Powick Bridge: 23 September 1642
On 10 September, Sir John Byron left Oxford with a force of 150 dragoons and a large convoy of money and silver plate, donated by the university for the King's cause. Slowed down by the heavily-laden convoy, Byron's force took ten days to cover the sixty miles from Oxford to Worcester, en route to join the King's army at Shrewsbury.
Meanwhile, on 19 September, the Earl of Essex marched from Northampton towards Worcester via Coventry and Warwick. An advance guard of around 1,000 Roundhead horse and dragoons commanded by Colonel John Brown was sent ahead to intercept Byron's convoy. Aware that the Parliamentarians were closing in on Worcester, Prince Rupert rode with a detachment from the King's army to reinforce Byron.
Colonel Brown's detachment arrived before Worcester at dawn on 22 September. Unable to force their way into the city, the Parliamentarians withdrew southwards, along the east bank of the River Severn. They crossed the river at Upton Bridge and marched back up the western bank. At dawn on 23 September, the Parliamentarians took up a position near Powick Bridge on the River Teme, a tributary of the Severn a mile-and-a-half south of Worcester. Brown guessed that when Essex's main army arrived before Worcester, Byron would try to escape up the western bank of the Severn towards Shrewsbury. Brown intended to attack Byron's convoy when it emerged from Worcester.
That afternoon, Parliamentarian sympathisers from Worcester informed Brown that the convoy was preparing to leave. On receiving additional confirmation that Essex's army was approaching, Brown ordered his dragoons to mount up and sent Colonel Sandys' cavalry regiment across Powick Bridge and into the narrow lane beyond to occupy Wick Field at the end of the lane. Unknown to the Parliamentarians, however, Prince Rupert's detachment had arrived at Worcester to cover Byron's withdrawal. Rupert had posted dragoons to line the hedges of the lane leading to Powick Bridge, while his cavalry rested in Wick FIeld. When the Royalist dragoons opened fire on the Parliamentarian cavalry, Sandys rushed forward to get clear of the lane and into Wick FIeld, where he blundered into Rupert's troopers as they hurriedly armed themselves and remounted. Before the Parliamentarians could organise their deployment, Rupert led a charge in which Sandys was killed and his men were driven back down the lane in disarray. Colonel Brown's dragoons held Powick Bridge to cover the retreat and succeeded in checking the pursuing Royalists with musket fire before withdrawing in good order. However, the routed Parliamentarian cavalry kept going, re-crossing the Severn at Upton and galloping a further ten miles to Pershore, where the Earl of Essex's lifeguard had just arrived. Believing that Rupert's cavaliers were in hot pursuit, the lifeguard also turned and fled back to Essex's main army.
The following day, the Earl of Essex occupied Worcester. The mayor of Worcester was placed under arrest and Parliamentarian soldiers looted Worcester Cathedral. However, the action at Powick Bridge had secured the Oxford treasure convoy for the King.
Although it was a relatively minor skirmish, Powick Bridge was the first significant military action of the English Civil War and a serious blow to the morale of the Parliamentarian cavalry. Conversely, the action helped to establish Prince Rupert's reputation as an invincible cavalry commander.
A.H. Burne & P. Young, The Great Civil War, a military history (London 1958)
S.R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War vol. i (London 1888)
Stuart Reid, All the King's Armies (Staplehurst 1998)
K. Roberts & J. Tincey, Edgehill 1642 (Osprey 2001)
"Battel of Worcester" — a Royalist ballad about Powick Bridge
Powick Bridge: — UK Battlefields Resource Centre