The Action

About 4:00pm on the 23rd, news arrived with Fiennes that Essex’s army had reached Worcester. This, and the gunfire reportedly heard from the direction of the city, was probably a ruse by the royalists to precipitate a parliamentarian advance. In reality Essex's army was still some miles south of the city. Fiennes deployed in Powick Hams intending to send forward scouts and commanded men to gauge the situation and prepare for an advance to the city. But Colonel Sandys did not wait for such cautious preparations and crossed the narrow bridge.

From there the road was almost equally narrow, passing through hedged enclosures before entering the open field of Wick, though a gate which allowed no more than three troopers to pass at a time. One account suggests that Sandys’ men advanced up the lane under fire from enemy dragoons. When within several hundred yards of the enemy the parliamentarian troopers halted in the lane to allow the commanded men to go by. But then almost immediately Sandys followed them, possibly as a result of the fire from the enemy dragoons. These enemy troops ought first to have been cleared from the hedgerows by the dragoons before the cavalry had advanced up the lane at all. Thus Fiennes lost any advantage from the news these dragoons could have given of enemy deployments and indeed throughout the action the parliamentarians show their lack of experience and commitment and the ineffectiveness of the command structure.

Though it is said by some that this was a surprise encounter, both forces seem to have soon become aware if the other. Indeed, as we have seen, one account indicates that the parliamentarian cavalry found themselves advancing through the enclosures under fire from enemy dragoons. In contrast, under Prince Rupert, the royalist seem to have had a well prepared plan which they executed with great efficiency. They allowed most of the parliamentarian troops to enter the open field but then, from the cover of a small valley, attacked before more than half of Fiennes men were fully deployed. Thus they were hit when at their most vulnerable.

It seems that some at least of Rupert’s cavalry may not have used the tactics that were to be so successful at Edgehill and thereafter: ‘…so soon as Sir Lewis Dives troope had discharged upon us, we let then come up very neere that their Horses noses almost touched those of our first ranke before ours gave fire…’ Thus while the enemy fired at a distance then charged, Fiennes troopers stood and fired a salvo at closest possible range. This seems to have work well, for it broke the royalist formation. However, while these troops had a degree of success, they then found their wings and rearguard were soon routed. They had to turn and charge through the enemy to recover the lane and then retreat to the bridge, following the rest of the fleeing parliamentarians.

The different accounts vary as to which troops they say fled and which were initially successful but were forced to flee as a result of the lack of commitment of the rest. According to some accounts Colonel Brown had, following good practice, secured the bridge with a handful of dismounted dragoons. Presumably the longer range and heavier fire of the dragoon muskets forced back the royalist cavalry. This enabled the rest of Fiennes men to make good their retreat. But of the cavalry who fled across the bridge, many did not stop until they reached the main army’s cavalry at Pershore, causing many of them also to retreat to the main army.

Rupert did not pursue the success. His priority was to join with Byron and escort the convoy to the royalist army at Shrewsbury, which they did. By the time Essex’s army finally arrived to occupy the city the royalists were long gone.


Explore the Battlefields Hub

Battlefields Trust NewsBattlefields Trust EventsJoin the Battlefields TrustDonate to The Battlefields Trust