Did you know that, arguably, one of the most important battles ever fought on English soil happened in the area of Red Bank?
A ferocious battle between King Charles I Cavaliers and Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads.
A battle that effected all our lives and still has that effect even today.
What exists today are only tranquil fields and local roads and no real recognition given to the importance of the battle on that day. A battle that led to an event that had never happened before or since, the execution of the Head of State, King Charles I. The consequence of this gave the power to Parliament to govern the country, a power that has been in existence since and exists to this day as the system of government of the United Kingdom.
Imagine – its August 1648
The English troops, loyal to the King, had been routed earlier in a battle in Preston. The King’s Scottish Troops, led by the Duke of Hamilton, were heading south to regroup with forces in Wales and surrounding counties.
On 18th August, passing along Mill Lane, in the then Newton In Makerfield, the Scottish commanders noted the advantageous high ground at Red Bank which they believed would make it possible for them to make a stand against Cromwell’s pursuing army.
The Scottish force of around 4000 foot and 2000 horse crossed the flooded Newton Brook during the night and, joined by more troops escaping from the chasing army, they made their plans to defend the high ground on the south side of the brook.
Dawn broke on 19th August to see a battle ready Roundhead army facing them on the opposite high ground. The Roundheads were soon joined by Oliver Cromwell’s forces, straight from their victory at Preston.
As the morning passed the Parliamentary army of 5,000 horse and foot crossed the brook, joined soon after by a further 600 foot soldiers who appeared from High Street before marching along Mill Lane.
Later that day having heard the sounds of battle and later then after the Parliamentary messengers had rode into town calling the news of Parliamentarian victory the villagers of Newton and Winwick slowly made their way to witness the scene. It was one of carnage dead and injured soldiers in and around Newton Park, the Manor of Hey, Cop Holt Wood, Hermitage Green Valley and either side of the post road. A token body of Parliamentary soldiers guarded Scottish prisoners at Red Bank and many between one and two thousand were held in Winwick Church.
In that ferocious battle on both sides up to 1600 men lost their lives and 2000 captured and many injured.
The Battle of Winwick Pass was the last serious stand of the Royalist forces who were then a broken force General Baillie retreated to Warrington Bridge where he surrendered. The Duke of Hamilton and the remaining Scottish Horse dispersed but was later captured at Uttoxeter on the 25th August.
We believe it is a missed opportunity not to have some form of memorial to such a momentous event.
Our Local Voice believes the battle deserves recognition for a number of reasons.
Of course the first must be surely it is right that there is some form of local recognition for the huge number of men who lost their lives and the scale of the conflict .
It is also surely right that we recognise something of national significance.
But there is a third reason, this an opportunity to enhance our local communities for the people today and the generations to come, to remind us of our history.
Our Local Voice has spent some time on these questions. Some of our members are members of the Battlefield Trust and have noted other similar locations in the United Kingdom where there has been such recognition.
We show an example of one such initiative in Brentford, which you can see in link at the end of this feature, where essentially there has been an enhancement of the general area with improved cultural recognition and an addition to the local interest of the area.
As important as a memorial aspect is we have rejected this as an isolated objective. We want to do much more than create a gravestone, after all the battle was a few centuries ago. No equally what matters is the people today and our communities and heritage and marking a significant event both locally and also nationally too.
What we are suggesting is :
We envisage three vandal proof notice boards at appropriate locations and a granite monument with one of the notice boards integrated and possible inscription below.
In addition a safe walkable trail on existing roads and footpaths between Newton-le-Willows and Winwick linking the notice boards.
We are aware of smart phone or tablet technology via quick response code that enables the reading of an optical label that imparts information such as a PDF of a trail or even a narrative commentary. We are looking into this option both the technology and the challenge of long term hosting. Although we accept phone and tablet and electronic imparting of information is all the rage and will be more so in the future we also think there will always be a place for physical features such as notice boards to impart a physical community connection, hence to do both.
Inscription on monument
There are many possibilities which will have to be considered in detail.
An early suggestion is :
“The Scottish Infantry made their final stand at Winwick Pass. They were defeated by Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentary army. About 2000 Scottish were captured and 1000 to 1600 were killed. The rest ran to Warrington Bridge where they capitulated. This memorial is dedicated to those who lost their lives at Winwick Pass on the 19th August 1648. Erected by the Local Community”
But this will be subject to many rewrites !
The monument will contain one of the three notice boards either standing alongside or integrated with the design. After much internal debate we have rejected the idea of a large elaborate obelisk design or anything that’s principle objective is only of a memorial nature. The memorial is certainly very much in our thinking though as you can see from the intended inscription but we want to do more than that. You will see in other parts of the country (see link below Brentford and Turnham) it’s very community based with trails and information. To align with this our decision is to go for a design that is of a seat nature or rather a mix of monument seat nature with information both physical and electronic via a QR scan point.
Unfortunately until we initiate a formal planning application we cannot discuss precise locations but our aim is for unobtrusive designs in locations where they will be safer from vandalism and unobtrusive to residents.
A further matter to be considered is St Oswald’s Church Winwick.
You may be aware the Church is undergoing restoration of the roof and other structural renovations. The Church was very close to being made a ruin without roof however thanks to Heritage funds and Local donations the Church is to be restored. The Church played a very significant role in the Battle and fighting took place in and around the Church and following the battle served as a holding area for a huge number of Scottish prisoners of war. As part of the renovations the Church is to have a much more prominent heritage and community profile with the possibility of a Heritage centre within. Our Local Voice has had meetings with the Canon of the Church and both parties are keen to align the two initiatives creating a superb Heritage amenity for the local people of our towns. It is intended the Battle site project is separate from the church but that it is integrated with the church development so both parties will liaise with design features to create a combined entity.
So What Happens Next ?
The first phase of this project was to establish the vision, that is what we have described above.
The second phase is to let local people know what we are thinking and establish community support in principle.
Hopefully we will get some people sufficiently enthused with what they read to want to get involved themselves and help. Our Local Voice is predominantly a networking group that aims to keep people informed about what goes on in the area. Because of the nature of this proposal a small number of us will be acting as a steering group.
The third phase is to move to a specific planning application.
And the final phase is to raise the funds, our soft estimates are a figure of about £20000 for this project end to end and to bring the project to a successful conclusion.
However, our approach is not to wait until we have raised all the money and implement in one go. Where we can deliver something in the short term and it works as a standalone development, and aligns with the vision both for the Battle site and the Church, then we will do that.
Locally you may see an advertisement in two local magazines and we are also planning a stall at Winwick Carnival on the 18th July 2015 where you can come along and ask questions.
The more people support this the better chance there is of this really happening.
If you wish to express support please do so to the email address below, if you want to get involved personally then all the better, let us know through the contacts below
This website will be updated as things progress.
As our next step, we are meeting with our stonemason to discuss specific designs along our theme described above. Hopefully we will soon have some designs soon to post and also designs for notice boards.
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Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
For the full story of the Battle of Winwick pass click HERE
To see the work the community of Brentford and Turnham did click HERE