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.