Devizes was a Royalist stronghold throughout the Civil War. A major battle took place just outside the town on Roundway Down, where the Royalists, under Hopton, defeated General Waller.
On July 5th 1643, the Royalists suffered heavy casualties at the Battle of Lansdowne, outside Bath.
Demoralised and short of ammunition they were forced to withdraw towards Oxford, the Royalist capital, to receive reinforcements. Already reinforced after Bath, General Waller followed hard on Hopton's heels and on the night of July 8th he occupied Roundway Down, the high ground north of Devizes, barring the Royalists' route to Oxford. The Royalists fell back into Devizes. Prince Maurice managed to break out with 300 horse just before Waller surrounded the town and made for Oxford to summon reinforcements, leaving Hopton to defend Devizes. The very next day, Waller set up his guns and began a siege. Maurice reached Oxford late on July 10th and, in response to his plea Lord Wilmot, Lieutenant General of Horse for King Charles, set out with Prince Maurice’s troop for Devizes with 1,500 cavalry and two light "galloper guns." This force reached Roughridge Hill, five miles north east of Devizes, early on the morning of the 13th. Informed of their arrival, Waller marched to occupy the highest point of Roundway Down, hoping to defeat Wilmot before Hopton could sally from Devizes against his rear. Although Waller held the higher ground, the Royalists attacked first. Wilmot attacked the Parliamentarian left which was driven back into their second line. After a brief contest, they too retreated in disorder. Byron attacked the Parliamentarian right, this too gave way and fled. Some of the fleeing Parliamentarians died when they were forced to gallop over a steep drop at Bloody Ditch, by Oliver’s Castle. Wilmot's and Byron's troopers rallied and turned on the Parliamentarian centre. The Roundhead foot held out for a while, but only until Hopton's infantry marched up from Devizes and deployed to attack.
The Battle of Roundway Down was the greatest cavalry victory of the English Civil War. The Parliamentarian field army in south-west England was destroyed, allowing the Royalists to capture the port and major city of Bristol a few weeks later.
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