On the 24th January Lord Byron, commander of the Royalists, on learning of Fairfax’s approach from the north, moved some of his 3,500 besieging forces away of the town to the north east. The following day the River Weaver burst its banks destroying Beam Bridge to the north of Nantwich, thus separating the royalist troops on either side. Obliged to make a six mile detour to reunite his forces Byron was nonetheless able to deploy on the high ground in front of Acton church, a mile to the west of the town, in advance of Fairfax who delayed attack until all his forces were drawn up.
Rather than engage at this point Fairfax preferred to attempt the relief of the town ‘and by it to add some more force to ourselves, to enable us better to fight with them’. To this end they began to march around the north of the royalist deployment, cutting through hedgerows as they went. Anxious not to let Fairfax join with the garrison troops, Byron attacked by wheeling his left flank around to engage the parliamentarian rearguard at the same time as pushing his right flank forwards to attack the vanguard. In response Fairfax turned his troops from line of march, his rearguard and vanguard now becoming the wings of his battle array, to meet the attack.
The battle raged for two hours, with the greater part of the action taking place between the infantry in the centre, where every hedgerow was fiercely contested. The cavalry of both sides could be of little assistance to the foot due to the nature of the terrain, with thick hedges and narrow lanes making manoeuvring almost impossible. For the royalists an additional problem was the presence of inexperienced cavalry, whose panic in the face of battle ‘so disordered the rest, that though they did not run away, yet it was impossible to make them charge’.
Meanwhile the garrison of Nantwich sallied out of the defences, easily overcoming the small number of troops that Byron had left to guard the road leaving the western suburb of the town. The arrival of these reinforcements, striking the flank or rear of the royalist army, swayed the battle in favour of the parliamentarians. They drove some of the royalists forces back to Acton churchyard, where Byron had placed their baggage train, where they were trapped. Although most of the Royalist cavalry and some infantry escaped, 1,500 troops surrendered including several senior officers. A further 200 had been killed and the artillery and baggage lost.