A Letter from Nantwich

January 2007                                                    Update

New Battle of Nantwich . . . over the timing?






Members of the Sealed Knot fire a musket salute to fallen war heroes.

THE powers-that-be behind the annual commemoration of the English Civil War battle fought around Nantwich in 1644 have been upsetting the locals - the purists and, lately, the traders.  

   As you will read in my previous Letter from Nantwich on the subject, the Holly Holy Day Society (HHDS) are hoping to stage a summer muster. That is, a mass gathering of 2,000 members of the Sealed Knot to re-enact the Battle of Nantwich. Much depends on getting a National Lottery grant to cover the costs.

   The trouble is that the traditional commemoration of the lifting of a six-week siege of the market town over Christmas and New Year in 1643/44 is a winter-time event - held on the nearest Saturday to January 25th every year. In fact, it is the only winter re-enactment of a battle that the Sealed Knot stage. 

   However, a long-held dream of the body which organises the commemoration is a summer re-enactment on the actual battlefields around the town, and at the actual times of the skirmishes. It is felt that more people would turn out for a summer event than those who brave the winter chills to see the battle re-fought in the centre of Nantwich.

   The traders fear a loss of business from the tourists and visiting Sealed Knot members and are, understandably, not happy - but, then again, Holly Holy Day is not staged for their benefit. It is all about commemorating the brave ancestors of today's Dabbers who supported the Roundheads and Oliver Cromwell in the war. The siege lasted for six weeks until the Royalists were defeated.

    A far more important objection to the change is that the commemoration would have the wrong atmosphere this year. The bitter winter weather would have made the original siege more unbearable, but this time heatstroke may well be a problem for fighters and spectators alike.

   The ability to stage the re-enactment at the actual times (if not the right day) they took place in 1644 - because the "battle" will not be squeezed into one afternoon - won't make it any better.

    It will be like celebrating Christmas in shorts


or swimwear on a beach. 

   One group apparently not bothered by the change are historians who you might expect to be opposed to the idea. But Nantwich Historical Society are behind the summer event - as witness the Chairman, Herbert Rowsell, speaking warmly of the new timing on the 27th.

Holly Holy Day (so called because the Nantwich folk wore a sprig of holly in their caps or on their clothes to mark the relief of the town) was marked on the right day. A contingent of 20-30 Sealed Knot members took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the town's war memorial on The Square.

   That was, of course, a small percentage of the soldiers and followers who normally "invade" the town in January when a full-scale skirmish takes place on Mill Island.  

   The proposed summer muster is planned for two days over the Summer Bank Holiday. 

   Which two I am not sure yet, but one of them will have to be the Sunday (Saturday/Sunday or Sunday/Monday) when the shops will be closed any way. So will the remaining day bring in any more trade than a single day in January?

   At least two men turned up to watch the Battle re-enactment - judging from their comments as they attended the talk on the Civil War at Nantwich Museum which followed the ceremony on the Square.

   A figure of 15,000 visitors to the town is quoted for the August re-run. Presumably this forms part of the case for a Lottery grant.

   As part of the move for authenticity of the commemoration, there is to be a "living village" on the Reaseheath battlefields. This, according to the Nantwich Guardian of January 25, will "recreate the seventeenth century life of those who followed the troops under canvas".

    I suppose it is possible that the average person in town will not be aware of the summer muster unless they go to it themselves. Apart from the events in the town centre and on Mill Island, the Sealed Knot members have always been a familiar sight in the streets on Holly Holy Day.

   This year, they won't have time to go into town during the day as they will be too busy fighting. Willl they want to walk the two or three miles


A representative of the Sealed Knot lays one of the wreaths at the January Holly Holy Day


into town to frequent the local pubs after battle is done?

    I suspect they will take the shorter trip to the hostelries on the Reaaseheath side of Nantwich who probably missed out in previous years.

   Enthusiastic words from local Sealed Knot and HHDS member Colin Bissett (quoted in The Nantwich Chronicle of January 17) will have cut little ice with the traders.

    He said: "The Society appreciates traders will see fewer people in the town this month but they will find more people there this summer than they'd have in January".

LATEST NEWS (July): The Nantwich Now Market Town Project has received a 50,000 Lottery grant for the staging of a Summer Muster on the Late Summer Bank Holiday weekend in August - that's Sunday 26 and Monday 27. 

August: The Nantwich Now project has hired a shop that's up for sale in Beam Street. There are large posters in the window about the Reaseheath event on the Bank Holiday weekend (as well as display panels about the Swine Market Development plan).

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