Keen eyed travellers will have noticed that an additional panel has been attached to the Rowton Village Sign on the A41. It now highlights, Rowton, the site of the Battle of Rowton Moor. Most local people will be aware that this battle was one of the most significant to happen at the end of the first stage of the English Civil War, a battle where King Charles I stood and watched as his bedraggled troops reached the safety of the city through the Northgate on September 24th 1645. He told his commander Lord Byron “to hold the city for three days to let me escape”, and then surrender to William Brereton leader of the Parliamentarian Army whose forward base was at the Old Hall in Christleton. Whilst re enactments of the Battle of Rowton Moor take place from time to time, Holly Holy Day in Nantwich is an annual event in the calendar being held on the last Saturday in January each year. This unique event commemorates the lifting of the Siege of Nantwich in January 1644 and is performed by the Society of Cavaliers and Roundheads, known as the Sealed Knot. The Sealed Knot of Cromwellian times was a Royalist secret society working to bring about the restoration of the monarchy. Its emblem was taken from the great chain of the Order of the Garter, in which “sealed knots” alternate with a Tudor Rose.
The Battle of Nantwich was a fierce affair when the defending garrison of Parliamentarian soldiers led by Sir Thomas Fairfax held out from the attacking Royalist Army led by Lord Byron. It was a turning point of the war in Cheshire. Since that day the townsfolk of Nantwich have celebrated their deliverance from the siege by wearing sprigs of holly in their hats- hence the name Holly Holy Day. The modern re-enactment of the battle can be traced back to 1971, when the Nantwich Historical Society first commemorated the battle in a simple wreath laying ceremony in The Square. It was due to the enthusiasm of local Sealed Knot member Andrew Gillitt that the UK’s largest re -enactment Society became involved. This is now one of the major events of the year for the Sealed Knot, and thanks to the support of the Nantwich Town and Cheshire East Councils, and many loyal local businesses and supporters, continues to prosper and grow putting Nantwich firmly on the map.
Andrew Gillitt a delightful man, and very good friend of Christleton, together with Colin Bissett now one of the main organisers of Holy Day, have helped us celebrate the events of the Battle of Rowton Moor on many occasions, including the Year 2000 Pageant. One of the most memorable occasions to occur was in the 1990’s when I arranged for a small detachment of the Sealed Knot to call in to Christleton during one of our festivals. Everything was fixed to enable us to film them coming with a baggage train along Pepper Street turning into Village Road and stop alongside (and later to go inside) the Ring O Bells. The scene was set and as the troops turned into Village Road and marched towards the Ring O Bells, a brown and cream double decker Chester City Transport bus (Route 5) appeared behind them. This completely ruined the 17th C scene we had hoped to film. Andrew made the most of the occasion however as a bride came out of the Bells in her Wedding day finery and was promptly kissed by Andrew who was wearing his superb Royalist outfit for the occasion. This event is featured in our Christleton 2000 years of History Book.
The pictures illustrating this article were taken during this year’s Holly Holy Day celebrations and feature both armies marching towards the Town centre led by ceremonial horse soldiers. After the laying of wreaths and a musket salute at the War Memorial the 1000 or so men women and children all dressed in authentic costumes of the period and carrying suitable arms of swords, muskets and pikes, accompanied by colourful colours (regimental flags) pipes and drums marched to the Mill field. Here the story of 1644 was re enacted with great enthusiasm, and providing great entertainment for the watching public. Several big guns added to the noise and chaos on the field throughout the battle as it unfolded, as it must have done in 1644, and we are privileged these days to be able to imagine what those dreadful days were like, through the enthusiastic volunteers of the Sealed Knot Society.
Royalist Army Arrives
Holy Holly Day Nantwich
Trooping the Colours Nantwich
Drumming up support
Pikemen at Nantwich
Muskateers in Welsh Row
Cavalery outisde St.Mary's Church Nantwich
The leaders discuss strategy
Discussion before battle, Nantwich
Wrreath laying ceremony Holly Holy Day 2019
Royalist arrives on Mill field Nantwich
Ready for Battle, Nantwich 2019
The cloud of battle
Muskateers get ready Nantwich
Muskateers fring a round Nantwich
Parlamentarions return fire 2019
The Scotts Regiment fire, Nantwich 2019
A flash in the pan Nantwich
Loading for action
Royalists fire Nantwich 2019
A push of pike
A parlez Nantwich
Gun salute Holly Holy Day 2019