The Stuarts and the Civil War – 1603 to 1644

Stuarts and the Civil War – 1603 to 1644

Plagues, witch trials and fires are familiar aspects of Elizabethan and Stuart life but the greatest disruption was caused by the Civil War in the mid-1600s. In 1640, Charles I summoned Parliament to raise funds for a war against the Scots but Parliament, not called for eleven years, naturally refused. Charles was defeated by the Scots at Newburn on Tyneside in 1640 and the Scots seized the North-East. This further increased the tensions between King and Parliament that resulted in the English Civil War.

Civil War plaque near Wearmouth Bridge
Civil War plaque near Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland : Photo © David Simpson

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Mar 24 1603 – JAMES I : King of two nations

James VI of Scotland becomes James I of England following the death of the childless Elizabeth I. He is the first of the Stuart dynasty to rule England. His mother was Mary, Queen of Scots who was executed in 1587. Her father had been James V of Scotland, Elizabeth’s first cousin. Unlike his Catholic mother, the new King James was brought up a Protestant, but distrusts the Presbyterianism form of the religion that has taken hold in Scotland.

King James I

April 6 1603 – King James enters his new kingdom

King James enters his newly acquired Kingdom of England at Berwick upon Tweed, Here he is greeted by Tobias Matthew, the Bishop of Durham.

April 9 1603 – King James at Newcastle

King James enters Newcastle on April 9th and is preached to by the Bishop of Durham at the town’s St Nicholas church, which was then in the Diocese of Durham.

Walworth Castle
Walworth Castle. Photo © David Simpson 2018

April 13 1603 – King James at Durham and Walworth

After his stay in Newcastle King James enters Durham City on April 13th where he is entertained by the Bishop of Durham at Durham Castle before heading south to rest at Walworth Castle, near Darlington, the home to the Jennison family.

Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle Photo © David Simpson 2018

Nov 1605 – Gunpowder Plot

Guy Fawkes (Guido Fawkes) of York is chief among those implicated in a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Fawkes will be tortured and executed. He was working on behalf of the Spanish as part of this Catholic plot to overthrow the government. There were thirteen plotters in all including fellow Yorkshiremen, Robert and Thomas Winter and John and Christopher Wright. Perhaps the most notable name amongst the plotters was Thomas Percy. He was the second cousin once removed of Henry Percy, the 9th Earl of Northumberland, who had appointed him Constable of Alnwick Castle. His involvement will focus suspicion on the Percy family name.

1606 – Reivers transported

King James begins the transportation of the most troublesome Border Reivers to northern Ireland.  Many Protestant English and Presbyterian Scots, mostly from south west Scotland and the lowlands are deliberately settled in Ulster at this time. Ulster was then a largely Catholic Gaelic speaking region. The Border Reivers are another particularly distinct group of settlers who are sent to northern Ireland. In the Borders the typical raiding way of life of the reivers will come to a gradual end over the next five years.

Ravensworth Castle
Ravensworth Castle (demolished in 1932) once dominated  the Team valley

1607 – Liddels of Ravensworth

The Liddel family have purchased the estate and castle of Ravensworth near Gateshead.

1607 – Skinningrove merman

In this year a merman was allegedly swept inshore by storms and caught by fishermen on the Cleveland coast at Skinningrove.

1610 – Sunderland must pay Newcastle

Around 14,700 tons of coal a year is exported from Sunderland to London but following a petition from Newcastle, the King orders that part of Sunderland’s coal revenue must be paid to the Newcastle merchants.

Auckland Castle
Auckland Castle Photo © David Simpson

Aug 17 – 28 1617 – King James in the North East

King James stays for a number of days in the County of Durham during a journey north to Scotland. He arrives at Auckland Castle on August 17 as a guest of the Bishop of Durham. He then moves on to Durham City on August 19th and attends a horse race at Woodham near Aycliffe on August 21. The following day he moved on to Newcastle where he was entertained as a guest of the mayor.

1619 – Tyzack’s Glass

An industrial pioneer with the exotic name of Tymoline Teswick  operates a glass making plant at Howdon on Tyne. He is a French Huguenot artisan and his surname will also be spelled Tyzack.

