Civil War soldiers on march again as city marks its 17th century heritage

THE beat of the drum and the sound of marching feet scattered tourists in York as 40 members of the Sealed Knot made their way to the Mansion House at the start of the city's first English Civil War festival.

Parliamentarian members of Lieutenant Colonel John Lilburne's Regiment of Foote, commanded by Tim Worrall, of Huddersfield, and Sir Thomas Glemham's Royalist foot solders mustered in Dean Park alongside the Minster before marching down Stonegate to the official residence of the Lord Mayor.

The pageant took York back to 1644 when Royalist-held York was under siege by 33,000 Scottish and England soldiers until a relief force of 15,000 troops led by Prince Rupert arrived on June 2.

It led to the Battle of Marston Moor on July 2, 1644, which Sealed Knot members will re-enact at York Racecourse on Bank Holiday Monday. The original battle is said to have been the biggest ever fought in Britain. Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentarian army was triumphant and more than 4,000 Royalist troops were killed and another 1,500 taken prisoner. Cromwell's supporters had about 300 killed. York surrendered two weeks later, ending Royalist power in the North of England.

The English Civil War Festival, which will have more than a thousand people from all over Europe taking part in the biggest re-enactment the city has ever seen, is being organised by York Archaeological Trust, Visit York and the Sealed Knot.

During the festival, residents and visitors will be able to walk through the Sealed Knot's living history camps and see a re-enactment of the blowing-up of St Mary's Tower and the subsequent skirmish around the ruins of St Mary's Abbey.

York Archaeological Trust's chief executive, John Walker, said: ""People automatically associate York with Vikings and Romans and we hope that this festival will remind them of the huge amount of 17th century history in and around the city."