Battle of Adwalton Moor 1643


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Bradford (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
Kirklees (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
Leeds (Metropolitan Authority)
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The Battle of Adwalton Moor, 30 June 1643.

Reasons for Designation

The site of the Battle of Adwalton Moor, June 1643 is included on the Battlefields Register for the following principal reasons:

* Historical significance: with the exception of Marston Moor in 1644, Adwalton Moor was the most important battle fought north of the River Trent during the first Civil War. Their victory at Adwalton gave the Royalists control of the north and presented the Earl of Newcastle with the opportunity to threaten the Eastern Association's Parliamentary heartland;

* Landscape integrity: despite later development having taken place within parts of the battlefield, enough of the landscape survives to secure legibility, particularly to the areas around The Plantation and the common land at Adwalton Moorside, which retains its open moorland character;

* Archaeological potential: it retains strong potential for archaeological evidence, including finds scatters and the location of coal pits and boundaries mentioned in contemporary battle accounts, that may contribute further to the understanding of the battle.


HISTORICAL CONTEXT The Civil Wars of the mid-C17 were a reflection of profound political, constitutional, religious and social conflict that was expressed in a struggle for control between King and Parliament.

In the early stages of the first Civil War, the Parliamentary cause in the North was upheld by Ferdinando, Lord Fairfax, and the Royalist party by the Earl of Newcastle. To break the power of the Fairfaxes, which was concentrated on the cloth towns of West Yorkshire, the Earl of Newcastle marched on Bradford in June 1643 from Howley Hall near Batley with 10,000 men. To defend the town, which was not fortified and could not have resisted a siege, Lord Fairfax and his son, Sir Thomas Fairfax advanced from Bradford with 3000 - 4000 men to oppose the Royalists at Adwalton Moor, where they met on 30 June.

DESCRIPTION OF THE MILITARY ACTION Parliamentarian accounts of the battle state that the Royalists had the choosing of the ground at Adwalton, however, Royalist accounts state the reverse. It would therefore appear that as neither side had intended to fight on the specific site of Adwalton Moor, each believed the other had selected the advantage of the ground. Both sides were advancing towards the other's quarters and encountered each other at Adwalton Moor.

The fighting took place between Westgate Hill and the summit of Adwalton Moor, which is less than one and a half miles to the southeast. Although contemporary accounts vary slightly, what is clear is that despite their much smaller numbers initially the Parliamentarians, which mainly comprised infantry with a small cavalry (contrasting with the Royalists' large cavalry majority), were successful; expelling the Royalist infantry from Westgate Hill and forcing them to retreat back to their cannon position on the higher ground of the moor, along the line of what is now Moorside Road, and which was defended by pikemen. Westgate Hill then became the Parliamentarians' starting line.

The Parliamentarians advanced beyond what is now The Plantation to the edge of Adwalton Moor, engaging the Royalists on foot in the enclosed ground and musketeers firing at the Royalist cavalry from the hedges at the edge of the moor as they made successive charges. Sir Thomas Fairfax commanded the Parliamentarian right wing, Major General Gifford commanded the left wing, and Lord Fairfax commanded the centre and was commander in chief. However, the central and left wings of the Parliamentarians then appear to have advanced too far, forfeiting the cover of the enclosed ground and advancing into the open moorland where they were left exposed. A push by Royalist pikemen, combined with their cavalry outflanking the Parliamentarians on the left and cannon firing at the Parliamentarians' cavalry, led the Parliamentarians to retreat, with Lord Fairfax and his son fleeing to Halifax. The Royalists had won.


TOPOGRAPHY The battlefield is located four miles from Bradford alongside the A650 road to Wakefield. Approximately half of the battlefield is now built upon, particularly around Drighlington, but an area of higher ground known as Adwalton Moorside at the south-eastern end of the battlefield site is largely intact and is preserved as an area of common ground rising up to the summit of the moor, which is now occupied by Moorside Road, with modern housing development beyond to the southeast. The northwestern section of the battlefield site is mostly agricultural with undulating fields, and is dissected by the A650 Adwalton and Drighlington bypass. The A58 also cuts across the centre of the battlefield from north-east - south-west.

FEATURES The landscape of 1643 was one of hedge-lined fields on the lower north-western slopes, and rough grazing and moorland interspersed with coal pits towards the southeast. Despite its urban fringe character and the expansion of housing, industry and roads over the last 150 years, the landscape in 2017 still holds some features of historical interest related to the battle. Several of the hedgerows are likely to have been features of the 1643 scene, as were the primitive 'bell pit' coal mines now visible as water-filled round ponds around the area known as The Plantation, which lies roughly to the centre of the battlefield. There is no evidence of woodland being present on the battlefield area in 1643.

