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 play The Battle of Heptonstall will be written over the summer of 2018 and rehearsals will begin in the autumn culminating in a run of performances in St Thomas’ Church Heptonstall in the spring 2019. In late 2018, near the 375th anniversary of the battle, Sky will film selected scenes which will be included in a Sky Arts TV programme about Arts 50.
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 will be informed about the battle’s significance.
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.
“The poorest hee that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest hee.” Colonel Sir Thomas Rainsborough, 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 will be based upon historical events and characters, we envisage it will also include fictional characters and narratives. We have engaged local writer and director Michael Crowley to develop the play with local residents. Local composer and arranger Katie Chatburn will be the project’s musical director. Further funding allowing, other local professional artists will also be commissioned to contribute. The play as a whole will draw 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 will have updates and news as the project progresses.
Also see further information about Heptonstall.