The Storming of Bristol
Leading up to the
The Storming of Bristol
In February 1643, during the first period of the English Civil War and just five months berore the Storming of Bristol, Parliament dispatched Colonel Nathaniel Fiennes to Bristol to investigate the governor and his officers. Fiennes arrested the governor Colonel Thomas Essex and executed two leading citizens Robert Yeamans and George Bouchier for plotting to hand the city to the King, a plot that was due to be carried out by opening the Frome Gate of the city to a force commanded by Prince Rupert on 7th March 1643.
Colonel Nathaniel Fiennes. Image by Alamy.com
The Trial and Execution of
Robert Yeamans and George Bouchier
Robert Yeamans and George Bouchier spent eleven weeks' imprisonment and were brought to trial before a council of war. They were both found guilty and hanged, drawn and quartered in Wine Street, Bristol, on 30 May 1643.
Yeamans and Bouchier, with other Royalist conspirators, surprised by Parliamentary troops in March 1643 in Bristol: Storming of Bristol on 26th July 1643 during the English Civil War: picture by George Edmund Butler. BritishBattles.com
The Storming of Bristol
(26th of July 1643)
Prince Rupert at the Storming of Bristol on 26th July 1643 in the English Civil War. Alamy.com
The two Royalist forces that met to attack the City of Bristol, were Prince Rupert’s army from Oxford and Prince Maurice’s ‘Cornish’ fresh from its success at the Battle of Roundway Down.The Parliamentary garrison was led by Colonel Nathaniel Fiennes. The Royalist armies jointly probably comprised around 4,500 horse and dragoons, around 6,000 foot and around 20 cannons. Colonel Nathaniel Fiennes commanded a Parliamentary garrison in Bristol of 300 horse, 1,500 foot and whoever among the population of Bristol was prepared to fight for Parliament or was impressed by the garrison. Being a major national strongpoint, the city defences were well equipped with guns. More guns were removed from ships in the harbour so that the Parliamentary artillery numbered around 100 guns.
Above. Prince Rupert Royalist Commander of the army that stormed Bristol on 26th July 1643 in the English Civil War: picture by Sir Anthony van Dyck Image by Alamy.com
Below. Prince Maurice, Royalist Commander of the ‘Cornish Army’ in the storming of Bristol on 26th July 1643. The Royalist armies jointly probably comprised around 4,500 horse and dragoons, around 6,000 foot and around 20 cannon. Alamy.com
The Royalist assault on Bristol was due to begin at daybreak (around 4am) on 26th July 1643, with the attacks coordinated by the firing of signal guns. Prince Maurice’s Cornish foot were formed in three columns, commanded by Sir Thomas Basset, Sir Nicholas Slanning and Colonel Brutus Buck to assault the walls on either side of Temple Gate. Instead of waiting for the signal guns the Cornish columns rushed to the assault soon after 3am with the first appearance of sunrise causing Prince Rupert to order the signal guns to be fired immediately.
Gun in action at the time of the English Civil War: Storming of Bristol on 26th July 1643 during the English Civil War. BritishBattles.com
On the north side Lord Grandison’s brigade assaulted Stoke’s Croft and Prior’s Hill Fort but were beaten back with their brigade commander mortally wounded. A petard used on the gate at Stoke’s Croft failed to do its work.
Prince Rupert salutes the Royalist and Parliamentary casualties at the Storming of Bristol on 26th July 1643 in the English Civil War. BritishBattles.com
Belasyse’s attack on Windmill Fort failed due to a lack of scaling ladders to get over the wall and bundles to fill the ditch. Prince Rupert met the retreating soldiers and led them back to the attack but was still unable to penetrate the defences at this point.Wentworth took his men into the attack under a withering fire at Windmill Hill Fort but was repelled. To Wentworth’s right Washington and his dragoons reached an angle in the wall where they were out of sight of the main forts. Wentworth followed Washington.The Royalist columns threw grenades over the fortifications and stormed the wall. Once over they began breaking down the wall to enable the Royalist horse to follow them.Major Hercules Langrish was posted behind this section of wall with instructions to drive back the Royalist incursion, but he failed to act. Colonel Fiennes’ Regiment of Horse counter attacked, and the fighting raged at this point until the Parliamentary defenders were forced back and the Royalists penetrated the city’s suburbs.
Siege works against a city at the time of the English Civil War: Storming of Bristol on 26th July 1643 during the English Civil War. BritishBattles.com
Wentworth continued to advance taking a fortified position called ‘the Essex Work’, which the Parliamentary troops abandoned as soon as they saw the Royalist foot approaching them.
South of the River Avon the Cornish attack pressed up to the wall pushing carts into the ditch. Attempting to scale the walls the Cornish suffered heavy casualties especially among the senior officers. Colonel Buck reached the top of the wall before receiving a blow from a halberd which knocked him into the ditch fatally injuring him. Slanning and Trevannion were shot dead and Bassett, Sir Bernard Astley and Slingsby were all wounded.
Map of the Storming of Bristol by the Royalist Army of Prince Rupert on 26th July 1643. Map by John Fawkes / BritishBattles.com
On the north side of the River Avon Wentworth was joined by Belasyse and their two brigades continued to press on through the defences supported by Aston and his detachment of horse.
