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Battle of Gainsborough
Visiting the battlefield
The battlefield lies on a plateau at the top of Foxby Hill and is best approached from the Lea Road (A156), which follows the route taken by the parliamentarian force led by Meldrum and Cromwell, along what in 1643 was a rough sandy track, from the village of North Scarle.
Due to the lack of car parking along Foxby Lane it is advisable to walk from the town centre. From the town’s ample car parks (free on Sundays) and the Old Hall (English Heritage), follow the paved riverside walk parallel to Bridge Street, passing the river-port’s historic wharves (staithes) and warehouses. This route (a walk of one and a half miles to the main battle site) gives an opportunity to gain an appreciation of the vulnerability of the town, its’ citizens and parliamentarian infantry, when under siege, to bombardment from royalist artillery sited on the low clay hills above the settlement. Along the walk there is a sign marking the former site of the ‘old pillared house’ where the military governors under successive occupations were quartered. Leaving the riverside walk, cross the A631, which comes from the west over the Trent bridge. This was the only river bridge downstream of Newark-on-Trent when it was built in 1791. Prior to this ferryboats had been used to cross the river here and downstream at various points north of the town. Continue along the A156 for approximately ten minutes to the junction of Lea Road and Foxby Hill.
Proceed up the steep Foxby Hill along Foxby Lane, before the road levels off on to the plateau, where the battle took place, on the right-hand side of the road there is a clearing which contains a low, stone monument with a plaque commemorating the battle. This was erected by the Cromwell Association in 1995. From this point it is easy to appreciate the steepness of the hill mentioned in Cromwell’s account and the difficult terrain experienced by the slowly advancing parliamentarian army Meldrum and Cromwell probably led their troops over a wide front along sandy tracks between Foxby Lane and the hillside below Warren Wood. The main action of the battle is judged to have occurred on the south side of Foxby lane.
On reaching the level section of Foxby Lane, a view to your right (southwards) over the hedge towards Warren Wood, takes in the main battlefield site. After ascending the hill after the royalists failed to halt the parliamentarian’s advance, the respective battle lines were formed. The battlefield, where the main charge took place, is now occupied by a housing development. The estate has a network of public footpaths which includes a perimeter path on the western edge of the hilltop. This location affords a view towards the River Trent and what was the former marshy area and water meadows known as the Summergangs and Humble Carr, now largely covered by well-established industrial land and buildings. The view towards a large meander in the river, slightly to the west north-west, encompasses what was known as Candish Hole. This was the marshy area where the royalist Duke of York’s Regiment foundered after being forced down the precipitous hill by Cromwell and his troops. The royalist commander, General Sir Charles Cavendish, and other senior royalist officers were killed in that area. From here it is possible to retrace your steps back into Gainsborough.
There are no toilet facilities or recommended parking areas along Foxby Lane until reaching the junction with Heapham Road South, where there is a superstore.
Travelling to the site
There is an option to arrive by rail, practically at the bottom of the battlefield! Gainsborough Lea Road station is accessible from rail network hubs across the country, such as Birmingham, Peterborough, Lincoln and Sheffield. The base of Foxby Hill (Foxby Lane) is a few minutes’ walk from the station.
The Old Hall in Gainsborough, dating from the around the 1460s, was the home of the lord of the manor, this being Sir Willoughby Hickman during the Civil War. Sir Willoughby was the nephew of Lord Willoughby of Parham, Lincolnshire commander-in-chief for Parliament, who led the capture of the Gainsborough royalist garrison. However, despite this family connection, his support for the King resulted in him being fined £1000 by Parliament.
Sturton-le-Steeple church, six miles south-west of Gainsborough, contains a memorial to (Colonel) Sir Francis Thornhagh who fought for Parliament. In early 1643 he had been made High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and was wounded at Gainsborough, escaping from the royalists, before reaching Lincoln. Sir Francis became one of Cromwell’s most highly regarded commanders, until he was killed fighting the Duke of Hamilton’s retreating army in the aftermath of the Battle of Preston in 1648.
The nearest battlefield to Gainsborough that is described in this website is Winceby, which was also part of the 1643 Lincolnshire campaign and is around 40 miles south-east of Gainsborough.