Neville's Cross Campaign 1346
In the autumn of 1346 a Scottish army under King David II invaded England at the behest of the French king, Phillip VI. This was an attempt to divert English forces from their campaign in France, a campaign in which the English army had already won a devastating victory at Crecy.
Advancing into England the Scottish army destroyed Liddle Strength, a pele tower on the border, took Lanercost Priory, then crossing the Pennines they sacked Hexham Priory before advancing towards Durham. On the night of the 16th October the Scottish army camped in the Bishop of Durham's great deer park of Beaurepaire, 2 miles north west of the city.
With the king in France, the English forces in the north were commanded by Ralph de Neville, Henry Percy and the Archbishop of York. By the 16th October they had assembled an army in Auckland Park on the north east edge of Bishop Auckland, about 10 miles from the Scottish quarters.
A skirmish occurred early in the morning of the 17th October when a Scottish plundering force was intercepted at Merrington, 3 miles north east of Bishop Auckland. They had stumbled upon the English army as it marched north to engage the main Scottish force. Some 200 Scottish cavalry escaped to warn of the threat, but not in time to enable them to secure the best strategic position. The English army had advanced to join the Great North Road at Sunderland Bridge and marched north to take a commanding position where the road traversed a narrow ridge, just to the west of Durham.