The death of Cromwell on 3 September 1658 saw the accession of his son Richard as Lord Protector, from which office he was pushed by a strange alliance of New Model commanders and former Rumpers, who restored the Rump Parliament in reduced form. From the defeat at Worcester through to Cromwell's death, royalist plots aimed at restoring Charles II to his throne had proved full of high ideals and little else: yet with the move against Richard Cromwell from within, some royalists entertained hopes of a successful rising in association with Presbyterian leaders in England. This alliance, the Great Trust, sought to create a far-reaching series of conspiracies and risings to topple a decidedly shaky government, and from March 1659 agents were hard at work. John Mordaunt, the King's most able conspirator, made the acquaintance of Sir George Booth, a parliamentarian commander in Cheshire during the first civil war, but long a bitter critic of the purge of Parliament in 1648, the execution of the King, and the Protectorate. Booth was to be one leader among many in a planned series of risings in the summer of 1659 that would, it was hoped, prove impossible for the New Model to deal with. Foreign involvement was ruled out, though France and Spain were willing to aid Charles II in a limited way. Booth in Cheshire was to be the leader of one of a number of diversionary risings, whilst the real action was planned for the West Country around Bristol, and East Anglia around Lynn. The government's intelligence service continued to function, however, and in July there were a series of arrests of prominent royalist and Presbyterian leaders. In the event, the risings were called off, but Booth, who had already raised men and created a reasonably effective association within Cheshire, received word of the cancellation only one day before the proposed rising was to take place.
Sir George Booth appeared in arms on 1 August, mustering his forces at Warrington, whilst government troops in Lancashire and Cheshire made no resistance, and Cheshire fell almost entirely into rebel hands. On 2 August Booth reached Chester, and on Rowton Heath, scene of a royalist defeat in 1645, issued his 'Declaration' before entering the city, its garrison retiring into the castle. The garrison commander, Croxton, informed of the lack of supporting action elsewhere, chose not to surrender, even though Liverpool had been taken by Gilbert Ireland, a parliamentary commander, and Wrexham had seen a major muster of rebels under Sir Thomas Myddleton. Hawarden and Denbigh fell to the rebels, their garrisons prisoners. On 7 August Booth moved to Manchester to add to his 4,000 strong army. Now, however, the Rump's troops were on the move. Some 1,500 had landed in Wales from Ireland under Jerome Zankey, Robert Lilburne was moving west from Yorkshire, and Lambert was coming from London with between 2, 000 and 4,000 men. Faced with these forces, Sir George Booth became indecisive, unable to garrison Chester since the guns of its castle were commanded by Croxton's men, and could dominate the city walls. Lambert had by now reached Nantwich, and on 18 August Booth with his small army marched north-east towards Northwich, intending to put the River Weaver between himself and the government troops. Lambert occupied Weaverham, and on the 19th, Booth having recrossed the bridge at Northwich, both sides collided briefly at Hartford Green. Booth now struck north, crossed the Weaver at Winnington Bridge, occupied the
Hartford Green Northwich 19.8.59
bridge and the high ground beyond it, and waited. Lambert attacked, seized the bridge, fought a hard fight with Booth's men on the hill beyond, and broke them. Chester fell to Lambert on 21 August, whilst the fleeing rebels were progressively rounded up. Booth was apprehended in Buckinghamshire at the end of the month. It was a sad, unimpressive episode, but Booth had acted entirely alone, largely due to poor rebel organisation, and the outcome had been inevitable.
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