The Queen's Sconce, Newark

English Civil War Fortresses Symposium

Saturday 19th November 2022

Writing in 1677, ‘English’ Civil War veteran, the 1st Earl of Orrey, noted that the war was made “more like foxes than lions, and you will have twenty sieges for one battle”. More recently, historian Professor Christopher Duffy described the Civil Wars as “a war of trenches, ramparts, palisades, bombardments and blockades”. But despite the prevalence of fortress warfare, it is something that is often misunderstood, and under-represented in studies of the conflict.

On Saturday, 19th November 2022, the Battlefields Trust and the Fortress Study Group will be joining forces to bring this important subject out of the shadows.

Taking place at Newark Town Hall's Georgian Ballroom, the first ever symposium dedicated to Civil War fortifications and sieges in England will showcase the latest research and investigations.

The event is aimed at everyone with an interest in fortresses and sieges of the English Civil War, including military and local historians, amateur and professional archaeologists, re-enactors, and anyone involved in the investigation, interpretation and protection of our rich Civil War landscape.

The cost for the day is £30.00 (for members of the Battlefields Trust and/or Fortress Study Group) or £40.00 (non-members), including refreshments and lunch. Numbers are limited, so to book you place at this important event, visit:

The Fortress Study Group is handling bookings for this event and bookings can be made at the foot of the page of the above website link. Doors will open at 10:00am for a 10:25am start.

The event is supported by Helion & Company

Full Programme

10:00-10:25       Registration and coffee

10:25-10:30       Welcome and domestics

10:30-11:05       A Tale of Two Cities: garrisons, strongholds, sieges and fortifications in the English Civil War by our keynote speaker, Peter Gaunt

Fortification and siege - what the archaeology tells us

11:05-11:40       Moreton Corbet by Richard Leese

11:40-12:15       King’s Lynn under siege by David Flintham

12:15-12:55      Lunch

Explaining fortifications to the public

12:55-14:25      Visit to the Queens Sconce with Kevin Winter

Preserving and rediscovering fortifications - challenges, approaches and results

14:25-15:00       A small fort in Devon: how 40 musketeers changed history by Nick Arnold

15:00-15:35       Toasting Bonfires, Social Aspects of Siege Warfare by Rachel Askew

15:35-15:50       Tea and coffee

15:50-16:25      The defences and siegeworks of Civil War Oxford, recent archaeological work by David Radford

16:25-16:55      Plenary Q&A and close

Presentations and speaker details

A Tale of Two Cities: garrisons, strongholds, sieges and fortifications in the English Civil War

In this wide-ranging lecture, Professor Peter Gaunt will explore what is often still the somewhat neglected side of the civil war, focusing not on field armies and their generals, on the campaigns and battles they waged and fought, but rather on the role of garrisons and strongholds, their fortification and attacks upon them. Drawing on many examples from England and Wales, he will reassess the nature of this more 'territorial' aspect of the civil war, how and why it came about, its relationship to the landscape and to resources and the degree to which it shaped the unfolding conflict. Springing from this, in the second half of the lecture he will illustrate and exemplify many of these themes by examining the two cities at either end of the Welsh Marches, comparing and contrasting the role played by Chester and its royalist garrison and Gloucester and its parliamentarian garrison during the course of the main civil war.

Peter Gaunt is professor of early modern history at the University of Chester and also president of The Cromwell Association. His published work often reflects not only his interests in both military and political history but also his background in archaeology and architectural history. He is the author or editor of seventeen books and several dozen articles, chapters and shorter papers, including full-length studies of the civil war in Wales, in England and Wales and in Britain and Ireland as a whole, as well as two (different) biographies of Oliver Cromwell.  

Moreton Corbet

Bullet impact scars are recognised, though often misidentified or misinterpreted evidence of the conflict heritage of the UK. For the Wars of the Three Kingdoms the most prolific source of bullet impact scarring arises from siege sites, and presents a dataset that is yet to be fully unlocked in understanding and interpreting the archaeology of siege actions. This presentation will discuss current and ongoing research into bullet impact evidence on defended sites as evidence of attack and defence, and present recent research that combines evidence from scars together with metal detector-surveying techniques adapted from battlefield archaeology.

