The Ghostly Re-enactments of The Battle of Edgehill

Given that it’s Halloween tomorrow, I thought it might be fun to post some scary stories from history over the next few days both here, and on our facebook page. Today, given that it was recently the anniversary of the Battle of Edgehill, today I thought I would share a rather scary story from the English Civil War, and the immediate aftermath of the battle of Edgehill.

The battle of Edgehill, 23rd October 1642, was the first major fighting in the English Civil War and famously it was seen as a draw. However, as was mentioned in my previous post, despite the fact that no one really won the battle, it offered an important strategic victory for the Royalist forces who ended up holding the road for London.
Losses during this battle were relatively significant. All together, according to various sources, deaths numbers around 1000 between both sides with 2-3000 men wounded. The battle itself lasted only 3 hours and by nightfall all fighting had ceased. The parliamentarian army, lead by Robert Deveraux Earl of Essex, was in bad shape and so withdrew to Warwick, leaving the road to London open for the Royalists. But alas, Charles did not retake London and it was left open once more for the Parliamentarian forces.
The ghostly legend began just before Christmas in 1642 when a group of Shepherds were crossing the battlefield on their way home. As they were crossing the site, they began to hear the sound of drums, the clanking of armour and weaponry followed by the groans of the dying. The men were apparently frozen with fear and just as they had recovered enough to move on, apparitions of fighting began to appear around them with men killing each other, pike pushes, musket fire, men on horseback and the entire 3 hour battle replayed itself before their eyes. When the fighting had stopped, the men hastened to the nearest town to inform the authorities of what had happened and the next day a senior authoritarian accompanied them back to the site where sure enough, it all happened again. Along with them were a crowd of towns people who had heard the story as it filtered throughout the town during the day. As they watched the whole battle replay itself, the townspeople became afraid that they had somehow offended God. When news reached King Charles, he sent two of his men to the site who also witnessed the show. These two men had fought in the battle of 1642, and were shocked to see the ghostly apparitions of deceased friends and colleagues as they fought their way through the three hour battle. Charles then recognised the event and the people that had been seen fighting it, including the Kings Standard bearer Sir Edward Verney.
Today, the sights and sounds of the battle can sometimes still be seen and heard although over the years they have gotten less and less. People who visit the battlefield have reported feeling uneasy, hearing the sounds of the fighting, particularly around the anniversary of the battle. But why do these ghosts haunt the battlefield? Could it be because it was such a pointless loss of so many lives, and neither side won or lost the battle? I guess we’ll never know.

5 thoughts on “The Ghostly Re-enactments of The Battle of Edgehill

  1. (trying again)
    The English Civil War is my favourite historical period. And, in fact, I was a member of the Sealed Knot [later the Civil War re-enactment Society] for quite a number of years in the seventies. I believe that people have also seen ghostly apparitions on the anniversary of the battle of Marston Moor, too – an even bloodier conflict as the Royalists were attacked while they were having their dinner. My other favourite ghost story involves the ghostly herald who was 'seen' reading out a list of names of sons of noble families at Edinburgh's Merkit (market) cross on the ve of the Battle of Flodden. Those sons never returned from the battle. I hope to write a time slip novel one day soon about a heroine who travels between the here and now and the 1640's to track down a buried treasure. Nuff said !!

  2. me too Lizzie I love it more than the Tudors if that's even possible haha! I was a musketeer in the SK for a while, in Tilliers regiment which was great fun and I miss it a hell of a lot. My specialist battle is Cheriton, 29th March 1644 (I even wrote a nanowrimo novel about a time slip going back there LOL it's on my profile as I included in it characters from the devils whore ha!) and I did my dissertation on that wonderful battle. Have spent many a happy hour wandering those fields.

  3. Good tale for Halloween! On my side of the pond, there are similar tales from our Civil War sites. In fact at this time of year, pictures go around of soldier 'shadows' seen on the Gettysburg battlefield.
    Thanks for posting!

  4. What a great story and one I haven't heard before! A friend told me that he toured the Gettysburg battlefield on horseback and the horse was very spooked, shying at unseen things!

    The events of my novel “The September Queen” – coming Tuesday! – are set in motion by Charles II's defeat by Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester, when the Royalist cause was finally lost. Thousands were killed or captured – I wouldn't be surprised if some apparitions lurked, especially in Worcester Cathedral, where many of the Scots infantry were penned up after they surrendered.

  5. Thanks Gillian! Your book sounds wonderful, I'll keep an eye out for it. There are a lot of ghosts lurking from the ECW days – I read a great one earlier about ghosts who haunt Alton churchyard in Hampshire. There was a large skirmish there, and lots of soldiers were killed. the story goes that you can still hear the fighting, both inside the church and out. It's an amazing place and there are still musket balls embedded in the stonework too! Another interesting story from Winchester (where I went to Uni) – Lady Alice Lilse was executed outside the Eclipse Inn (A great little pub), beheaded for harbouring royalist soldiers during the reign of Cromwell at the age of 71. She still haunts the upstairs of the pub, and going upstairs to the toilet is really really freaky. I was never able to go up there on my own, had to take a friend with me!

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