1620 – Gibside

The construction of Gibside Hall to the south west of Gateshead that commenced around 1603 is completed by William Blakiston.

1620 – Scarborough Spa

Scarborough’s development as a holiday resort begins with the discovery of a well of mineral water with supposed health benefits, on the Yorkshire coast.

Whickham lies half way between the valleys of the Derwent and Team : © David Simpson

1620 – The Whickham Grand Lease Way

The first recorded colliery railway or wagonway in the region is ‘The Whickham Grand Lease Way’ which runs from Whickham to Dunston on Tyne via Lobley Hill. However, the coal trade was already long-established in the area.

1622 – Ballast shore targeted at Jarrow

The men of Newcastle destroy a ballast shore erected at Jarrow by Henry Vane over concerns that he is encouraging shipping trade in direct competition with their town.

1622 – Stockton coal

Stockton is recorded as shipping coal this year but the town is relatively distant from the coalfield compared to other places further north and is primarily an agricultural port.

1623 – Ouseburn glassworks

A glassworks is established at Ouseburn east of Newcastle.

King Charles I

March 27 1625 – KING CHARLES  I

Charles I becomes King following the death of his father, James I. He is a king who very much believes in his divine right to rule and his unwillingness to accept change will bring great turmoil.

William Cavendish Earl

March 7 1627 – Cavendish Earl of Newcastle

Yorkshire-born courtier, William Cavendish is given the title Earl of Newcastle upon Tyne by King Charles. Cavendish, connected to the great Derbyshire family of this name is a grandson of Bess of Hardwick. He has no particular connection with Newcastle but will play an important part in the events there in the Civil War.

May and June 1633 – King Charles in the region

King Charles visits the North East while on his way to Scotland. He stays at the castles of Raby, Auckland and Durham. He came to Newcastle on June 3 and paid a visit to Tynemouth on June 5.

Historic view of Darlington showing the Skerne and St. Cuthbert's church
Darlington was hit by  plague in 1636. Picture shows the River Skerne and St. Cuthbert’s church

1636 – Newcastle plague

An extraordinary 5,037 people die of plague at Newcastle after the contagion spread from North Shields in 1635. The plague also ravaged at Gateshead and Darlington. Grass is said to now grow in Newcastle’s streets.

March 1638 – Scottish Presbyterians sign covenant

Thousands of Presbyterian Scots sign a ‘Covenant with God’ resisting the religious reforms King Charles hopes to impose on their Scottish ‘kirk’ or Church of Scotland. Essentially, the ‘Covenanters’ do not believe in bishops and reject an Anglican-style Book of Common Prayer that Charles has tried to impose north of the border. Similar attempted impositions on the church in England are also causing resentments from hard line Puritans there.

Dec 1638 – Covenanter Scots throw out the bishops

King Charles is the head of the Church of England where its system of bishops places him firmly at the head of the church. North of the border, religion is more complex and divisive. In December, in defiance of the King, the Presbyterian-dominated Scottish kirk abolishes bishops. However, some ‘Royalists’ in Scotland do believe in bishops. Of course none of this concerns the altogether separate Catholics (prominent in the Highlands) who believe the Pope in Rome should be the head of the church.

Newcastle Town Wall
Town wall, Newcastle © David Simpson 2015 .

1638 – Charles strengthens Newcastle

Charles I, strengthens Newcastle’s defences against a likely invasion of the Scots who he knows are plotting against him. The town  is surrounded by extensive defensive walls dating to medieval times.

Old Bridge, Berwick.
Old Bridge, Berwick. The bridge was completed in 1634. Photo © David Simpson 2018

1639 – English troops at Berwick

Following the recent abolition of bishops in Scotland, a war breaks out called the First Bishops’ War. There are skirmishes in Scotland – between Royalist ‘Episcopalians’ who believe in bishops’ and the Presbyterians who don’t. English forces gather at Berwick which has been an English town since 1482.

