History of the Battle of Nantwich

Holly Holy Day takes us back to the seventeenth century and the four-year long first English civil war between Parliamentarians (AKA Roundheads) and the Royalists (AKA Cavaliers) loyal to Charles I.


The war broke out in 1642 and soon afterwards, in January 1643, Parliamentarians took the town of Namptwiche (Cheshire’s second town and important because of its strategic position on the road to Chester where Royalist reinforcements from Ireland could be landed).


By the end of December, the town was surrounded by Royalists and under siege. However, help was at hand in the form of a Parliamentarian force of ’3550 horse and 5000 foot’ which had marched south from Lancashire under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax (pictured).

This army engaged the Royalists in the Henhull area to the west and defeated them in the Battle of Namptwiche.


On 25 January 1644, the siege was lifted and the people wore holly sprigs in their hats in celebration – hence Holly Holy Day.

The Nantwich Historical Society first commemorated the battle in a simple wreath-laying ceremony at the war memorial in The Square in 1971. Then the Sealed Knot Society, an organisation which perpetuates the memory of the civil war and re-enacts its major battles throughout the year, became involved. The first modern re-enactment of the Battle of Nantwich took place in 1973 to give the town one of its most exciting spectacles. It has taken place every year since.

Today. responsibility for organising the day rests with the Holly Holy Day Society which works with the blessing and support of both the Nantwich Town Council and Cheshire East Council. Valuable local authority backing reflects the significance of the event in the context of civic pride and the potency of the town’s rich history in attracting visitors.