The 51st annual Battle of Nantwich ‘Holly Holy Day’ English Civil War re-enactment took place in and around Nantwich town centre and on Mill Island on Saturday 27th January 2024.
The event was organised by the Holly Holy Day Society, a small group of unpaid volunteers who give up their time each year to organise and plan the event, working in association with The Sealed Knot re-enactment society.
Holly Holy Day traces back to the 17th century and the four-year-long First English Civil War between the Parliamentarians (Roundheads) and the Royalists (Cavaliers) loyal to Charles I.
A variety of activities took place during the day at St Mary’s Church, Acton; St Mary's Church, Nantwich; Nantwich Museum; Pillory Street; and the town square, along with a parade and the battle re-enactment on Mill Island. There were also several engaging and impactful performances from the Domesday Morris Dancers. Nantwich Museum hosted children’s activities, Civil War exhibitions, 17th century music from Forlorn Hope and led Civil War guided walking tours.
A parade of several hundred Sealed Knot troops marched from Malbank School & Sixth Form College along Welsh Row and High Street into the town centre. On the troops arrival there was a wreath-laying ceremony at the war memorial on the town square to commemorate people who died in the Civil War Battle of Nantwich and other battles, and an inspection of troops.
A wreath was also laid in memory of Kevin Corcoran, known by many as Ezra the Plough Witch, who passed away at his home in London last year. Kevin was one of the most noted and formidable re-enactors who would roam around the town with an old plough and a tankard in which he would collect donations for the Battle of Nantwich then empty and refill with ale. A Plough was also decorated with black ribbons with a photo of Kevin, as Ezra, and there was a speech in memory of him by a member of Domesday Morris Dancers. Kevin travelled up from London as a volunteer every year. His inestimable talent for bringing the past to vivid life will be sorely missed.
Following an inspection, the troops paraded to Mill Island to re-enact the January 1644 battle. During the battle drummers banged their orders, pikes clattered, cannons boomed, muskets exploded, and swords clanged. There was a running commentary with plentiful historical information and an insight into the techniques deployed on the battlefield.
Following the re-enactment, the Rose Bowl was presented to the Best Regiment, which this year was The Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote.
Holly Holy Day was enjoyed in dry weather by several thousand people.
Comments from members of the public on the day included, “I felt transported back in time and the event was well reenacted providing explosive entertainment”, “I enjoyed the event; it is a poignant reminder of the wars going on today” and “It was a good re-enactment and brought much needed footfall to the town.”
Jo Lowry, Chairperson, Holly Holy Day committee, said: “We are privileged to put on the first of Nantwich's annual events in 2024, bringing many visitors to our fabulous town. It was a great day, enjoyed by the thousands who came to watch. We are very grateful to all the volunteers who help out on the day and made the whole event run so smoothly, and to all our sponsors."
A representative from Sealed Knot said: “It is fantastic to see the town’s support for Nantwich history. The Holly Holy Day celebrations are one of the longest standing and much-loved fixtures in our society calendar with re-enactors attending from across the country. Every year, it is amazing to see the crowds come to enjoy the parade and battle, learning more about their town’s past and what happened there in the 17th century.”
The Holly Holy Day Society offers its thanks and appreciation to a number of organisations and individuals, without whose help and generosity the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Nantwich would not be possible.
The Sponsors were: Rhino Safety, Black Bear at Whitchurch, Carbon Control, Hall Smith Whittingham, ID Tech Solutions, JG Creative, Nantwich Bookshop & Coffee Lounge, Nantwich Town Council, Our Time Candles & Diffusers, Rare Earth Digital, The Wage Shop.
A-Z of Acknowledgements: Air Cadets 100 (Nantwich) Squadron, ANSA, Barnett Jones and Cooke, BSB Sound, Charles I, Chatwins Bakery, Cheshire East Council, David Foulkes, Devlin Hobson, Domesday Morris Dancers, Forlorn Hope, Function Event Hire, Johnsons Printers, Joseph Heler Cheese, Kieran Mullan MP, Malbank School, Crewe and Nantwich Chronicle, Nantwich Historical Society, Nantwich Museum, Nantwich News, Nantwich Police, Nantwich Town Council, Paul O’Brien, Revd Anne Lawson, Revd Mark Hart, Sally Regan, St Mary’s Church, Nantwich, St Mary’s Church, Acton, Staffs Solutions Group, Stuart Bostock, The Oddfellow Arms, The Sealed Knot, Wych-Malbank Rotary.
The Holly Holy Day Committee: Jo Lowry (Chairperson), Colin Bisset (The Sealed Knot), Alex Thompson (The Sealed Knot), Anna Burton, Clare Coulston, Liane Dooley, Shaun Dutton, Graham Fenton, Harry Heath, Keith Lawrence, Alan Southern, Jonathan White.
Next year’s Battle of Nantwich ‘Holly Holy Day’ will take place on Saturday 25th January 2025.
If you would like to join the Holly Holy Day committee and can offer an average of couple of hours a week from March to January, please contact Jo Lowry on firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to help on the day as a volunteer, please contact Liane Dooley on email@example.com.
For general information relating to the Battle of Nantwich ‘Holly Holy Day’ please visit: https://www.battleofnantwich.org/ or https://www.facebook.com/battleofnantwich or email: firstname.lastname@example.org