Raby Castle
Raby Castle © David Simpson

May 30 1639 – First Bishops’ War ends at Berwick

King Charles arrives at Berwick to join the English army assembled there. He makes his way north via Raby Castle; Durham City and Newcastle where he stays as the respective guest of Sir Henry Vane; Bishop Morton of Durham and Alexander Davidson, the Mayor of Newcastle. An army of Scottish Covenanters under General Alexander Leslie, the Earl of Leven, gather at Duns to the north of the border and progress to Kelso on the Tweed. On June 18, a truce is agreed, known as ‘The Pacification of Berwick’. The king agrees to defer the complaints of the Presbyterians to a newly created Scottish Parliament.

1639 – Charles triggers Second Bishops War

In a change of policy that defies the terms of the recent Berwick truce, Charles attempts to dissolve the new Scottish Parliament and triggers a Second Bishops War. In January 1640, a Covenanter army seize control of the Royalist stronghold of Aberdeen,

Apr 13 – May 5 1640  – The Short Parliament

Charles summons the English Parliament to try and raise funds for a military campaign against the Presbyterian Scots. However, the English Parliament have not been called by Charles for eleven years and their relationship with the king is broken. The English Parliament, headed by John Pym, have many grievances against Royal abuses of power and will not support the military campaign until the grievances are addressed. Charles has no intention of giving up royal powers and after only three weeks he dissolves the English Parliament. It comes to be known as ‘The Short Parliament’

General Alexander Leslie, Earl of Leven

Aug 28 1640 – Battle of Newburn on Tyne

No doubt exploiting the growing tensions south of the border and the increasingly weak position of the king, a 20,000 army of Scottish Presbyterian Covenanters under General Alexander Leslie cross the Tweed on August 20, bypassing Berwick. Eight days later, occupying land overlooking a ford on the north bank of the Tyne, they engage in battle with the English at Newburn to the west of Newcastle. The Scots, occupying the more defendable north bank are the victors.

Durham Cathedral and castle from Leazes Road, Gilesgate
Durham : seized by the Scots. Photo © David Simpson

Aug 29 1640 – English army loots Durham City

King Charles’ army, under the leadership of Lord Conway fled from the Battle of Newburn following their defeat. The English army, mustered by Charles from the south of England, were poorly trained and undisciplined. Retreating, they leave Newcastle deserted and undefended and loot the City of Durham as they return south, heading home via Northallerton.

Aug 29, 1640 – Scots enter Newcastle

The Scots enter Newcastle unopposed on August 29. The Newcastle coal trade, such an important and lucrative business, places the Scots in a strong position for negotiation. Around 10,000 people are employed in the mines and its associated shipping here at Newcastle but the whole trade comes to a standstill, with the workers fearing repercussions from the Scots should they attempt to work. Keel boats cease to operate and ships reaching the mouth of the Tyne turn away upon hearing the news of the Scottish occupation.

Aug 30, 1640 – Scots enter Durham

The Scots enter Durham City, finding it bled dry from the recent retreat of the passing English army and many of the city’s occupants have fled. The Bishop of Durham is amongst those absent. He retreated to his castle at Stockton and from there headed for refuge at York and then London. At Darlington the Earl of Strafford orders the removal of all cattle and consumable goods from the town in anticipation of the approach of the Scots.

The River Tees at Piercebridge.
The River effectively formed the southerly border of Scottish military occupation – an occupation paid for by the English. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Oct, 1640 – Scots occupy the whole North East

The Scottish Covenanter army have complete control of North East England, occupying Newcastle, Northumberland and Durham all the way to the River Tees. The people of the region petition the king for relief. In a humiliating agreement for Charles, the Treaty of Ripon is signed allowing the Scots to occupy the North East and what is more the Scots will receive daily expenses of £850 a day (about £200,000 in today’s money) for doing so. It is a temporary measure while the King tries to come to some sort of agreement. Charles is forced to call Parliament once again.

Nov 1640 – The Long Parliament

The expense of the military campaign and the costly occupation of Northumberland and Durham by the Scots forces King Charles to recall Parliament. This time Parliament only agrees to reconvene after an act is passed insisting that Parliament can only be dissolved with the agreement and votes of its members. This Parliament will sit until 1660 and will be known as ‘The Long Parliament’.

Aug 1641 – Scots depart

After many months of hardship for the region, the Scots leave the North East after Charles negotiates a truce at York. The Scots are paid £60,000 as an agreement for their departure. They finally cross the Tweed, returning to their home country on August 25.

