Images by Jonathan White
(Note: the text below has been adapted from content at battleofnantwich.org)
For over 40 years the faithful troops of The Sealed Knot have gathered in the historic town of Nantwich to re-enact the battle that took place there in 1644.
The battle between Royalists and Parliamentarians marked the end of the siege of the town during the English Civil War.
Each year a team of volunteers co-ordinates the re-enactment, the first event on Nantwich’s busy calendar.
History of the Battle of Nantwich / Holly Holy Day
The English Civil War, between Parliamentarians (Roundheads) and the Royalists (Cavaliers), first broke out in 1642.
Soon afterwards, in January 1643, Parliamentarians took the town of ‘Namptwiche’, Cheshire’s second town – important because of its strategic position on the road to Chester where Royalist reinforcements from Ireland could be landed.
By the end of December, the town was surrounded by Royalists and under siege.
Help was at hand, however, in the form of a Parliamentarian force which had marched south from Lancashire under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax.
Fairfax’s army engaged the Royalists and defeated them in the ‘Battle of Namptwiche’.
On 25th January 1644, the siege was lifted and the people of the town wore holly sprigs in their hats in celebration – hence the day being known as ‘Holly Holy Day’.
The Nantwich Historical Society first commemorated the battle with a wreath-laying ceremony at the war memorial at Town Square in 1971.
The Sealed Knot Society, an organisation which re-enacts the major battles of the civil war throughout the year, then became involved in the event.
The first modern re-enactment of the Battle of Nantwich took place in 1973 and gave the town one of its most exciting spectacles.
It has taken place every year since.
Today, responsibility for organising the day’s event schedule rests with the Holly Holy Day Society which works with support from both Nantwich Town Council and Cheshire East Council.
It’s a hugely significant for the the town – both in the context of civic pride and Nantwich’s rich history. As such, the spectacle attracts thousands of visitors each year.
10.15am – Jonathan Tarplee
10.45am – Nantwich Concert Band Quintet
11.30am – Funky Choir
11.55am – Nantwich Players Theatre
12.45pm – Sealed Knot troops leave Malbank School to parade along Welsh Row
1.00pm – Troops arrive in town centre
1.15pm – Wreath laying ceremony at war memorial
1.30pm – Troops parade to Mill Island to battle
10.00am – English Civil War tour
10.30 – 11.30am – Musketry demonstration with The Sealed Knot
11.30 – 12.30pm – 17th century music from Forlorne Hope
1.40pm – Troops arrive
1.50pm – Artillery demo (BIG BANGS!)
2.00pm – Battle re-enactment begins
Around town (10am-12.30pm)
Mollies / Plough Witches / street entertainers
Doomsday Morris Dancers
Book signing by English Civil War authors at Nantwich Bookshop
Tours of St Mary’s Church
The Sealed Knot
The Sealed Knot Society was founded by Brigadier Peter Young and a group of friends following a party in cavalier costume held in the summer of 1968. (Yes, we also wish it could’ve been the summer of ’69!)
Brigadier Peter Young is a distinguished soldier and is considered to be one of the country’s foremost military authorities on the English Civil War.
The idea of forming an ‘army’ was floated and quickly gained wide interest – so much so that within two years the membership had topped the one thousand mark and a second, Parliamentarian, army was formed within the society!
Over the years, the Sealed Knot Society has performed re-enactments throughout the country and has evolved into a national organisation.
It remains run and organised by volunteers.
Its name derives from a secret organisation which plotted for the restoration of the monarchy during The Protectorate.
The present day society, however, is not at all politically motivated and has no political ambitions whatsoever!
The most important method by which the society achieves its aims is through the performance of battle re-enactments at different sites throughout the country. These are called ‘Musters’.
They are performed, wherever possible, on the location of actual English Civil War battlefields.
The Sealed Knot has been associated with Holly Holy Day from the outset, and the event remains the most longstanding fixture on the society’s calendar.
Many members will travel long distances in order to attend the highly popular Battle of Nantwich re-enactment.