Wandering through Naseby today it is hard to imagine that this sleepy corner of Northamptonshire was once the setting for such a significant milestone in English history. This was where the decisive battle of the English Civil War was fought on 14th June 1645, often known as the ‘turning point’. It is important to remember that without this battle and the parliamentarian victory, England may have become a very different place – with its monarch still holding absolute power.
The decisive victory at the Battle of Naseby settled three long and bloody years of civil war, with a victory for Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentary forces. It gave Parliament the right to a permanent role in the government of the kingdom.
On that day, 1645…
The battleground was made up of open sloping fields at this time and so the Royalist (Cavaliers) and Parliamentarian (Roundheads) could position their armies strategically. Prince Rupert had his army up on the higher ground and the Parliamentarians began lower, giving the Royalists a perceived advantage and tempting them to begin the attack. However, when the Royalist cavalry attacked the Parliamentarian cavalry and chased off the stragglers, Cromwell had another faction of cavalry on the opposite side obscured by trees and hedges. He immediately brought this cavalry out and took the Royalist infantry by surprise, defeating them. Oliver Cromwell was a great strategic commander and is remembered in history for this, and for his political influence. After the execution of King Charles I in 1649, Cromwell effectively ran parliament with his soldiers.
Cromwell’s ‘New Model Army’ was headed by Sir Thomas Fairfax who was arguably the more capable commander; yet Cromwell was responsible for the cavalry faction and his ideas and training helped them to become highly successful on the battlefield. The memorial viewpoints for Cromwell, Fairfax and Prince Rupert still stand and can be visited today.
Although the historic battle is centuries old, it is never forgotten. The memory of the Battle of Naseby lives on in village life today. There are various events which are held annually to entertain, such as the Battlefield Bluegrass Festival – a popular music festival celebrating folk and acoustic music. There is also the ‘Babble of Naseby!’ – an evening of hilarious, sometimes thought-provoking readings, anecdotes and poetry. The village hall also plays host to a number of regular events for locals to enjoy including classes for pilates, yoga, bowls, and even murder mystery evenings. Events such as these show off the typically English village character, a far cry from the horrors of war over 350 years ago. There are also some understated signs and information boards, helpfully displayed around the village to tell the story of the battle.
Thankfully, the village is peaceful and quiet today, with two friendly pubs and a tearoom. The locals are friendly and welcoming. The atmosphere is that of a typical small English village with amenities such as a church, school, local shop and village hall, all within a short walk from each other. It is easy when strolling around this village to forget that such a monumental battle took place here. The landscape is quiet and serene, providing a stark contrast with the harsh realities of war.
Come and take a look for yourself at Naseby, the village with such an important heritage. It is also worth looking a little further afield, including the area around Sibbertoft, Clipston and East Farndon, to gauge the full scale of the battle and visit the various monuments.