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The Yorkshire Archaeological & Historical Society

Since 1863

For everyone interested in Yorkshire's past

Portrait Gallery of Important Characters from Civil-War Yorkshire

These short biographies have been provided by Oresta Muckute, an AHRC-Funded Collaborative PhD student based at the University of Leicester and the National Civil War Centre. We are very grateful to the Special Collections department of the University of Leicester Library for permission to reproduce these images drawn from their Fairclough Collection of Portrait Prints.

Readers wanting to find out more about the participants in the Civil Wars in Yorkshire should visit the free-access Civil War Petitions website. There are lots of ways to search it - such as Yorkshire place names and surnames, to learn more about soldiers and widows in particular localities, or find petitions which mention, for example, Marston Moor or other battles.

Further reading

  • Andrew Hopper, 'Black Tom': Sir Thomas Fairfax and the English Revolution (Manchester University Press, 2007).
  • Andrew Hopper, ‘A directory of parliamentarian allegiance in Yorkshire during the British Civil Wars’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 73 (2001), pp. 85-122.
Ferdinando Fairfax (1584-1648)

Ferdinando Fairfax (1584-1648)

2nd Baron Fairfax of Denton

(Catalogue: EP460305a)

Ferdinando was born at Denton Hall in Otley, in the West Riding. He succeeded his father as 2nd baron Fairfax in 1640, and was returned to the Long Parliament as knight of the shire for Yorkshire. He was a patron of Yorkshire’s Godly ministers, who hailed him ‘as our Joshua of the North’. In December 1642 he was commissioned Parliament’s general for the northern counties. He fought at Adwalton Moor and Marston Moor, and was thereafter Governor of York. His son, Sir Thomas Fairfax, was commissioned Captain-General of the New Model Army in 1645. Having remained a widower for 26 years, Ferdinando remarried in 1646, but died in March 1648 from a fever caused by a gangrenous foot.

Edmund Sheffield (1565-1646)

Edmund Sheffield (1565-1646)

1st Earl of Mulgrave

(Catalogue: EP46B0101)

Edmund Sheffield, 1st Earl of Mulgrave, 3rd Baron Sheffield, was a peer and MP, who served as Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire from 1603 to 1619 and Vice-Admiral of Yorkshire from 1604 to 1646. He was created Earl of Mulgrave in 1626. In 1640, Sheffield refused to contribute £1 to the war effort against the Scots, alleging poverty. Although he had many financial problems, this refusal was likely based on ideological reasoning, as he and his family sided firmly with Parliament. Due to his advanced age, Sheffield was not able to attend the House of Lords consistently, but his proxy vote in the House of Lords allowed his grandson, Sir Thomas Fairfax, to be commissioned Captain-General of the New Model Army in early 1645. Sheffield died at home, aged 81.

John Lambert of Calton (1619-1684)

John Lambert of Calton (1619-1684)

(Catalogue: EP41B0102)

John Lambert, born in Kirkby Malham, near Skipton, was a parliamentarian general and politician. He fought in the English Civil Wars and later in Oliver Cromwell’s Scottish campaign between 1650 and 1651. He became active in civilian politics during the Interregnum until his dismissal in 1657. Lambert wrote the Instrument of Government in 1653, the constitution for Cromwell’s Protectorate in England, Scotland and Ireland. It was the first codified and written constitution in England. He became active in politics again after Richard Cromwell’s resignation in 1659, and made efforts to resist the Restoration of Charles II. After 1660, Lambert was exempted from execution because he did not participate in Charles I’s trial due to his absence at the siege of Pontefract. Nonetheless, he was charged with high treason in 1662, and imprisoned in Guernsey. He died in 1684, after being transferred to Drake’s Island in 1667.

