The Battle of Rowton Heath, which took place close to Chester on 24 September in 1645, came a few months after the king, Charles I, had suffered a crushing defeat at Naseby.
Charles had lost his infantry and was aiming to take the remainder of his fighting men, around 4,000 cavalry, north to join his supporters in Scotland. Parliament now had the superior forces and set up to stop him breaking out of England.
At this time the Royalists were still in control of two port cities, at Bristol and Chester, which allowed Charles to bring in fresh troops from Ireland and the continent.
Parliament knew that taking these cities could end the war, and Bristol fell in early September. They now moved their focus on Chester, and laid siege on 19 September.
Charles was close by at Chirk Castle in the Welsh Marches and he resolved to ride to Chester's rescue. The Parliamentarian's were attacking the east side of the city, so the King was able to enter the city with 500 men from the west. The remainder of his cavalry were ordered to attack the Parliamentarians.
Realising that Charles had entered the city the Parliamentarians were able to request reinforcements from General Poyntz, who had blocked Charles' progress north and had been pursuing the Royal army.
Poyntz sent riders to Chester to inform them that he was riding through the night to provide support. His letters were intercepted by the Royalists who now knew a second force was approaching from their rear.
The Royalists made the decision to engage Poyntz's force first and set themselves up for a surprise attack.
Poyntz was caught unawares but his troops engaged the Royalists with the fighting moving back and forth. Crucially, Charles was asked for reinforcements but failed to take action.
His delay gave Parliamentarian support time to arrive from Chester and the Royalists retreated to find a stronger position to fight from. A series of smaller melees broke out, but eventually the Parliamentarian fighters linked together and they outnumbered the Royalists, enabling Poyntz to outflank his foe.
Charles was watching from Chester's Roman Walls, from a tower that can still be visited today. He saw his remaining forces wiped out and his dreams of uniting with his Scottish supporters ended.
The King was able to escape Chester and continued to move between cities, before eventually handing himself over to a Scottish force at Newark.
Chester's Royalist leaders refused to give up the city and withstood the siege through the winter, before starvation and death finally led them to surrender in January 1646.
Picture credit: Rowton Heath reenactors © Copyright Jeff Buck and licensed for reuse CC BY-SA 2.0
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