We visited the site of the Battlefield on a wintery Sunday afternoon not dissimilar to the one on which the battle took place.
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
At approximately 3pm on a Sunday 19th March 1643 a great battle took place between Parliamentarians (“Roundheads”) and Royalists (“Cavaliers”) during the English Civil War at Hopton Heath, a few miles north of Stafford.
The peaceful Staffordshire countryside was rocked by the boom of “Roaring Meg”, a large field gun used by the Cavalier forces, and so began the bloody battle of Hopton Heath.
Each side were similarly matched and had around 1,200 men.
The Royalist army was under the command of Henry Hastings but the bulk of the forces present were cavalry led by Spencer Compton, Earl of Northampton. The remainder were dragoons. By contrast the Parliamentary force was under Sir John Gell and consisted of around 500 infantry and 300 dragoons. In addition, Brereton’s force added 400 cavalry and a further 200 infantry although the latter were trailing behind and were not available at the start of the battle.
At first the might of the Royalist Cavalry was too much for the Roundheads to handle, and their infantry formation quickly became disorganised.
But the tables turned when the Earl of Northampton fell from his horse in the thick of the Roundhead infantry, and after a vain attempt to fight them off, was killed.
With their leading officer slain, and their horse becoming tired from several charges, the Cavaliers were now on the back foot.
This wasn’t helped by the arrival of several hundred Parliamentarian foot soldiers who had marched to Hopton from the direction of Newcastle-Under-Lyme.
It is generally regarded that the battle ended in stalemate. After dark the Parliamentarians withdrew leaving the field to the Royalists. They had suffered around 500 casualties, the high number being due to the dispersed nature of their troops. The Royalists had suffered around 50 killed or wounded.
One fact is true: Sir John Gell took the body of the Earl of Northampton with him in his retreat, and then paraded the body through the streets of Lichfield, something that earned him the lasting enmity of King Charles I.
The nearby village of Hopton has roads named after the battle.
There are excellent accounts and further information here: