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Colonel Robert Lilburne’s Regiment of Horse

Active1644 to 1660
ConflictsFirst Civil War
Second Civil War
Third Civil War
ColonelRobert Lilburne
George Smithson
Earl of Oxford
Area RaisedDurham
Flag Colour
Flag Design
Field ArmiesFairfax 1644-5
Poyntz 1645
Cromwell 1648
Cromwell 1650

Later Colonel George Smithson’s, then the Earl of Oxford’s Regiment of Horse

Parliamentarian regiment of horse forming part of the army of the Northern Association during the First Civil War then perhaps serving throughout the Republic, Commonwealth and Protectorate

Service History


  • May to June: Raised in Durham
  • July: Battle of Marston Moor
  • October 7th: Mustered at Scarborough
  • December to March 1645: Siege of Pontefract


  • August: Siege of Skipton Castle
  • September: Battle of Rowton Heath
  • October: Battle of Sherburn in Elmet
  • November to December: Siege of Skipton Castle



  • September: Chase moss-troopers out of Liddesdale


  • July: Skirmish at Cartington
  • August: Battle of Preston
  • August: Battle of Winwick Pass
  • August: Present at Hamilton’s surrender at Uttoxeter
  • September: Enter Scotland alongside Lambert
  • November: Return to England
  • November to March 1649: Siege of Pontefract


  • March: Take Pontefract Castle


  • July: Invade Scotland under Cromwell
  • July: Skirmish at Musselburgh
  • 3rd September: Battle of Dunbar


  • August: Battle of Wigan Lane 1)
  • November: Serving in Scotland


  • June: Expedition from Inverness to Lochaber, then return to quarters


  • October: Return to England


  • Quartered in the North


  • March: Quartered at York (2 trp), Durham (2 trp) and Bedale (2 trp)
  • March: Arrest Royalists after the failed rising at Marston Moor


  • Quartered in Yorkshire


  • May: Ordered to Scotland


  • Serving in Scotland


  • May: March south to Morpeth
  • August: March to Cheshire, but arrive too late for Winnington Bridge
  • November: Garrison Newcastle and Tynemouth Castle
  • December: Garrison York


  • January: Four troops under Major Smithson join Monck
  • February: Smithson made Colonel
  • July: The Earl of Oxford replaces Smithson as Colonel
  • November: Disbanded


A history of the regiment is given in The Regimental History of Cromwell's Army by Sir Charles Firth and Godfrey Davies, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1940.

Lilburne’s regiment were originally raised as part of Lord Fairfax’s Northern Association in 1644. During the First Civil War they fought at Rowton Heath under Poyntz and served at a number of sieges. In 1647 they were quartered in Northumberland where they secured the country from the banditry of “moss-troopers”. The regiment Lilburne was appointed to early in 1648 may or may not be the one he had previously commanded – serious evidence is still lacking. It was certainly very depleted, as the loose troops of Major Sanderson, Major Cholmley, and Captain Lilburne were brought into it in February-March 1648.

In the Second Civil war they fought alongside Cromwell at Preston and briefly invaded Scotland under Lambert, before returning south to the siege of Pontefract. Captain Sanderson's diary provides a rare and valuable account of the regiment's exploits in the Second Civil War. In 1650 they again invaded Scotland and were present at the battle of Dunbar, though apparently not heavily engaged. During the Third Civil War they were left to secure Lancashire, routing the Royalist forces of Sir Thomas Tyldesley and the Earl of Derby at Wigan Lane. At Wigan Lane the regiment was reinforced by troop of 30 horse from Liverpool and some volunteer countrymen armed with fowling pieces and mounted as dragoons. Lilburne also commanded 2 companies of Cheshire Trained Band foot, one company from Manchester and another of Birch's from Liverpool.

During the 1650s the regiment was based in Scotland and Northern England at various times. In 1659 Lilburne opposed Monck, but his regiment were won over by Lord Fairfax at York and Major George Smithson was appointed Colonel. Smithson was briefly replaced by the Earl of Oxford before the regiment were disbanded in November 1660.


Notable Officers

Robert Lilburne

George Smithson

From Moulton2), North Yorkshire. Served as major from late 16473), and lead the Forlorn of Horse at Preston. Took four troops of the regiment over to Lord Fairfax in 1659 when Colonel Lilburne was supporting John Lambert against Fairfax and Monk.

Major John Sanderson

Of Hedleyhope Co. Durham4). His early history is obscure. May have taken part in the relief of Helmsley in November 1644 under Ferdinando, Lord Fairfax. Late 1647 was putting down moss-troopers in Cumberland with his own and Captain Thomas Lilburne's loose troops. Served as a captain in Lilburne’s horse from 23rd February 1648 until his death in ?November 1650. His diary for 1648 is the only such document known to have survived from the Second Civil War; his very detailed account of the battle of Preston is likewise a very rare survival.

