Edge-Hill

Edge-Hill, near the town, was the scene of the memorable battle of that name, which occurred in 1642, between the royal army, commanded by the king in person, and the parliamentarian forces under the Earl of Essex. The king, on his march towards London, having arrived near Banbury, received intelligence that the Earl of Essex was advancing on his rear; and he therefore ordered his army to retrograde, and rendezvous on Edge-Hill on the morning of Sunday the 23rd of October. The republican troops drew up their line of battle in the valley below. About two o'clock in the afternoon, the king's forces advanced to the attack; the cavalry of the right wing, led on by Prince Rupert, made a charge which completely routed the parliamentarian horse, and Rupert's cavalry commenced a close and unsparing pursuit. Three regiments only withstood the attack; but during the absence of Prince Rupert, imprudently detained in plundering Kington, these, commanded respectively by Lord Brook, Col. Ballard, and Denzil Holles, having made good the ground abandoned by the fugitives, poured in from the flank upon the main body of the king's army, which at the same time was charged in front by the remainder of the infantry led by the Earl of Essex in person, and was ultimately forced to give way. The defeat of the royal army was prevented only by the approach of night, during which the main body of the troops of the Earl of Essex withdrew to Kington. On the next day both armies retired; the king to Oxford, and Essex to Warwick. The elevation of Edge-Hill above the sea is 700 feet, and the waters descend from it on one side into the Thames by the river Cherwell, and on the other into the Severn by the river Avon. The hill has two faces, one to the north-east and the other to the north-west, the angle between them being at the ascent of the turnpike-road from Kington towards Banbury, near which spot are the remains of an ancient camp. When seen from the vale, the northwestern face has the appearance of a steep ridge with a remarkably well-defined straight edge, from which circumstance the hill probably derived its name. The outline of the figure of a horse, anciently of colossal dimensions, cut in the red sandy loam on the side of the hill, in the lordship of Tysoe, gives the name of the Vale of Red Horse to the plain below; and the clearing out of the horse, which, since the inclosure, is of much smaller dimensions, is still an annual festival. From the brow of the hill, in its different parts, may be seen the great midland plain of England, extending from the Malvern hills, on the border of Herefordshire, to the hills of Charnwood Forest, in Leicestershire. The actual scene of the battle is within the parish of Kington, and the spot where the severest part of the conflict took place is called Bullet Hill, from the number of bullets dug up there in 1800.

The town is irregularly built: the houses are in general ancient, of stone, with thatched roofs, and bear a resemblance to the rudest features of the Elizabethan style; but in detached situations are some handsome modern houses, of stone and of brick. The inhabitants are amply supplied with water from wells; the air is salubrious, and the environs abound with pleasant walks. The market, which has almost fallen into disuse, is on Tuesday, and was formerly very considerable for grain. A fair takes place on February 6th, which used to regulate the price of beans for seed, but is now very thinly attended; and there is another on October 2nd, principally for the hiring of servants. A constable and headborough are appointed at the court leet of the lord of the manor, in October. The parish comprises by computation 3800 acres. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £8. 6. 8.; net income, £97; patron and impropriator, Lord Willoughby de Broke. The church is a cruciform structure, in the early and decorated English styles, with some remains of later Norman, and having a square embattled tower; the western entrance is by a richly-moulded and deeply-receding arch, in the most finished style of later Norman architecture: the chancel was rebuilt in 1315, and the nave, aisles, and transepts, in 1755. At Combrook is a chapel of ease.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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