The weekend of July 2 and 3 this summer will see Otley invaded by about 200 English Civil War enthusiasts, here to re-enact a famous episode in Otley’s history.

In 1644, Roundhead troops were on their way to the siege of York, when they camped in the Wharfe Valley. Cromwell and his officers held a conference at the house of Charles Fairfax at Menston, while his troops descended on the nearby market town of Otley to find food – and drink! On the day before the decisive battle of Marston Moor, no doubt to keep up their spirits, as well as realising this might be their last chance of a pint for a while, those troops visited The Black Bull. And the rest, as they say, is history! They drank the pub dry, and that fact is still commemorated on a plaque outside the pub itself.

Last year the two celebrity chefs, The Hairy Bikers, filmed an episode of their series “Pubs That Built Britain” in The Black Bull, precisely because of that story. [It was on BBC2 back in April]. Otley Pub Club later arranged a photoshoot in the pub with members of the Roundhead Association, who were so impressed by the story, the pub and by Otley itself, that they wanted to come back in bigger numbers in the summer to recreate that event in the town’s history! Otley Pub Club have put arrangements in place for them to do just that, and so Roundheads will once again be in town at the beginning of next month- Saturday 2nd July .

The focus of the weekend will be a re-enactment of a small Civil War battle. Not a full-blown affair like Marston Moor itself, which included large numbers of cavalry, but still with cannons, muskets and lines of pikemen. There’ll be the authentic sights, sounds and smells of a 17th century ‘skirmish’, and it will all take place on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2pm in Wharfemeadows Park. Entry will be completely free, and the skirmish isn’t all that will be on show. Alongside the battle will be a number of stalls showing authentic arts, crafts, tools, costumes, weapons, food and more from the middle of the 17th century.

With the Civil War being part of the national Key Stage 3 history curriculum, this will be a perfect opportunity for students to get up close to ‘living history’, and see just what it was like at first hand. The stalls will be open from midday to 4pm, but even that won’t be all. Some of the troops and drummers will be in Otley Marketplace on Sunday morning, drilling and forming up to march round town. It’s hoped that other entertainers will join in, both in town and by the river over the whole weekend, and there’s no doubt the enjoyment will last well into the evenings in Otley’s fine pubs! Whether any of them will once again be drunk dry, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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