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Reinterpreting Montgomery: The largest Civil War battle fought in Wales

A lecturer from University Centre Shrewsbury has had published a book shedding new light on the largest English Civil War battle to take place in Wales.

The battle of Montgomery, involving more than 8,000 soldiers, has been reappraised in a ground-breaking new book by UCS history lecturer Dr Jonathan Worton, written more than 350 years later. 

The Battle of Montgomery, 1644: The English Civil War in the Welsh Borderlands offers the most detailed reconstruction and interpretation of the battle to date, using field work to propose the likeliest location of the fighting.

“The Battle of Montgomery, fought outside the town on 18 September 1644, was the largest engagement in Wales during the war of 1642-1646, yet it has been overshadowed by the more well-known battles, such as Edgehill (1642) and Naseby (1645),” says military historian Dr Jonathan Worton, who lives near Shrewsbury.

“I’m pleased and proud to have expanded current knowledge not only on the Battle of Montgomery, but also of the Civil War in the Shropshire region – a part of the country still often overlooked by historians of the wider national conflict.”

Sir Thomas Myddelton, who had jointly commanded the victorious Parliamentarian Army at Montgomery, later described it as: ‘As great a victory as hath been gained in any part of the kingdom'. Securing Parliamentarian control of this key frontier town and castle significantly weakened royalism in the area – paving the way for ultimate victory in 1646.

Drawing on his doctoral studies of the Civil War, Jonathan spent much of 2015 completing his research from mostly original sources.

He said: “As a Shropshire native, Montgomery – just across the border, in Powys – is my ‘local’ Civil War battle. Being a keen walker, I made many visits to the area of the battle site, looking at the topography of the largely unspoilt agricultural landscape, which has probably not changed greatly since the 1640s, and comparing it with sources contemporary to the time of the battle. This helped me create what is considered the most thorough account of the likely course and nature of the battle.”

Publishers Helion & Company Ltd commissioned artwork especially for The Battle of Montgomery, which also contains a wealth of photographs and illustrations.

Earlier this month, UCS consolidated its connections with research into the Civil War period by hosting the AGM of the Cromwell Association, which focuses on the life of Oliver Cromwell and 17th century British history. The day saw around 50 delegates enjoying a lecture by Jonathan Worton, and afternoon walking tours led by Jonathan and Professor Peter Gaunt of the University of Chester examining key Civil War sites in Shrewsbury.

Later in the year, September will see a history conference held at Rowley’s House in the centre of town. The UCS site will host the third Century of the Soldier Conference on September 23, supported by Helion & Company and the Pike and Shot Society, joined by the Cromwell Association and the Battlefields Trust. Speakers include Dr Rachael Abbiss of UCS, and Professor Gaunt. The theme of this year’s conference is Home and Away – The British Experience of war 1618-1721. Those interested should contact Helion & Company, by emailing [email protected] or calling 0121 705 3393.