The Holly Holy Day Society is gearing up for Holly Holy Day, the annual civil war re-enactment, which this year takes place on Saturday 27 January.
Holly Holy Day, organised in association with the Sealed Knot, is the largest Civil War re-enactment in the country and offers a fabulous day out for all the family, combining a celebration of Nantwich’s rich history with a plethora of activities designed to keep the whole family occupied.
Entertainment starts in the Square at 10.00 am courtesy of RedShift Radio, who will be hosting music, dancing and entertainment and a tableau from Nantwich Players, which will conclude with a pillory re-enactment opposite the Museum at 12.00 noon.
Other entertainments taking place throughout the town during the morning include Domesday Morris Dancers, plough witches, horses on parade, a hog roast, guided tours of the Church, and a living history tableau on the lawns outside St Mary’s Church.
Meanwhile, Nantwich Museum will be hosting several supporting events including a Battle of Nantwich exhibition, a musketry demonstration and guided civil war walks whilst the Nantwich Bookshop will be hosting a civil war authors’ book signing event at 10.30am. On hand to sign copies of their novels will be local author Katherine Clements, DW Bradbridge, Shona MacLean and Michael Arnold.
The impressive Soldiers Parade commences in the town centre at 1.00 pm and is followed by a wreath laying ceremony and the soldiers’ march to Mill Island, where the battle re-enactment commences at 2 pm. Access to Mill Island to view the event costs £5 per family – 2 adults and 2 children, (15 or under), £2 per adult and £1 per child (15 or under) with all proceeds going towards the ongoing costs of running this annual event, which is organised and staffed entirely by unpaid volunteers.
Programmes for Holly Holy Day 2018 are available from Nantwich Bookshop, Nantwich Museum and Nantwich Civic Hall.
Holly Holy Day takes us back to the seventeenth century and the four year long first English civil war between Parliamentarians (roundheads) and the Royalists (cavaliers) loyal to Charles I. The war broke out in 1642.
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 December, the town was surrounded by Royalists and under siege. However, help was at hand. And it came 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 Borough Council.