Just after dawn the army lieutenant general stared hard at the small hill about a mile to the south west where the enemy encampment lay. Wisps of smoke from the distant camp fires lazily spiralled into the damp air.
That morning dawn was slow to break, almost as if it was not wanting to do so. Weeks of rain and inclement weather had rendered the ground wet and sodden but slowly the dank light brought the day to life.
Weeks of hard fighting and a one hundred and twenty mile fast march from Carlisle the men were weary and the decisive outcome was close.
Inevitably in that moment the generals thoughts turned to his own mortality, every man on those fields had those same thoughts.
Over 1600 lives would be lost on the undulating heathland land between the villages of Newton-in Makerfield and Winwick on the 19th August 1648.
Tucked just off Mill Lane on the A49 in Newton-le-willows lies a series of derelict buildings off a small un-adopted lane to the east and within these old buildings is one called the Barn and the ruins of Newton Park Hall.
It’s hard to overstate the full significance of one of these buildings and its influence on English history. It would be no exaggeration to say modern Britain, its governance, its constitution and its monarchy was formed in this very spot and in these buildings in particular what is known today as Newton Park Barn.
There is no documented evidence Lieutenant-General Oliver Cromwell headquartered in Newton Park Barn (given the poor written records in late medieval England) however the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming.
His Royalist opponent Lieutenant-General Baillie was headquartered at Cop Holt Wood, the farm to the right on the crest of the high ground on the A49 between Newton-le-willows and Winwick. Newton Park Barn (or its predecessor) the Lodge would also have been on the only high ground facing Cop Holt Wood and ideally situated militarily at around a mile distance. It would also have been the only substantial building suitable for such a military planning and organisation. Moreover it would have been close to the village of Newton and it is suggested Cromwell consulted with locals who advised of a pathway round in order that the Scots troops could be outflanked. This consequence is documented at the time as the battle turning event. Today, the same pathway round is from Newton Park eastwards towards Parkside Road, then to Golborne Road and on to the south of Hermitage Green Lane.
The probability therefore is that Newton Park Lodge the building on the site of the Barn today is where Cromwell headquartered in the decisive Battle of Winwick Pass which largely decided the English civil war and was the last battle of the second english civil war.
There is mention of the Barn in the records of the 1600,s in relation to sir Thomas Fleetwood who got into financial difficulties from a loan of £1,500 and the property of Newton Park and Barn was sequestrated.
Newton Park itself probably goes as far back as Norman times as a hunting park and Newton is mentioned twice in the doomsday book. Given the text the mention of lords and of Oswald in the doomsday text, its more than probable this site would have been the area referred to in the Doomsday entries.
Newton Parks first named owners were the Banastre family, who were the first to be granted the title of Lord of Newton, in the 12th century. The area to the east of Newton-le-Willows, including the Barn, served as a hunting manorial deer park throughout the medieval era.
The building that exists today was probably built at some time in the 1700,s on the site of the Lodge in the 1600′s at the time of the civil war. In 1981 the Merseyside Archaeological carried out a survey of the Barn and concluded It is the only late medieval building of its type in the Merseyside region.
The Barn is now a grade two listed heritage building.
So as well as being the hub of one of the most significant Battles on English history the Barn setting goes back to Norman times at the outset of the very existence of Newton-Le-Willows quite probably the most historic town in the St Helens borough and certainly of historical significance in the North West region and in terms of the civil war of national significance.
But 2014 we have a situation where these historic buildings and this location are in decay and deteriorating. The owners have, over the years, made a number of attempts at restoration with several planning applications but the local planning authority have refused the applications due to conflict with the Authorities local Planning.
In any other circumstance and quite probably in any other area of the UK this site and buildings would be considered a primary asset for its historic and local cultural value and would be exploited. Not only is this site its buildings and heritage likely to be destroyed or re-located but its significance has been under exposed to the local public. We are unclear why this has been so over the years.
The site should be preserved in location the buildings restored and the history promoted both as part of the heritage of Newton-le-willows and Winwick but also as a national historic site. To do otherwise would remove historical assets from the local area, region and nation. Re-location would result in it being nothing more than a museum artefact of what was once existed as real history.