The last battle of Preston took place on British soil which saw hundreds of prisoners and rebels executed

For most of us, wars are something that happens in other countries, but just 300 years ago, Preston was the scene of the last full-scale battle to take place over the British soil.

The Jacobite uprising of 1745 was part of an attempt to reclaim the throne of England, Ireland and Scotland for the exiled Stuarts. It was led by Charles Stuart who was determined to see his father James Stuart crowned king.

Lasting only three months, the Uprising began when the Earl of Mar, a local landowner, raised the Jacobite standard on August 27 in Scotland, with the aim of taking Stirling Castle. However, the British Army stopped the rebels in a battle on November 13.

READ MORE:Preston’s Hidden History and How You Can Explore It

The next day the rebellion peaked in Preston Market. The Jacobites won on the first day of the battle, killing a large number of government forces, but government reinforcements arrived the next day and the Jacobites eventually surrendered.

The surrender of the Jacobites and many battles fought during the Uprising are depicted in a number of impressive wall paintings, one of which is depicted on the wall of one of the main committee rooms in Blackpool Town Hall .

Fierce: a depiction of the Battle of Preston

Among the leaders of the Jacobite conspiracy in the west of England were three peers and six deputies. The government arrested the leaders on the night of October 2 and sent reinforcements to defend Bristol, Southampton and Plymouth.

Although the main uprising in the West was prevented, a planned secondary uprising in Northumberland took place on October 6, 1715, comprising two peers from the kingdom, James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater, and William Widdrington, 4th Baron Widdrington, and a future peer, Charles Radclyffe, later de jure 5th Earl of Derwentwater.

Another future English peer, Edward Howard, later the 9th Duke of Norfolk, joined the uprising later in Lancashire, as did other prominent figures including Robert Cotton.

The English Jacobites joined a force of Scottish Borderer Jacobites, led by William Gordon, 6th Viscount Kenmure, and marched into England, where government forces caught up with them in the Battle of Preston on November 12.

The Jacobites moved south into England with little opposition, and by the time they reached Preston their number had grown to around 4,000. Their cavalry entered Preston on the night of November 9, 1715 and, at their approaching, two troops of dragoons and part of a militia regiment retreated to Wigan.

Scene: The battle captured in a painting
Scene: The battle captured in a painting

General Charles Wills was ordered to stop their advance and left Manchester on November 11 with six regiments, arriving the next day. The Jacobite leader was Thomas Forster, a squire from Northumberland with minimal military experience, chosen largely because he was a Protestant; Learning of Wills’ approach, he decided to stay and made the mistake of withdrawing his troops from a solid defensive position at Ribble Bridge outside Preston.

Although the British losses far exceeded those suffered by the Jacobites (300-17 dead), the army won the battle and the Jacobites marched to the town’s market square.

Many Jacobite prisoners were tried for treason and sentenced to death. On May 14, 1716, Henry Oxburgh was hanged, dragged and quartered at Tyburn. The Indemnity Act of July 1717 pardoned all who had taken part in the Uprising, but the entire Gregor clan, including Rob Roy MacGregor, was specifically excluded from the benefit of this law.

End: the Jacobites surrender their weapons
End: the Jacobites surrender their weapons

Years later, James, now known as the Old Pretender, made two more attempts for the British throne. In 1719, despite Spanish support, he was again defeated at the Battle of Glenshiel. James’ son, Charles Edward Stuart, the young suitor, attempted to win the throne for his father in 1745, but was defeated at the Battle of Culloden. Jacques died in 1766.

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