New research has attempted to establish why a brutal massacre during the English Civil War has been largely forgotten by history.
The site of a Royalist garrison in Nottinghamshire, Shelford Manor was besieged by Parliamentary forces on 3 November 1645.
The war was in fact a series of conflicts throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland between the Parliamentarians (also known as Roundheads) and Royalists (or Cavaliers) over issues of governance, religion, and society.
The manor, part of a network of garrisons shielding the strategically important city of Newark, was held by Royalist Philip Stanhope. Parliamentary forces led by Colonel John Hutchinson and Colonel-General Sydenham Poyntz attacked it when Stanhope refused to surrender.
Despite an initially strong defence, Parliamentarian troops hacked down the drawbridge, proceeding to slaughter around 160 Royalist soldiers, including Stanhope.
Although the scale of the massacre has long been known, there has never been a detailed investigation – until now.
Dr David Appleby of the University of Nottingham had been working through documents for another project when the name Shelford cropped up repeatedly. As he explained, ‘I’ve driven past it [Shelford] hundreds of times, completely unaware it was the site of a massacre.’
‘I wondered why I’d never heard of it’, he added, ‘and why it wasn’t mentioned in the two main works on Civil War atrocities in England.’
Appleby has since concluded, in a paper published in the OUP journal Historical Research, that the massacre was ‘buried’ both because of divisions within the Royalist ranks and because of the sheer brutality of the attack.
In the summer of 1645, after Charles was defeated at Naseby, some of his armies were stationed at Shelford, including the Queen’s Regiment. Comprised mainly of European Catholics, the regiment had a bad reputation among fellow Royalists, as well as with the anti-Catholic Parliamentary press.
Many in the regiment were cut down at Shelford, with documents stating that Poyntz whipped his soldiers into a state of frenzy, fearing the arrival of Royalist relief forces. Many innocent women and children were also killed.
In other words, Royalists and Parliamentarians each had reasons to forget the siege. ‘The subsequent burying of the Shelford story is perhaps a reflection of both sides’ shame and embarrassment at the bloodshed and viciousness of the supposedly “civil” Civil Wars’, Appleby added.
The site itself, near a small village on the River Trent, remains unexcavated.
This is an article from the February/March 2021 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about the magazine and how to subscribe, click here.