THE LIFE OF COL JOHN BIRCH DURING THE ENGLISH CIVIL WARS.
John Birch was originally from Lancashire, but saw service mainly in the south west and was responsible for several notable events in Herefordshire. He was shot early in the wars but was lucky enough to survive and showed true courage to continue fighting in the wars.
1644 was a particularly busy year for Birch who fought in the battles of Cheriton, Cropredy and the second battle of Newbury, where he was remprimanded for not following orders! In 1645 he became governor of, Bridgewater, Bath and Bristol before heading towards Herefordshire were he would eventually settle and see out his days.
With an inspired piece of subterfuge he took Hereford with minimal casualties which resulted in him becoming the governor of Hereford. He was responsible for the taking of both Ludlow castle, and the destruction of Goodrich castle with his mortar Roaring Meg, which can be still be seen at Goodrich castle.
1646 saw Birch take part in his last battle at Stow-on-the-Wold, where he started to sympathise with the Royalist cause and as a result backed off from actively taking part in the Civil Wars.
After the war he became an MP for Leominster and Weobley, settling in the village of Weobley where his memorial can be found in the church.
Col John Birch memorial in Weobley Church
JOHN BIRCH - TIMELINE
Born in Ardwick, Mancheser. Son of Captain Samuel Birch and Mary Smith.
Leaves Ardwick for Bristol in search of his fortune, taking his brother Samuel with him. Sets up business in Bristol trading provisions up the Severn River valley and its tributaries the Avon and the Teme. In Bristol he marries Alice Selfe, the widow of a former business acquaintance.
Outbreak of the "Civil War". Birch supports Parliament and becomes a Captain in the town militia called the "Bridgemen".
Bristol falls to Prince Rupert. Birch escapes to London but looses everything. With the help of Sir Arthur Haselrigg he obtains a commission in the army with the rank of Captain.
Capt. John Birch in the force of Gen. William Waller takes the town of Alton in Hampshire.
Wallers' Army lay siege to Arundel.
Arundels' governor Sir Edward Ford is forced by shortages of food to accept Wallers' terms of surrender. Sometime during the siege John Birch is shot in the stomach and left for dead, but due to the extreme cold, the flow of blood is stemmed and he is taken to London for medical treatment.
Birch, fit again, rejoins Sir William Waller at Arundel.
John Birch was with Waller at the Battle of Cheriton where Royalists under Lord Hopton were routed.
Waller declines to pursue Hopton and decides to lay siege to Winchester.
Battle of Cropredy Bridge. King Charles brushes Waller aside, and only a stout defence of the Bridge by Tower Hamlets (with Birch in charge) and Kentish regiments, save the day for Parliament. Waller leaves for London leaving Birch and his regiment on garrison duty in Abingdon. While stationed here he is slighted by his former friend Arthur Haselrige, who takes over his regiment and converts them to dragoons. Birch leaves Abingdon for Knowle in Kent where he is given command of a Kentish regiment.
Col. Birch and his regiment are ordered to join Waller in Weymouth.
Waller and Haselrige inform the committee that Col. John Birch has been sent to Plymouth with the instructions to raise the siege and to return to Weymouth when this is done. His regiment is garrisoned at Plymouth for nine months but Col. Birch leaves to argue his case for supplies in London.
Birch ordered back to Plymouth but on his way encounters a Parliamentary army, under the Earl of Manchester, at Basingstoke and joins his staff.
Second Battle of Newbury. Like the first, it ends without definite conclusion. While pursuing the Royalists, Birch and his forces come across a large cavalcade belonging to the Earl of Forth & Brentford. The Earl of Manchester forbids him to pursue them, but Birch with 50 men disobey the order and capture the coaches and all the ladies, including the Earl of Forth & Brentfords' wife. Because of the embarrassment caused by his actions he is ordered back to Plymouth.
Siege of Plymouth raised.
Lord General Sir Thomas Fairfax orders Col. John Birch to bring his regiment to the siege of Bridgewater.
Bridgewater is taken and Birch made governor. Later he is also made governor of Bath.
Col. Birch is called to Bristol by Fairfax and given command of the regiment of Major General Phillip Skippon, who had been wounded at Naseby.
Fairfax attacks Bristol. Prince Rupert surrenders the city. Birch is made governor.
Col. Birch is given the following commission by the Committee of Safety: "to draw out 1000 foot and your own horse and march to Herefordshire" & "to endeavor to distress the city of Hereford and use all means to take it in." Birch's regiment leave Bristol, reaching Gloucester on the 7th December.
Army leaves Gloucester for Ledbury.
Col. Birch with his forces advance over the ice bound countryside to make a surprise attack on Hereford. The dispirited Royalist garrison makes only a token defense and the governor, Sir Barnabas Scudamore, makes his escape over the frozen river Wye.
Col. Birch made governor of Hereford and voted the sum of £60,000 as payment to his men. His regimental strength was raised to 1200 and his command was further increased by a troop of horse under Major Hopton of Canon Frome.
Battle of Stow. A Royalist army under Lord Astley is routed by a Parliamentary army under Brereton, Birch and Morgan. Birch has a horse shot from under him and 32 of his regiment are killed. At Stow, Birchs' sympathies start to turn towards the Royalist cause.
Sir Michael Woodhouse surrenders Ludlow to Birch.
After heavy bombardment by Col. Birch's artillery, which included the great mortar "Roaring Meg" Sir Henry Lingen surrenders the fortress of Goodrich.
Fairfax orders Col. Birch to bring his troops and "Roaring Meg" to help in the siege of Raglan.
Raglan is surrendered by veteran Marquis of Worcester to Sir Thomas Fairfax. Col. Birch is one of the commissioners employed in the surrender negotiations.
Col. Birch enters the House of Commons and signs the covenant as member for Leominster. This ends John Birchs' participation in the first Civil War.
The above article is courtesy of Mr. Rob McLeod.