Monday, 16 August 2010

An oppurtunity too good to miss

Well this isn’t a scheduled entry, but one of those wonderful moments which you just can’t pass up. I HAD to go up to West Yorkshire this weekend to collect my first gun; an Elizabethan Caliver. (more about the gun another time) I arranged to stay at Cunning Will’s place in Pickering, on the other side of York and having picked up the gun I was in no particular rush so took the scenic route, which just happened to take in the battlefield of Towton.

Towton was fought on Palm Sunday in 1461. One of the most important battles during the War of the Roses and the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. It is believed to have been fought by anything up to 90,000 (And there were as many as 25000 casualties) which, compared to some battles elsewhere doesn’t sound that much, but when you think that the population of England at the time was probably about 1.5 million then this number represent 6% of the population, that’s like a battle taking place nowadays with 3 million troops. So pretty huge really.

The battlefield lies between the villages of Towton and Saxton. I went to Saxton church first to find the grave of Lord Dacre, the commander of the Lancastrian right Flank. He was buried with his horse in the graveyard of the church. He was lucky he only had to share his grave with his horse most of the Lancastrian dead were buried in a nearby mass grave. Next to Dacre’s grave is a memorial for some unknown soldiers from the battle who were recently found.

From Saxton I drove towards Towton, right across the battlefield, which is wide open farm land now. As I was driving I glanced a white board attached to fence by the road, and as I drove past I realised there was a large cross visible in my rearview mirror, which had been obscured from the road by a large bush. So I reversed up the road and parked in the layby. This turned out to be Dacre’s Cross and marks the spot where he fell. It is also the main memorial for the battle and there were the remains of many red and white roses place upon it. I regret I had neither to leave, next time maybe.

I put on my livery coat and strolled across the fields from the road to the River Cock and ‘Bloody Meadow’ the site of a great slaughter of Lancastrians. The river and meadows look like the have changed little since the battle.

I was really pleased that I was able to stop here. Having recently fought at Tewkesbury, which felt like a battle, I was able to reflect on how it might have felt to stand on this field of battle. In truth it wasn’t possible, apart from anything else it was a lovely summer’s day, the sun glinted on the water of the River Cock and apart from the odd car going down the road there was nothing to hear except skylarks. The battle was fought in a blizzard and the sound I should think was intolerable. Nevertheless I enjoyed the solitude of the moment and paid my respects to the long fallen.

Post Script

Coming from down south where nothing closes, I couldn’t believe that the Rockingham Arms, the only pub in Towton was closed on a Sunday afternoon. So my toast to the King had to wait until I arrived in Pickering. I did notice the pub is also up for sale…now there’s an opportunity. I could have a lounge bar for Yorkists and the Lancastrians would have to be served in the yard:0)

A York A York!

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