Bradford Quarter

‘Black Tom’ Fairfax

On the 21st October 1642, Bradford was warned that it was about to be attacked by 800 Royalists who duly arrived at Undercliffe where they made their camp. There was an unseasonable snow storm and one of the royalist cannon exploded. The royalists withdrew giving the clubmen of Bradford and unexpected victory.

Sir Thomas Fairfax came to Bradford soon after to recruit from the armed band that defended the unwalled town. He and his men left for Tadcaster soon after. But the departure of men and weapons left Bradford exposed.

Two months later on the 17th December, Sir William Savile, under the command of the Earl of Newcastle, wrote a letter to the citizens of Bradford demand money and supplies. The consequences of them not providing what he wanted would be the burning of the town. But the people of Bradford refused to submit despite the fact that Leeds fell quickly to the Royalists and that they did not have enough men to defend their home. Nearby sympathisers decided to stay away because they felt that the outcome was a forgone conclusion.

Captain John Hodgson, from Coley, came and organised the defence. He and the people of Bradford defended the church by hanging wool sacks from it. They made bulwarks and earthworks and barricaded the streets. On the morning of 18th December men with muskets and fowling pieces climbed into the steeple and took aim at the approaching royalists led by Sir William.

Savile responded to Bradford’s defence by setting up cannon at Barkerend but it turned out that the royalist gunners hadn’t yet learned how to hit their targets. In time the artillery was moved to a line of fire which included Kirkgate and Ivegate. The marksmen in the steeple tried to hit the officers.

During one of the skirmishes a royalist officer and a party of men rushed towards the church. The defenders seeing the attack took aim and wounded the officer. As he lay on the ground he begged for quarter. The rules of war stated that if a man asked for quarter, or mercy, that he should be spared, but the defenders of Bradford were ordinary men. They didn’t know what tit meant.

Ralph Atkinson yelled that he would give the royalist “Bradford Quarter’ and promptly killed him. He also robbed the body.

The night before Bradford fell to the Royalists at the beginning of July 1643 was a terrifying one for the men and women, including seventeen-year-old Joseph Lister, who remembered what happened to the young royalist officer the previous winter. They feared that they would also be shown Bradford Quarter but the Earl of Newcastle who spent the night at Bolling House did not take the terrible revenge that was feared.

I’m talking about one of my favourite people in history on Thursday morning.

2 thoughts on “Bradford Quarter

  1. Fairfax was a gentleman .Bradford was spared but I would have burned it down to the ground finding out my officer had be butchered by such a native scum with no mercy would not have been show mercy by me. I visited Fairfax home near Weatherby Yorks then empty and kids played in it. Lovely big mansion house and gardens left idle . My family fought for the King but now would fought for Cromwell in hindsight. Once I met and talked with Prime Minister Mike Foot in Nottingham. His first question was which side of the civil war did you fight. I said Stephen and Matilda or King versus his people .Both on the loosing side sir .He smiled .His aid later told me he asks every one that question as if many would even know want side ancestors fought on. Good blog I love this period it was my exam in history long ago In depth look at England 1642-49.

    • In all fairness it is entirely possible that the killer didn’t know what quarter was – words are strange things both allow and prevent effective communication. Fairfax is one of my most favourite people. Quite often I find myself writing abut someone I’m truly glad that I shan’t encounter. My maternal ancestor s were parliamentarians and my husbands family were royalists – so far as I have been able to research. I’m sure the majority of them just wanted to live a quiet life, have enough to eat and not send their sons to be slaughtered.

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