Events Leading Up to the Battle

by Mike Ingram, Harrington Companye Master of the Rolls

The 10th July 1460 saw a major battle of the Wars of the Roses at Northampton. This year, the event is being commemorated at the Delapre Abbey site, with an event featuring the Companye. As part of the run up to this event, our tame historian Mike has created a daily update of the events leading up to the battle. Check back here daily for updates!

26 June 1460.

The Calais Lords, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick; Edward, Earl of March; and William Neville, Lord Fauconberg landed at Sandwich with 2,000 men.

27 June 1460.

The Calais lords arrive at Canterbury. Robert Horne, John Scot and John Fosse and their men, sent by King Henry to stop them change sides and help negotiate the surrender of the city.

28 June 1460

Yorkists send out letters summoning help from the Cinque Ports. At least Rye and Winchelsea send men. After paying respects at the shrine of St. Thomas, a growing number of Yorkists leave Canterbury heading for London via Rochester and Dartford.

29 June 1460

The Common Council of London agree to resist the rebels but refuse to let the Lancastrian Lord Scales to act as the cities Captain. Men at Arms are placed on London Bridge. A deputation is sent to the advancing Yorkists warning them they would be refused entry to the city. Thousands flock to the Yorkist standard ‘like bees to the hive’.

1st July 1460

The Yorkist army reaches London and camps at Blackheath. As well as the Calais Lords it was said to include ” the many footmen of the commons of Kent, Sussex and Surrey”. By this time, according to some observers their number was between 20,000 and 40,000.

2 July 1460

11 Aldermen of London rebel in support of the Yorkists. The Yorkists enter London and are met by the Bishops of Ely and Exeter in Southwark. There is a crush on London Bridge and 13 Men at Arms are trampled when they fell.

3 July 1460

The Calais Lords make an oath of allegance to King Henry on the cross of Canterbury at St. Pauls. Warwick announces that they had come with the people to declare their innocence or else die in the field.

4 July 1460

Francesco Coppini, Bishop of Turin and Papal Legate joined the Yorkists at Calais. His official mission from the Pope was to persuade the English to join a crusade. However, he has a secret mission from Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan (If you have seen “The Borgias” on TV you will get the idea), to help put the Yorkists on the throne. The French were becoming heavily involved in Italy and Margaret of Anjou’s brother wanted to be King of Naples, thereby threatening Milan. If the Yorkists were kings of England they might be persuaded to invade France and take the pressure of of Italy. At St. Pauls and by letter, Coppini issues a chilling warning to King Henry… ‘….out of the pity and compassion you should have for your people and citizens and your duty, to prevent so much bloodshed, now so imminent. You can prevent this if you will, and if you do not you will be guilty in the sight of God in that awful day of judgement in which I also shall stand and require of your hand the English blood, if it be spilt’

4 July 1460 Part 2.

Warwick’s Uncle, William Neville, Lord Fauconberg, advances north from London, with according to one chronicler, 10,000 men. Faucoberg was the Yorkist’s most experienced soldier having taken part in many of the later battles of the 100 Year War. He appears to have been heading for Ware. Warwick secures a loan of £1,000 from London to finance the coming campaign.

5 July 1460

The main Yorkist army commanded by Warwick leaves London heading north along Watling Street. They bring with them a train of artillery.

The Lancastrian’s make plans to leave their base at Coventry. Summonses are sent out to towns and to lords to assemble their forces. They too have a large train of artillery which they had been stockpiling at Kenilworth Castle.

Salisbury and Cobham stay in London to lay siege to the Tower

July 7 1460

The Lancastrians reach Northampton and begin to build a fortified camp in fields between Hardingstone and Delapre Abbey. Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor of England , William Waynflete, surrenders the Great Seal to the King in ‘Hardingstone Field’ Then he and a number of other senior members resign and flee. According to one source part of the town is set on fire by Lancastrian cavalry as it arrives.

In the meantime the two separate Yorkist armies join at Dunstable where they wait for the artillery and slower foot soldiers to catch up.

9 July 1460

The Yorkist army approaches Northampton through Blisworth and camps for the night at the iron age hill fort of Hunsbury Hill.

The Lancastrian camp begins to swell with men as towns answer the King’s summons. Twenty men from Beverley arrive after their mayor threw a party for them before they left. Men from Shrewsbury are also there too. Northampton’s leading gentry and their men such as the Wake’s, Catesby’s, Vaux’s and Tresham’s all come in support of the King. The Duke of Buckingham, as earl of Northampton draws men from his local estates, as does the Queen who owns Kingsthorpe Village. The town itself calls out the militia which fights under the town’s ‘Wild Rat’ banner.

10 July 1460

King Henry knights ten of his men including Thomas Stanley and the five year old grandson of the Duke of Buckingham.Both would be heavily involved in the demise of Richard III, twenty four and twenty five years later

The Yorkists send Heralds and Bishops to the Lancastrian camp to negotiate, still maintaining they do not want to fight, only talk with the King. A Yorkist Bishop changes sides and urges the King not to negotiate but fight.Buckingham declares “The Earl of Warwick shall not come to the King’s presence and if he comes he shall die.”

Warwick finally replies “At 2 o’clock I will speak with the King or I will die”. It would be the last time that any negotiations would precede an English battle. Coppini, the Papal Legate excommunicates the Lancastrians and forbids them to have a christian burial. Warwick orders either spare the commoners or spare Grey’s men (depending on the source).

As Warwick approaches with his men a cavalry battle takes place with 1300-1400 Lancastrian’s which according to Waurin lasts over an hour. They are pushed back to the now lost St. Leonard’s Bridge and cut down. The Yorkist’s capture the bridge and the Lancastrian cavalry commander is captured and executed.

The Yorkists advance on the Lancastrian position, it would be the only time a fortified camp was assaulted during all thirty-seven years of the wars. Several accounts say that the Lancastrian guns fail to fire. Although the guns might not have worked, they were not defenseless and shower the Yorkists with up to 100,000 arrows. Despite this William Lucy in Dallington hears gunfire and races to join the King (was this then Yorkist gunfire?)

When Edward Earl of March (later King Edward IV) and his men reach the defences, Lord Grey of Ruthin commanding the Lancastrian left flank and his men start helping the Yorkists into the camp.

Its all over for the Lancastrian’s. A fight takes place around the King’s tent in which Buckingham, Egremont, Beaumont and Shrewsbury are all killed. So too is Vaux from Northampton. The King is captured by the Yorkists.

Many Lancastrians try to flee. With the bridge under Yorkist control and the river under flood plus a myriad of smaller waterways that flow east and west between the Abbey and the town, they can only go east and lots of miniature battles take place across the landscape. Many are recorded as dying as they try to cross the river (probably Rushmills).

William Lucy arrives on the battlefield only to be met by his wife’s Yorkist lover, who kills him with an axe. The two marry shortly after.


Between 5-7,000 killed. All the Lancastrian lords are killed. King Henry is captured. He stays at Northampton for three days and takes mass at Delapre. He is then led back to London in procession. Soon after Richard of York returns and for the first time lays claim to the throne. Margaret of Anjou escapes with the Royal baggage but is overtaken at Gayton. The rogue bishop is arrested and thrown into the dungeon at Warwick Castle.

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