Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Heavenfield Battlefield AD 635

The early 7th century had seen a major war raging between the Northumbrians under King Edwin and the Welsh and their Mercian allies under King Cadwallon of Gwynedd. With Edwin's demise at the Battle of Hatfield, it seemed that the Saxons would be completely expunged from north of the Humber. However, the Christian King Oswald returned from exile to take up the Northumbrian cause and the two enemies met in the fields adjoining the mid-section of the old Roman wall.
It appears that the Welsh army advanced northward from York along the line of Dere Street. Oswald, who may have been accompanied by a force of Scots, took up a defensive position beside the Roman Wall, about four miles north of Hexham. It was claimed that the night before the battle, Oswald had a vision of Saint Columba, in which the saint predicted that Oswald would be victorious. Oswald placed his army so that it was facing east, with its flanks protected by Brady’s Crag to the north and the Wall to the south. According to Bede, Oswald raised a cross, and prayed for victory alongside his troops.
It is believed that the Welsh had superior numbers, but they were forced to attack from the east along a narrow front, where they were hemmed in and unable to outflank the Northumbrian forces. It is not known how long the battle lasted or what the losses were, but the Welsh line finally broke. This began a headlong flight southwards by the Welsh, pursued by the vengeful Northumbrians. Many Welsh soldiers were cut down as they ran, and according to Bede, Cadwallon was caught and killed at a place called the ‘Brook of Denis’, now identified as the Rowley Burn. The battle was a decisive victory for Oswald, and it was likely that the Welsh losses must have been substantial. Afterwards, the site was known as Heavenfield (Hefenfelth).
A chapel was raised to commemorate this great Saxon triumph and dedicated to King Oswald and marks the spot where Oswald was believed to have raised his battle standard. Subsequent buildings were replaced by the present structure in 1737. And the little chapel certainly makes the site easy to identify. A modern cross stands in the adjoining lay-by and explanatory boards tell the story of the conflict.

Battlefield sign in the layby
Infomation board in the layby.

The wooden cross was erected by a group of local people in the 1930's to commemorate the battle.

The present church of St. Oswalds was rebuilt in 1717 leaving no trace of the original church which had been built on the site where Oswald erected his cross.

Site of the battle as views from the layby

Site of the battle from the layby

Battle of Hexham 15th August 1464

Hexham was the last battle of the first chapter of the Wars of the Roses. Having been defeated at the decisive Battle of Towton, King Henry VI and his Queen fled north to Scotland. However, finding the Scots in negotiation with their enemies, the King moved into Northumberland where he still held several castles and Queen Margaret sailed for France to raise troops and money.
Lord Montague soon marched out from Newcastle to challenge Henry, but the cowardly monarch fled to Lancashire, leaving his battered army to try and stop the Yorkists reaching Hexham. They clashed along the Devil's Water, south-east of the town, but the Lancastrians were heavily outnumbered and the ensuing battle was little more than an armed skirmish.
The Lancastrian camp was near Linnels Bridge over the Devils water found slightly to the south of Hexham. The Yorkists crossed onto the south bank of the Tyne on the night of 12th/13th of May and were by the morning of the 14th in a position to attack Hexham. Presumably the Yorkist advance was at speed, as despite warnings by their own scouts the Lancastrians had little time to prepare for battle.
It is thought Somerset rushed his forces to a site near Linnels Bridge and deployed his troops in 3 detachments in a meadow near the Devils Water, here he hoped he could engage the Yorkist army before it moved past him into Hexham. No sooner had the Lancastrians taken their positions than the Yorkists charged down from their positions on higher ground. Upon seeing the Yorkist advance the right detachment of the Lancastrian army, commanded by Lord Roos, turned and fled across the Devil's Water and into Hexham, before a single blow had been struck. The remnants of Somerset's force were in a hopeless situation, hemmed in and unable to manoeuvre; the Yorkist troops charged through the one opening at the east end of Linnel's Meadow and engaged the bewildered Lancastrian soldiers.
Lancastrian morale collapsed, and after some token resistance the remains of Somerset's army was pushed into the Devil's Water by the Yorkist infantry. A chaotic rout followed, men either drowned in the river or were crushed as they tried to climb the steep banks of the Devil's Water in the retreat towards Hexham. Most, however were trapped in West Dipton Wood on the north bank of the river and were forced to surrender when the Yorkists approached.There is some controversy over which side of the road the Battle of Hexham took place, but it was certainly in the fields around the River, possibly on the slopes of Swallowship Hill. Legend says that Queen Margaret returned to England just too late to rally her troops and found herself and her young son lost in the adjoining forest near Dilston. She escaped being murdered by bandits and lived for some days in a cavern still known as the 'Queen's Cave'.

A meadow like one that may have been used during the battle near linnels bridge.

Plaque of the bridge over the Devils water nothing to do with the battle but i thought i would post it up out of interest.

The Devils Water taken from the Linnels bridge where many troops were suppose to of drowned while fleeing the battle. The river isnt that deep but the sides are steep.

View of the Devils Water taken from the other side of the Linnels bridge.

Views of Swallowship Hill another possible location of the battle. maybe the battleline of the Yorkest army.

Fields leading towards Swallowship Hill looking down towards Linnels Bridge

Fields around Swallowship Hill.

