On a quick break north, we stopped by (again!) at the site of the Battle of Towton. On the way to the monument on the plateau, we had a huge dinner of filled Yorkshire Pudding at “The Crooked Billet“, which was very nice and worth the stop. The pub is filled with lots of stuff, pictures, engravings and paintings of the battle and battlefield.
Battle of Towton: Palm Sunday, 1461
On Palm Sunday, 1461, two bunches of chaps got together under the instructions of their various “Lords”, on a sloping plateau in a driving blizzard. Palm Sunday was very early that year so there wasn’t much daylight.
They then proceeded to kill each other as fast as possible.
The outcome then became known as “The Battle of Towton” and remains today the most bloody battle fought on British soil, with the possible exception of Boadicea’s defeat by the Romans in 61. That large numbers died is not in doubt – there are grave pits all over the place and the chroniclers of the time said it was a big’un. (However, the battle-site is unknown for the 61 battle, and as the victors reported the history, the quoted figures cannot be relied upon).
Whatever, most people at Towton were killed by the Bill Hook and the Axe, (picture the really choppy bit in Braveheart), and the dead outnumbered those in The Blitz waged on the whole of Britain from 1940-1 by the Germans. It’s reckoned that 1% of the English population died that day.
By any reckoning, those figures would be a national disaster nowadays.
And yet the Battle of Towton is strangely forgotten and probably has been so for some time.
I think it’s a national sorrow or a truly murderous moment in English history that people have quietly wanted to forget about for fear of awakening some dark satanic soul that might wreak havoc across the land again. A force too dreadful to re-awaken.
Maybe it’s best that we keep our dark side suppressed and fool ourselves that we are civilised and that we could never again behave that way towards each other in our own land.
The truth, of course is that the English/British continued to kill themselves in their own land for centuries afterwards, e.g.;
- Marston Moor
– but never ever again on that scale, and even with “improved” weaponry and tactics the corpses never scaled the same heights.
I filmed a quick clockwise pan of the starting point for the battle up by the monument. That’s the Youtube video at the top. The rout (where most deaths occurred), happened in a general S/SW direction down the hill scarp to the Cock Beck. That’s about 45 degrees to the right of Drax Power Station, visible in the far distance and more or less in line of sight with the monument as I stand with the camera.
The area is quiet now, save for the odd mad Audi driver. Poignantly, the wheat field nearby had a few poppies in it from July, symbolic for the British as another day of national sorrow but still remembered as the First Day of the Battle of the Somme. (It took over a month for the British Somme dead to exceed the Towton figure. The first day’s dead were less than 8000.)
The monument of 547 years ago usually has flowers left on it. Quite often they are fresh.
Someone still remembers.