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Cannon will fire, drums will sound, and swords will clash as the English Civil War returns to Bolton in a spectacular free event – almost 375 years since the notorious ‘Bolton Massacre’!

Roundheads and Cavaliers will descend on Bolton School on 7 and 8 July for ‘The Storming of Bolton’ – an exciting weekend of thrilling battles and fascinating ‘living history’. The event will be free for local people and staged by costumed re-enactors from The Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote, the local regiment of the Sealed Knot re-enactment society. 

Headmaster of Bolton School Boys’ Division, Mr Philip Britton, said: “We are eagerly anticipating what should be a dramatic and instructive weekend. When Old Boy David Wilson proposed the idea, the prospect of bringing events that are sometimes accessible only to a few in castles and stately homes to a much wider audience of Bolton people seemed to so much fit the aims of what we try to do as a school for the community that it seemed too good a chance to miss. Hopefully it will provide a great opportunity for young and old to learn about what life was like for people living in Bolton during the Civil Wars.” 

The encampment will be open from 10am until 4pm on both days and visitors can watch as cannons and muskets fire in a thrilling battle re-enactment as the townspeople defend Bolton from the Royalists’ attack! There will also be the opportunity to take part in a fun scavenger hunt around the fascinating historical encampment, listen to a fire-and-brimstone Puritan preacher, visit the apothecary and discover the Gong Farmer’s smelly secret – but watch out for the Rat Catcher! A display will educate visitors on what it was like to be a Parliamentarian soldier and spectators can watch muskets firing as they drill for battle!  Battle will take place in the afternoon as Royalist forces storm the town’s defences and the Parliamentarian troops stage a desperate last stand! 

The event will run as a result of generous support from Bolton School and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the weekend forms part of a special project, which includes two educational days at the School for local pupils from Years 5, 6 and 7.

Known as ‘the Geneva of the North’ due to its staunchly Puritan population, Bolton was attacked in May 1644 by forces led by King Charles’ nephew, the dashing Prince Rupert, on his way to relieve the siege of York. After repelling the first assault, Parliamentarian defenders hanged one of Rupert’s officers, which led to a notorious massacre when the Royalists finally stormed the town – with up to a thousand soldiers and civilians killed in the rout! Local magnate, the Earl of Derby, was later executed next to Bolton Market Cross for his part in the massacre and the third Civil War in 1651.

Entrance to the Bolton School site will be via the gateway on Dobson Road, which is just off Chorley New Road in Bolton (BL1 4PA). Visitors are encouraged to walk to the site if at all possible as parking around the School will be limited.

You can watch a trailer about the Storming of Bolton event here.

You can learn more about the Earl of Manchester’s Regiment here.

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