Jan-Apr 1642 – Tensions rise across the nation

Tensions increased between the King and the English Parliament throughout the early part of 1642. In January the king fails to arrest John Pym; Sir Arthur Haselrig and other prominent MPs. In February Parliament banishes bishops from the House of Lords. In the meantime Henrietta Maria, the Queen of King Charles, flees to the Netherlands to seek assistance. In March, Parliament passes a law enabling it to appoint military commanders, a clear sign that a war is coming . In April the king’s entrance to the important Yorkshire port of Hull is blocked.

Mouth of the Tyne, South Shields
The mouth of the Tyne at South Shields : © David Simpson

June 1642 – Tyneside defences

King Charles’ supporters work hard to secure the far northern counties for the King. William Cavendish, the Earl of Newcastle, working on behalf of the king, orders men and horses from across Durham to defend Newcastle. Around 300 men are sent to South Shields to reinforce defences there and Tynemouth is likewise put into preparation for defence. The following year the king will make Cavendish the Marquis of Newcastle for his loyalty. On October 20, John Marley will be elected Newcastle mayor.

August 22 1642 – Civil War commences

In June the king rejects a list of propositions from Parliament and then holds a great meeting with the Lords and Gentry at Heworth Moor near York to gather support, The king then fails in an attempted siege of Hull. On August 22, the war begins after the king raises his standard at Nottingham.

The bridge at Piercebridge.
Piercebridge the site of a battle in 1642, here viewed from the Yorkshire side looking across to the County Durham bank of the River Tees. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Dec 1  1642  – Battle of Piercebridge

Numerous battles took place throughout 1642 in the midlands and south, notably at Edgehill and at Turnham Green but the first major incident in the North East occurs at Piercebridge on the River Tees. The most northerly four counties of Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland and Westmorland had all been secured for the Royalists under the leadership of the Marquis of Newcastle but in Yorkshire support was more divided. At the request of the Yorkshire Royalists, who were fearful of attack, the Marquis of Newcastle sends south 6,000 men in support. They include Sir William Lambton’s Regiment of Foot and Sir Thomas Howard’s Dragoons.

The bridge at Piercebridge is barricaded and defended by Captain John Hotham for the Parliamentarians who had been sent north by Lord Fairfax, the commander of the Yorkshire Parliamentarians. Sir Thomas Howard who led the Royalist onslaught is killed during the Piercebridge battle but it ends in a Parliamentarian retreat, enabling the Royalist forces to take the bridge and continue into Yorkshire. Another battle takes place at Tadcaster on December 6 in which the Royalists are once again the victors. The winter months then bring a temporary end to the campaigning.

Jan 14, 1643 – Coal ships banned

Last year Hull came out in support of the Parliamentarians and banned Charles from visiting. Parliament has now banned London coal ships from sailing to Newcastle unless the city agrees to support the Parliamentarians.

June 30, 1643 – Battle at Adwalton Moor

Parliamentarian troops under Lord Fairfax are defeated by Royalists in a battle near Leeds in West Yorkshire despite strong local Parliamentarian support in Leeds and Bradford. The Royalists now control all Yorkshire except for Hull.

Berwick upon Tweed and the Old Bridge
Berwick upon Tweed and the Old Bridge. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Jan 15 1644 – Scots invade and seize Berwick

On January 15, the Scots under General Alexander Leslie invade England again with over 20,000 men to support the English Parliamentarians against the king in the Civil War. A small force of English Royalists led by Sir Thomas Glenham is too small to resist them and retreat to Newcastle. By January 20 the Scots have entered Berwick.

Felton Bridge
Looking across the bridge to Felton from West Thirston © David Simpson 2020

Jan 22 1644 – Yorkshire gentry suggest laying waste to Northumberland

While an army of over 20,000 Scots is now poised to advance at Berwick, Royalist military leaders and Royalist gentry meet at Alnwick on January 22nd to decide how to respond. The Yorkshire gentry vote to lay waste to the lands in Northumberland, so destroying the provisions the Scottish army would need for the advance. Of Course the Northumbrian gentry disagree. The destruction of Felton Bridge across the River Coquet is also considered but rejected.