The old hedges lying east of The Plantation indicate that the open moorland in 1643 began approximately where it does today on the south-eastern side of the present A58. Contemporary accounts of the battle speak of a 'great ditch and bank' in the area between The Plantation and the A58, which separated the two troops. It is possible that the two ditches that are present in the landscape today were once bigger.

Moorside Road, which forms the south-east boundary of the registered area, is a ridge of higher ground that was occupied by the line of the Royalist cannon and affords views down on to the battlefield area of the open moorland, which survives well. Scattered around this south-eastern section of the battlefield are large boulders with bronze plaques detailing the events of the battle, with a further interpretation panel affixed to the modern library building adjoining Moorland Road.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL POTENTIAL Enough of the battlefield survives undeveloped and undisturbed to suggest that there is potential for archaeological evidence to contribute further to an understanding of the terrain in 1643, if analysed in conjunction with documentary evidence. This has already been confirmed to some degree by the mapping of ridge and furrow and coal pits in the battlefield area, although it is likely that the fragmentary ridge and furrow present post-dates the battle.

A number of desk- and site-based assessments have been carried out on the battlefield area and a book on the history and archaeology of the battle and the historic terrain has been written by David Johnson (2003).

Only limited metal detection survey has taken place on the battlefield area and no metal finds are currently recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. A site immediately east of Moorside Road in modern housing development has yielded a few lead bullets, which may be from the battle, although they have not been subject to detailed analysis. A vague description by Scatcherd in 1830 also references iron and lead round shot, lead bullets and other possible battle related artefacts having been found by locals in the areas flanking what is now the A58. There is thus potential for further finds. A collection of Civil War artefacts in Bolling Hall Museum, Bradford includes cannonballs, a hand grenade and chain shot that are said to be from the battlefield, although their provenance has not been confirmed.

DEFINITION OF AREAS The proposed registered area is set out on the attached plan. As is standard practice with the Battlefield Register, the area is drawn to follow modern boundaries wherever possible and excludes areas of modern development.

Due to later development at Adwalton Moor the proposed registered area is separated into two sections. The larger north-western section comprises largely agricultural land and has its north-western boundary at Tong roundabout at Westgate Hill, which formed the Parliamentarian start point. The boundary runs south west around the eastern side of a modern industrial estate and then south west along the south-east side of Station Lane behind a line of C20 houses before heading eastwards at the lane's midpoint and following field boundaries until it meets the A58. The boundary then runs alongside the north-west side of the A58 behind a line of housing until just before the junction with Moorland Road when it heads north westerly following field boundaries, across Bradford Road and then runs westwards back towards Tong roundabout. This area, which is now dissected by the A650 bypass, is the site of the Parliamentarian advance and much of the fighting, particularly in the eastern part of the area, which is known as The Plantation.

The smaller south-eastern section is located to the south east of the A58 and includes both the rough grazing/open moorland (now partly playing fields) where the last elements of fighting took place and the position of the Royalist gun line, which was located on the ridge now occupied by Moorside Road. The area, which is diagonally dissected by Station Road, starts on the south-east side of the A58 near its junction with Moorland Road and runs south along boundary lines before heading south-west along the south-east side of West Street. It then heads south-east along the north-east side of Hodgson Lane. The boundary then heads north east along the north-west side of Moorside Road. The boundary continues to just beyond the midpoint of Moorside Road where it turns west and runs towards Moorland Road, including an area of common ground now in part containing playground structures. The boundary then runs along the south-west side of Moorland Road, but excludes a modern library building and car park. The north-western and western sections of the area are now playing fields, whilst the south-eastern section retains its moorland character.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment to the Selected Sources on 10/04/2019


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Firth, C H (Editor), The life of William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle by Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle, (1907 (Second edition))
Johnson, D, Adwalton Moor 1643: The Battle that Changed a War, (2003)
Parsons, D (Editor), The life of Sir Henry Slingsby of Scriven, Bt, (1836)
Foard, G, Morris, R, 'The Archaeology of English Battlefields. Conflict in the Pre-Industrial Landscape' in Council for British Archaeology Research Report, , Vol. 168, (2012), 166-169
English Heritage Battlefield Report: Adwalton Moor 1643 (Published 1995), accessed 10 April 2019 from


This battlefield is registered within the Register of Historic Battlefields by Historic England for its special historic interest.

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