The Brutish Multitude are a voluntary group that was formed in early 2018 in the ancient village of Heptonstall West Yorkshire, to research and produce a community play based upon the 1643 English Civil War battle, the Battle of Heptonstall.
In June 2018 we were successful in a funding application to Sky Arts as part of their Art 50 programme to initiate the project. The script for The Battle of Heptonstall was written over the summer by commissioned playwright and director Michael Crowley and rehearsals are now well under way. See our gallery for photos. There will be three shows at St Thomas the Apostle Church in Heptonstall from Thursday 28th February to Saturday March 2nd and a fourth show at Halifax Minster on March 9th. There is promotional film about the play and the battle itself here.
In December 2018 Sky Arts came to Heptonstall to film excerpts of the play for a TV programme to be broadcast next March
During the play’s development and production, and in conjunction with Hebden Bridge Historical Society and Calderdale Museums, we also hope to inform the wider community about the battle’s significance. There is to be a public lecture on the battle on Monday February 4th at Hebden Bridge Town Hall 7pm. Tickets available here.
In November 1643 during the English Civil War, the Royalist Army in the form of the Halifax Cavaliers, travelled the upland road through Midgley from Halifax through the night and gathered at the river’s edge in Hebden Bridge. On the other side of the old humpbacked bridge was the buttress, the steep medieval packhorse trail which climbs the hill towards Heptonstall. And up in Heptonstall taking up siege positions, were around 750 Roundheads led by a Colonel Bradshaw. Bradshaw and the Roundheads knew the local terrain. As the soldiers and cavalry began to climb the 500ft climb to Heptonstall at dawn, they were met with a cascade of falling rocks shortly followed by the Roundheads. The Royalist cavalry soon realised that the terrain was not suitable for their attack. Many were trampled underfoot by their own panic stricken horses running back down the buttress. The army beat their retreat over the narrow bridge and those who could not get over the bridge plunged into the river to escape only to be swept away by the raging torrent following heavy rain.
“I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he; and therefore truly, Sir, I think it’s clear, that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not bound in a strict sense to that government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under.”
Colonel Sir Thomas Rainsborough, Leveller and MP for Droitwich, The Putney Debates 1647.
The Community Play
Beyond the military narrative there are a host of individual struggles, some heroic, some otherwise. That of Joseph Priestly and his son Samuel, who the wake of his father’s death in a Royalist dungeon, went into the river during the Battle to save a drowning Cavalier, only to die three weeks later from the chill he caught that day. The village of Heptonstall was occupied by a Roundhead army and subsequently by an avenging Royalist army and the civilian population in both cases paid a heavy price. Whilst the community play is based upon historical events and characters, it is a fictional narrative told by fictional characters. Local writer and director Michael Crowley developed the play with residents, writing a few scenes each week then reading them through with the company round the table at the local bowling club. The script was completed by the middle of September 2018. Local composer and arranger Katie Chatburn is the project’s musical director. The play as a whole draws upon a well of local talent in music and performance to provide a showcase for the village, involving the community in an exploration and celebration of history and heritage. The blog page of this site has updates and news as the project progresses.