Detail from Nathaniel Buck’s view of Newcastle 1745 showing Sandgate and the eastern quayside.

Feb 3 1644 – Scots reach Newcastle

Unopposed on their advance through Northumberland, the Scots reach the Tyne and the walls of Newcastle. Some Scots encamp outside the town and others at Corbridge. The Newcastle natives had set alight to the suburb of Sandgate which lies just outside the town walls to prevent the Scots from taking shelter there on the east side of the town. Sandgate burns for several days. On February 6th General Leslie has heavy ordnance delivered by sea to Blyth and from there it is dragged across land to his camp.

The bridge Corbridge
The bridge Corbridge Photo © David Simpson 2018

Feb 22 1644 – Scots move camp to Heddon

After camping outside Newcastle for several days the Scots leave six regiments of foot from their 20,000 strong army north of Newcastle but the bulk of the army head west to Heddon on the Wall where they encamp on February 22 before laying out camps the next day along the Tyne valley from Ovingham to Corbridge.

Ebchester Photo © David Simpson 2018

Feb 28 1644 – Scots cross the Tyne

The Scottish army cross the River Tyne by fords at Ovingham, Eltringham and Bywell and then cross the River Derwent into Durham by a bridge at Ebchester on March 1. They advance across north Durham in the direction of Chester-le-Street and the River Wear. Their intended destination is Sunderland where there is Parliamentarian sympathy and a river port (the Tyne is blockaded) to keep them supplied with provisions from Scotland and London.

Mar 4 1644 – Scots enter Sunderland

Passing close to Chester-le-Street on March 2, the Scots encamp at Harraton where they observe the Sabbath on Sunday 3rd.  On March 4 they advance along the north bank of the River Wear which they cross via fords in two divisions at Hylton and at Ford-Pallion. They enter the town of Sunderland and create a deeply entrenched fortified encampment at Bishopwearmouth Panns between Bishopwearmouth and Old Sunderland.

Mar 6-8 1644 – Battles at Lambton and Offerton

Around March 6 a skirmish seems to have taken place at Chester New Bridge near Chester-le-Street. On March the 7th a party of Royalists advanced towards Sunderland from the south. They spot the Scots encamped at Humbleton Hill to the south of the town. A skirmish follows at Offerton and the outflanked Royalists retreat to Penshaw Hill. There is a further skirmish the following morning in a heavy snow storm.  

Mar 8 1644 – Scots desperate for provisions

The Scots were struggling for provisions as five supply ships laden with food and drink from Scotland were either cast away or captured by the Marquis of Newcastle. Increasingly desperate for provisions, the Scots leave two regiments at Sunderland and head towards Durham only to find the land stripped of its cattle by the Marquis of Newcastle. They head back to Sunderland via the north side of the river and encamp between the Wear and Tyne.

South Shields Harbour around 1820
South Shields Harbour around 1820

March 15 and 19 1644 – Scots besiege South Shields

Now camped between the Wear and Tyne, the Scots turn their attention to South Shields but in their initial siege upon the town on March 15 they are seen off by Captain Chapman. The Scots try again on March 19 and this time are successful in capturing South Shields.

Hylton Castle
Hylton Castle, Sunderland. A battle was not quite fought nearby. Photo © 2017 David Simpson

March 24, 1644 – Battles of Hylton and Boldon

After marching from Durham to Chester-le-Street, the Marquis of Newcastle’s Royalist soldiers engage the Scots in skirmishes on the hills above the River Wear at Hylton and a further skirmish occurs the following morning near Boldon windmill. The outcome weighs in favour of victory for the Scots. On retreating to Durham the Royalist rear is attacked by a small party of Scots, perhaps at Gilesgate Moor with some pursuits as far as Brancepeth and Bishop Auckland.

River Wear Fatfield
This now heavily wooded section of the River Wear was the heartland of the Wearside coal trade in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Photo © David Simpson

March 24, 1644 – Scots control Sunderland coal

During March the Scots had taken full control and protection of the Sunderland coal trade including the keels and the mines in the important Harraton, Lumley and Lambton areas, enabling the shipment of coal to Parliamentarian London. With the Newcastle coal trade ground to a halt, Sunderland was thriving under the Scottish and Parliamentarian influence. During March, Parliamentarians express anger at enemy Royalists from Newcastle entering the area, capturing forty Wearside miners and keelmen, burning their mines and mocking them for supplying the London coal trade. In April a hundred Scots guarding Wearside keels are also captured by the Royalists.   

