Military In Newburn, Northumberland
Site of the battle of Newburn Ford and Ryton Willows Local Nature Reserve
Given Northumberland's position on the border with Scotland, it is well known to have been the site of more than its fair share of battles, but did you know that there was a battle at Newburn that eventually led to the English Civil War?
The battle site is at Newburn, where the Scottish army lined up, and also over the other side of the River Tyne near Ryton Willows, where the English forces assembled. Though the ford itself has been replaced by new bridges, there is still some evidence of its southern end and one of the “Sconces”, or defensive works, used by the English artillery.
The battle itself took place on the morning of August 28th in 1640 and is the only battle that took place during what is known as the Second Bishops' War. This was a series of wars brought about by a dispute over the governance of the Church of Scotland that came to a head when Charles I imposed uniform practices on the Church of Scotland and England.
A force of around 4,500 English troops, led by Lord Conway, were sent by Charles I to defend the ford from around 20,000 Scots led by Alexander Leslie. The English set up two sconces to the south side of the River Tyne at the ford, but they were poorly positioned allowing the Scots to take up a position on the higher ground to the north of the River where they could easily bombard the sconces and cavalry.
This heavy bombardment quickly destroyed the positions causing the English troops to abandon their posts and allowing the Scots to cross the ford. A counter attack by the English was initially successful but was soon beaten back. The English Cavalry and Infantry withdrew in different directions meaning Lord Conway couldn't reform his defensive lines and by the evening the English were in full retreat back to Newcastle.
Two days later, and with Conway retreating further to Durham, the City of Newcastle fell to the Scots. This resulted in King Charles I having to recall Parliament to try and raise enough money to pay the Scots off. Parliament refused to do this and the Battle of Newburn Ford ultimately put an end to his period of “Personal Rule” which had lasted 11 years to that point. This led to further Parliamentary clashes over the following years which led, in 1642, to the outbreak of the English Civil War. A stone monument marks the battlefield today.
This is just a brief overview of the battle but if you want more detailed information the Wikipedia page is a great source.
As mentioned above, the Battle of Newburn Ford took place on both sides of the River Tyne, part of the battle site being what is now Ryton Willows Nature Reserve. Ryton Willows is a Local nature Reserve and the ponds are classed as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the rich flora and fauna found there. On our visit there in March we saw Toads, Nuthatches, Buzzards and many other species of bird.
The nature reserve is easily accessed from the riverside footpath and has a network of grass paths and boardwalks to allow you to get around the site. There are ponds, woodlands and grasslands on site as well as the adjacent River Tyne.
If you head under the railway line you will enter the woodland area where the Curling Pond can be found. There you can see a small area of brickwork which is the only visible remains of a specially built ice rink. This was used by the Newcastle Caledonian Curling Club (hence the name of the pond) to hold curling matches, although the last of these took place at the beginning of World War II. The woodland at Middle Wood is predominantly Beech trees and they are considered to be the tallest trees in Gateshead!
During the Edwardian Period the main part of the Ryton Willows site was used as a fairground, where you could find a café, roundabouts, boats to hire and “shuggy boats” (who doesn't love a shuggy boat?). Nowadays you won't find any roundabouts but you will see plenty of runners, dog walkers and people out for a picnic.
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The marker stone for the battlefield site is directly to the north of the parking area.
Place contributed by Andrew Gardner
I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.
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A six storey lookout tower used to assist gun turrets in both World War 1 and 2.
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