Thomas Fairfax (1612-1671)

Thomas Fairfax (1612-1671)

3rd Baron Fairfax of Cameron

(Catalogue: EP42B Box 2)

Thomas was born at Denton Hall in Otley in the West Riding. He participated in the royal army during the Bishops’ Wars, but sided with Parliament after presenting a petition to Charles I at Heworth Moor in June 1642. He headed the anti-royalist insurgency in the West Riding’s clothing districts, storming Leeds and Wakefield in 1643. He was wounded many times, including a sword cut to the face at Marston Moor. Parliament appointed him General of the New Model Army in 1645 and his victories at Naseby, Langport, Bristol and Torrington broke royalist resistance. He opposed the regicide and resigned his commission in 1650 to retire to his Yorkshire estate at Nunappleton. In 1660 he assisted in the Restoration of Charles II, soon after which Fairfax withdrew from public life. Thanks to the Fairfax family today, Fairfax’s wheelchair to which he was increasingly confined after 1660, is on display at the National Civil War Centre, Newark Museum.

David Leslie (1601-1682)

David Leslie (1601-1682)

1st Lord Newark

(Catalogue: EP41B0103)

David Leslie was a Scottish-born cavalry officer, who started his career as a captain in the Swedish army during the Thirty Years’ War. He returned to Scotland in 1640, and participated in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms both in England and Scotland. Leslie became a Major-General in the Army of the Solemn League and Covenant, which fought alongside of the English parliamentarian armies. At the Battle of Marston Moor he led a successful cavalry charge against the royalists. In 1645 Leslie was recalled to Scotland to deal with royalist insurgency, but he returned to direct the siege of Newark. By the 1650s, however, the Scottish Covenanter Government became disillusioned with the English Parliament, and Leslie found himself fighting for the future Charles II. He was captured by the parliamentarians but given the title Lord Newark upon his release from captivity in 1660.

Sir John Lawson of Scarborough (1615-1665)

Sir John Lawson of Scarborough (1615-1665)

(Catalogue: EP41B0102)

Sir John Lawson was born in Scarborough. He became a parliamentarian naval officer in during the English Civil Wars, Interregnum and Restoration. He conveyed vital supplies into beleaguered Hull, and played a key role in the blockade and attack of royalist vessels serving Scarborough. Perhaps due to political inexperience, Lawson found himself in the dangerous waters of conspiracy when he promoted and endorsed a seamen’s petition which threatened Cromwell’s plans for a war with Spain. He was briefly imprisoned in 1657 when he continued to associate with militant Fifth Monarchists, and was permanently banished to Scarborough. However, Lawson was reinstated as vice-admiral in command of the Channel Fleet in 1659, and reluctantly co-operated in the Restoration in 1660, for which he was knighted. He died of a wound received at the Battle of Lowestoft in the Second Anglo-Dutch War in 1665.

Sir John Hotham of Scorborough (1589-1645)

Sir John Hotham of Scorborough (1589-1645)

1st Baronet

(Catalogue: EP41B0101)

Sir John Hotham of Scorborough Hall was made a baronet in 1622. He was MP for Beverley in the Parliaments between 1625 and 1640. He was also Governor of Hull, until deprived by Charles I of his office. Hotham was reappointed Governor of Hull by the Long Parliament, and in April 1642 he refused the king entry into the town. However, due to the complaints by other parliamentarian leaders about the conduct of his son, John Hotham the younger, both Hothams began corresponding with the northern royalist commander, William Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle. On 29 June 1643 both Hothams were arrested on suspicion of plotting to betray Hull, Beverley and Lincoln to the royalists, for which they were both beheaded at Tower Hill in January 1645.

Algernon Percy (1602-1668)

Algernon Percy (1602-1668)

10th Earl of Northumberland

(Catalogue: EP46B0101)

Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland, 4th Baron Percy, was an English aristocrat, admiral and a supporter of the parliamentarian cause. He became the highest-ranking member of Charles I’s government to side with his enemy, when in November 1641 he obeyed the Parliament’s instruction to prepare ships for the suppression of the Rebellion in Ireland. The majority of Percy revenues came from their northern estates, mostly in Northumberland and Yorkshire, such as Wressle Castle. As a major landowner, his support was essential to Parliament. His importance to the parliamentary cause was also enhanced by the fact that he was a lord admiral, and the navy was critical in the defeat of the royalists. He supported Fairfax in new modelling the parliamentarian army. However, Percy was the leader of the forces in the House of Lords opposed to trying Charles I, and largely withdrew from public life after the regicide.

