The Civil Wars of the mid seventeenth century were a reflection of profound political, constitutional, religious and social conflict which was expressed in a struggle for control between King and Parliament.
With the Royalist stronghold of York under siege by allied Parliamentarian and Scottish forces, Prince Rupert led a relieving force from the main Royalist army in the midlands. Having successfully raised the siege, Prince Rupert offered battle on 2 July on Marston Moor.
It was 7 o'clock in the evening when the Parliamentarian army suddenly rushed forward. Oliver Cromwell's cavalry beat both the first line of Royalist cavalry and reinforcements under Prince Rupert himself. Circling behind the Royalists, Cromwell created chaos and disorder until the King's forces scattered, except for a defiant last stand by the best of the Royalist infantry, the Whitecoats.
Marston Moor was enclosed only after 1766; before then it was too wet for anything but summer pasture and only the land south of the Tockwith-Long Marston road was suitable for cultivation in largely hedgeless open fields. The boundary ditch and hedge between wet and dry ground however, was an important feature in the battle.
The battlefield obelisk on the Marston-Tockwith road is centrally placed and features an interpretation panel. Greater public access to the remainder of the battlefield would be desirable. The curving E-W hedge leading westwards from Atterwith Lane is of historical importance. Fox Covert, where there are ancient hedgerows, has been identified as the site of the Whitecoats' last stand.
Most of the battlefield is subject to policies relating to Open Countryside in the emerging Local Plan. Tockwith is a Conservation Area and Wilstrop Wood is Ancient Woodland. The eastern part of the battlefield lies with the York Green Belt.