Bath Voice News: Combe Down author and Sealed Knot member Nicholas Carter publishes his latest novel highlighting Bath’s role in the English Civil War in Black Tom’s Red Army based on real events

By Harry Mottram: He describes himself as a journalist with an eye for a good story but with the heartbeat of a historian and the arm of a pike man in the English Civil War. Combe Down resident and author Nicholas Carter has been fascinated by the 17th century conflict that saw father fight son and brother battle brother in a series of bloody battles that tore the country apart. Parliament versus the archaic power of the monarch with Parliament coming out on top in a struggle lasting from 1642 to 1651.

Photos from the Sealed Knot who re-enact the battles of the English Civil War

It was a war about who governs Britain, but with religious overtones with a Catholic friendly King and his Catholic wife and a Protestant influenced parliament – and a growing middle class who wanted their voices to be heard. The war raged across the nation with the famous Battle of Lansdown near Bath considered a score draw – but battles at nearby Langport and Wells brought the conflict into the homes of Bathonians who were drawn into the fight.

Now a new novel by Bath author Nicholas Carter has been published in volume six of the Shadow of The Crown series based on the English Civil Wars in the West Country. Black Tom’s Red Army concentrates on the formation of Parliament’s New Model Army and its baptism of fire at the Battle of Naseby in Northamptonshire.

It also features the Battle of Langport in Somerset and the storming of Bath by Parliamentarian dragoons and cavalry. Volume seven, Forlorn Hope, which focuses on the subsequent siege of Bristol, will follow shortly.

The author lives in Bath

Carter, a retired journalist and editor, started work on the Shadow on the Crown series in the 1990s, basing the story firmly in the West. The first book in the series, Turncoat’s Drum, includes the skirmish at the island, Claverton and culminates in the Battle of Lansdown.

Carter’s books stick closely to actual events with his fictional characters weaving in and out of the historical narrative.

Photos from the Sealed Knot who re-enact the battles of the English Civil War

He says: “The first five books in the series went down well with fans of historical fiction and I noticed a number of reviews asking whether I would be writing more. I had sketched out volume six but got hung up wondering how to switch the action from the cataclysmic Battle of Naseby near Leicester back to the West without sacrificing pace and the reader’s patience!

“I hit on the idea of leaving the main army behind and adding a secret mission which would bring the main characters back together where I wanted them, in Bath ready for the storming of the city by John Okey’s dragoons.”

As usual in the Shadow on the Crown series the most ridiculous sounding events actually happened.

Photos from the Sealed Knot who re-enact the battles of the English Civil War

“Although the storming of Bath wasn’t a huge battle by Civil War standards there were a number of incidents which I wanted to cover. The garrison had the audacity to refuse entry to a company of reinforcements from Bristol on the grounds they could have been carrying the plague. Bristol’s Governor Prince Rupert would have been spitting sparks when he heard about it.

“The garrison had also cut holes in the doors of the Southgate so high that they couldn’t depress their muskets low enough to hit the Roundhead forces attempting to rush the gates. You literally couldn’t make it up.”

Carter, who has lived in Combe Down for the past 26 years, has been writing full length books since he was at school in South Bristol. 

He joined his local Sealed Knot regiment to learn the dark arts of the pike block and keep the series as pungent and authentic as possible – as well as visiting many of the principal battlefields such as Cheriton, Marston Moor, Naseby and of course Lansdown.

“I approached the historical narrative with a journalist’s eye for a good story and illuminating detail. 

“As well as finding out how the armies would have fought, the drills and drum beats you would have heard, re-enacting these famous battles provided insights you would never have read in a book. 

“Many of the supporting characters are based on people I met.  I was always keen on including some interesting aspects from their own research into the period – but without overburdening the general reader!”

Black Tom’s Red Army is available from Caliver Books priced £11.50.

Bath Voice Monthly Newspaper is distributed free to thousands of homes and some supermarkets – distributed from the first of the month. Harry Mottram is the News Editor

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Harry Mottram is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Telegram, TikTok and Mobile: 07789 864769