James Nayler of West Ardsley (1618-1660)

James Nayler of West Ardsley (1618-1660)

(Catalogue: EP41B0205)

James Nayler, born in West Ardsley, Yorkshire, was a Quaker preacher and writer. Nayler fought in the Fairfaxes’ Yorkshire army and was present at the capture of Leeds in January 1643. Later, he fought at the parliamentarian victory at Dunbar in 1650. Due to illness, Nayler left the army the following year. With a gift for preaching, he became a leading figure in the establishment of the Quaker movement in northern England in the early 1650s. Nayler achieved notoriety when in 1656 he re-enacted Christ’s Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, by entering Bristol on a horse alongside his followers. He was consequently charged with blasphemy in a widely publicised trial, and was sentenced to be whipped through the streets, exposed in the pillory, have his tongue bored, and to have the letter "B" branded on his forehead. After the Rump Parliament declared an amnesty for Quaker prisoners, Nayler set out for Yorkshire, but was violently robbed and died the following day.

Jan Rosworm, ‘the Faithful Stranger’ (d. in or before 1675)

Jan Rosworm, ‘the Faithful Stranger’ (d. in or before 1675)

(Catalogue: EP41B0204)

Jan (also known as John) Rosworm was a Dutch or German soldier and engineer who served the parliamentary cause. After serving as a professional soldier on the continent, Jan settled in Manchester in 1642, where the town engaged him in its defence. After his original contract ended, he was retained on an annual salary of £60, committing himself to the Manchester garrison and the improvement of its fortifications. Rosworm took part in the abortive attack on Warrington on 5 April 1643. In June he fortified Liverpool, newly won for parliament. Styling himself ‘the Faithful Stranger’, he was instrumental in raising defensive works at Blackstone Edge in the Pennine hills on the boundary between Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire, which dissuaded the Marquis of Newcastle from an attempt on Manchester. In 1651 Rosworm was appointed engineer-general of all the garrisons and forts in England, and promoted to colonel in 1655.

Robert Lilburne of Auckland, co. Durham (1614-1665)

Robert Lilburne of Auckland, co. Durham (1614-1665)

(Catalogue: EP41B0102)

Robert Lilburne, born in Auckland, county Durham, was a regicide, Deputy Major-General and the elder brother of the Leveller leader John Lilburne. Like his brother, his sympathies lay with the Levellers. His regiment marched, without orders, to the rendezvous in the hope of pressing the Levellers manifesto, The Agreement of the People, on the army. Despite this failed mutiny, Lilburne was appointed the Governor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and unlike his brother, maintained his relationship with Cromwell. He was the 47th of the 59 commissioners who signed Charles I’s death warrant. He was appointed governor of York in 1654 and in 1655-1657 was Deputy Major-General (to the absent Lambert) in Yorkshire and County Durham. He surrendered at the Restoration, and although convicted of treason, was spared execution and spent his last years in prison in Plymouth and on an island in Plymouth Sound.

John Belasyse (1615-1689)

John Belasyse (1615-1689)

1st Baron Belasyse of Worlaby

(Catalogue: EP41A/1)

John Belasyse was born at Newborough Grange and was the second son of Thomas Belasyse, 1st Viscount Fauconberg. He joined the royalist cause and claimed to have raised six regiments at his own expense. In January 1644 he was appointed governor of York and Lieutenant-General of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Rutland. His army was destroyed in Selby in April 1644, where he was wounded and captured. He remained prisoner for a year until his exchange was negotiated, after which Charles I created him Baron Belasyse of Worlaby and Governor of Newark in 1645. A prominent Roman Catholic, Belasyse was among the first members of the royalist underground organisation, the Sealed Knot. Later in the century Belasyse suffered a long imprisonment during the Popish Plot, although he was never tried.

