The Battle of Guisborough – 16th January 1643   Leave a comment

Guisborough is today a bustling market town on the edge of industrial Teesside, in medieval times it had been a bustling market town thriving on the visitors from far and wide who came for pious reasons visiting the enormous Priory founded in the 12th century by Robert de Brus, an ancestor of the later and more famous, Robert the Bruce of Scotland. In the time of the English Civil War it was a shadow of it’s former self, the Priory having been destroyed during the Reformation; however it was still important strategically. Positioned south of the Tees Valley it was a gateway to the River Tees and beyond that, to Royalist Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Guilford Slingsby was a part f the Yorkshire gentry with estates around Hemlington ( now a suburb of Middlesbrough where we are based) , and had been the private secretary to the Earl of Strafford up to his forced execution by Parliament in 1641. When the Civil War broke out he naturally supported the Royalist cause and raised a regiment of his own, both foot and horse, and realising the importance of Guisborough, moved his men there to guard against Parliamentarian attacks on supplies crossing the River Tees between Royalist held Newcastle and Royalist York.

On the Yorkshire coast however, at Scarborough, loyalties lay with Parliament, and local commander Sir Hugh Cholmley, decided to take action, especially after hearing the the Royalists intended to send a garrison to nearby Whitby. After being reinforced by two troops of dragoons from Sir Matthew Boynton, he set out in mid January across the Moors, a forty mile march in mid-winter, to threaten Guisborough.

After what can only be imagined as a very challenging march across difficult terrain in freezing weather, the Parliamentarian forces arrived at Guisborough on the 16th January.

Suggested initial deployment for the Battle of Guisborough

Wargaming Notes

The Battle of Guisborough was quite a small engagement, with hundreds rather than thousands of troops being involved. It would lend itself to large skirmish rules such as Pikeman’s Lament, or if fought with really small scale figures could even be recreated on a one to one scale.

For the purposes of our lists below we are suggesting a figure scale of 1:10



Guilford Slingsby – Commander-in Chief – Inexperienced, Inspirational Leader

Slingsby’s Horse (100 men) – 10 figures – cavalry, experienced, good morale, sword, pistol, carbine

Slingsby’s Foot (400 men) – 40 figures – 20 close formation infantry, inexperienced, basic training, enthusiastic morale, light armour, pike – 20 open order infantry, inexperienced, basic training, enthusiastic morale, unarmoured, musket.



Sir Hugh Cholmley – Commander-in-Chief – Experienced, Respected Leader

Cholmley’s Horse (80 men) – 8 figures – cavalry, experienced, trained, average morale, sword, pistol, carbine

Cholmley’s Dragoons (60 men) – 6 figures – mounted infantry, experienced, average morale, sword, musket

Boynton’s Dragoons (110 me) – 11 figures – mounted infantry, experienced, good morale, sword, musket

Cholmley’s Foot (130 men) – 13 figures – 5 close formation infantry, experienced, average morale, light armour, pike – 7 open order infantry, experienced, average morale, unarmoured, musket


When Slingsby saw the Parliamentarian forces approaching Guisborough he confidence was buoyed by the fact he knew he outnumbered his enemy, and consequently his force sallied forth out of the town and positioned themselves on the open ground about a mile south of the Priory.

The Parliamentarians formed up opposite and then both sides advanced on each other. Slingsby’s Horse were made up largely of Dutch veterans he had employed as mercenaries and they charged forward into the mounted dragoons and halted their advance. A melee ensued lasting sometime between the mounted forces, until Slingsby happened to glance over his shoulder and saw his infantry behind him in total disarray.

The more numerous mounted troops of Cholmley, along with his infantry, had advanced beyond the cavalry melee and straight into the Royalist infantry. Despite their inexperience, the Royalists had initially stood their ground, before being gradually pushed back through the Priory ruins and to an area now called “Wars Fields” where they made their final stand. Slingsby could see that rallying his men was near impossible, but tried all the same, only to suffer gun shot wounds to both legs and fall from his horse while his men fled.

Slingsby was taken prisoner and due to his wounds had both legs amputated above the knee; three days later, aged 32, he died of his injuries and was buried at York Minster. Victorious, Cholmley advanced his men to Yarm, another market town in the Tees Valley and at in that time the site of the first bridge from the river mouth over the River Tees, which they secured to stop supplies from Newcastle to York.

Post Script

As said earlier, this isn’t a grand battle, more of a large skirmish, but an interesting one and certainly not a forgone conclusion depending on your own tactics and dice rolls. It grabbed our attention having taken place just a few miles from where we are based.


Posted 13/09/2021 by The Little Corporal in ECW & 30YW

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