From Leicester it is informed, That Manchester Carriers came lately with forty packs from London to that Towne, with whom the Lord Grey of Groby sent out a hundred horse to guard them to Derby, which they having effected, in their returne home, they met with another hundred of their owne Horse, at Copt-Oake, in the Forrest of Leicester, where they joyned together, and went towards Ashby de la Zouch . . .
The commanded horse sent out from Leicester were under the command of Captain Francis Hacker, a future Regicide and by reputation one of the most zealous officers fighting for parliament's cause. Having completed their escort duty without incident, it seems that the Leicester horse were itching for some proper action and decided to try their luck at Ashby, the headquarters of the leading Leicestershire Royalist, Henry Hastings
On the approaches to Ashby, within about two miles whereof, they met with an hundred of Colonell Hastings Horse and Dragoones, founded them a charge, and advanced to encounter them, but Hastings Horse wheeled about, and made with all speed to Bagworth-Heath whither the Leicester Horse followed them . . .
Hasting's men had a reputation (among local parliamentarians, at ay rate) for preying on any carrier or goods wagons on the Leicestershire roads. Hastings depended a good deal on these mounted troops, commonly referred to as his 'Flying Army', and they were the reason why Hacker had been dispatched by Lord Grey to act as escort for the Manchester carriers. Having failed to intercept the carriers, Hasting's men had been caught on their return and now fled for safety in the direction of Bagworth. Apparently outnumbered 2:1, and cut off from Ashby, it is likely that they were making for the safety of the Royalist garrison of Bagworth House, two-and-a-half miles distant.
Having caught up with the fleeing royalists at nearby Bagworth Heath, after the first charge, Hastings men ran away, the other pursued them eagerly, trasht and cut them sorely, killed six of them, tooke sixty of them prisoners, with their horses, amongst which was a Serjeant Major, a Captaine, and a Lieutenant: Which good piece of Service, hath diminished some of those Rob-Carriers, who, like the Arabians, or Italian Banderroes, lie sculking upon the Leicestershire and Staffordshire Roads, to intercept all travellers and passengers into the North-west parts of the Kingdome.
To judge from the above report, it would appear that the royalists lost half their strength, including officers, in the fight at Bagworth Heath: quite a coup for Lord Grey's Leicester forces. But the triumph with which this victory was heralded in the news belies the fact that Grey had been unable to contain the royalists in the local area for much of 1643. He and Sir John Gell had failed to dislodge Hastings from his stronghold at Ashby when they had besieged him there the previous January. In June, Grey's plan to advance on Newark from Nottingham, supported by Cromwell's horse, was abandoned due to in-fighting among the leading parliamentarians and from fear that Hastings would move in Leicester in Grey's absence ('I perceive that Ashby-de-la-Zouch sticks much with him,' Cromwell observed). In fact, Hastings was promoted to lieutenant general in October 1643, and created Baron Loughborough, in recognition of his increasing strength across the north midlands. Captain Hacker, the victor of Bagworth Heath, was himself captured in November, although the ardent parliamentarian was released in an exchange of prisoners the following month, having refused the offer of a command under the royalists.
The action of Bagworth Heath was retained in local folk memory: the area to the immediate south east of Ellistown in Leicestershire was commonly known as 'Battleflat', a name retained in 'Battleflat Lodge' that stands there to this day. Much of the area now lies under an industrial estate. At least some of the action recorded above would have taken place there. Battleflat's distance from Bagworth (some two-and-a-half miles), and the heath beyond it, gives some idea of the breadth and extent of the running battle that was fought there in August 1643.
Bennett, M. 'Hastings, Henry, Baron Loughborough (1610-1667)', in: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: University Press, 2008)
Coward, B. 'Hacker, Francis (d.1660)', in: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: University Press, 2008)
Hollings, J. F. A History of Leicestershire During the Great Civil War (Leicester, 1890)
Hutchinson, L. Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson, ed. Keeble, N. H. (London: Phoenix, 2000)
Ingler, W. Certaine Informations, Tyger's Head Books [online] Available:
https://reportingtheenglishcivilwar.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/lord-greys-cavalry-skirmish-with-henry-hastings-at-bagworth/ Accessed: 12/08/2017
'OS Map name 023/SE', in Map of Leicestershire (Southampton, 1884-1892), British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/os-1-to-10560/leicestershire/023/se Accessed: 12/08/2017.