Sir Thomas Beaumont of Whitley Hall (1606-1668)

Sir Thomas Beaumont of Whitley Hall (1606-1668)

(Catalogue: EP41B0204)

Thomas Beaumont was the eldest son of Richard Beaumont of Lassells Hall. During 1643 he was commissioned major in the royalist infantry regiment commanded by Sir William Saville. He was Deputy Governor of Sheffield until he surrendered the town in August 1644 after the parliamentarians had positioned a piece of heavy artillery nicknamed ‘the Queen’s pocket pistol’. Thereafter he served in the royalist garrison at Pontefract Castle and by 1645 he was too wounded to travel to London to compound for his estates. On his father’s death in 1656 he inherited the estates around Whitley, where he came to reside during the 1660s. He was knighted at the Restoration of Charles II and died a wealthy man in 1668.

William Cavendish (1593-1676)

William Cavendish (1593-1676)

1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

(Catalogue: EP46B0101)

William Cavendish was born at Handsworth Manor, Yorkshire, and was a writer, patron and royalist commander. He was created Viscount Mansfield in 1620, and Earl of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1628. When Charles I formally declared war against Parliament in August 1642, Newcastle was given jurisdiction over Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland and Westmorland, as he was willing to pay for his own troops. Yorkshire royalists appealed to Newcastle for help in November 1642, and after receiving the keys of the city, Newcastle became commander-in-chief of the north. He was made a Marquis in recognition of his victory over the Fairfaxes at Adwalton Moor in 1643. After the destruction of his infantry at Marston Moor on 2 July 1644, Newcastle left for Hamburg and later Paris where he remained until 1660. He wrote several books and plays during his exile. He was raised to a dukedom at the Restoration and when he died in 1676, he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Lady Anne Clifford of Skipton (1590-1676)

Lady Anne Clifford of Skipton (1590-1676)

Countess of Pembroke, Dorset and Montgomery

(Catalogue: EP460305b)

n Skipton Castle, and as the only surviving child of George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, inherited her father’s barony, becoming sue jure 14th Baroness de Clifford. Her father’s earldom, however, had to pass to a male heir, which was his brother Francis, who became 4th Earl of Cumberland. Although Anne had the rights to her father’s properties, they were instead bequeathed to Francis. Much of her life therefore was dominated by the inheritance dispute. She only regained the family’s estates six years after the death of her cousin, Henry Clifford, 5th Earl of Cumberland, in 1649. Throughout her life she was a patron of literature, a family historian, and had a great reputation as a builder and conservator of her ancestral estates. She restored Skipton Castle following its slighting by parliamentarians in 1648.

Marmaduke Langdale (1598-1661)

Marmaduke Langdale (1598-1661)

1st Baron Langdale of Holme

(Catalogue: EP41B0101)

Marmaduke Langdale was born in Beverley and became a leading royalist commander. He was appointed High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1639, and began his career fighting for the Marquis of Newcastle. After the defeat at Marston Moor in 1644, Langdale formed the surviving cavalry into its own brigade called the Northern Horse, which quickly gained reputation for dogged tenacity. Nicknamed ‘the ghost’ by his enemies, Langdale returned in 1648 to lead the northern royalists during the Second Civil War. He was captured after the Battle of Preston but escaped from Nottingham Castle and entered into Venetian service in 1652. He was appointed Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding in 1660, although he claimed to be too poor to attend the coronation of Charles II. He was buried at Sancton in 1661.

Robert Pierrepont (1584–1643)

Robert Pierrepont (1584–1643)

1st Earl of Kingston upon Hull

(Catalogue: EP41B0101)

Robert Pierrepont was born in Holme Pierrepont, Nottinghamshire, and was a landowner and royalist army officer. The acquisition and management of estates was Pierrepont’s main interest. He bought manors in Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire in early 1600s, and his contemporaries identified him as a man who lacked fortune due to all of his purchases. In 1639 he failed to join the royalists at York, claiming ill health, which also made him absent from the House of Lords in the years 1640-42, where he sat primarily to secure his interests. Pierrepont’s support was sought by both sides in the war, and according to Lucy Hutchinson, he declined Parliament’s offer by stating, “When … I take arms with the King against the Parliament, or with the Parliament against the King, let a cannon-bullet divide me between them”. Parliamentarians therefore reported his death with grim satisfaction, as he died by friendly fire after finally agreeing to join the royalists in 1643.

