The last battle on English soil

It was on Friday 6th July 1685 that the Battle of Sedgemoor was fought at Westonzoyland near Bridgewater in Somerset. It was the last battle to take place on English soil.

On one side of the conflict was James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth – on the other were troops loyal to King James II of England.  The Duke planned a night-time attack on the King’s army and led his 3,600, mainly ill-equipped and untrained, troops out of Bridgwater at around ten o’clock at night.  Guiding them was Richard Godfrey, the servant of a local farmer.  They headed along the old Bristol road with their limited cavalry in the vanguard before turning south onto the open moor with its deep and dangerous drainage ditches.

As the first men crossed the ditch they startled a royalist patrol. A shot was fired and a horseman from the patrol galloped off to report the event.  Meanwhile Lord Grey of Warke led the rebel cavalry forward.

Their arrival was now known and they were engaged by the King’s Regiment of Horse which alerted the rest of the royalist forces. Battle commenced and the superior training of the regular army and their horses quickly routed the rebel forces.

Monmouth escaped the battlefield with Grey and they headed for the southern coast disguised as peasants. They were captured near Ringwood in Hampshire.

In what would be the last pitched battle to be fought on English soil, the rebel army was totally destroyed. Monmouth himself was captured and later executed, and hundreds of his supporters suffered ferocious reprisals at the hands of the infamous Judge Jeffreys’ Bloody Assizes.

But that, perhaps, is another story.


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