Lord Hopton’s Regiment of Foote… By Ross Wishart
‘Twas the year 1643 and the Lord Hopton’s Regiment of Foote, loyal to King Charles I in the first English Civil War, fought predominantly in the West Country against Parliamentary forces most notably at the sieges of Bristol, Gloucester and the battle of Newbury.
Fast forward 376 years and the Lord Hopton’s Regiment of Foote once again marched onto the battlefield to face the combined forces of the Sir Thomas Tlydsleys, Colonel John Brights and Sir Marmaduke Regiments.
Thankfully at this battle there were no casualties and a good time was had by all. This was a Civil War re-enactment as part of the ‘History Alive’ event at Stonham Barns, a weekend long living camp to give you a taste of what life was like across a vast range of time periods and locations.
The regiments’ current incarnation has actually been in operation for 48 years and are one of seven Royalist regiments that regularly take to the field of battle across the country under the umbrella which encompasses both the Kings Army and the Roundhead Association and which form the English Civil War Society. Fret not, the muskets give off a crack and nothing else, whilst the pikes have rubber tips and there is no pillaging or sacking of towns. What the groups try to ensure is that the watching public believe they are witnessing a real battle and getting some sense of how brutal Civil War Britain really was.
Don’t be put off by the term ‘regiment’ you won’t be joining and encampment of hundreds, instead the groups comprise of 30-40 members, all of whom have become close friends through their mutual love and interest in history.
I joined the Lord Hopton’s Regiment of Foote on an exceptionally warm Sunday morning at the ‘History Alive’ event and met my fellow Royalists.
I was then fully decked out in traditional infantryman attire for the pike division in regiment colours which even includes time period boots and gloves. Added to this was my armour comprising of a full breast and back plate, my steel helmet and finally my pike, this usually 18ft long spear like weapon (mine was a slightly shorter novice version) was just as heavy and unwieldy as it would have been back in the day. All of this equipment is provided to any newcomers by the group, you can then purchase / make your own for regular membership and participation.
Once kitted up I was then “drilled” to ensure I understood the commands and knew how to correctly wield the pike, this is important for the safety of me and other participants and also for the realism factor for the spectators. The drills went really well in the calm and quiet surrounds of the encampment but now it was time to head out the significantly more intense battlefield.
Joined by other regiments we formed an impressive formation and led by our drums and standards (flags) we marched onward, to battle the parliamentary scum! It’s hard not to get carried away, in full attire, marching out to the beat with your army it’s incredibly immersive and you get a real sense of what Civil War England was like.
The skirmish is well organised and suitably orchestrated with orders shouted out by our ranking officers. I formed part of the pike block and our role was to battle with our opponent’s pike block, this is done by forming a tight, scrum-like, formation and then pushing our enemy in an effort to force them back and/or break up their formation. Whilst the battle is choreographed for the benefit of the onlooking public there is still a healthy competitive element for the participants.
The pike block fight happened half a dozen times throughout the battle, if you fall to the floor you are “dead” and the fight is promptly broken up to avoid injury, the dead are carted off and the fight resumes once the path is clear, having removed a number of our foes the Lord Hopton’s Regiment of Foote were able to gain the upper hand and we chased our Parliamentary enemy off the field.
At the end of the battle the regiment fell back in to formation, saluted the spectators and marched out of the arena, the whole experience was very intense but great fun, I would highly recommend it to all, especially those with an interest in history and now is a great time to join, the largest battle of the year takes place in Marlborough over the weekend of July 27th – 28th.
For further insight search for ‘Lord Hopton’s Regiment of Foote’ on Twitter and Instagram. For more info and to get in contact with the group visit their website at www.lordhoptonsregiment.co.ukwhich also has great detail on the unit’s history and a schedule of events’.
Action Man says… Muskets fire and pikes clash – You’ll have fun in a Hopton’s regiment stramash!