The Midlands & East Anglia: overview

During the first months of the English Civil War, the city of Oxford was established as the Royalist capital, protected by a circuit of defensive garrison towns. The Royalists gained ground in the Midlands to the north of Oxford, establishing bases at Tamworth, Lichfield, and Stafford. The important stronghold of Newark in Nottinghamshire was captured for the King in December 1642 by a detachment from the Earl of Newcastle's northern army.

The Parliamentarian civilian and military administration of East Anglia and the Midlands counties was organised into regional associations: the Eastern Association, the Midlands Association and a separate association for Warwickshire and Staffordshire. Parliament was concerned that the Earl (later Marquis) of Newcastle's northern army would advance south to join forces with the Oxford Royalists to threaten London. During 1643, however, the Eastern Association secured East Anglia and co-operated with the Yorkshire Parliamentarians to hold back the northern Royalists.

In the Midlands, Lichfield was captured by the Parliamentarians then recaptured by Prince Rupert who campaigned tirelessly to secure the region for the King. Early in 1644, the Parliamentarians besieged Newark, but Rupert gathered a makeshift army to raise the siege. The Earl of Essex and Sir William Waller mustered a potentially overwhelming force for an attack on Oxford in mid-1644 then Essex made an extraordinary decision to split his forces and march away into the south-west. Waller's remaining force was rendered ineffective by low morale and desertion.

Parliament's war-effort was revitalised by the creation of the New Model Army in 1645 under the command of General Fairfax. After manoeuvring in the south-west, Fairfax marched to besiege Oxford in May. When the King's army stormed Leicester, Fairfax advanced into the Midlands. The decisive battle of the English Civil War was fought at Naseby in Northamptonshire on 14 June 1645, resulting in the defeat of the King's army.

The war continued for another year but King Charles had no realistic chance of victory after Naseby. In May 1646, having fled from Oxford at the approach of the New Model Army, the King surrendered to Lord Leven and ordered the surrender of the Royalist stronghold of Newark. The Royalist capital Oxford surrendered to Fairfax after a seven-week siege on 24 June 1646.