TOWNSFOLK are bracing themselves for the Battle of Alton.
The Civil War re-enactment is expected to attract a healthy turnout as the 1643 battle is brought back to life on August 30-31.
The final touches are being made to a colourful programme of re-enactment with the emphasis on fun together with an opportunity to learn about a key part of the town’s history.
English Civil War Society re-enactors will set up “living history” displays in St Lawrence churchyard to illustrate life in the armies and among civilians at the time of the battle.
Run from 11am to 5pm each day, re-enactors in 17th century costume will demonstrate such skills as smithing and paper pressing, using the tools and techniques that were available at the time.
Each morning at 11.30am there will be a drill in the Market Square, followed by a 500-strong English Civil War Society march through the town centre, involving both Cavaliers and Roundheads, some on horseback, who will leave the Cairn war memorial on Crown Hill at 1.30pm to march through the High Street and up Market Street, turning right down Amery Street before entering Flood Meadows via Tanhouse Lane.
The public will be invited to line the streets to cheer the soldiers on their way and then follow on behind to the Flood Meadows battlefield, the main entrance to which will be at the top of Amery Hill (next to the vets).
The main battle will start at 2pm in the bottom corner of Flood Meadows, near the avenue of trees by Tanhouse Lane, where a commentary of the battle will be provided by Altonian and English Civil War Society member Tony Cullen. The battle is due to finish around 3pm.
The event finale takes place at 4pm each day with the re-enactment of the siege of St Lawrence Church – depicting the last-ditch stand of Royalist leader Colonel Richard Boles who, outnumbered and overpowered, was forced to take refuge in the church and was killed in the pulpit alongside most of his men, giving the Parliamentarians a clear victory.
Known as one of the “most savage encounters” of the English Civil War, musket holes can still be seen in the south door of the church and inside, where so many men lost their lives.
At the end of the half-hour re-enactment, Reverend Andrew Micklefield will say a few poignant words remembering those who perished during the Battle of Alton.
The event is being organised by town-based English Civil War Society members Phil Davies and Tony Cullen in partnership with Alton Town Council.
A town council spokesman said that road closures would be in operation to accommodate the historic event.
The High Street will be closed from noon to 2pm, Upper Lenten Street, Market Street, Amery Street, Amery Hill, Tanhouse Lane and Steeple Drive closed from noon to 5pm, and Upper Church Street, the lower part of Old Odiham Road, including sections of Spitalfield Road and Chauntsingers Road, will be closed from 2pm to 5pm.
An ambulance will be parked at the Netherfield Close entrance to Flood Meadows to provide first aid for the battle on both days between 1.30pm and 3.30pm, so there will be no public parking in this area during that time.
Following in the footsteps of previous re-enactments, most notably in 2000 when thousands flocked to the town to enjoy the Millennium experience, Mr Davies thanked Alton Town Council for agreeing to stage the event and whose members have helped with the planning and provided part of the funding.
He said: “It is Lord Ralph Hopton’s regiment of the English Civil War Society who have really made this historical re-enactment possible through donating a large amount of the funding in memory of former local English Civil War Society member Chris Pullin.”
Mr Davies continued: “We hope to see lots of people on the day coming along to learn about the part that Alton played in the English Civil War, cheer on the English Civil War Society soldiers, and enjoy the fantastic, family-friendly historical event.”
n On Saturday, September 5, St Lawrence Church will host a concert which includes the cantata which describes the death of Colonel Boles. It was composed by Martin Read, the director of music at Alton College, and was last performed in St Lawrence Church in 2000 and 2006.
Singers will be drawn from Alton College and a number of local choirs, conducted by David Gibson, with the cello continuo played by Martin’s friend, Joseph Spooner, an international cellist, who has played at the previous performances.
A retiring collection will be held in aid of the Martin Read Foundation, supporting young musicians and composers.
Tickets, priced £10 with £5 concessions, are available from the Newbury Building Society.