Fields around Swallowship Hill.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Battle of Newburn Ford 1640

Today i was working near the villages of Ryton and Newburn so i thought i would visit the site of the battle and take a few photos

Battle of Newburn Ford 28th August 1640

The Scottish army, some 20,000 strong, were led by Sir Alexander Leslie an experienced commander, with a core of equally experienced professional officers. The Scots deployed in the closes of Newburn village on the north bank of the Tyne. The village sits higher than the meadows on the flood-plain on the south bank, and crucially the Church sits higher still. Leslie was quick to sieze the advantage, mounting several light weight 'leather' cannon on the top of Newburn church tower. Other artillery pieces were placed in the undergrowth along the river bank.
On the eve of the battle the English were dug into earthwork defences with 12/8 cannon sited about 100m from the river, close to the two adjacent fords. The English cavalry initially shelterd in a wooded ridge to the rear. But the infantry were cruelly exposed on the flat meadow with only the hastily erected low earthworks to shield them.
At first the Scottish forces could not cross the river due both to the presence of the sconces and the fact that the tide was in. In the early morning the Scots opened fire. The relatively small numbers of English troops deployed in the sconces suffered heavy casualties from the Scottish artillery on the north bank. But the damage from the cannon on the church tower was devastating. As one of the officers later reported: ‘we lay so exposed to their battery, that their great shot was bowled in amongst our men, to their great loss and such confusion as made them quit their works’. The English broke and abandoned the artillery and fled. Now the tide had also gone out the Scottish cavalry were able to cross the fords and engaged with the English horse, already disadvantaged by the cannon fire, which was now turned upon them. They too were soon driven back, fleeing to the south with the rest of the army. On the rising ground some of the English infantry were rallied to make a stand, for now they were in safer, enclosed ground with good cover. But they failed to effectively exploit this advantage and soon the whole army was routed by the advancing Scottish.

It was the only battle of the Second Bishops’ War, but of great political significance. Two days after the battle the city of Newcastle was surrendered to the Scots. Charles was obliged to recall Parliament, which refused to fund his war against the Scots, but further parliamentary demands led ultimately to the Civil War.

The battle of Newburn Ford information board which is situated down by the bridge on the english side of the river Tyne. Best is to park in Newburn and walk across the bridge.
Map of the Battle taken from the information board.

Possible area of the English guns, left of Newburn Bridge looking back towards Ryton near the battle information board.

Ryton Willows from the English Centre looking back towards Ryton.

Ryton Willows area to the centre left of the English positions roughly the area where the Scottish crossed the Tyne.

Another photo of Ryton Haugh right of the English positons

Ryton Haugh floodplain looking Eastwards. Right of the English positions.

Photo of Ryton Haugh floodplain left of Newburn Bridge where much of the fighting occured.

Looking along the road through Ryton Haugh, where much of the landscape is heavily developed

The wooded area behind the factory complex is the area the English troops fled up after the battle towards Ryton. Back in 1640 this raised area wasnt wooded and composed of ancient enclosures and maybe earthworks constructed before the battle.

Looking down stream of the Tyne towards the site of the second ford that the Scots used to cross. the Tyne has had its course altered over time and also became deeper than it was in 1640.

Newburn Bridge possible site of one of the fords that the Scottish used to cross the Tyne. The photo was taken from the English side of the river roughly close to the English positions. In the back ground of the photo you can just make out the top of the Church where the Scottish had artillery pieces positioned.

Photo taken from newburn Village war memorial which is roughly where the Scottish positions where prior to the battle. The photo shows the elavated heights the Scottish had with views onto the English positions which can be just made out on the photo ( the industrial units straight ahead and floodplain to the right of the industrial units.) Teh wooded area to the rear is where the English made their escape, but back in 1640 it wasnt wooded.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Battle of Otterburn 1388

On friday 14th August i was working around the battlefield of Otterburn cutting the grass around the car park and general maintenance and thought i would take some pictures and post them up on my blog.

Heres an account of the battle that ive taken from the web

In 1388 the Scots decided to take advantage of the disunity caused in England by the power struggle between King Richard II and the Lords Appellant by mounting a large scale cross-border raid. James, Earl of Douglas, led a force into Northumberland. As they returned northwards, the Scots paused at Otterburn where, in pursuit of a chivalric challenge to Douglas, Henry Percy ("Hotspur") led an English army into attack.
Arriving near Otterburn at evening, Percy launched a flanking attack with part of his force under the Lords Redmane and Ogyl, hoping to panic the Scots into fleeing straight into the main body of troops under Percy himself. But rather than taking flight, the Scots launched a surprise counter-attack on Percy's men. Fighting continued through the night, and eventually the Scots prevailed, although Douglas himself was killed. On the English side Henry Percy and twenty-one other knights were captured, and over 1,000 were killed.
The accounts of the battle are among the best descriptions of medieval chivalry and military tactics. The defeated Hotspur was eventually to meet his death at Shrewsbury in 1403 in an uprising against the King.
The open character of the battlefield in 1388 has been preserved over the years, although the grassland is improved. Scrubby woodland on the upper slopes helped to mask the flanking attacks by both sides.
The information board explaining the battle.
Percy's cross which has been moved from the orginal site of the battle abaout 150 yards away from the left of the picutre. Some say that the cross was place roughly in the position where Douglas was slain.

Roughly the area where the final stages of the battle was fought with the Scottish defeating the English. Also the possible area where Douglas was killed and the area where Percy's cross was moved from. the Wooded hill in the background is a possible area for the Scottish camp that was sacked during the battle.

Centre left of the battlefield showing the ridge that the English used to out flank the Scottish and raid their camp. the hill in the distance is also another possible site for the Scottish camp.

Centre Right of the battlefield this is the area the English advanced through from the right.

Roughly the area of the English starting postions to the right.