Captain William Bradford

Of Holme on Spaldingmoor5). Served in the Parliamentary army from 1642. Captain of a troop in Colonel Robert Lilburne’s Horse in September 1645 (SP28/6/fol. 4). Listed as a captain in Lambert’s Horse in March 1648 (TT E522/40). Unequivocally shown as in Lilburne’s 29th September 1648 (Major Sanderson’s diary). Remained in Lilburne’s through 1650s, during which time he wrote to Cromwell urging him to refuse the title of king. Bradford became a Quaker and appears to have left the army in 1657. His lieutenant, Matthew Foster, was cashiered as a Quaker in October 1657 (Clarke Papers iii, 112-3).

Captain Thomas Lilburne

Of Ufferton (Offerton?) in Co. Durham6). Captain of a troop in Colonel Robert Lilburne’s Horse in September 1645 (SP28/6/fol. 4). In 1647 was commanding one of two loose troops under Major Sanderson, with whom he helped put down moss-troopers in the Carlisle area. His troop was disbanded in February 1648 (TT E429/10). Served as a captain in Lilburne’s horse from late February/early March 1648, and appears to have remained with the regiment until 1659, when the list of officers does not include his name (Commons Journal, 28th May 1659).

Major [?] Cholmley

In 1647 was commanding a loose troop which included some foot (TT E425/4). Served as a captain in Lilburne’s from February/March 1648 (TT E522/40) until unknown date. Despite some evidence to the contrary, the Cholmley killed at Winwick, 19th August 1648, was probably in Bright’s foot and not from Lilburne’s.

Francis Wilkinson

Of Barton in Yorks7). Appears to have commanded a loose troop in 1647. March 1648 his troop asked to be reduced (TT E431/13), and Wilkinson was brought into Lilburne’s with at least some of his men, probably as Captain-Lieutenant. Referred to as lieutenant in February 1650 (BL Add. Mss 21427 fol. 125). Remained in Lilburne’s and was listed as captain in 1659 and 1660 (CJ 7, 28.07.1659 and 08.02.1660).

Captain George Watkinson

Cashiered from the regiment on 26th October 1657 for being a Quaker (Clarke Papers iii, 122-3)

Earl of Oxford

Officer Lists

October 1644

Scarborough Muster 7th October 16448)

  • Major Henry Lilburne
  • Captain {Thomas] Lilburne
  • Captain [Robert] Chambers
  • Captain [Robert] Sh[arpe]
  • Captain Richard Berkbeck (31/07/44 - 25/06/45)9)
  • Captain [Robert] Hutton

September 1645

September 2nd 164510)

  • Col Robert Lilburne
    • Capt-Lt John Garland
  • Maj Henry Lilburne (Capt 06/06/44 Major 20/07/44)
  • Capt Thomas Lilburne
  • Capt Robert Hutton
  • Capt William Bradford
  • Capt Robert Sanders
  • Capt Andrew Carter

March 1648

From ‘A List of the Field Officers, and Captains appointed to be continued in the North of England’, in Perfect Occurrences of every Dayes Journall in Parliament Numb. 76. Fryday June 9 to 16 1648 (TT E522/40).

The regiment Lilburne was appointed to early in 1648 may or may not be the one he had previously commanded – serious evidence is still lacking. It was certainly very depleted, as the loose troops of Major Sanderson, Major Cholmley, and Captain Lilburne were brought into it in February-March 1648.

  • Colonel [Robert] Lilburne
  • Major [George] Smithson (Smithson had previously serverd as Lieutenant and Captain in the Regiment)11)
  • Captain [John] Sanderson*
  • Captain [Thomas] Lilburne
  • Captain [?] Cholmley*
  • Captain [blank]

*These two officers are usually referred to as ‘major’, carrying over a previously higher rank.

In the same source Captain [William] Bradford is listed in Lambert’s Horse, but (re)joined Lilburne’s early in 1648 to fill the vacant captaincy – unless the listing is a clerical error.

There was also a Captain Francis Wilkinson in the regiment, almost certainly Col. Lilburne’s Captain-Lieutenant (discussed in Hill and Watkinson Major Sanderson’s War).


  • October 1644 310 troopers
  • Sept 1645: 61 officers & 261 troopers in seven troops (another 4 officers and 38 men absent)
  • July 1650: 603 men in six troops

See Also

1) Terribly Obscure Battles of the English Civil War 1. Wigan Lane, 25th August 1651 by Stuart Reid in English Civil War Notes and Queries Issue 1, pp 3-4, Eds. David Ryan & Hawk Norton, Jan 1984
2) Another source says Kiplin. N.A. E121/5/7
3) N.A. SP28/303/507 payment for Dec 1647
4) , 5) , 6) , 7) N.A. E121/5/7
8) N.A. SP28/257/pt3/193
9) N.A. SP28/267/pt3/184-5
10) N. A. SP28/122/390
11) N.A. E 121/5/7