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Engraving of Sir Thomas Fairfax in 1650.
 
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The Earl of Newcastle
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The Battle

Lord Fairfax, with his army based in Bradford which could not be fortified, had little chance of holding out if besieged by the Earl of Newcastle’s far larger royalist army. Instead he decided to strike out, as he had done before, to catch his enemy unawares. Early on the morning of the 30th June he marched out of Bradford with his whole army to attack the royalists in their quarters at Howley, at the very time that Newcastle’s army was advancing along the same road towards Bradford. Neither army realised until the last minute that the other was advancing against it. Adwalton was thus the classic ‘encounter’ battle in which the location of the action was largely determined by chance.

The forlorn hopes of the two armies encountered each other in the closes between Bradford and Adwalton Moor. The royalists had deployed their army and artillery on Adwalton Moor but according to Sir Thomas Fairfax had ‘manned divers houses standing in the enclosed grounds betwixt Bradford and Atherton moor with musketeers, and sent out great parties of horse and foot by the lanes and enclosed grounds to give us fight ...’ . Parliament’s forlorn hope had to advance up a hill driving the royalists from the enclosures. The hill is named by another account as Wiskeard Hill, where the pub stands on Westgate Hill today. According to Slingsby the royalists initially stopped the parliamentarian advance but then, ‘they come on fiercer, and beat the enemy (the royalists), from one hedge, from one house to another; at last they were driven to retreat and we (the royalists) recover the moor…’.

Having driven back the royalists from these enclosures, the main body could at last deploy on the hilltop and to advance close to the main royalist body but still within the protection of the enclosures. Fighting from the security of the hedgerows the parliamentarian firepower gave them the upper hand. When they ventured forward into the open ground where the royalists were deployed they were at a severe disadvantage, even if at least once during the action they drove the royalists right back to their artillery, for they then had to retreat once more to the security of the enclosures.

After successive royalist attempts to break into the enclosures were repulsed, when the royalists were about to retreat and leave the field to the parliamentarians, a final desperate royalist infantry attack supported with artillery fire and seconded by cavalry drove back the defenders on the parliament left. Here the sheer weight of numbers finally told. With a failure of the parliamentarians to commit their reserves the royalist infantry and cavalry broke into the enclosures and the tables were turned. Now the cavalry were also able to outflank the parliamentarians on that side of the field. On the left and in the centre the parliamentarian resistance collapsed and they fell back in disarray towards Bradford. With their formations broken it was surely at this time that the parliamentarian suffered their greatest losses. On the right Sir Thomas Fairfax’s forces were cut off and had to retreat, still in good order, towards Halifax.

 

   
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