Quarrington Hill
The Heugh at Quarrington Hill, the site of the Scottish army’s camp. © David Simpson 2020

April 8, 1644 –  Easington to Quarrington Hill

Provisions from the local countryside are severely plundered by the Scottish army and the manoeuvrings of the Royalist army. The presence of these armies place a great burden on the land and the local people. Around March 31, the Scots extend their quarters to Easington where they camp for several days before marching west, on April 8, to Quarrington Hill.

Selby Abbey
Selby Abbey

April 11 1644 – Selby stormed, York under threat

The Yorkshire town of Selby held by John Belasyse, the Governor of York is besieged by the Parliamentarian cavalry of Sir Thomas Fairfax who have recently crossed the Pennines from their campaigns in Cheshire. The Royalist City of York is now under threat from the Parliamentarians.

Lumley Castle
Lumley Castle – housed Royalist troops. Photo © John Simpson

April 13 – Newcastle troops head for Yorkshire

With the strategically important Royalist stronghold of York now under threat from the Parliamentarians, the Marquis of Newcastle is needed in Yorkshire. He gathers together troops from a Royalist garrison now stationed at Lumley Castle as well as from the town of Newcastle itself (leaving enough men behind to defend the town). He marches via Durham, Bishop Auckland, Barnard Castle and crosses the Tees at Piercebridge (April 14), gathering support where he can.

View from Ferryhill
View across the Durham countryside from Ferryhill. Photo © David Simpson 2018

April 13 – Scots at Ferryhill and Darlington

The Scottish Covenanter army under General Leslie at Quarrington Hill move south to assist the Parliamentarian campaign in Yorkshire. On their way they camp near Ferryhill and at Darlington on April 14 they cross the Tees at Croft. Near here they capture some of the tail-end of the Marquis of Newcastle’s forces and take them prisoner.

April 20, 1644 – Marquis of Newcastle enters York

On April 20, the Marquis of Newcastle enters the city of York while the Scots under General Leslie join up with the Parliamentarian troops of Fairfax at Wetherby.

York City walls
York City walls and Micklegate Bar © David Simpson 2021

April 22, 1644 – Siege of York commences

Commencing on April 22, the Parliamentarian troops of Fairfax, assisted by General Leslie’s Scottish army of Covenanters besiege the Royalist garrison at York. Fairfax’s troops lay to the east of the city and Leslie’s Scots are to the west with the Marquis of Newcastle’s troops holding out in the city between the two. The  cavalry of the Marquis narrowly escapes from the city to join with other Royalists armies but a Royalist garrison of 800 horse and 5,000 foot remain in the city under Newcastle’s command.

Bootham Bar and York Minster
Bootham Bar and York Minster from an old postcard

June 3 1644 – York encircled

From June 3, Fairfax and Leslie are further assisted in their siege of York by the troops of the Earl of Manchester, leaving York virtually encircled.

June 30 1644 – Prince Rupert to the rescue

On May 16, from his headquarters at Oxford, King Charles dispatches his nephew, Prince Rupert to assist the relief of York. Rupert leaves Shrewsbury on May 16, gathering troops at Chester and besieges the Parliamentarian town of Bolton in Lancashire. Joined at Bury by the Marquis of Newcastle’s cavalry (that escaped from York) he captures Liverpool after a five day siege. He then heads across the Pennines via Preston, Clitheroe and Skipton before arriving at the Royalist castle of Knaresborough on June 30.

Jul 2, 1644 – Battle of Marston Moor

The allied Parliamentarians and Presbyterian Scots at York are divided by rivers and fear a vulnerability to Rupert’s attack. They abandon the siege of York on June 30 and collectively take up a position on Marston Moor to the west of the city. York is relieved by a section of Rupert’s army and the Marquis of Newcastle’s army are ordered to join Rupert at Marston Moor. The Parliamentarian allies inflict a heavy defeat on the Royalists in a night-time battle at Marston Moor. This battle is the biggest of the Civil War and three thousand Royalists are killed. On July 16, York is finally taken by the Parliamentarians after a long siege. The Royalist town of Newcastle still remains to be taken.

