Department of History


Field Trips

Civil War Field Trip

The East Riding of Yorkshire was not the location of any great battles during the civil wars of 1638-1651 but the proximity of York and Scarborough and the strategic importance of Hull meant that it did play an important role during this period. Indeed Charles I's failure to gain control of Hull and its arsenal on 23 April 1642 has often been seen as the beginning of the Civil War in England. Control of the Riding was initially in the hands of Parliament but by 1643 all but Wressle and Hull had passed to the Royalists. This state of affairs changed through 1644 (York fell to Parliamentary forces after a three month siege on 16 July 1644, after the Battle of Marston Moor). Scarborough, the remaining Royalist outpost in the region surrendered on 22 July 1645.

Wressle Castle

This castle stands on the banks of the River Derwent and was built by Thomas Percy, later earl of Worcester, about 1380. It comprised four ranges around a large courtyard with four massive corner towers and a fifth (gatehouse) tower. In the 16th century it was one of the chief residences of the Earls of Northumberland. However, by 1577 the castle was reported to be in decay and having remained in Parliamentary hands throughout the Civil Wars much of the structure was taken down in 1650. In February 1796 the remaining south range was completely gutted by fire, destroying the elaborate internal fittings that had been created in the 16th century. The castle remains in private hands.


The Archbishops of York had a castle at Cawood. The only remnant is the tall gatehouse dating from the time of Archbishop Kempe (1426-51).


The Church of St. James contains the tomb of Thomas, third Lord Fairfax (d. 1671). He took an active part in the Civil Wars against the King and enjoyed some successes at Marston Moor (2 July 1644) and at Naseby (14 June 1645). He opposed the execution of King Charles I and retired to his Yorkshire estates. He died in 1671.
Battle of Marston Moor

Marston Moor - battlefield site

The Battle of Marston Moor (2 July 1644) was not the decisive event that has sometimes been suggested. However, the defeat of the Royalist forces under Prince Rupert, the Earl of Newcastle and others, did leave York open to Parliamentary attack. On the day the Parliamentary forces led by the Earl of Manchester, the Fairfax's, and Oliver Cromwell were ranged on Marston ridge to the south of the Tockwith to Long Marston road. They attacked the Royalists late in the day and despite early losses were able to prevail. About 6,000 men were killed and c.1,500 Royalist prisoners were captured.

Slingsby chapel, Red House, Moor Monkton

The Slingsby family supported the Royalist cause during the Civil War. Sir Henry Slingsby (d. 1658) failed in an ambitious attempt to rake York for the king. He was arrested and executed in the Tower of London. The present building known as the red House is only half the size of the original building begun in 1607. The chapel has complete fittings and furnishings and contains many interesting features including a staircase to the west gallery moved from the main house in 1860, heraldic beasts showing friends of the Slingsbys and a blackamore, one of the earliest lead statues in England.


  • A. Baker, A Battlefield Atlas of the English Civil War (1986)
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Yorkshire: the West Riding (2nd edn., 1967)
  • N. Pevsner and D. Neave, The Buildings of England. Yorkshire: York and the East Riding (2nd edn., 1995)
Back to top