Civil War 'skirmish' provokes fresh outbreak of hostilities: Oliver Gillie visits a village 'wounded' by loss of battlefield status

THE OFFICIAL classification of a Civil War engagement at Chalgrove in Oxfordshire as a skirmish, rather than a battle, has annoyed local people and others who believe that it was a turning point in English history.

Chalgrove, along with other English battlefields, has been investigated by an expert panel appointed by English Heritage. The panel, chaired by General Sir Martin Farndale, has proposed a classification of battlefields based on reports made by David Smurthwaite, a historian at the National Army Museum.

However, members of the John Hampden Society, formed to honour a distinguished Parliamentarian who was killed at Chalgrove in 1643, believe that the expert panel has overlooked the historical importance of this engagement. If John Hampden, who was a cousin of Oliver Cromwell, had not been mortally wounded at Chalgrove then English history might have taken a different course, they say.

Roy Bailey, honorary secretary of the John Hampden Society, said: 'Hampden opposed the levy of Ship Money by King Charles in the late 1630s, on the grounds that it was an illegal tax. As a result he became the best known and most popular man in England and was described as Patriae Pater, father of the people. His death rocked the nation.'

By June 1643, the Earl of Essex, leader of the Parliamentarian army, had advanced to Thame and was challenging the King's army, under Prince Rupert, which was based at Oxford. A Parliamentarian, Colonel John Urry, defected to the Royalist camp with news that a convoy bearing pounds 21,000 was on its way to pay Essex's army. On 17 June, Prince Rupert led a mixed force of almost 2,000 horse, foot and dragoons out of Oxford to intercept the force. The Royalists failed to find the convoy and began to retreat to Oxford pursued by an improvised Parliamentarian force of about 600 men, estimates Mr Smurthwaite in his report.

Prince Rupert rallied his men at Chalgrove field where the smaller Parliamentarian force, led by John Hampden and others, drew up behind a hedge to meet the Royalist cavalry charge. The Parliamentarians were outnumbered and after a short fight fled. About 45 men, mostly Royalists, were killed. John Hampden took two musket balls in the shoulder and retreated to Thame where he died six days later.

Mr Smurthwaite concludes in his report to the panel: 'To call Chalgrove field a battle is something of a misnomer . . . By any standard Chalgrove field was only a skirmish. Innumerable engagements of similar size were fought during the English Civil War and these have almost invariably been forgotten . . . John Hampden might not have been a soldier of any distinction but he was an immensely important politician.'

Hampden was one of the five members of Parliament who narrowly avoided arrest by King Charles on charges of high treason. Following this, Hampden proposed that the King place the Tower of London, the Militia and the principal forts in Parliament's hands. Charles refused and war was then inevitable.

Villagers, together with the local history society and the John Hampden Society, are organising protests at the downgrading of Chalgrove field. They are worried that the battlefield may be spoilt by gravel extraction.

Gill Blackshaw, parish clerk, said: 'The village is extremely upset. We have had a battlefield marked on the map here for years and we don't think it is right to demote it to a skirmish. We are protesting to English Heritage about the classification and asking them to think again.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor