Monday, 18 November 2019

Lincolnshire Campaign III - the Leaguer of Grimsby

The matches are lit. Prayers are being said. Firearms primed. A Roundhead deserter (probably a former Royalist soldier who had been offered the choice of 'freedom' shouldering a musket in a rebel regiment or labouring in a saltpetre workshop) had made his way into the old port of Grimsby the night before bearing news of the intended assault on the morrow. The Royalist regiments stand to. Battered in the great battle of Clee Fields five weeks before, astounded to have been thrown back by the Roundheads, they are now rested and ready to give a good account of themselves.

Map of the town from 1620s. This map covers much of the western part of the battlefield, with the Parliamentarians occupying the area of the old abbey and to the west of Bargate (the road heading roughly south to north)

Taken from a map c 1820. The area of action concerns the Old Town, the old haven to its right and Holme Hill further to the east, and the area south of the West Marsh. The location of the Battle of Clee Fields can be seen to the east of the map.

18th century plan of the town. Not much has changed since the 17th century.

God looks down on the old town. 'Will it burn, this home of the old pagan Grim', he asks himself as he surveys the eastern marshes and the approaching columns. He rather hopes not because of its association with fish, the symbol of the early followers of his son.
The two sides at the start of the fateful day. Bargate runs directly north on the west side of town coming from the site of the nunnery north of Sartho. The Abbey Rd branches off Bargat immediately at the south of the picture and enters the town on its eastern corner. Brighowgate branches off further up Bargate. The old high street (now Victoria St) cuts across the town east west. Parts of the East and West Marshes can be seen at the top of the picture. The old haven is immediately to the east of the town - its silting up from the 15th century led to a decline in the towns fortunes, but it still retained its two MPs from its days as a major medieval borough - one, Gervase Holles fought for the King in this campaign, the other (Christopher Wray was with Manchester's main army.
The eastern approaches. The East Marsh top left. Parliamentarian columns march up from the south, guns behind the wall of gabions. On the small eminence known as Holme Hill the Royalists have built a redoubt to command the eastern approaches and haven.

The commander of the Royalist battery on Holme Hill salutes his Roundhead adversary and invites him to shoot first. The cavalier battery is armed with heavy guns landed from a Dutch ship. More of the same form the arsenal of the town itself. A fortunate gift from the sea as the King's men had lost all their guns at the Battle of Clee Fields. Some of those guns are now turned on their former owners.
View from the grounds of the old papist abbey looking north towards Grimsby. Here the Royalists have site one of the large cannon from the grounded Dutch ship.

West of Bargate, the Parliamentarians eye the Cavalier guns guarding the defences on Brighowgate. More guns sit to the west towards Cartergate, by the church of St James.
The Parliamentarian guns commence bombardment of the redoubt on Holme Hill and the barricaded gateways to the south of the town with no effect despite some accurate gun laying. This is owing to miscalculations on the part of their commander who didn’t allow properly for the effectiveness of the defences - he really should have laid guns and the lines at closer range!

Nevertheless, on the right flank a cavalry regiment and the Red Regiment advance on the flanks of the redoubt. The plan was for the horse to drive off any supporting troops and for the foot to storm the earthworks, but on arriving to the north of the redoubt Lt Col Dickerage Lane saw there were no support troops and promptly ordered his troopers to dismount and to storm the redoubt from the rear. The startled gunners waited not upon their honour and climbed over the palisade and ran down the hill hoping to escape into the East Marsh.

The Blue and Tawny Regiments form column ready to assault the eastern approach to Grimsby

Meanwhile the defenders’ attention is drawn to the small unit advancing along the abbey road. Hidden behind the small column of foot is a wagon full of gunpowder barrels to blast an entrance into the town.
Further West the Yellow Regt has climbed over the Countervallation and makes ready to advance on the south western corner of GY. In the far west a cavalry regiment comes up against the West Marsh and its colonel is trying to get it to turn east to escort a second powder wagon, which has somehow been able to follow its orders, but is in danger of leaving its escort behind.

