Guests at CLC Trenython Manor in Cornwall are often struck by the extraordinarily peaceful atmosphere and expansive views over rolling green fields to Par beach… but for a period in 1644, the sounds of battling Parliamentarian and Royalist armies would have rent the air.
In summer 2013, English Heritage awarded registered battlefield status for the Battle of Lostwithiel, which took place on 21 August, 1644, with the aim of increasing awareness and understanding of the Civil War campaign in this area, and on the edge of which CLC Trenython Manor is located.
The skirmishes and hedge to hedge fighting that took place during August of that year and up to the Parliamentary surrender on September 1st, in and around this part of Cornwall, would have impacted the site of Trenython particularly the escalating action up to Castle Dore.
Estimated at over 11,000 strong, the Earl of Essex’s Parliamentarian army was reputedly greatly outnumbered by the Royalist forces of over 12,000 infantry and up to 7,000 cavalry.
Despite subsequent development, the battlefield sites remain pretty much as they would have been and a reading of accounts penned at the time adds colour when visiting surrounding local villages and sights.
As battle commenced
Essex was based in Lostwithiel with a major part of his army on Beacon Hill to the east and Restormel Castle to the north. The Royalists planned to trap him there. The King made his base at Boconnoc House, to the north-east of Lostwithiel, with another of his armies led by Sir Richard Grenville who was stationed at Lanhydrock House.
With contemporary accounts mostly in agreement, English Heritage has compiled details of the fighting and progress of the campaign, when no doubt the smell of blood, screams of men pierced by sword and pike, and smoke of musket shot and cannon fire carried on the air.
A number of features identified are still evident today with the ruined Restormel Castle a visitor attraction, with the crossing point below the site of the pass the Royalists fought to secure. At close by St Nectan’s Chapel, the church tower is reckoned to have been damaged by Parliamentarian fire.
The Royalists eventually had the Parliamentarians on the run – though history was later to see a reversal of fortune with the New Model Army – with a series of attacks around Tywardreath to Castle Dore, an iron age hill fort. Fighting continued into the night of August 31st and early the following morning Essex escaped by boat, leaving Major General Skippon to surrender.
Surveys and metal detecting in the battlefield area have retrieved cannon balls and shot. The battlefield area includes the Parliamentarians main escape route: the fields on both sides of Castle Hill road to the south of Lostwithiel, to the junction with the B3269; the modern road to Fowey and believed to be the same as the ancient route, where the running retreat occurred.
If you love history, then there’s much more to find out than this partial description of events here during the English Civil War allows. Staying at Trenython Manor you can imaginatively enter the fray while enjoying the landscape under much calmer conditions!