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Location map

 


Looking south from the Lancastrian to Yorkist positions, in a snowstorm just as it was on the morning when the battle began.

 


Snow whips across the bleak plateau where the battle was fought.

 


Towton Dale lay between the two armies.

 


The Lancastrian position viewed from Towton Dale.

 


On the west side Towton Dale plunges down into the valley of the Cock Beck.

 


Looking north along the main York road of 1461 towards Towton village.

 


The Lancastrian position viewed from the Yorkist, with Towton Dale between.

 


The former moorland on the eastern edge of the battlefield.

 


Dintingdale, where the initial skirmishing took place on the evening before the battle.

 


The restored medieval cross which stands just to the north of the Lancastrian position.

 


The base of the wayside cross on the battlefield in 1896.

 


The routed Lancastrian troops fled back northward across this ground, both around and through Towton village.

 


Many of the Lancastrian troops attempted to cross the river Wharfe using Tadcaster bridge.

 


Cock Ford as it was in 1896.

 


Saxton village, on the southern edge of the battlefield. Decades after the battle human remains were tranferred to the churchyard here from the mass graves on the battlefield.

 


Lord Dacre's tomb in Saxton churchyard, as it was in 1896.

 


Barrett's battle plan of 1896.

 


Brooke's battle plan of 1857.

 


The Cock Beck

 


Information board covering battlefield archaeology

 


Information boards by the Dacre Cross

 


Information board by the Yorkist lines

 


Information board describing weapons used in the battle

 


View of the battlefield from the Yorkist position

 


View of Dintingdale from the Yorkist position

 


View of the Yorkist position (on the ridge with the hawthorn tree) from between the two armies

 

Home >Wars of the Roses >The Battle of Battle of Towton

Battle of Towton

29th March 1461

The Act of Settlement signed by King Henry VI in October 1460 transferred the right of succession to Richard, Duke of York and his heirs. However Queen Margaret was, not surprisingly, unwilling to accept that her son should be disinherited. The Lancastrians once more attempted to resolve the matter through force of arms and three battles followed: Wakefield, 30 December 1460, at which the Yorkists were defeated and the Richard, Duke of York, killed; Mortimer’s Cross, 2 February 1461, at which Edward, Richard's son, defeated a Lancastrian army; and St. Albans, 17 February 1461, where the Yorkists were defeated and Henry VI released from captivity. Despite this latter setback, the Earl of Warwick, 'The Kingmaker', saw to it that Edward became king in March 1461. England now had two kings, a matter that could only be resolved on the battlefield. After St. Albans Henry's forces had retreated into the north and so, soon after his coronation, Edward set off to confront him.

Edward was able to muster a large army as he marched north, though the claim that he had as many as 40,000 troops may be exaggeration. The Lancastrian army was of at least equal number to that of the Yorkists. The Lancastrians sent a vanguard forward to Ferrybridge and on the 28th March they contest Edward's attempt to cross the river Aire. But the Yorkist vanguard was dispatched north westward to cross at Castleford and so outflank the Lancastrian detachment. They had to retreat back towards their own army, leaving the main route open at Ferrybridge for the rest of Edward's army.

It seems that the Yorkist vanguard caught and defeated the retreating Lancastrians on the main road from Ferrybridge to York at Dintingdale, just to the east of Saxton village. The scene was now set for what may have been the largest battle of the Wars of the Roses. On Palm Sunday, following day (though a convincing argument is now proposed by Sutherland that all the events, including the actions at Ferrybridge and Dintingdale, took place on Palm Sunday), the two armies met in the open field between the villages of Towton and Saxton.

It is said that Towton was the largest and longest battle fought on British soil, though it seems likely that, even more than usual, the medieval chronicles grossly exaggerate both the numbers engaged and the casualties incurred at Towton. What cannot be disputed is that Towton was of huge significant in both military and social terms. The political significance was also substantial, for it secured the throne for the Yorkists,  although the Lancastrian cause was far from extinguished. Henry, his extremely ambitious wife Margaret, and his son and heir had all escaped.

The battlefield remains undeveloped agricultural land. The open fields of the time of the battle were finally enclosed in the 18th and 19th centuries, but removal of many of the hedgerows in the latter part of the twentieth century has returned the landscape somewhat towards its medieval character. Though two roads, the A162 and B1217, run north-south across the battlefield they are both busy and dangerous to walk. A walking route with interpretation panels has been established by the Towton Battlefield Society starting from the parking on the Lancastrian side, next to the cross.  This takes the walker either south toward the Yorkist lines or west toward the Cock Beck and then north into Towton village. 

 

KEY FACTS

Name: Battle of Towton

Type: Battle
Campaign: 

War period: Wars of the Roses
Outcome: Yorkist victory
Country: England
County: North Yorkshire
Place: Towton / Saxton cum Scarthingwell
Location: secure

Terrain: open field
Date: 29th March 1461
Start: 9am
Duration: 10 hours

Armies: Yorkist under Edward Duke of March; Lancastrian under Duke of Somerset
Numbers: Yorkist: circa 40,000; Lancastrian: circa 40,000

Losses: (improbable chronicle figures): Yorkist: c.10,000; Lancastrian: c.20,000

Grid Reference: SE482384 (448237,438420)
OS Landranger map: 105
OS Explorer map: 290

 

Battlefields Trust local contact:

     Dave Cooke
     Telephone: 01226 733080 or  07803 945217
     Email:  david.cooke@fleetsoftware.co.uk

 

More information on Towton battlefield on the web pages of the Towton Battlefield Society CLICK HERE

English Heritage Battlefields Register report CLICK HERE


2004 The Battlefields Trust.
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