Author tells tale of ghosts seen fighting Battle of Edgehill near Kineton

'The Road to Edgehill' as seen from the Parliament's position with Edgehill in the background
'The Road to Edgehill' as seen from the Parliament's position with Edgehill in the background

Tales of tormented ghosts from the Battle of Edgehill started circulating a few months after the deadly conflict.

Just a week after the anniversary of the Battle of Edgehill author, Mark Turnbull, visited the site of the battle site.

Figure at the exhibition at St Peter's Church in Radway

Figure at the exhibition at St Peter's Church in Radway

Mark released his first novel, Allegiance of Blood, on Edgehill’s anniversary, which opens on the evening of the battle and follows a fictional character through the historic events that marked this pivotal era.

Mark said: "I've been interested in the British Civil War since I was 10 years old. I’ve re-enacted myself in the Sealed Knot, and have written other articles this year to commemorate civil war anniversaries, as well as help support the work of the English Civil War Society."

The Sealed Knot, a registered charity, is largest re-enactment society in Europe.

The Battle of Edgehill was the first major engagement of the English Civil War between the forces of King Charles I and Parliament. It was fought in the open fields between the villages of Kineton and Radway.

Edgehill monument

Edgehill monument

After visiting the battle field grounds Mark wrote about his experience. Here he recounts what happened during his visit.

The 26th of October 2019 was a dull, rainy Saturday, yet my excitement at scouting out a major British Civil War site was not dampened.

A drizzly mist rolled over the formidable Edgehill to meet me that morning. I approached on the extreme left of the battlefield and then turned right towards the village of Radway, which was nestled into the fields beneath the long slope.

A church and visitor centre occupied the ground where the army of King Charles I had once deployed, in opposition to that of Parliament, 377 years ago on October 23, 1642.

I made my way into Saint Peter’s Church. A time lock released the portal at 8am to reveal the secrets of Edgehill. I stepped inside the dark interior and quietly closed the door. A pikeman confronted me, his ethereal, white features contrasting with the darkness so much that they glowed.

Thankfully the sensor detected my shock and lit up the church to reveal the dummy pikeman for all that it was.

The exhibition was very informative, with plenty of artefacts and information boards. Towards the font, I discovered the monument of Captain Kingsmill, a Royalist who had died at Edgehill.

The effigy had been commissioned by his mother, and he looked poised to question the interloper who had just disturbed his rest.

But the battlefield of Edgehill had not always been so tranquil. The first battle of the English Civil War had scarred the near thirty thousand combatants – both those who survived it, as well as those who did not.

In the months after Edgehill, John Green confessed to his diary a fear of some tales he had heard.

The sounds of warfare had supposedly rolled over the fields with the chill of winter.

Tormented ghosts had been seen in the skies fighting the battle once more.

A London printer, Thomas Jackson, captured the details in a pamphlet, leaving us a record of the paranormal activity that left people fearful of its portents. Fear that struck right up to the King himself. At a time of intense uncertainty, the civil war exhumed everyone’s demons and uprooted every way of life.

Those who had been killed as a result of the world being turned upside down had come back from the dead to warn the living.

Apprehensive shepherds and travellers first heard the distant rattle of drums just after midnight, a few days before Christmas 1642.

They waited with bated breath to see which side’s army had penetrated their Warwickshire haven.

The drums continued their deathly echoes, but all that manifested was the noise of soldiers groaning their last breaths, as if the soil upon which they stood, the hill and the very fabric of their homes had retained traces of Edgehill’s trauma.

And then suddenly, in the sky above them, appeared infantry and cavalry under the banners which they had once marched. They replayed the desperate and bloody battle that had turned a fault-line within the nation into a chasm.

For three hours these spectres terrified the frozen onlookers. Edgehill had ended with both sides fighting to exhaustion, and eventually the ghoulish soldiers in the heavens began to fade. The witnesses sped to the house of William Wood, a Justice of the Peace, to ironically recount their far from peaceful observances. Wood took them to Samuel Marshall, the minister at Kineton.

The following day the armies of the dead engaged one another again. Wood, Reverend Marshall and his brother, and the others watched the spirits struggle, “with as much spite and spleen as formerly.”

The men fled to their houses and bolted the doors, beseeching God to protect them from their “hellish and prodigious enemies.”

The next time the spectral soldiers grappled above Edgehill was one week later. This time, the fourth battle of Edgehill lasted for four hours. Horses charged right at some locals, swinging their blades with bloodthirsty cries before vanishing into the earth. Other apparitions were seen putting wounded comrades out of their miseries. Reverend Marshall was one of the only men stout-hearted enough to stay and watch, and afterwards he hurried to King Charles I at Oxford.

A second news sheet claims that locals searched for, and found, unburied corpses in an attempt to satisfy the spirits.

Thomas Jackson ended his pamphlet with the judgement, “Whatever this doth portend, God only knows, and time perhaps will discover, but doubtless it is a sign of His wrath against this land, for these civil wars, which He in His good time finish, and send a sudden peace between His Majesty and Parliament.”

King Charles was equally concerned and duly sent Colonel Lewis Kirke, Captains’ Dudley and Wainman and three gentlemen to investigate. Each man was a survivor of Edgehill. Upon the next heavenly encounter, the delegation recognised the features of Sir Edmund Verney, the King’s fallen standard bearer. Their affidavits were signed and sealed. Colonel Kirke later went on to become Governor of Oxford and was knighted, proving the value of his judgement.

Edgehill lived on in William Walker, a Lancashire man who had fought for the King in the battle, and who had been wounded in the arm. He is said to have died in 1736, nearly one hundred years later, at the ripe old age of 123. Once the last living memory of Edgehill had finally been claimed, it was devoured by history.

As late as 1960, two arrivals at the local military base reported hearing the cries of men engaged in battle, thuds of musket fire, steely clashes of swords and the thunder of hooves. The dead, it seemed, remained consigned to a perpetual hell of civil war.