Siege of Gloucester, 10 August-5 September 1643

One of the few Civil War sieges conducted by the Royalists. Gloucester was an important strong point for Parliament, blocking the river Severn, and with it the best routes between Charles I's main armies and three important areas for him - Bristol, his main port; the Forest of Dean, his main source of metals; and south Wales, where many of his troops were being recruited. Moreover, the city was commanded by Colonel Edward Massey, only 23 years old, and of uncertain loyalty to Parliament, having only left Royal service in 1642, and who had at one point offered to negotiate a surrender. However, the townsmen were fervent puritans, and Massey had spent his time well, improving the defences of the city. The King arrived in front of the city on 10 August, firmly believing that it would soon surrender, but he was quickly disappointed, and the siege began. Prince Rupert wished to launch an assault, hoping to repeat the successful capture of Bristol, but was overruled by Charles, and instead the city suffered from a heavy bombardment.

News of the siege had had a dramatic effect in London, where Parliament had become gloomy. Now, the new cause revived their enthusiasm, and that of the Londoners, and a new army was raised, and on 22 August left for Gloucester under the command of the earl of Essex. Meanwhile, for two weeks Royalist engineers had been mining the walls of the city, and on 24 August gave Massey one more chance to surrender before destroying the walls. Unluckily, that night the weather broke, and the mines were flooded, giving the city another two weeks of grace. It was enough. Late on 5 September, Essex and the Parliamentary army reached site of Gloucester, and fired a salute to let the defenders know relief had arrived. In the night, the King abandoned the siege, and his army marched away into the Cotswold hills.

The danger for Parliament was not yet over. Essex had the only army capable of defending London, and for a brief moment Charles had the chance to attack on his terms. However, a spell of depression left the Royalists leaderless in the key period, and by the time the King recovered, the chance had almost slipped away. The result was a race for London, which ended with the first battle of Newbury (20 September 1643), after which Essex was able to slip away to London.

cover The English Civil War , Richard Holmes & Peter Young, an early work by one of the country's best known military historians, this is a superb single volume history of the war, from its causes to the last campaigns of the war and on to the end of the protectorate.
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See Also
Books on the English Civil War
Subject Index: English Civil War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (10 April 2001), Siege of Gloucester, 10 August-5 September 1643, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_gloucester.html

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