Guisborough, ancient capital of Cleveland

373 years ago today Guisborough would have looked a totally different place. Now housing estates dominate the scene but in 1643 it would be a gentle rural scene with the “town” just a strip of houses on the right of this photo. The railway and the ironstone and the alum industries had still to impact the town. In may have just snowed like today but in a field on the edge of the town 700 newly recruited Royalist troops were being mustered by Colonel Guilford Slingsby for a march to Whitby. Where they actually were is not known. Some say it was in a field which at one time was called “War Field” but which is now a small housing estate to the west of the town’s Lawrence Jackson School (top right in the photo). Another suggestion is a field off Butts Lane.

Whitby was the home of Sir Hugh Chomeley, a Parliamentarian, who was absent having joined Lord Fairfax in his campaign against the King’s headquarter’s in York. The news had reached Chomeley however who had set off across the moors with 500 men plus cavalry and dragoons and two field artillery. It is not known which route they took. But at a guess Kirbymoorside, Blakey Ridge and Castleton, approaching Guisborough from Birk Brow. So the scene is set, on the 16 January 1643, for the Battle of Guisborough, a lesser known battle of the English Civil War.

It turned out to be an outright victory for the Parliamentarians who took many prisoners. The Royalist commander lost both his legs. The Parliamentarians then moved to Yarm to protect the river bridge from being used by a supply train organised by the Duke of Newcastle for the King at York. 16 days later the Battle of Yarm took place but this time it was the Royalists who won.

Within a month Sir Hugh Chomeley had changed sides and became a Royalist which was not a good move as it upset quite a few people. He should have stuck to the winning side. After the war he spent the rest of his life in exile.


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