THE powers-that-be behind the annual
commemoration of the English Civil War battle fought around Nantwich in
1644 have been upsetting the locals - the purists and, lately, the
As you will read in my previous
Letter from Nantwich on the subject, the
Holly Holy Day Society (HHDS) are hoping to stage a summer muster. That
is, a mass gathering of 2,000 members of the
Sealed Knot to re-enact
the Battle of Nantwich. Much depends on getting a National Lottery grant
to cover the costs.
The trouble is that the
traditional commemoration of the lifting of a six-week siege of the
market town over Christmas and New Year in 1643/44 is a winter-time
event - held on the nearest Saturday to January 25th every year. In
fact, it is the only winter re-enactment of a battle that the Sealed
However, a long-held dream of
the body which organises the commemoration is a summer re-enactment on
the actual battlefields around the town, and at the actual times of the
skirmishes. It is felt that more people would turn out for a summer
event than those who brave the winter chills to see the battle re-fought
in the centre of Nantwich.
The traders fear a loss of
business from the tourists and visiting Sealed Knot members and are,
understandably, not happy - but, then again, Holly Holy Day is not
staged for their benefit. It is all about commemorating the brave
ancestors of today's Dabbers who supported the Roundheads and Oliver
Cromwell in the war. The siege lasted for six weeks until the Royalists
A far more important
objection to the change is that the commemoration would have the wrong
atmosphere this year. The bitter winter weather would have made the
original siege more unbearable, but this time heatstroke may well be a
problem for fighters and spectators alike.
The ability to stage the
re-enactment at the actual times (if not the right day) they took place
in 1644 - because the "battle" will not be squeezed into one afternoon -
won't make it any better.
It will be like
celebrating Christmas in shorts
or swimwear on a beach.
One group apparently not
bothered by the change are historians who you might expect to be opposed to the
idea. But Nantwich Historical Society are behind the summer event - as
witness the Chairman, Herbert Rowsell, speaking warmly of the new timing
on the 27th.
Holly Holy Day (so called because the Nantwich folk wore a sprig of holly in their caps or on their clothes to
mark the relief of the town) was marked on the right day. A
contingent of 20-30 Sealed Knot members took part in a wreath-laying
ceremony at the town's war memorial on The Square.
That was, of course, a small
percentage of the soldiers and followers who normally "invade" the town
in January when a full-scale skirmish takes place on Mill Island.
The proposed summer muster is
planned for two days over the Summer Bank Holiday.
Which two I am not sure yet,
but one of them will have to be the Sunday (Saturday/Sunday or
Sunday/Monday) when the shops will be closed any way. So will the
remaining day bring in any more trade than a single day in January?
At least two men turned up to
watch the Battle re-enactment - judging from their comments as they
attended the talk on the Civil War at Nantwich Museum which followed the
ceremony on the Square.
A figure of 15,000 visitors to
the town is quoted for the August re-run. Presumably this forms part of
the case for a Lottery grant.
As part of the move for
authenticity of the commemoration, there is to be a "living village" on
the Reaseheath battlefields. This, according to the Nantwich Guardian of
January 25, will "recreate the seventeenth century life of those who
followed the troops under canvas".
I suppose it is possible that
the average person in town will not be aware of the summer muster unless
they go to it themselves. Apart from the events in the town centre and
on Mill Island, the Sealed Knot members have always been a familiar
sight in the streets on Holly Holy Day.
This year, they won't have time
to go into town during the day as they will be too busy fighting. Willl
they want to walk the two or three miles
A representative of the Sealed Knot lays
one of the wreaths at the January Holly Holy Day
into town to frequent the local pubs after battle
I suspect they will take
the shorter trip to the hostelries on the Reaaseheath side of Nantwich who probably missed out in
Enthusiastic words from local
Sealed Knot and HHDS member Colin Bissett (quoted in The Nantwich Chronicle of January 17) will have
cut little ice with the traders.
He said: "The Society appreciates
traders will see fewer people in the town this month but they will find
more people there this summer than they'd have in January".