Thursday, 2 May 2013

Battle of Hazelhurst: Aftermath

Dragoon officer

The defeat of the Royalist army at the River Perch appeared comprehensive, Parliament's men had taken few casualties whilst the King's men had broken in their bid to force the Roundhead position. The immediate aftermath of the battle was something of a let off for the Royalists however, as their opponents failed to press the advantage and pursue the broken Cavaliers.
As the Royalist army fled the field the Parliamentarian commander and local dignitary Edward Dighurst was minded to order a general advance, and such a move would doubtless have led to yet more Royalist casualties, but it did not happen. Dighurst was dissuaded from pursing his enemies by the cautious and taciturn Scottish mercenary Alastair  Begby. Begby had masterminded the Roundhead deployment at the crossing of the Perch, specifically it was he who had managed the movement of the artillery that had lent such strength to Dighurst's position. Not a man to gamble, Begby was reluctant to send the Parliamentarian horse across the river, despite the obvious disarray of the Royalist cavalry. To a professional like Begby, it was inexplicable that the King's men had attacked such a strong position and he feared that their retreat was a ruse and that the main body of a much larger Royalist force was waiting to strike once the Roundheads had abandoned the security of their position.

Of course, no such force existed. The Royalist commander on the day, Gareth Williams, had mounted an improvised offensive in a bid to surprise the defenders of Borchester. He had failed and lost the bulk of his horse, and their brave colonel Rufus Dancy, in the attempt. Parliament's failure to pursue had allowed the infantry,and what was left tof the cavalry to escape.

As the last days of winter gave way to spring Borchester was secure. At the beginning of March a letter arrived from the Earl of Essex commending the Borsetshire Parliamentarians on holding the town. Strategically Borsetshire was important to both sides, its proximity to the Welsh marches meaning that it lay astride the King's recruiting grounds in South Wales and his base at Oxford.

Essex urged Dighurst to march on Felpersham, the Royalist base in Borsetshire, and further tighten the Roundhead grip on the county. Begby, once again urged caution. Spies in Felpersham reported that the town walls had been reinforced by earthworks and the Royalist's were plentifully supplied with food and ammunition.

There followed a few weeks of indecisive manoeuvres and skirmishes, largely carried out by the cavalry and dragoons of both sides, until Dighurst finally decided on a strategy of investment rather than close siege. Such an approach required him to secure the outlying villages of the county town, and so it was that in the first week of April 1643 a detachment of Dragoons under one Harbottle Grimstone, a plain man and Godly Protestant, clashed with a troop of cavaliers. The King's men were routed in the enclosures surrounding the village of Ashby Street and Grimstone lost no time in sending a messenger to the main body of the Parliamentary army that the settlement was open to capture.

Once again Begby counselled caution, arguing that Dighurst should wait for his artillery train before committing to an advance on Ashby. By the time the Roundheads were in sight of the village a Royalist force had marched out of Felpersham. The two armies were set to clash head on.

A map of modern Borsetshire can be accessed here:


  1. Sir, no Scotsman masterminded the Roundhead deployment at Hazelhurst. It was an English victory! Felpersham shall also be a victory for Parliament, as we trust in both God our pikes and our powder.

  2. Not so Sir! It is well known amongst those loyal to His Majesty that the rebels are using Scots traitors who ply their mercenary trade in his realm...revenge will be ours, no mercy will be shown to those who have taken Parliament's twenty pieces of silver...