The Battle of Winwick: a Time to Kill and Mourn

Another one ticked off my bucket list: The battle of Winwick. Having marched through Otley, Skipton, and Gisburn, Cromwell fought the Royalists and Scots at Preston, in August 1648. The enemy fled south, rallying again near the village of Winwick, between Warrington and Wigan. Cromwell pursued them, remarking:

The next morning the Enemy marched towards Warrington, and we at the heels of them. The Town of Wigan, a great and poor Town, and very Malignant, were plundered almost to their skins by them.

Wigan, although a royalist town and very anti-puritan, received an ounce of sympathy from the parliamentary general; this enemy army didn’t even respect its own supporters, how much less the ‘honest party’.

He goes on:

 

We could not engage the Enemy until we came within three miles of

Warrington; and there the Enemy made a stand, at a place near Winwick. We

held them in some dispute till our Army came up; they maintaining the Pass

with resolution for many hours; ours and theirs coming to push of pike and

very close charges,-which forced us to give ground; but our men, by the

blessing of God, quickly recovered it, and charging very home upon them,

beat them from their standing; where we killed about a thousand of them, and

took, as we believe, about two thousand prisoners; and prosecuted them

home to Warrington Town;


-Cromwell’s letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons, 20th August 1648 

 

The battlefield, north of the church

Red Bank, where the Scots’ line stood 

It’s believed that Winwick Church, a large building to the battlefield’s south, was used as a temporary prison to house the captured royalists. Such a pretty place with such a horrid history: a town plundered by its own side. A church become a prison. Thousands slaughtered. Local field names record some of the place’s bloody horror: ‘Scotch fields’ and ‘butch crow’. Cromwell’s postscript also reveals the prisoners' desperation:

 

I humbly crave that some course

may be taken to dispose of the Prisoners. The trouble, and extreme charge of

the Country where they lie, is more than the danger of their escape. I think

they would not go home if they might, without a convoy; they are so fearful of

the Country, from whom they have deserved so ill. Ten men will keep a

thousand from running away.

Lancashire had become so impoverished by the war, it could scarcely feed itself without having to feed thousands of captured Scots. Such was the Lancastrian anger against the invader, returning Scottish prisoners would not leave their prison camps without an armed guard. 

Colonel Sanderson, an eye witness, records that all the highways, corn fields, meadows, woods and ditches were strewn with the dead all the way from Wigan to Warrington.

Ecclesiates chapter 3:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

The site of the initial Parliamentary cavalry before they galloped south to engage the Scot