July 20 1644 – New Scottish army arrives in the North

A new Scottish army arrives in the north to support the Parliamentarian cause. The army of the Earl of Callendar cross the Tyne at Newburn Ford on July 20. They make their way to the garrison of Sunderland from where they advance along the Durham coast towards Stockton and Hartlepool.

Sea wall, Old Hartlepool
Sea wall, Old Hartlepool. Photo © David Simpson 2018

July 25 1644 – Hartlepool and Stockton fall

The Royalist town of Hartlepool and the castle at Stockton-on-Tees  (which belonged to the Bishop of Durham) both fall to the army of the Scottish Earl of Callendar.

Blackgate Newcastle
The Blackgate, Newcastle, castle. The castle was the last part of the town to hold out against the Scottish siege. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Aug 13  1644 – Siege of Newcastle begins

The next major focus of General Leslie’s Scottish army is the town of Newcastle, which falls under siege. The town is defended under the command of the mayor, John Marley. Scots will be stationed outside the town walls as well as at Gateshead and on the bridge across the Tyne.  An additional ‘bridge of boats’ is also built across the Tyne by the Scots.

Pilgrim Gate Newcastle
A 19th century illustration of The Pilgrim Gate, Newcastle upon Tyne

Oct 19  1644 – Onslaught as town defences breached

For about ten weeks the resilient town of Newcastle held out against the Scottish siege but with winter approaching in October, the Scots step up the pressure with heavy firing from batteries placed around the walls and the laying of mines which create the potential for breaches. A small breach is made by the White Friar Tower. The soldiers of the town garrison concentrate the fire of their scattered shot upon the Scottish soldiers who attempted to enter here. The Scots attack the town’s ‘Newgate’ which is defended by Cuthbert Carr and then attack the Pilgrim gate, on Pilgrim Street, defended by Captain George Errington; Lieutenant William Robson and the Ensign Thomas Swan. These men kept on fighting, taking down many of their attackers, until they are overwhelmed by the flow of incoming Scots.

Newcastle Castle Keep
Newcastle Castle Keep Photo © David Simpson 2015.

Oct 20 1644 – Newcastle mayor takes refuge in castle

On October 20, General Leslie himself enters the captured town of Newcastle. He had been quartered at Elswick throughout the siege. Upon entering he receives a letter from Marley, the mayor, who had taken refuge in the castle and had continued to fight. The mayor begs for liberty and safe delivery to a Royalist garrison, which Leslie refuses. Eventually the mayor and his supporters surrender the castle on October 22 and are briefly attacked by the Scottish mob as they emerge.

Oct 1644 – Newcastle – Sunderland rivalry?

Parliamentarian sympathisers in Sunderland, were perceived to have assisted the ‘blew cap’ Scots (named from the blue berets of their attire). The Wearsiders apparent support for the Scots is said have been heavily resented by Newcastle’s Royalist natives. 

There were certainly influential Parliamentarians in Sunderland, most notably the Lilburne family. A weakening of Newcastle and its Royal-approved monopoly of the North East coal trade, could potentially benefit Sunderland’s trade.

A  Newcastle Royalist rhyme supposedly from the time of the siege is said to demonstrate the resentment and rivalry:

“Ride through Sandgate, up and doon, there you’ll see the gallants fighting for the croon; and all the cull cuckolds in Sunderland toon; with all the bonny blew caps cannot pull them doon”

The rhyme  first appears in Robert Surtees’ extensive and detailed history of County Durham published in the early 19th century and is presented as a genuine ballad of the time. There is a possibility that Surtees made it up.

Gateway to Tynemouth castle and priory
Gateway to Tynemouth castle and priory. Photo David Simpson 2015

Oct 27 – 1644 Tynemouth Castle besieged

The Royalist garrison of Tynemouth Castle is besieged by General Leslie’s Scottish army and it surrenders. The castle had it seems been affected by a plague and its commanders seem to have deserted its quarters.

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