A Potted History of The Marquess of Newcastle’s Regiment of Foote

Histories of the Civil War are readily available which detail either military actions or the careers of individual officers. These can be referred to if you wish to find out more about William Cavendish, Marquess of Newcastle and/or the course of the war in the North. The aim of this section is to give a short overview of Newcastle’s own Foote Regiment, and some of the actions in which they were engaged. It is necessarily a ‘potted history’ as direct references to Newcastle’s are few and somewhat patchy, mainly due to the fact that history in the seventeenth century was seen either as one of individuals, or else one of events. We can surmise that the Regiment was involved in certain actions, even justify this with some arguments, but it remains that this is a somewhat suspect way of producing a history and thus must be used with great care.

Stanford hall

The Raising and Equipping of the Regiment:
In June 1642, Newcastle, arrived in the town from which he drew his title to secure it for his King. The troops he used in this duty included some 5-600 foote from the Trained Bands of Durham. It may well be that these were to form the basis of the regiment, for his wife tells us ‘As soon as my Lord had come into Newcastle, in the first place he sent for all his tenants and friends in those parts, and presently raised a troop of horse …, and a regiment of foot, and put them under command, and upon duty and exercise in the town of Newcastle’. Certainly, the regiment was distinctly Northumbrian at this time, although as the next two years progressed, and losses were made up from by local recruiting, this would have blended into a more general northern character. The regiment served in Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, and possibly Nottinghamshire and Lancashire, no doubt attracting recruits from most, if not all, these areas.

With regards organisation, information is scarce, but the little we do know points to the regiment being a standard foote unit with both pike and a musket elements. As Newcastle’s own regiment it would have been one of the larger and better equipped in the Northern army and may even have been a double regiment. These facts are born out by the numbers reported to have been killed at Marston Moor and the number of colours captured which were probably belonged to the regiment. One fact we do know certainly is that it was dressed in the famous white coats which gave it its nicknames (‘White-coats’, and ‘Lambs’). Again as Newcastle’s wife tells us ‘They were called White-coats, for this following reason: my Lord being resolved to give them new liveries and there not being red cloth enough to be had, took up so much of white as would serve to clothe them, desiring withal, their patience until he had got it dyed; but they, impatient of stay, requested my Lord, that he would be pleased to let them have it un-dyed as it was, promising they themselves would dye it the enemy’s blood. Which request my Lord granted them, and from that time they were called White-coats.’ This distinctive uniform is referred to by other contemporaries as well. Another item of clothing probably worn were ‘scottes blew capps’. After the Civil War a merchant by the name of Cole was fined by Parliament for supplying Newcastle with some 3144 of these during the November of 1642.

And so to Battle!
As against the many battles, sieges and skirmishes that the Northern forces were engaged in, there are only a few for which there are direct references to Newcastles’s. However, from the start they appear to have gained a reputation for toughness. Shortly after Newcastle’s arrival in that city, the Trained Bands he had left behind in Durham mutinied, and he was forced to march to suppress them. One comment made by an observer was ‘that he liked my Lord very well, but not his company (meaning his soldiers)’.

There are three clear references to Newcastle’s in action. The first of these was at the battle of Adwalton (sometimes Atherton) Moor on 30th June 1643. At first the battle went against the Royalist despite a preponderance in numbers due to the strong position that the Fairfaxes and their army had taken. Then ‘whilst they were in this wavering condition, one Colonel Skirton desired his general to let him charge once with a stand of pikes, with which he broke in upon our men;’ . Lady Newcastle identifies these as at least in part being Newcastle’s own: ‘At last the pikes of my Lords own army having had no employment all the day, were drawn against the enemy’s left wing, and particularly those of my Lord’s own regiment, which were all stout and valiant men, who fell so furiously upon the enemy, that they forsook their hedges and fell to their heels’.

The musket of the regiment were also made of the same material. During the siege of York (April-July 1643), the Parliamentarians exploded a mine under St.Mary’s Tower, and then attempted to storm the Manor House through the breach thus created. They would have succeeded ‘but for the valour of the Citizens, and White-coats the Marquess of Newcastle’s own Regiment, being led on by their commanders’ . Again the somewhat starry eyed Lady Newcastle casts more light ‘my Lord … drew eighty (sic) of the said White-coats thither, who with the greatest courage went close up to the enemy, and having charged them, fell pell-mell with the butt-ends of their muskets upon them, and with the assistance of the rest that renewed their courage by their example, killed and took 1500 (sic), and by that means saved the town.”

The last instance where Newcastle’s are mentioned by name is the battle of Marston Moor (or as it was known at the time Hessay (or Hesham) Moor) which took place on 2nd July 1644.At this point it is worth noting that the term ‘moor’ in the seventeenth century meant an uncultivated expanse of open land, not the bracken/gorse covered area of upland we now know as such. The regiment, with the rest of the infantry arrived late on the field on that day, due to the fact that they had been busy looting the abandoned Parliamentary and Scots siege works. What actually happened to them in the defeat that ensued is not in doubt. ‘A most memorable action happened on that day. There was one entire regiment of foot belonging to Newcastle, called the Lambs, because they were all clothed in new white woollen cloth, two or three days before the fight. This sole regiment, after the day was lost, having got into a small parcel of ground ditched in, and not of easy access of horse, would take no quarter, but fought it out there till there was not thirty of them living … Captain Camby … who was the third or fourth man that entered amongst them, protested he never, in all the fights he was in, met with such resolute brave fellows …’ . What is at debate is the actual details of the regiment’s role. Until Dr Newman’s ‘The Battle of Marston Moor’, it has always been assumed that it was present on the field from the start of the battle. Newman, however, believes that the battle was precipitated by the imminent arrival of the Northern infantry, and of that infantry, only Newcastle’s became heavily involved in the action, attempting to stop Cromwell’s cavalry catching that of Goring and Langdale in the rear. This is a continuing debate, but what Newman does prove is that it was not White Syke Close where Newcastle’s were massacred despite legend. The earliest reference to this on record is in the 1760’s, somewhat after the Civil War!! The most liable sight of the last stand was an area of land known as the Hatterwith Enclosures.

Regimental Personnel:
Nothing at all for certain is on record about the actual people who went to making up the regiment. Indeed the Colonelcy is a matter for debate in itself with three contenders being put forward: Sir Arthur Basset, Sir William Lambton, and Posthumous (S)Kirton. The last of these has the strongest case, but it could have been any one of them as no argument is conclusive. Indeed, it is possible that several people held the position, or that, for example, Basset was Colonel and Kirton his Lieutenant-Colonel. Other officers may have included: Major Ralph Huddlestone, who was killed at the Manor in York; Captain Samuel Kennet of Coxhoe Co. Durham, killed at Marston Moor; Captain George Berridge, who survived to fight on in the second and third Civil Wars; Captain John Rutter, whose Lieutenant was William Seary; Captain Ralph Selby, whose Ensigne was William Hedworth; William Pennyman, whose Lieutenant was Edward Corpes; and Robert Nelson who was a Lieutenant to Sir Arthur Basset (although here the confusion becomes greater as he had an Ensigne called William Fledworth which is suspiciously close to Captain Selby’s) What is certain is that the regiment was not static in those people who made it up. Some would die, others desert, or be left in the various garrisons, and new faces would make their appearance.


Written by Simon Wright.

One Reply to “A Potted History of The Marquess of Newcastle’s Regiment of Foote”

  1. One of my ancestors, Colonel Posthumous Kirton was killed at Marston Moor. Could you tell me if the regiment had a banner?

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