Posts Tagged 1460

The Events Leading Up to The 1460 Battle of Northampton

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.


Leave a comment

The 1460 Battle of Northampton – Myth and Reality

1460 – Myth and Reality
by Mike Ingram, Harrington Companye Master of the Rolls

On 10 July 1460, a Yorkist army of around 15,000 led by the ‘Kingmaker’ Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and the 18 year old, Edward, Earl of March, the future King Edward IV, assaulted between 7,000 and 10,000 Lancastrians in a fortified camp, in fields close to Delapre Abbey. Although King Henry VI and probably his Queen, Margaret of Anjou, were at the battle, it was Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham and Earl of Northampton who led the Lancastrian army.

As Earl of Northampton, Buckingham probably drew heavily on his extensive lands within the county for the army, as did the Queen who owned Kingsthorpe. And many local lords such as the Wake’s, Tresham’s,  Vaux’s and Catesby’s who all held positions of power in the Lancastrian government were also present with their men. However, many more answered the King’s summons and men from as far away as Beverley in Yorkshire are recorded as taking part. The majority of the Yorkist army meanwhile, came from the South and East of England, although no doubt it included those from their lands around Fotheringhay.

The precise site of the Lancastrian camp is unknown, and several theories to where it was have been put forward. Only a full archaeological survey, such as the one carried out at Bosworth, will determine its exact location. However, the assault on the camp was only the start, as work on other medieval battlefields has shown that fighting could continue miles from where it first started. At Towton for example, which took place less than a year after Northampton, grave pits full of men who took part, have been found three miles from where the two sides first clashed.  In recognition of the battle’s national importance, English Heritage has designated the area identified as where the fighting took place, a registered battlefield. Out of all battles that have taken place in England throughout the centuries, it is one of only 42 to receive the distinction.
Much of what has written in the past about the battle has been dominated by the defection to the Yorkists of Edmund Grey, Lord Grey of Ruthin, who also had extensive property within the county. However, the battle and the events leading up to it, is much more involved and far more interesting.

When the Lancastrians first arrived in the town, according to one chronicle, they set part of it on fire. Both Edward IV and Richard III would later grant tax relief on the town as it had recently fallen into ruin. Two years after the battle, when King Edward came to the town he brought with him the Duke of Somerset, who had recently changed sides. When the townsfolk saw Somerset, they tried to hang him in the Market Square. King Edward had to stand over him, sword drawn to protect him, whilst 250 gallons of wine were brought up to placate the gathering crowd and allow Somerset time to escape. Was it Somerset who fired the town? After all, defection was common-place and insufficient to warrant such anger.

Official records also show that three days before the battle William Waynefleet, Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor went into the King’s tent on Hardingstone field and surrendered the Great Seal. Then along with Bishop Booth, Keeper of the Privy Seal and Bishop Stanbury of Hereford, the King’s confessor, he resigned his post and fled. At some point between then and the start of the fighting, King Henry knighted nine men, one of which was Thomas Stanley, another was Henry Stafford, the grandson of the Duke of Buckingham. Both would go on to play significant parts in the downfall of Richard III.

When the Yorkist army first arrived, an intense round of negotiations took place. The Yorkist’s still maintaining they only wanted to talk to the King. It was the very last time any such negotiation took place before an English battle. The negotiations quickly broke down, and at one point a Bishop negotiating for the Yorkists changed allegance, instead urging the King to stand and fight.

A significant but forgotten part of the battle is a charge by around Lancastrian 1,500, possibly Welsh, cavalry against Warwick and his men as they approached the defences. It would be the last great cavalry charge until Richard III’s 25 years later. A chronicle reports how the cavalry were forced back to the bridge and all killed, whilst their leader was taken prisoner and later executed. The bridge in question, was not Southbridge however, but another further to the south and known as St. Leonard’s Bridge. An 1870 Bridge report describes how it was enclosed at each end and became the main Hardingstone sewer. A 1894 report in the Herald also recounts how this bridge was culverted over, hiding two of the earliest and best proportioned arches in the county. The most likely location for this long forgotten waterway and bridge is on the northern boundary of the Abbey. A sewage plant near the Abbey entrance, its last visible remains.

The battle also took an international dimension in the form of the Papal Legate, Francesco Coppini, Bishop of Turni. He had officially been sent by the Pope to stop the two sides fighting and encourage them to join a planned crusade. However, he was also on a secret mission from the Duke of Milan to help the Yorkists win and then persuade them to invade France, something King Henry and his French Queen would not do. If England had invaded France, it would have taken the pressure of Milan which was being threatened by the French. Although, he strenuously denied it, Coppini reportedly ex-communicated all the Lancastrians before the battle and forbade their burial. Never the less, on his return to Rome, Coppini was defrocked and thrown in a Papal prison for exceeding his authority.

When the Yorkists began to assault the camp, it is very unlikely that the Lancastrian’s just sat and waited for them to reach the defences. The guns may have not worked, but they would not have been defenceless. At least half of the army would have been archers, men who would have practiced to shoot bows all their lives, making them very fast and very accurate. As the Yorkists approached 5,000 archers each shooting up to 15 arrows a minute, meant an arrowstorm of at least 100,000 arrows. It would have been the medieval equivalent of the Somme, and if only one percent found their target, that is still a thousand dead! This alone makes nonsense of some Yorkist claims that only 59 to 300 were killed. If we look at other contemporary chronicles, they report that between 10,000 and 20,000 were killed in total.  Whilst these may also be exaggerations, they are not outside the realms of possibility.
As the Yorkists reached the defences, Lord Grey changed sides and began to help Edward, Earl of March’s men into the camp. They then began to slaughter those inside. In panic, the Lancastrians began to flee. This was the rout, where the real slaughter began. It is not recorded in which direction they ran. As we have already seen, the bridge was under Yorkist control, and to the north there was a substantial water course. There was also several smaller streams running west to east that were used by the local wool and cloth trade. And then there was the river itself which had had probably flooded. With the amount of water obstacles, it is therefore highly unlikely that they headed directly north towards the town. In which case, the drier and safest route, would have been east. It was also recorded that many were killed trying to cross the river at a place called Sandyford, was this then Rushmills?

The leading Lancastrian supporters, Viscount Beaumont, the Earl of Shrewsbury and Lord Egremont were all killed in the battle. So too was the Duke of Buckingham who was buried in the town at Greyfriars, The King was captured by the Yorkist and taken back to London and three months later, Richard of York publicly laid claim to the throne.  In the meantime, Queen Margaret fled north to raise a new army. 

The Wars of the Roses were only just beginning.


1 Comment