The Jacobites left Derby on the 6th December but William Augustus (the duke of Cumberland) didn’t get the information until the next day. He set off in hot pursuit hoping to catch Charles on English soil. Meanwhile the Jacobites headed back the way that they came with brief interludes for making local legends. For reasons best known to himself and the original story teller Bonnie Prince Charlie allegedly diverted off the main road at Ashbourne for a quick jaunt around the White Peak – he also allegedly stayed in Hartington where he took a mistress – one night stand might be a more apt description- who died presumably from love and who continues to haunt Hartington Hall waiting for her prince to return, pictured above. Far more likely is the tale of the landlord of the Royal Oak by the River Dove who failed to part with his horse when the Jacobites demanded it and was shot for his pains.
Anyway, as Cumberland pursued the Jacobites north, General Wade who’d made it all the way to Yorkshire headed towards Lancashire in a bid to cut the Jacobite army off – clearly not a resounding success. Cumberland also wrote a sternly worded note to the local magistrates of Cheshire telling them it was their duty to slow the Jacobites down so that he could catch up with them. It would appear that many magistrates nailed their letterboxes shut or suddenly found they had pressing engagements elsewhere not least because in the aftermath of the Jacobite army heading south many of the local militias had been disbanded having been palpably useless during the Jacobite advance. Oates makes the point that there wasn’t a Cheshire militia because the focus had been on building Chester’s defensive strength. By the 16th December Cumberland was in Preston and not amused by the fact that the citizens of the North West of England had failed to intercept the Jacobites.
There were the occasional skirmishes. In Macclesfield one Jacobite was shot dead and in Manchester loyalists threw clods of earth at the retreating army but swiftly ran away themselves when the rear guard took exception to their treatment.
By the time the Jacobites arrived in Westmorland and Cumbria (to avoid confusion with the duke) the situation had changed. The retreating army was less chivalrous than it had been on its march south. The men who made up its parts were now looting and pillaging – they were becoming steadily more desperate. The regular army was catching up – as Bonnie Prince Charlie got up in the morning and rode off his hosts barely had time to change the bed sheets (if indeed they did) before the duke of Cumberland arrived looking for a bed for the night!
The advance party of Jacobites arrived in Kendal on the 14th December. It was market day. There were scuffles. A Jacobite was killed and in the exchange of gunfire that followed so was a Kendal cobbler. In total four men died that day. The Jacobite advance party headed for Penrith via Shap and Orton. The country was alight as it had been in the days of the border reivers with beacons being lit to warn of the Jacobite approach and skirmishes between the Scots and rural Cumbrians.
By now Cumberland was writing to those in authority demanding that they tear up roads and fell trees to stop the Jacobites in their tracks. The road from Kendal to Shap was broken. With this information and the speed of the retreat its no wonder that horses fell in their traces on the pull up the hills over Shap. On the 16th December, the main part of the army was at Shap. However, the rear guard commanded by Lord George Murray was delayed because of the difficulty of moving the wagons and what artillery they did have. Many of the wagons broke or were simply too heavy to haul up the road. Smaller carts had to be requisitioned and the contents of the wagons redistributed. The remnants of a cart and a horse skeleton would be found in a ravine demonstrating the difficulties of transport in the eighteenth century. Every delay saw Cumberland drawing closer.
It was at Clifton,outside Penrith that Cumberland’s advance party clashed with the Jacobite rearguard who had been ordered to conceal themselves behind two hedges. It was the 18 December and was to be the last battle on English soil. As the sunset the two sides met and both sides claimed victory – whilst the Redcoats retained the field the Scots could very justifiably argue that their retreat had not been impeded. The St Cuthbert’s Church, Clifton contains a memorial to the men of Bland’s regiment who fell during the skirmish and there is a roadside memorial to the battle. Cumberland stayed the night at Townend Cottage.
A site known as the Rebel’s Tree in Clifton was where 15 Jacobites were thought to have been buried but an archeological dig preluding a housing development failed to uncover their grave although it did yield rather a lot of musket balls. The archeological report noted that the railway embankment could have destroyed the graves or that the bodies lay within the restricted 20m zone around the tree which is protected not only because of its links with the battle but because it was also the local hanging tree.
On the morning of the 19th December the Jacobites were back in Carlisle and the recruits of the Manchester Regiment were having to decide whether to continue with the army or disperse and go home. Cumberland would arrive outside Carlisle’s gates on the 21st December. Carlisle found itself under siege but this time, unlike so many in the past – the Scots were inside the city gates rather than outside.
Oates, Jonathan D. (2006) The Jacobite Invasion of 1745 in North West England. Lancaster: Lancaster University