around 800 men. It was situated atop a steep hill above Hebden Bridge. A Royalist army out of Halifax, numbering about the same, set out to attack the village under the command of Sir Francis Mackworth. It assembled at Hebden Bridge, a humpback bridge over the River Hebden, which at the time was a swollen torrent after heavy rain.[2]

Inside the village, the Parliamentarian garrison was led by Colonel Bradshaw, who knew the local terrain, and had set a number of traps which could be triggered if they came under attack. Using the advantage of the hill, he had placed several boulders above the winding track which led from the bridge up to the village. When lookouts posted in the church tower in Heptonstall saw the Royalists slowing climbing the 500-foot (150 m) hill, the rocks were released, and a volley of muskets fired. The attackers were routed: men were knocked over off the ridged path, trampled by panicked horses and drowned in the violent river. Most of the remaining Royalists retreated, chased by the garrisoned army and "villagers armed with halberds and pitch-forks".[2] The Parliamentarians chased the Royalists as far as Luddenden,[3] roughly 3 miles (4.8 km) away, and succeeded in capturing some of the attackers, initially locking them in the church, before moving them to Rochdale.[2]


At some point in the subsequent two months, the Parliamentarian garrison evacuated the village, moving to Burnley and Colne, and as a result when Mackworth returned in January 1644, he was able to capture the village with no resistance.[2]


  1. Cooke 2004, pp. 52,93,96.
  2. Wallace 2013, p. 33.
  3. "History". Hebden Bridge Business Association. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012.


  • Cooke, David (2004). The Civil War in Yorkshire: Fairfax Versus Newcastle. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military. ISBN 1-84415-076-3.
  • Wallace, David C. (2013). Twenty two turbulent years 1639–1661. Peterborough: Fastprint Publishing. ISBN 978-178035-660-0.
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