Meanwhile the Royalist White Regiment in reserve is being rushed to the eastern perimeter to meet the assault there.
The redoubt successfully taken the Parliamentarian foot and guns follow orders to turn to the town. It takes longer to rally the dismounted horse who are pillaging the abandoned redoubt for anything worth having - apart from the guns and ammunition, there are slim pickings so after a while they too return to order and remount.

The Light Blue Regiment has successfully driven off the gunners at the southeastern gate and maintain good order ready to be turned against the defending infantry.

The Tawny Regiment forms in line by the eastern earthworks ready to go over. The Royalist reserves arrive and form up just in time. Frantic shouts to redirect the eastern powder wagon are ignored or are not heard and it continues along the Abbey Rd. Literally a powder keg that might hoist the Roundheads with their own petard!

The western powder wagon has managed to get through despite fire from the Royalist dragoons at that gate. The charge is ignited and… explodes!! Unfortunately the defenders fire has put the engineers off and they weren’t able to place the wagon properly and the explosion has little effect bar scattering wood and horse flesh across a wide area and blowing some hats off the supporting Yellow Regiment. The Yellows now advance within close range ready to release their first volley in the teeth of the defenders. Simultaneously the Roundhead batteries have shown rare drive and bravery and moved aside their gabions and are manhandling their guns to get close range shots at the defenders. Their Godly zeal must burn bright, Praise be to the Almighty!

The crisis approaches. The opposing foot have been engaged in a hitherto ineffective firefight. The Royalist shooting had been particularly bad - it must be due to the damp conditions in the town. The Tawny Regt was bloodily repulsed from the parapet by the White Regt and some of the Roundheads had to retreat into the marshy Haven. Nevertheless their General urged them on and they took up the firefight again. But all along the line the Roundheads are now beginning to drop. The only unit engaged that has not been battered is the Light Blue Regiment, having driven off the artillery and repulsed the Grey Regiment.

Can they break the Greys? Can the Parliamentarian right wing arrive in time to tip the balance?

The crisis is not over but the Roundheads are returning to the fray.

The right wing infantry have engaged the defenders on the eastern rampart and the artillery has pounded the earthworks reducing their defensive power.

The Light Blue Regiment has seen off two units of Royalist foot and have just repulsed a cavalry charge, the musketeers having entered buildings while the pike hold forth in the street.

Only the dismounted dragoons, one small battery and the horse remain intact from the early morning. It must be close to decision time. Break off and escape west towards Barton across little known tracks through the West Marsh, or try to hold on?

End Game: The Roundheads are pouring into the town from all southern and eastern entrances and are pushing back the Royalists through the streets. Only a counter-charge by the Blue Horse has seen off the Roundhead cavalry preventing defeat being turned into a disaster. The Dragoons unbowed again but fail to drive off the Light Blue Pikemen, those veritable Alexanders!, who capture the remaining guns before they are towed away. Remnants of 3 battered infantry units, the dragoons and all the horse escape over the bridge and across the West Marsh.

They will only pause to pillage Immingham, that nest of Puritans, once they realise the Roundheads are too exhausted to launch a full pursuit.


  1. Wow, great game and hats off to you for all that research too. Loved it. More please.

  2. I like the background info too. The old maps are very interesting.

  3. Cheers gents. Thanks for the kind words. Research is a bit strong a term for a bit of googling. But it did lead me in to some odd byways in local history (nothing related to the ECW other than a little about Gervase Holles).

    So far I haven’t ‘read’ any more of Norris the Rubberman’s work of ‘history’. I’m sure there’s more to come.

  4. Another interesting game/story well told! I particularly like the eye-level photos, great stuff!

    1. Thanks James. My photos generally suffer from shaky hand, poor use of the equipment etc. I originally took these as a record for a friend.

      The war has gone quiet in this corner of the county. That is unless you were a villager on the Royalists’ route back to Yorkshire.