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Edgehill


On 23 October 1642 the Royalist Army of King Charles I engaged the Roundheads at Edgehill in what was the first major battle of the English Civil War. Edgehill is often referred to as a draw, but the day belonged to Charles. There are numerous figures regarding the number of casualties, many exaggerated I fear. Each force fielded roughly 14,500-15,000 soldiers and a conservative estimate places the butcher's bill at 2000 dead and the same again wounded.

Edgehill saw a famous charge by the cavalry of Prince Rupert which routed a large part of the Parliamentarian army and the fall of the Royal Banner which was wrenched from the dying hands of Sir Edmund Verney. The banner was re-captured later that day by Captain John Smith. The ghost of Sir Edmund is said to haunt Claydon House.

It is said a ghostly replay of the battle haunted the site in the years following the war and the battlefield is said to be still haunted.

Directions:
Edgehill can be found seven miles North West of Banbury. The battlefield is on Ministry of Defence land and access is restricted.


ROADTOUR   
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Authorship
Author: 
Ian Topham

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Ian Topham
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Re: Edgehill

The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain by John Ingram (1897)

In Lord Nugent' s Memorials of John Hampden is cited, from a pamphlet of Charles the First's time, one of the most, if not the most, marvellous account of two entire armies of apparitions on record. Somewhat similar, but more distant and weakly testified to phantoms, are averred to have been seen in various times and climes, but, as Lord Nugent points out, this wonderful story is "attested upon the oath of three officers, men of honour and discretion, and of three other gentlemen of credit, selected by the King as commissioners to report upon these prodigies, and to tranquillise and disabuse the alarms of a country town; adding, moreover, in confirmation, their testimony to the identity of several of the illustrious dead, as seen among the unearthly combatants who had been well-known to them, and who had fallen in the battle." "A well supported imposture," adds Lord Nugent, "or a stormy night on the hill-side might have acted on the weakness of a peasantry in whose remembrance the terrors of the Edge Hill fight were still fresh; but it is difficult to imagine how the minds of officers, sent there to correct the illusions, could have been so imposed upon. It will, also, be observed, that no inference is attempted by the witnesses to assist any notion of a judgement of warning favourable to the interests or passions of their own party."

The pamphlet referred to by Lord Nugent was printed immediately after the events it records, on the 23rd of January 1642. It narrates the appearance of the late apparitions, and records the particulars of the Prodigious Noises of War and Battle, at Edge Hill, near Keinton, in Northamptonshire, and its truth is certified to by " William Wood, Esquire and Justice for the Peace for the same county, and Samuel Marshall, Preacher of God's Word in Keinton, and other persons of quality."

Omitting the introductory matter, which merely refers to the antiquity of, and the great mass of evidence in favour of the reality of apparitions, and modernizing the spelling, this strongly accredited pamphlet reads thus : -

"Edge Hill, in the very confines of Warwickshire, near unto Keynton, in Northamptonshire, a place, as appears by the sequel, destined for civil wars and battles; as where King John fought a battle with his barons, and where, in defence of the kingdom's laws and liberty, was fought a bloody conflict between His Majesty's and the Parliament's forces. At this Edge Hill, at the very place where the battle was fought, have since, and doth appear, strange and portentous apparitions of two jarring and contrary armies, as I shall in order deliver, it being certified by men of most credit in those parts, as William Wood, Esquire, Samuel Marshall, Minister, and others, on Saturday, which was in Christmas time . . . Between twelve and one o'clock in the morning, was heard by some shepherds, and other countrymen, and travellers, first the sound of drums afar off, and the noise of soldiers, as it were, giving out their last groans; at which they were much amazed, and amazed stood still, till it seemed, by the nearness of the noise, to approach them; at which, too much affrighted, they sought to withdraw as fast as possibly they could ; but then, on the sudden, whilst they were in their cogitations, appeared in the air the same incorporeal soldiers that made those clamours, and immediately, with ensigns displayed, drums beating, muskets going off, cannons discharged, horses neighing, which also to these men were visible, the alarm or entrance to this game of death was, one army, which gave the first charge, having the King's colours, and the other the Parliament's at their head or front of the battle, and so pell-mell to it they went. The battle, that appeared to the King's forces seeming at first to have the best, but afterwards to be put into apparent rout. But till two or three in the morning in equal scale continued this dreadful fight, the clattering of arms, noise of cannons, cries of soldiers, so amazing and terrifying the poor men, that they could not believe they were mortal, or give credit to their eyes and ears ; run away they durst not, for fear of being made a prey to these infernal soldiers, and so they, with much fear and affright, stayed to behold the success of the business, which at last suited to this effect. After some three hours' fight, that army which carried the King's colours withdrew, or rather appeared to fly ; the other remaining, as it were, masters of the field, stayed a good space triumphing, and expressing all the signs of joy and conquest, and then, with all their drums, trumpets, ordnance, and soldiers, vanished. The poor men, glad that they were gone that had so long stayed them there against their wills, made with all haste to Keinton, and there knocking up Mr. Wood, a Justice of Peace, who called up his neighbour, Mr. Marshall, the Minister, they gave them an account of the whole passage, and averred it upon their oaths to be true. At which affirmation of theirs, being much amazed, they should hardly have given credit to it, but would have conjectured the men to have been either mad or drunk, had they not known some of them to have been of approved integrity ; and so, suspending their judgements till the next night about the same hour, they, with the same men, and all the substantial inhabitants of that and the neighbouring parishes drew thither; where, about half an hour after their arrival, on Sunday, being Christmas night, appeared in the same tumultuous warlike manner, the same two adverse armies, fighting with as much spite and spleen as formerly ; and so departed the gentlemen and all the spectators, much terrified with these visions of horror, withdrew them- selves to their houses, beseeching God to defend them from those hellish and prodigious enemies. The next night they appeared not, nor all that week, so that the dwellers thereabout were in good hope they had for ever departed. But on the ensuing Saturday night, in the same place, and at the same hour, they were again seen with far greater tumult, fighting in the manner aforementioned, for four hours, or very near, and then vanished. Appearing again on Sunday night, and performing the same actions of hostility and bloodshed, so that Mr. Wood and others, whose faith, it should seem, was not strong enough to carry them out against these delusions, forsook their habitations thereabout, and retired themselves to other more secure dwellings; but Mr. Marshall stayed, and some other; and so successively the next Saturday and Sunday the same tumults and prodigious sights and actions were put in the state and condition they were formerly. The rumour whereof coming to His Majesty at Oxford, he immediately dispatched thither Colonel Lewis Kirke, Captain Dudley, Captain Wainman, and three other gentlemen of credit, to take full view and notice of the said business, who, at first hearing the true attestation and relation of Mr. Marshall and others, stayed there till the Saturday night following, wherein they heard and saw the fore- mentioned prodigies, and so on Sunday, distinctly knowing clivers of the apparitions, or incorporeal substances, by their faces, as that of Sir Edmund Varney, and others that were there slain, of which upon oath they made testimony to His Majesty. What this doth portend God only knoweth, and time perhaps will discover; but doubtlessly it is a sign of His wrath against this land, for these civil wars, which He in His good time finish, and send a sudden peace between His Majesty and Parliament."



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