The Skirmish of Yarm
Throughout the time of the English Civil War (1642 to 1651), the northern counties of England were by and large supporters of King Charles and the Royalist cause and the crossing points over the river Tees were seen as strategically important.
While the best known of the Borough’s links to the Civil War are to do with Stockton Castle, garrisoned as it was by Royalist forces and then occupied by Scottish troops loyal to Parliament before finally being destroyed on the orders of Cromwell himself, Yarm was also the scene of a battle.
On February 1st 1643 ,William Cavendish, the Marquis of Newcastle, who was the Royalist commander in the North, ordered part of his army south to support the Royalist stronghold of York. Commanded by Lieutenant General James King and Lieutenant-General Goring, the column had reached the outskirts of Yarm when they came up against a Parliamentarian force of around 400 foot-soldiers and three troops of cavalry.
A Royalist publication of the time, ‘The Mercurius Rusticanus’, records that: ‘Lieut.-Genl. King and Lieut.-Genl. Goring coming from Newcastle with a great convoy of much arms and ammunition and being faced at Yarm with 400 foot, three troops of horses and two pieces of ordnance of the rebels, fell upon them, slew many, took the rest of the foot and most of the horses prisoners with their ordnance and baggage.’ The battle did not last very long and the King’s forces were victorious, many Roundheads were taken prisoner, and the Marquis’s forces continued on their way to York’.
It is interesting to note that at the time of the Civil War the bridge at Yarm was the first crossing point on the Tees from the sea. During the conflict the bridge had a drawbridge built into an arch on the north side of the river to prevent Parliamentarian forces in the area from attacking the Royalist forces in Stockton.
Colonel John Hylton’s regiment was responsible for guarding this drawbridge for the King’s forces. For reasons unknown, however, Hylton withdrew his force to Hartlepool, but left instructions in a letter, that ‘every night and every morning the bridge must be drawn, and then lowered in order to protect the people of Yarm and Stockton’. This was to be done by the Rector of Egglescliffe, Isaac Basire DD, who was a zealous Royalist and chaplain to King Charles I.
It is apparent that Parliamentary troops under General Fairfax had tried to cross the river some time later, for the Eaglescliffe Parish Register records the burial of a soldier on 1 February 1644 with a marginal note, ‘slain in the Yarm skirmish.’