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Battle of Lansdown - 5th July 1643

a monument to Sir Bevil Grenville, CharlcombeThe battle of Lansdown was fought between the armies of Sir William Waller (Parliamentarians, 2,500 horse, 1,500 foot) and Lord Hopton (Royalists, 2,000 horse, 4,000 foot) on 5th July 1643.

By late May 1643 Waller’s army, based around Bath, was parliament’s main defence against the advance out of the South West of the royalist army under Hopton. Waller had taken a commanding position on Lansdown Hill. He sent troops forward to skirmish with the royalist cavalry detachments and finally forced the royalists to deploy and then to engage. After initial success on Tog Hill, a mile to the north, Waller’s forces were eventually forced to retreat. Hopton’s forces made direct and flanking attacks up the steep slopes of Lansdown Hill. The Royalists suffered heavy losses amongst the regiments of horse and foot in the centre, from musket and artillery fire, and Sir Bevil Grenville who commanded the Cornish pikemen was mortally wounded in hand to hand combat. However, the royalists finally gained a foothold on the edge of the escarpment. Repeated cavalry charges failed to dislodge them and Waller was finally forced to retire, as he was outflanked by attacks through the woods on either side.

Waller retreated a few hundred yards to the cover of a wall across the narrowest point of the plateau. As darkness fell, neither army would move from the cover they had found and both armies contemplated retreat. Late that night, under the cover of darkness, it was the parliamentarians who abandoned their position, silently withdrawing back to Bath, leaving burning matches on the wall to trick the royalists into thinking they still held the position. Though the royalists were left in command of the field, it had come at a high cost, with 200 – 300 killed and 600 -700 wounded. In contrast, Waller had lost only 20 killed and 60 wounded and was ready to fight another day. Hopton and the Royalist forces subsequently retreated in poor spirits to Devizes.

The site of the battle is marked by a monument to Sir Bevil Grenville, who died after the battle in Cold Ashton Rectory.

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