As the Royalists reached the inner fortifications the fighting focused on the Frome Gate which they tried to force against heavy resistance
Among the Parliamentary defenders of the Frome Gate was a party of women led by Dorothy Hazzard who worked to re-enforce the gate with woolsacks and earth to keep out the Royalist troops.
Mistress Dorothy Hazard and the Women of Bristol defending the Frome Gate against Prince Rupert, 1643, 1918 (oil on canvas). Alamy.com
The terms of the surrender of Bristol were agreed by 10pm by which time the Royalists were in control of much of the city. The articles of surrender permitted the Parliamentary garrison to march out, the officers and cavalry keeping their horses and swords and all ranks carrying their personal possessions.
These terms were not kept, and the Parliamentary soldiers were plundered and stripped of what they carried by the Royalist troops as they left the city. It is said this was in revenge for the plundering of the Royalist garrison after the surrender of Reading. 2
forced back and the Royalists penetrated the city’s suburbs.
Surrender of a city under siege at the time of the English Civil War: Storming of Bristol on 26th July 1643 in the English Civil War. BritishBattles.com
Following the surrender of Bristol to Prince Rupert the governor Colonel Nathaniel Fiennes returned to London where his opponents William Prynne and Clement Walker accused him of treachery and cowardice in surrendering the city. Fiennes was tried at St Albans and sentenced to death. Fiennes was pardoned and after Cromwell’s recapture of Bristol, which exposed the inadequacy of the city’s defences Fiennes was exonerated. However, he played no further military part in the English Civil Wars. Prynne and Walker are said to have lost property in the Royalist capture of Bristol and it may be that the trial of Fiennes was politically motivated. All the indications are that Fiennes fully performed his duty in the defence of Bristol.
Colonel Nathaniel Fiennes. Fiennes was condemned to death for surrendering the City, after a brave and resourceful defence. The garrison under Colonel Nathaniel Fiennes consisted of only 300 cavalry and 1,500 infantry, plus some poorly-armed town militia. All
the indications are that Fiennes fully performed his duty in the defence of Bristol.Image by Alamy.com
Casualties at the
Storming of Bristol
The Royalist loss was particularly heavy among the senior officers who led the storming parties: Lord Grandison, Colonel Brutus Buck, Sir Nicholas Slanning and Colonel John Trevannion were among the dead.The Parliamentary casualties were probably heavy but are not recorded.
William Villiers 2nd Viscount Grandison was mortally wounded at the Storming of Bristol on 29th July 1643. Lord Grandison was a prominent Royalist Cavalry Commander. Lord Grandison captured Nantwich in Cheshire with a Regiment of Horse and some Dragoons in 1642. Lord Grandison’s Regiment of Horse was in the front line of the Royalist left wing at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642. In December 1643 Sir William Waller surprised Lord Grandison’s regiment on his advance to Winchester and destroyed it, Grandison and a few of his officers managing to escape. Following his death at Bristol a memorial to Lord Grandison was installed in the Lucy Chapel of Christchurch Cathedral Oxford.
William Villiers, 2nd Viscount Grandison was mortally wounded at the Storming of Bristol on 29th July 1643: picture after Anthony van Dyck.
Following his death at Bristol a memorial to Lord Grandison was installed in the Lucy Chapel of Christchurch Cathedral Oxford.Lord Grandison was a prominent Royalist Cavalry Commander. Lord Grandison captured Nantwich in Cheshire with a Regiment of Horse and some Dragoons in 1642. Lord Grandison’s Regiment of Horse was in the front line of the Royalist left wing at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642. Alamy.com / BritishBattles.com
The 2nd Siege of Bristol
(10th of September 1645)
Above. THOMAS FAIRFAX, 3rd Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1612-1671). Parliamentary Commander at the 2nd Seige of Britol on 10th of September 1645 Alamy.com
Life in Bristol under the Royalist Rule lasted just over two years as on the 10th of September 1645 the Royalist commander Prince Rupert surrendered the city that he had captured from the Parliamentarians in July of 1643 and this is known as ‘The Second Siege of Bristol’.
A Brief Account of
Above. Royalist commander Prince Rupert surrendered the city of Bristol on the 10th of September 1645. Alamy.com
Above. Prince Maurice of the Palatinate tried to come to the aid of Prince Rupert. Alamy.com
The siege and capture of Bristol by Parliamentary forces under the Leadership of Commander Thomas Fairfax on 10th of September 1645 was one of the most devastating blows to the Royalist cause during the English Civil Wars (1642-1651). King Charles I had entrusted the city's safekeeping to his nephew Prince Rupert, but he could not hold out against the New Model Army led by Sir Thomas Fairfax. Following the fall of Bristol in 1645, Prince Rupert and Prince Maurice were both banished from England in October 1646.
I would like to thank the following for providing me with maps, images and for allowing me to use any previously published material for this article.
John Fawkes who allowed me to use material from his wonderfully historical website www.britishbattles.com with regards to the Storming of Bristol in 1643.
Mark Cartwright for his article entitled 'Siege of Bristol in 1645' published on 13 January 2022.