The Offerton Skirmish

On 4th March 1644 the Scots Army occupied Sunderland, a town whose merchants and keelmen were not unsympathetic to the Parliamentary cause. But it was a defenceless little town in the midst of Royalist countryside and jealous of Newcastle’s monopoly over the coal trade, a town defiantly Royalist.

Some half-hearted attempts were made to throw them out by Royalist parties of soldiers. They advanced in one attempt from the direction of Durham having to camp overnight in bitter weather then withdrew ignominously whilst the Scots sat tight.

The only real fighting that took place were skirmishes of mounted and foot patrols in wintry lanes. They exchanged desultory fire – probably the real casualties were those who suffered frostbite and exposure.

Between 7th and 8th March one of these skirmishes took place in the narrow country lane leading from Herrington to Offerton.

Nothing much is known of the affair. It may be that the farmers of this area were more Royalist inclined than their Sunderland neighbours with commercial interests. The Scots, being good Presbyterians had refused to fight on the Sabbath and rested near Hylton, where there followed some artillery action from both sides, before going on to Boldon to ward off another attack.

The Royalists retired from the Hylton area being recalled to Yorkshire and they were followed at a respectful distance by the Scots forces. Their eventual clash at Marston Moor put an end to the Royalist hopes. So a glimpse of great events in our national history came briefly to Herrington.

Just how many Herrington folk witnessed that skirmish in the wintry lane? A few years ago (before 1987) a tiny coin was found in the ditch there – it was a “bodle” worth half a “bawbee” – from the Scottish Coinage.