Battle of Hopton Heath

The Battle of Hopton Heath, in Staffordshire, was a battle of the First English Civil War, fought on Sunday 19 March 1643 between Parliamentarian forces led by Sir John Gell, 1st Baronet and Sir William Brereton and a Royalist force under Spencer Compton, 2nd Earl of Northampton. The battle ended at nightfall, with the victory remaining a matter of opinion: that the Parliamentarian foot were still in position at nightfall when, as the Royalists themselves admitted, they drew back a little; or that next morning the Royalists occupied the field after the Parliamentarians retreated in the night. The Royalists had captured eight guns, but the Parliamentarians considered their killing of the enemy commander, the Earl of Northampton, of equal significance.

Battle of Hopton Heath
Part of the First English Civil War

The Battle of Hopton Heath, engraved by J. T. Willmore after George Cattermole
Date19 March 1643
Result Both sides claimed victory
Royalists Parliamentarians
Commanders and leaders
Spencer Compton, 2nd Earl of Northampton  

Sir John Gell, 1st Baronet,

Sir William Brereton, 1st Baronet
1,100 cavalry,
100 infantry,
15 pieces of artillery


Gell had successfully taken the town of Lichfield in Staffordshire and was on his way with about 1,500 men and some artillery pieces to join Brereton in a projected attack on the town of Stafford.


They met at Hopton Heath and were attacked there by the Royalists, whose force consisted of about 1,100 cavalry, 100 foot and artillery, including a large artillery piece called Roaring Meg - which must not be confused with the siege mortar "Roaring Meg" which was cast in 1646 for the siege of Goodrich Castle.

After an artillery barrage the Royalist cavalry charged the entrenched Parliamentarians, putting Gell's dragoons and his and Brereton's horse to flight. A second charge was repelled by Gell's musketeers and Northampton was unhorsed. He refused to surrender and was killed.

Nighttime withdrawals

During the night the Royalists retired towards Stafford to regroup, and the Parliamentarian troops withdrew towards Chartley, leaving a large part of Gell's artillery in Royalist hands. Brereton withdrew to Nantwich while Gell marched through Uttoxeter to Derby, taking Northampton's body with him. He attempted to ransom the Earl's body for the return of the captured artillery pieces, without success. The Royalists further refused a request to refund Gell for the cost of embalming their leader's body, which was then buried at All Hallows Church in Derby.


  • Plant, David. Hopton Heath, Staffordshire, 19 March 1643, on The British Civil Wars & Commonwealth website
  • Martyn Bennett, Spencer Compton, second earl of Northampton, Oxford DNB, 2004
  • English Heritage Battlefield Report: Hopton Heath 1643

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