What was the significance of the battle of Wigan Lane?

In August 1651, King Charles II arrived in Worcester with a mostly Scottish army and summoned all royalists to join him against the new republican government of Oliver Cromwell.

This article was first published in 2010

King Charles II. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Earl of Derby raised about 1,500 royalists in Lancashire and the Isle of Man and set off south.

The Earl was met at Wigan on 25 August by the parliamentarian army of Robert Lilburne, who had about 600 infantry and 60 dragoons, but who was expecting another 3,000 men to arrive very soon.

Lilburne arranged his men in the small, hedgerowed fields along Wigan Lane (now the A49). The Earl of Derby divided his force in half. He himself led one half to attack Lilburne, while Sir Thomas Tyldesley formed the rest into a rearguard to meet the expected parliamentarian reinforcements. Derby launched three assaults, but was unable to dislodge Lilburne from his hedgerows. When the parliamentarian reinforcements appeared, Lilburne charged causing the royalists to scatter. Derby made his way to Worcester, but he brought with him only 30 men.

The defeat of the royalists at the battle of Wigan Lane cut off the supply of volunteers going to join Charles II at Worcester and ensured that he would be heavily outnumbered when confronted by Cromwell a few days later. And indeed on 3 September Charles was crushingly defeated.

Answered by Rupert Matthews, a historian and author.

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