Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Battle of Nantwich - Holly Holy Day

Holly Holy Day in Nantwich, Cheshire, is commemorated with a re-enactment of The Battle of Nantwich which originally took place in 1643 and was part of the civil war between the Roundheads and Cavaliers. The name derives from the holly sprigs worn in hats to celebrate the lifting of the siege.

The battle was first commemorated in 1971 with a simple laying of a wreath and by 1973 The Sealed Knot Society, a civil war re-enactment group, had become involved to stage the first re-enactment of the battle which has now become an annual event on the nearest weekend to 25th January.

Jen Van-Cauter was one of the Cat team who attended this year’s event as a reporter for The Cat. “I have to admit, that when I was told I was going to be covering the Battlefield for The Cat radio, I was a little nervous. This was my first visit to this event. The day was a cold grey one, but Nantwich town centre was starting to fill up with people.

“My first stop was the Museum, where there was an exhibition all about the battle, and upstairs a wargame was in progress. The battlefield re-created in miniature, even Acton Church. In the Millenium gallery to the rear of the museum, some members of the Sealed Knot were talking about their kit and costumes.

“Outside the museum we bought a traditional holly buttonhole, then walked down to Welsh Row to watch the procession. By this time the streets were lined with people. The soldiers came marching four abreast, drums banging and shouts of support for either King or Church. The costumes were incredible, as were the weapons the soldiers carried. I was a little concerned when the pikemen passed below the overhead power lines, as their pikes were within inches of contact! The procession must have stretched the full length of Welsh Row.

“We followed back into the town centre, then made our way to the battlefield. Mill Island where the re-enactment took place is a fairly small green space surrounded by trees, and flanked by rivers, which is sometimes prone to flooding. Hence it was a little muddy, but not too bad. The battle area itself was roped off but you were able to stand pretty close to the action.

The Battle of Nantwich - behind the lines

The Battle of Nantwich - behind the lines

“The cannons were very impressive and at one point the audience were astounded as when one of them fired a perfect smoke ring rose into the sky. The greyness of the day, coupled with the smoke from cannon and musket fire, made the battle look all the more authentic as the view beyond the field was obscured. A commentary was provided via tannoy, with the added amusement of 17th century recipes and cures.

“The battle was long, though I’m sure not as long as the original, and coupled with the cold, audience numbers dwindled as the day wore on and parents took small children home, but we enjoyed it. The Sealed Knot were fantastic, and thankfully Nantwich has plenty of coffee shops to warm up in afterwards.”

More information about Holly Holy Day can be found at and sounds of the Battle can be heard through The Cat’s website at