IT looks as though one of Nantwich's major
winter attractions is to get a summer equivalent - but on a much grander
scale. Plans are afoot for a "major muster" commemorating the Battle of
Nantwich with a change of location and duration.
In addition to the annual event featuring a battle of an hour or so, staged by the
Knot as part of the January 25th Holly Holy Day event on Mill
Island, the additional battle would rage over two days in what the Nantwich
Guardian (August 4th, 2005, edition) describes as "an authentic full-scale
re-enactment" of the battle.
The "fighting" would take place on the land where the original
skirmishes occurred in January 1644 - that is, the Reaseheath and
The idea is being proposed by the recently-formed Nantwich Now Market Town
Project who have been talking to the Holly Holy Day Society in town and
the Sealed Knot. The suggested date is the summer of 2007.
200 or so troops take part in the winter event, around 1,000 would be in
action for what the Sealed Knot calls "a major muster". And rather than
being billeted in Malbank school on the nights before and
after the re-enactment, the soldiers would be camping on the
battlefields - just as the real 17th century soldiers
battle re-enactment in January takes part in the afternoon as part of
the day's programme, but in the extended battle proposal events would
happen as near as possible to the actual time in 1644.
I am all for events
which bring more tourists to this wonderful town, but I must admit to a
couple of reservations about the idea. The present battle site - Mill
Island, as I said - is conveniently situated off Waterlode, the town's
inner ring road, just a musket
shot's distance - or so - from Nantwich
Square. It is easily
reached on foot in a matter of a few minutes.
But the Reaseheath and Henhull sites are on the edges of town
and would need a bus service to be laid on and/or a large car park on the
Or a combination of the two in a Park 'n' Ride service. I am not
sure that this wouldn't put off visitors.
There is an admission-by-ticket policy on Mill Island, with
screens erected around the site to prevent people sneaking a free view
from across the River Weaver. But many miles of screening would be needed
in the proposed sites if a similar practice was followed - and these would be useless in preventing people
standing on the towpath of the Shropshire Union Canal from seeing what was
going on, although admittedly their view would be a distant one.
I understand that the Battle of Nantwich is the only winter re-enactment
staged by the Sealed Knot. It cannot be much fun putting on a show in
bitterly cold weather - and standing watching it is no picnic either! -
but wouldn't engaging in a full-scale fight (a bit like a rugby scrum
with weapons) be equally unpleasant for the opposite reason
in blazing sunshine?
There is something very fitting - not to say unique - about having a
commemoration of a piece of our history when we do, in January, so I am
pleased to hear that the winter event will continue.
I am not trying to denigrate the idea, and I do know that the
powers-that-be have been doing a lot of work since early 1990 to try to
get a "Big Battle of Nantwich"
off the ground - according to the Nantwich Chronicle of August 10. Such
a battle would cost £50,000 to put on, says the newspaper.
I understand that a summer "Big Battle"
would be a one-off. [2016 note: A similar event has not taken
place since that one.]
to the battle
THE Battle of Nantwich was fought
during the Civil War in which Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentarian armies
faced King Charles I's Royalist soldiers after the king tried to wrest
control of running the country from Parliament.
The MPs of the day were having none of that and internal strife followed
- often putting members of the same family on opposite sides.
Nantwich was on the Parliamantarians' side, and after a six-week siege
of the town by the Royalists in December 1643, Sir Thomas Fairfax, leader of more than
2,500 Parliamentarian soldiers, brought his men in to save the town. As
a mark of the great day, Nantwich people started to wear a sprig of
holly in their clothing on January 25 - or Holly Holy Day as it became
Over the years, this stopped happening, but in 1972 a local historian,
the late Percy Corry, brought back the practice. There was also a
wreath-laying ceremony to remember those who died in the battle and the
siege. The first re-enactment of the battle took place in 1973.
Ever since then, the battle has been re-enacted on the Saturday nearest
to January 25th, and wreaths are laid.
Cllr Howard Curran, Crewe and
Nantwich Borough Council's portfolio holder for local activities,
"totally" supports the idea. It would - he says in the Chronicle
- "not only benefit our tourism economy but would inform the public and
schoolchildren about our priceless history."
Well, that has got to be a good
about an idea for a small Battle of Nantwich museum
incorporating the Sealed Knot.