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The Battle of Maidstone

10mm ECW Re-creation

The Battle of Maidstone game was put on specifically for the 360th anniversary celebrations of the real battle at Maidstone Museum on May 31st and June 1st 2008. The second day also saw a full-scale re-enactment of the battle in the town by the Sealed Knot Society

Our rather smaller offering was put on in one of the galleries of the museum and proved surprisingly popular with visitors to the museum, many of whom had come to see the events of the weekend.

Credits go to (in no particular order) Alan Ockleford, Andy King, Trevor Pearless and Pete Smith.

History of the Battle

Following the First Civil War (1642 – 1645), Parliament passed ordinances against the recognition of fast days and religious festivals. This was not popular in many parts of the country, and in Canterbury attempts by the Mayor to force tradesmen and merchants to open for business as usual on Christmas Day 1647 resulted in a riot which had to be suppressed by the New Model Army. The ringleaders of this insurrection were imprisoned at Leeds Castle, and subsequently tried by the County Commissioners, but the carefully selected jury refused to find a verdict, saying that the charges were invalid. Not willing to let the matter drop, the County Commissioners then said that the decision would be referred to Parliament. Meanwhile, petitioners in Kent implored Parliament to disband the Army, and declared their support for the King.

The County Commissioners tried to suppress the petitioners, but found little local support in Maidstone, in fact local support for the petition grew, and a body of men under Edward Hales were raised to take the petition to London. They were met at Blackheath by Lord Fairfax and some 7000 men who refused to allow them to pass. The Royalists retreated, followed by Fairfax.

Fairfax split his force, some sent to relieve Dover Castle, some to Rochester and some to Maidstone. The force sent to Rochester found it well defended and returned to the north bank of the Medway, rejoining Fairfax’s main force at Malling.

Meanwhile the Royalist command in the Home Counties fell to George Goring the Earl of Norwich, assisted by Sir Gamaliel Dudley, the Governor of Maidstone, his Lieutenant Sir John Mainey and the aforementioned Edward Hales.

Norwich raised around 11,000 rebels (many of whom more resembled an armed mob than an army), and mustered many of them to the north of Maidstone, around Kit’s Coty and Penenden Heath. Detachments were sent to Maidstone, earthworks and barricades erected and cannon positioned at the top of Gabriel’s hill. Fairfax knew of the rebel’s deployments and elected not to approach Maidstone from the North or West, instead a screening force was deployed at Aylesford, and his main force headed south.

Fairfax’s troops crossed the Medway at East Farleigh late in the afternoon of 1st June 1648, brushing aside a small Royalist picket. On hearing news of this, Norwich sent Colonel William Brockman with another 800 men to reinforce Maidstone, bringing the garrison up to around 4000 men.

Fairfax’s intention was to storm Maidstone the next day; but the leading elements of his force became involved in heavy skirmishing with Brockman’s troops. The remainder of the army was drawn in and a furious street fight ensued, with the Parliamentarians fighting their way in heavy rain down Tovil Lane and Stone Street, across the River Len and up Gabriel’s Hill, forcing back Royalist pikemen while Musketeers fired on them from the houses on either side. Braving the point blank fire of the guns at the top of Gabriel’s Hill the Parliamentarians stormed the guns and pushed the remaining Royalists back along Weeke Street into the grounds of St Faith’s church.

Norwich decided to lead further reinforcements into Maidstone, but meeting resistance, and fearing that the fate of the town was sealed he withdrew his forces towards Rochester.

The last act of the battle was the surrender of the remaining Royalist garrison at St Faith’s church sometime after mid­night, leaving Fairfax’s army victorious.

The Royalist’s losses were severe, around 300 dead, 1400 taken prisoner and 8 guns captured. Parliament claimed to have lost only 80 men.

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