4 Wars of the Roses battle sites you can visit today

1. Battle of Blore Heath

23rd September 1459 – Yorkist Victory

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The battle of Blore Heath was fought on a damp, miserable Sunday morning. It would be marked as one of the first major battles in the Wars of the Roses.

The Earl of Salisbury’s force, based at  Middleham Castle, needed to meet up with the main Yorkist army at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire and so began a South-Westerly march through the Midlands. James Tuchet, Lord Audley was ordered by the queen to intercept them.

The Lancastrian leader, Lord Audley was killed and John Sutton, Lord Dudley was taken as a prisoner of war. A cross was erected after the battle to mark the spot where Audley was slain. It was replaced by a stone cross in 1765. The Yorkist leaders, the Earl of Salisbury and his sons, John and Thomas Neville were all unharmed.Although the younger Nevilles were captured whilst pursuing fleeing Lancastrians and imprisoned in Chester Castle.

Audley’s cross is situated on private farmland, therefore if you wish to visit the cross itself, then please make arrangements with the landowner. However, the monument can be viewed from the walk and viewpoint.

Contact: John Hegarty

T: 01630 653912

A: Blore Heath, Market Drayton, Shropshire, TF9 2EG

 

2. Battle of Northampton

10th July 1460 – Yorkist Victory

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The Battle of Northampton was fought in the pouring rain. The Yorkist commanders, Edward, Earl of March (future Edward IV), the Earl of Warwick and Lord Fauconberg led a force against King Henry VI himself, who subsequently was taken as a prisoner of war. He was captured by Henry Mountford, an archer.

Lancastrian leaders, the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Shrewsbury, who were trying to protect their king who remained in the safety of his tent. Lancastrian casualties totalled 300.

Lord Grey, who had been fighting for the Lancastrians had previously sent a message to the Earl of March stating that his would change sides if he were supported in a property dispute. Agreeing, Lord Grey’s men laid down their weapons and allowed the Yorkists easy access to the camp.

By all means, the Yorkists treated their royal prisoner with the respect he was due. They firstly escorted him to Delapre Abbey, then Northampton and finally London where the tower garrison surrendered.

The Battle of Northampton was the only battle of the Wars of the Roses where a defended position was successfully attacked and breached.

Today, the source of the action is reasonably well located as it lies within the former parkland belonging to Delapre Abbey. Much of the site is now a golf course with associated buildings and a car park. Housing developments border the northern and western sides and the A45 Northampton bypass runs very close to the battlefield. The remaining part of Delapre Park is open to the public and access is possible by footpath across the rest of the battlefield.

Contact:

T: 01604 760817

A:Abbey Cottage, Delapre Abbey, London Rd, Northampton NN4 8AW

 

3. Battle of Wakefield

30th December 1460 – Lancastrian Victory

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In December, Richard, Duke of York went to Sandal Castle, either to consolidate his position or to counter Lancastrian dissent. It is believed that he had an army of 3,000–8,000 men but on 30th December, he was outnumbered and outmanoeuvred by Queen Margaret’s Lancastrian army, who were coming from Pontefract, which was just over 9 miles away.

The Yorkists suffered a crushing defeat that resulted in the deaths of Richard, Duke of York and his second son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland.

This battle site is practically on my doorstep and I visit many times a year. Today, only ruins remain but the site is easily accessible and visitors can walk the perimeter or climb to the top of the keep and see the extensive views over Wakefield, the River Calder and Pugney’s Country Park.  A very small yet informative visitor centre recently closed.

Contact:

T:01924 249779

A: Sandal Castle, Manygates Lane, Sandal, Wakefield, WF2 7DS

 

4. Battle of Mortimer’s Cross

2nd February 1461 – Yorkist Victory

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Following his father’s death at the Battle of Wakefield, Edward, now 4th Duke of York, wished to prevent forces loyal to Henry VI meeting up with the main Lancastrian army. The forces were coming from Wales and were led by the king’s step-father, Sir Owen Tudor and half-brother Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke.

Edward, based at Wigmore Castle, had gathered his army from border counties and Wales. He had amassed an army of around 5000.

This battle is particularly marked by the meteorological phenomenon that occurred as dawn broke. Three suns were seen to be rising in the sky. At first, this frightened Edward’s troops, however, he calmed them by saying it represented the Holy Trinity. God was on their side. Edward would later take this as his banner – ‘The Sun in Splendour’.

The Earl of Wiltshire on the Lancastrian side seemed to be winning until Owen Tudor tried to encircle the Yorkist left wing but was defeated. Then, Pembroke’s centre broke and the Lancastrian forces fled. Owen Tudor was found in Hereford and beheaded.

The exact position of the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross is much debated due to the changing landscape. Despite this, the area’s beauty attracts many visitors and the possible sites can be explored by driving and walking the battlefield. There is also Croft Castle nearby which is currently managed by the National Trust.

Contact:

T:01568 780246

A: Croft Castle and Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, Yarpole, HR6 9PW

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