The situation in the North-West almost paralleled that in the North-East, Whilst Cumberland and Westmorland remained more or less under royalist control, the battleground was Lancashire. Numerous incidents in the county during the summer had paved the way for something more dangerous after August 1642, but the royalist commander, the earl of Derby, was deprived of most of his best regiments for service with the King elsewhere. Consequently, he was unable to offer resistance to the parliamentary forces based on Manchester. A siege of that town, begun on 24 September, was abandoned by the earl on 2 October, and tentative truce talks were initiated. These failed, and a series of localised skirmishes ensued. The royalists consolidated around Preston, Wigan and Warrington, setting up headquarters in the latter town. Whilst busy recruiting in November, the earl raided into Cheshire without success, and a form of stalemate prevailed in Lancashire until early into 1643. An indecisive encounter at Leigh early in December followed a royalist defeat on nearby Hinfield Moor on or around 27 November. The royalist commanders were more concerned about their financial position, and the need to repair losses in men before launching a general war. On 15 December they won a small action on Houghton Common, but on 24 December a royalist garrison put hastily into Leigh was driven out by troops from Manchester. On the same day an attempt by Sir Gilbert Houghton to assault the parliamentarian town of Blackburn was defeated.
On 9 February parliamentarian troops attacked Preston, defended with mud and brick walls, and took the town in a particularly bloody encounter. The war had suddenly taken on new vigour. From Preston on 14 February, the parliamentary forces marched out and took Houghton Tower without a shot, only to suffer losses when a booby-trapped supply of power was set off. On 16 February, the earl of Derby struck back with an attack on Bolton in a 'suddaine and violent manner'. Fierce street fighting followed, but the parliamentarians held firm. Three days later, on 19 February, royalist forces left in Lancaster found themselves under attack from parliamentarian troops from Preston bent upon fortifying and garrisoning Lancaster and its castle. The royalists withdrew, and carried word to Derby, who determined to bend his power against Lancaster. Decisive action was needed, since the war was closing in on Derby's two main garrisons, Wigan and Warrington. Temporarily reinforced by some old regiments under Viscount Molyneux, and with irregulars from around Kirkham, the earl marched towards Lancaster on 13 March, and summoned the town on the 18th. Fierce fighting led to the town's fall and the garrison retreated into the castle. On 20 March, however, a relief force under Sir John Seaton from Preston took the field, but it was plagued by mutiny, and Derby succeeded in out-manoeuvring it, abandoning Lancaster and instead capturing Preston in Seaton's absence with little resistance. Blackburn also fell to the earl. Parliamentarian field forces were demoralised, and the earl planned to march against Manchester, but was thwarted by the removal of his best regiments to join the Oxford army. Choosing instead to attack Bolton, the royalists assaulted the town on 28 March. They were beaten off. On 1 April parliamentarian troops from Manchester stormed and took Wigan. Bolton was reinforced. Derby, meanwhile, fought and won an encounter at Stockton Heath near Warrington
on 3 April, but was deflected from marching on Manchester and was virtually hemmed in around Warrington by a combination of local parliamentary levies and Cheshire men under Brereton, Two days later, the attempt to storm Warrington failed, and both sides marked time again. A single decisive battle was needed, and it was fought on 20 April at Whalley. The day before, royalist troops left Preston for Ribchester and were sighted near Padiham: they were followed until the alarm was raised, whereupon the parliamentarians drew up in force on Read-Bank. An attempt to dislodge them failed, and the retreating royalists fell back on Whalley where the earl was. On Lango Green the royalists were scattered and fell back on Ribchester. All cohesion was lost, and piece by piece Lancashire fell into parliamentarian hands, until only the earl's house at Lathom remained unreduced.
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