Thomas Wentworth (1592-1641)

Thomas Wentworth (1592-1641)

1st Earl of Strafford

(Catalogue: EP41B0101)

Thomas Wentworth was born in Chancery Lane in London, and was the son of Sir William Wentworth of Wentworth Woodhouse, a member of an old Yorkshire family. Wentworth entered the English Parliament in 1614 as Yorkshire’s representative in the Addled Parliament, and sat again in 1621. In Charles I’s first parliament in 1625 Wentworth again sat for Yorkshire, and after its dissolution was made High Sheriff of Yorkshire, which excluded him from being an MP in the next Parliament. Wentworth was created Baron Wentworth in 1628, and became President of the Council of the North soon after. Wentworth made the biggest impact as Lord Deputy of Ireland between 1632 and 1639. He established a strong authoritarian rule in Ireland, after which he was recalled back to England to serve as advisor to Charles I, who reluctantly signed Wentworth’s death warrant when Parliament condemned him to a public beheading on Tower Hill in May 1641.

William Widdrington (1610-1651)

William Widdrington (1610-1651)

1st Baron Widdrington

(Catalogue: EP41B0101)

William Widdrington was born in Widdrington, Northumberland. From 1635, Widdrington took an active part in the administration of Northumberland, serving as High Sheriff, Deputy Lieutenant and an MP in both the Long and Short Parliaments. During the war Widdrington joined the Earl of Newcastle’s northern army, serving with him in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Lincolnshire. Despite his Roman Catholicism, he was appointed President of Newcastle’s Council of War. After the defeat of the royalists at Marston Moor on 2 July 1644, Widdington left England with Newcastle for exile in Hamburg. However, he returned in 1650 to accompany Charles II to Scotland. He was mortally wounded while fighting at the Battle of Wigan in 1651.

John Williams (1582-1650)

John Williams (1582-1650)

Archbishop of York

(Catalogue: EP46B0101)

John Williams was born in Wales, and was Archbishop of York between 1642 and 1646. After the succession of Charles I in 1625, Williams was removed from the office of Lord Chancellor given to him by James I, and was also prevented from attending Parliament. He remained out of favour with Charles and his leading advisers William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford. Williams was fined and imprisoned in 1636 for alleged sympathies towards the Puritans. He was released in 1640, when the Lords put pressure on the King. He was re-imprisoned by Parliament in 1641 and released on bail in 1642. Upon his final release he headed for York with the King, where he became the Archbishop. He was chased out of his palace at Cawood Castle by Captain John Hotham in October 1642. He returned to Wales and died a few years later of quinsy—a severe complication of tonsillitis.

Sir Francis Wortley of Wortley Hall (1591-1652)

Sir Francis Wortley of Wortley Hall (1591-1652)

(Catalogue: EP41B0204)

Sir Francis Wortley was born in Wortley Hall in Tankersley parish, to an ancient Yorkshire family. He sat in Parliament for East Retford several times during James I’s reign. His deer park at Wortley was repeatedly troubled by poaching gangs. He claimed to have been the first man to draw his sword for the king at York in May 1642. He fortified his house at Wortley and was commissioned colonel. His military career ended with his capture at Walton Hall near Wakefield on 3 June 1644. He was subsequently imprisoned in the Tower of London, and his estates were sequestered in 1647. As a friend of Ben Jonson, a playwright and poet, he contributed to a tribute volume after his death, the Jonsonus Virbius, in 1638. Wortley wrote a few more works while imprisoned, fashioning himself as a royalist martyr. In his will in 1652 he asked to be buried at Windsor with his father.