Alan Crosby: Remembering England's final battle

By Jon Bauckham, 19 November 2015 - 5:56pm

Residents of Alan's beloved home city recently marked the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Preston – the last major conflict to be fought on English soil

Dr Alan Crosby is the editor of the Local Historian and a columnist for WDYTYA? MagazineThursday 19 November 2015
Alan Crosby
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Re-enactment of The Jacobite proclaiming James III as King in 1715 before the Last Battle on English soil

A historical re-enactor proclaims James III as king at one of the anniversary events in Preston earlier this month (Photo: Paul Melling/Alamy)

Last weekend was the 300th anniversary of the last major conflict on English soil, the Battle of Preston in 1715. My city was marking the occasion with exhibitions, re-enactments, lectures and other events.

The battle signalled the end of the first Jacobite Rising, the attempt to topple the German King George I, who succeeded Queen Anne a year earlier, and to restore the Stuart dynasty.

The fighting took place in the streets, which were barricaded and garrisoned by Jacobite forces (a mixture of Scots, Cumbrians and Lancastrians). James III, the ‘Old Pretender’, was proclaimed king in Preston market place on 10 November, and on 14 November the government forces attacked.

There was massive slaughter and bloodshed in the town. Much of the centre was burned down in the fighting, the streets ran with blood, and after the government eventually gained the upper hand – by no means not a foregone conclusion – the parish church became a prison for over 1,500 rebels, crammed into its medieval nave with much further suffering.

Visiting an exhibition, I was fascinated by the original parish register of Lancaster, the county town 20 miles to the north, which recorded the burial of dozens of Scottish prisoners, who died in prison or were executed for their part in the rebellion.

Poignantly, their place of origin is given – so many were from Inverness-shire, and I thought of their longing for a Stuart restoration, their exhausting trek south into England, and their miserable fate. And I thought of my city, in flames and with its inhabitants in abject terror, as one of the most important battles in British history was fought, hand to hand, in its streets three centuries ago.
 

Alan Crosby lives in Lancashire and is editor of The Local Historian. He is an honorary research fellow at Lancashire and Liverpool universities

 

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