Richard Leese is a doctoral candidate at the University of Huddersfield, studying the archaeology of early modern sieges of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in England. Prior to this Richard studied for an MLitt in Battlefield and Conflict Archaeology at the University of Glasgow in 2013, and was a War Studies bachelor’s student at the University of Wolverhampton in the mid-2000s. His current research interests for the early modern period include examining bullet impact scars on structures, and metal detector surveying of siege and skirmish artefact scatters

King’s Lynn under siege

During the summer of 1643 after a short siege, Parliament recaptured the Norfolk port of King’s Lynn. Refortified to a design seldom seen anywhere else in the country, King’s Lynn became the principal supply base for Parliament’s armies operating in the east and northeast of England. 380 years later, King’s Lynn is home to a ground-breaking archaeological project, uncovering traces of King’s Lynn’s fortifications. This lecture will look at both the project, including its starring role in Channel 4’s Great British Dig series, and its research including a rare insight into the design and construction of earthwork fortifications during the English Civil War.

David Flintham is the co-founder and project manager of the King’s Lynn under Siege community archaeology project. He is the author of three books, and more than 60 other papers, essays and articles on mid-17th century fortress warfare, particularly across the British Isles. David is also part of a research project ‘re-discovering’ London’s ECW fortifications. A long-time member of the Fortress Study Group, he now serves on its committee. He has also been a member of the Battlefields Trust for a number of years.

Visit to the Queens Sconce

Newark’s Queen’s Sconce is probably the best-known and best-preserved ECW fortification to be found anywhere in the country. Starting in the main gallery of the National Civil War Centre, the tour will go through the Market Place to the castle, have a brief stop at the castle and then walk out along the riverside and Millgate to the Sconce. Enroute our expert guide will talk about the mills and the attempted damming of the river, and also where the siegeworks would have ended on Millgate. At the Sconce we will discuss the building of the King's and Queen’s Sconces and the other earthworks around the town and what happened to them during the final siege.

Kevin Winter is Chair of the Battlefields Trust East Midlands region and assistant curator at NCWC. After 34 years in the Royal Navy, Kevin now gets to satisfy his passion for history on a daily basis, having worked at the museum for the last 14 years. He recently updated Newark Civic Trust's Civil War trail leaflet.

A small fort in Devon: how 40 musketeers changed history

In spring 2021 it was a field with a few enigmatic mounds. No-one was even sure that this was the site of Appledore fort and in any case the land was about to be developed.  Few people knew that in 1644 a desperate siege happened here that attracted the attention of King Charles himself. This talk recounts how the fort defences and their dramatic Civil War history were discovered - and how in a distant echo of history, Appledore Fort and its few defenders simply refused to give in.

Nick Arnold is best-known as a children's Science author.  Over the past 25 years he has written over 50 books with world-wide sales exceeding 15 million.  He was the first children's author to tour China and in 2007 he founded the Appledore Book Festival.  But he is also a historian with an M.Phil. from York University and an enduring interest in fortifications and military history.  In 2008 and 2015 he published well-received papers on early medieval battlefields.  In 2021 he became involved local efforts to study and preserve a small Civil War redoubt in Appledore, north Devon.   

Toasting Bonfires, Social Aspects of Siege Warfare

The study of Civil War fortifications is dominated, understandably, by military methodologies. However, sieges were often dominated not by sustained combat or bombardment, but long periods of inaction and the gradual erosion of troop morale and resources. Using archaeological and historical evidence, this presentation will explore the ways in which an analysis of the social experience of the National Civil Wars can provide a complementary approach to studies of this momentous period.

Rachel Askew completed her PhD on the use of material culture in castles during the National Civil War, and has since published on this topic and the slighting of castle after the conflict. She has been involved in the study of Newark's siegeworks, is currently the Heritage Officer at Breedon on the Hill Priory Church, and holds an Honorary Fellowship at the University of Leicester.

The defences and siegeworks of Civil War Oxford, recent archaeological work

Over the last decade a number of small-scale investigations and discoveries have helped to develop our understanding of the defences around the Royalist capital and to a lesser extent the Parliamentarian siege works. This talk will provide an overview of recent discoveries and examine some of the challenges facing the ongoing management and protection of Oxford’s Civil War legacy.

David Radford has been the City Council Archaeologist at Oxford since 2008 and has worked in the field for over thirty years



For further information.

The Battlefields Resource Centre