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.
The Royalists needed to secure the West before they could turn their attention to the real target, London. After the indecisive Battle of Lansdown, the demoralised Royalist army was pursued by a reinforced Parliamentary army from Bath. Following a short siege of Devizes, the Parliamentarians had to withdraw to Roundway Hill to face Royalist mounted reinforcements from Oxford who were drawn up on Roughridge Hill.
Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Royalist cavalry succeeded in defeating the better-balanced Parliamentary forces, pursuing many over the very steep slope near Oliver's Castle where horses and men fell helter-skelter into Bloody Ditch.
The opportunity presented by the Royalist victory to secure the West could have made Roundway Down one of the most decisive battle of the first war, but Gloucester held out and the opportunity passed.
The landscape of the battle was one of sheep pasture and arable open fields, making ideal ground for cavalry. The characteristic straight-sided fields were not created until 1794.
Access to Roundway down is good. There is a picnic site at Oliver's Castle and a network of public footpaths with good views of the battlefield. The landscape has many features of archaeological and natural heritage interest.
The whole battlefield lies within the North Wessex Downs area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and is part included in an area of High Ecological Value. The battlefield is an Area of High Archaeological Potential. Kings Play Hill and Roundway Down are Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
Bulkley, S, 1643, Sir John Byron's relation to the Secretary of the last western action between the Lord Wilmot and Sir William Waller