The Battle of Hatherleigh Moor, Summer 2005
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Page updated: December 11, 2005

The Battle of Hatherleigh Moor - Day 1

Re-enacted by Sealed Knot, Summer 2005

Around 200 members of Sealed Knot viisted Hatherleigh in August 2005 to re-enact a battle from the English Civil War. More of a skirmish on the outskirts of the Royalist stronghold ofTorridge, about 20 miles away, the result was a win for the Royalists. This had no bearing on the result of the war itself but it did give a good reason for several hundred people to attend the 2005 version and enjoy a sunny Sunday afternoon watching some spectacular (and noisy) action,held against the stunning, moody, backdrop of Dartmoor.

Members of Sealed Knot began to arrive on Friday night and set up camp in a field on the outskirts of the town. They brought a real sense of community with them, with a bar, stalls selling period costumes and various other items. They caroused in town on Friday evening and after spending the afternoon (see below) fighting each other on the site of the Battle (already cordoned off and with beer tent fully equipped) they adjourned to the Town again, where some joined in the Island Party run by the Carnival Committee. The re-enactment proper took place on Sunday afternoon.

For their Saturday 'game', the two sides started in roughly the same places as they planned to do the next day, but instead of following a plan designed with an audience in mind, they engaged in a full-scale fight run according to strict rules, the outcome of which was uncertain until quite late. You'll need to visit the Sealed Knot web site to learn these rules. Suffice to say we were intially turned down on safety grounds when we asked if we could follow the action with our camera. "You must stay behind the barriers",we were told, in spite of our NUJ card.

However, as the two sides marched to their start points, the Royalist captain shouted "Mr Photographer, follow me. You can take photos but you must be careful. Whatever else happens you must stay to the side." Yes, SIR!!"

We already had no intention of interfering, so that was OK with us. So, we had more or less the run of the battlefield as the game proceeded and were able to take a bunch of nice pictures, some of which are shown here.

The game was conducted in a spirit of serious fun, but the effort involved was much greater than we had imagined, especially if you were a pikeman. Real gunpowder, long pikes and swords galore meant noise, smoke and realistic action. The object was to capture the flag of your opposition (one red flag and one green). The greens were pushed back and back but, in theory, won by means of a cunning plan - they stole the red flag from under the noses of the enemy. This caused a merry chase, but both sides decided to continue anyway. We think tiredness finally brought things to a conclusion but we're not sure. Finally, a few beers helped revive everybody.

Here's how the first day went. It wasn't a tightly controlled thing so the result was never predictable. We're not even sure there was a result! But good fun was had by all.

The armies march up South Street on their way to the Moor

Hatherleigh's Town Crier Ros Chard comes to grips with a foot soldier, with Dartmoor in the distance.

Let's get on with it

Nice day for a fight

Troops assemble for a briefing

"Now I want a clean fight, no hitting below the belt ... "

Ros tries to help

Off to the start lines

We'll go this way ...

... you go that way.


The skirmish starts with sniping by the greens from the trees near St Johns Well

The response is immediate

the reds quickly break through the trees

A melee ensues

Pikemen get involved

Things get hot

The fight moves gradually down the hill

The greens try to hold them back

but eventually both sides face each other across a ditch.

Here the battle rolls back and forth

A (real) wounded soldier is tended to

Suddenly a sneaky green thief steals the Red Flag and the fight is technically over, but both sides agree to carry on for a bit.

A sniper on the flank is dealt with while the main battle roars on

A volley from the reds

Confrontation over that ditch again

Camp followers try to nick the green flag but beady eyes make sure they fail

Who, us?

Would you want to face them one dark night?

Fighting spreads all over ...

... then, suddenly it's all over, except for the long walk back to the beer tent!

Visit Sealed Knot


Well that's it for Day 1, now on to the real thing tomorrow!

Go to Day 2 - the real battle


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