The Battle for Cotes Bridge

12 March 2021

In 1643 the English Civil War had gone against the parliamentarians, who were commanded in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire by Lord Grey of Groby. The royalists were under the command of Lieutenant General Henry Hastings, Lord Loughborough.

The following year parliament besieged Newark (February to March) and the royalist garrison there needed to be relieved. Prince Rupert marched from Chester and arrived on the road to Ashby de la Zouch on 16th March 1644, where a Flying Army of 3000 men had been gathered by Lord Loughborough. He had also fortified Burleigh House near Loughborough as it had a commanding view of the area.

On March 15th a small royalist force moved towards parliamentarian-Leicester in order to frighten the garrison there into staying put. They then marched off to Mountsorrel and rested in the local Inns. A parliamentarian force from the army besieging Newark came across the royalists at Mountsorrel and charged across the River Soar into the town. After some initial success, the parliamentarians withdrew to the east bank of the river and left the royalists on the opposite bank. 

Both parties began to move north towards Barrow upon Soar and on towards Cotes Bridge, the royalists needing to cross it to reach Newark and the parliamentarians wanting to seize the bridge to impede the royalists’ advance.

The bridge was a mile away from Loughborough town centre and about half a mile in length. Cotes Hall, home of Sir Henry Skipworth, overlooked the River Soar, whose banks were wet and marshy.

By March 17th the parliamentarian army of 2500 men had arrived at Cotes and waited at the eastern end of the village.  Lord Loughborough – with approximately 2000 royalist soldiers with him – had earthworks constructed on the western side of the Soar.

On 18th March 1644 the parliamentarians attacked the barricaded bridge. Two cannons opened fire and forced the royalists back across the Great Meadow into the town’s north field and on into the town centre.  The royalist foot soldiers now stood ground in the cultivated fields of Loughborough, facing the parliamentarians.  

Prince Rupert and his army arrived at Ashby Castle during the evening of 18th March, reinforcing Lord Loughborough’s royalist garrison.  So the parliamentarians decided to withdraw, all chances of delaying the royalist forces now gone as royalist foot soldiers occupied Cotes Bridge. On the following day Prince Rupert and Lord Loughborough crossed the bridge and headed for Rempstone and on 20th March 1644 they encircled and attacked the parliamentarians at Newark and won a great victory.

The article was written by The Loughborough Library Local Studies Volunteers for ‘The Battle of Cotes Bridge – The Civil War’ exhibition staged in the Community showcase at Charnwood Museum in May 2017. With thanks to Professor Martyn Bennett for his amendments.

Gerald Berrington’s model of The Battle of Cotes Bridge, now at Ashby Museum.