Newbury - The Falkland Memorial - A New Interpretation Panel1ST BATTLE OF NEWBURY COMMEMORATION:
NEW INTERPRETATION PANEL AT FALKLAND MEMORIAL
A major landmark commemorating the 1st Battle of Newbury in 1643 – the Falkland Memorial is to receive a detailed interpretation board on Sunday 20th September 2015. That is the 372nd anniversary of the battle, which was a pivotal engagement of the English Civil War with casualties above 3000.
A moving, unveiling ceremony will be carried out by Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust, which owns the monument. Also at the event will be the present Lord Falkland, whose ancestor Lucias Cary, Viscount Falkland, after whom the memorial is named, was killed in the battle.
The unveiling ceremony will commence at 2pm on Sunday 20th September. It will be followed by a guided walk around the battlefield led by local resident Dave Stubbs. The tour will visit the spot where Lord Falkland fell and will last around two hours, though stopping frequently at points of interest. It will not cover a big distance and all are welcome.
The Sealed Knot, who recreate the uniforms and weaponry of the civil war period, will be mounting an honour guard and showing displays of 17th century military drill.
The Falkland Memorial is one of Berkshire’s most prominent roadside landmarks, but as much of the inscription is in Greek and Latin, the majority of its information and fascinating history is lost to passers by. The monument is held in great affection by the local community. Now, the National Trust, The Battlefield Trust and Newbury Town Council have joined in a concerted effort to give easier access to its story and to broaden our understanding of this key battle of the English Civil WarThe Falkland Memorial – A BACKGROUND.
There must be many people who walk, drive or cycle past the Falkland Memorial every day and wonder in passing what it is all about? There are also others who have tried to discover more about what is one of the most dramatic roadside landmarks in southern England, but the lack of readily accessible information deters all but the most determined.
Even Wash Common’s one time community policeman, Dave Stubbs, intrigued by the number of people who approached him for information (well it did make a change from bus times or road directions!) resorted to keeping a copy of the inscriptions and translations in the back of his pocket book to assist curious residents and passers by, including those from far afield, such as a family from Holland who had come to Wash Common looking for ‘the warren’; the nearby starting point of the rabbit’s journey in Richard Adams book ‘Watership Down’.
The idea of a memorial to the several thousand who were killed in the First Battle of Newbury, fought across the high ground of Wash Common to the south of Newbury on 20th September 1643, had laid dormant for over 200 years. However, in 1875, members of Newbury District Field Club, led by Newbury’s pre-eminent historian Walter Money, decided to redress this omission. Their original concept was for a small church or memorial chapel somewhere on the battlefield but this was not supported by the church authorities and the decision was taken to erect a ‘column or obelisk or other suitable record ’ on the spot where Lord Falkland fell.
It is not clear from the Field Club records when or from where the choice to focus on Falkland had come, and indeed the decision has been controversial ever since as there is still strong feeling locally that the original intention had been to commemorate the battle itself and all who had died fighting in support of their cause in the civil war. The war was a consuming struggle which had split the whole country; its families, towns and communities. The probable explanation lies somewhere in the politics of Victorian Berkshire – by then of course a ‘Royal’ county with Victoria on the throne at Windsor. The great and the good who were being invited
to subscribe to a fund to pay for the monument were somewhat wary of supporting a memorial to what was in effect a defeat for the monarchy. Hence the Royalist bias of the monument’s wording.
However, the 1st Battle of Newbury is now recognised as a turning point of the civil war, where the parliamentarian cause achieved credibility and its supporters realised for the first time that their monarch, King
Charles 1st, could be defeated.
So it was always the intention to place the memorial in a highly prominent position – on land donated by Walter Money and with the obelisk being designed by his brother John. On Monday September 9th 1878 the streets of Newbury witnessed an “imposing and truly representative procession” which accompanied the Earl of Carnarvon to the unveiling – followed by a lunch for some 700 people in the Corn Exchange.
And so the memorial stood – out in the open ground south of Newbury, grazed by the flocks of sheep travelling to Newbury market while their drovers quenched their thirsts in ‘The Gun’ pub nearby – until 1896 – when the Field Club, realising that property ownership and memorial maintenance were not really part of the club’s remit, resolved to hand ownership for the future care and preservation of the memorial to the ‘National Trust Society for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty’.
The town of Newbury expanded out into the surrounding countryside and so the memorial now stands at a busy crossroads in a growing residential suburb. The Battlefield Trust have long nurtured plans to provide interpretation / information boards about the sites of historic battlefields in Britain and following the successful erection of the first Newbury board at Battle Road, the Falkland Memorial was the next obvious site for attention.
The wording of the new board is intended to not only give more immediate information on the memorial but to meet the desire of local people to see a more balanced context of the fighting that took place on our local fields and to remember ALL who fought here in 1643. They were combatants in a battle which became a pivotal part of the journey towards the parliamentary democracy we enjoy today. It was an occasion when Newbury stood at the cross roads of history and we should always remember the part its fields played in such a major event.