UK Battlefields - The UK Battlefields Trust Resource Centre - Sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Hartnett Trust
Home Page Printer Friendly Help Site Map Search for a Battle
   
You are currently here 
 
   
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
Looking south west along the former main road from Newark to Nottingham, now just a lane, running south west from the end of Church Lane. On the right are the former meadows and marshes on the floodplain of the Trent. On the left, is Stoek Wood, on the steep scarp up onto the hilltop where the rebel army is thought to have deployed.
 
You can click on the image below to view a larger version of the image
Click on this image to enlarge
The lane running out of Church Lane along the bottom of the steep scarp beside the floodplain of the Trent.
Long Walk

A 5 mile (8km) walk over easy terrain on metalled roads, unmetalled lanes and other public rights of way, in several places running through arable fields. There is only one short steep ascent, that out of the Trent valley along the Trent Lane.

First visit the church. The battlefield monument is set against the outside south wall of the tower. There is the usual spurious tradition, reported by Clarke (1993), that the battered stonework at the church entrance is due to the sharpening of swords prior to the battle. Inside the church, in the base of the tower, the 1987 interpretation panels are on display (The tower door is not normally locked but just stiff).

Leaving the churchyard and turn right down the lane, which then bears to the left when it appears out of the deep hollow way and onto the edge of the floodplain of the river Trent. In the 17th century this was the main road from Newark to Nottingham as it may also have been in the 15th century. However it was not along this road that either army advanced to the battlefield. The heavily wooded steep scarp on the left, rising up on to the hilltop, would have made any troop movement along this route highly vulnerable. In early May there are bluebells here, but this is not a firm indicator of ancient woodland and it is possible that this woodland did not exist in the 15th century.

On the right the flat pastures and arable fields of the floodplain, which were enclosed in the 18th century, will have been meadow and marshland at the time of the battle. Earthwork evidence of ancient river channels can be seen running through this area on the 1940s aerial photographs and close to the road in the field one such feature can still be traced, running parallel to the lane. Various authors suggest that the rebel army crossed the Trent at the Fiskerton ford, at the far end of the meadow, and crossed this ground into Stoke. The route of the medieval road has gone, replaced by the straight modern lane which you will encounter a little further on. It seems unlikely, though not impossible, that the rebels would have made such a potentially hazardous crossing of the Trent when within just a few miles of the enemy. Molinet, the 15th century chronicler, actually states that the rebel army crossed at Newark and marched to Stoke along the Foss Way, a much more plausible approach for a major army. It is perhaps more likely that some of the routed rebel troops, fleeing down the Red Gutter, attempted to escape across the Trent by this route.

A little further on the lane to the former Fiskerton ford and ferry turns off to the right. It is possible to walk to this former crossing of the Trent, but it is a 1.5 mile round trip and given the uncertainty about its significance in the battle this is not recommended. Continue another 250 yards and the opening of Red Gutter can be seen on the left. This narrow gulley is not now publicly accessible, but it gives relatively easy access to the hilltop, compared to the steep slopes elsewhere. It is claimed that some fleeing rebel troops used this route to escape from the battlefield.

Continue across the field and then alongside the Trent until, soon after the stile, you meet the Trent Lane, close to Hazelford Lock. The footpath continues along the riverside to the site of the Hazelford, where the main road used to cross the river, however it is more than a mile round trip. Instead, turn left up the slope along the Trent Lane and up onto the hilltop. This is one of a number of lanes which led from the villages on the east side of the hills down to the river Trent. While the floodplain of the Trent was meadow, this higher ground in the distant parts of the parishes, particularly on the steep slopes, was in part at least open common before enclosure. The rest of the land here will have been under arable open field furlongs, with few if any hedgerows in 1487.


Just under half a mile from the river, on the fairly level hilltop, the Trent Lane makes a sharp turn to the right. This is the point where the Old Foss, possibly the other major road to Nottingham in 1487, used to run. Its alignment was roughly on the line of the hedgerows on either side of the lane. It continued from here to eventually pass through the village of Radcliffe, where Henry’s army quartered the night before the battle, then on to Nottingham. This may have been the route by which all or part of the royal army marched to engage the rebels. One possible interpretation would place the royal army deployment running parallel to the Trent Lane to your right, from the scarp edge where you left the Trent valley right down to and across the Foss Way (the modern A64) in the valley in front of you. The rebel army would then have been on the slightly higher grounds on the left, again deployed parallel to the lane.

Continue along the lane to the junction with the Fosse Road (the former A46). This is the Roman road known as the Foss Way. It is the route along which most authors claim the royal army advanced. Some interpretations of the battle place the royal army deployment in a roughly east – west direction across this area, facing a rebel deployment on the hilltop. According to this interpretation the rebel army then advanced down the hill to engage in the fields to the north of your position.

There is no footpath alongside the Fosse Road, but since the opening of the new A46 it is not too busy and can be walked along with care. Alternatively and for the full 5 mile walk cross over the road, with care, and continue to Elston. As you enter the village turn left and then left again back onto the road towards Stoke. Beyond Mill House, 800 yards out of the village, is the site of the Willow Rundle. It was a small stream that crossed the road, though there is nothing to be seen here today. Tradition records this as a location where one of the soldiers fell, telling his companions that if he died there then a spring would always run from this site. Sadly the spring no longer appears to survive. The action may indeed have extended into this area, for Burne’s deployment for the rebel army would place it on the slightly rising ground to the south west and thus here we would be in the direct line of the flight of rebel troops.

Ideally one would take the footpath on the right across the fields to pass by the Old Vicarage, where a mass grave was reported as being found in the early 19th century. However when we visited the entrance to the path appeared to be blocked, therefore continue on to the junction with the Fosse Road and turn right. On the right you pass the access to the Old Vicarage, with its 19th century reports of a mass grave. On the opposite side of the Fosee Road, when the road was widened some years ago, another mass grave was found. Yet other mass graves are reported further to the north west. All lie on the south western edge of the former gardens and hedged enclosures of East Stoke village. All the ground to the south west of here, where the action was fought, was almost certainly open field or common and lacked any hedgerows in 1487. If these graves prove to be related to the battle, then it is likely that many of the routed rebel troops were caught and dispatched by the pursuing royal forces as they tried to funnel between the enclosures where the roads passed through the village.

At the crossroads in the village cross the Fosse Road, with care, and walk along Church Lane. After about 200 yards take the lane on the left, now known as Humber Lane. This may have been the other main route to Nottingham in the 15th century, known as the Old Foss. As the lane leaves the village it becomes a deep hollow way, reflecting many centuries of use. The first gateway on the left hand side (300 yards from Church Lane) gives a view across the small pasture field of ridge and furrow and settlement remains. Two of the mass graves previously mentioned were found south western edge of the field. Continue up the lane. You have now passed out once more into what was open field in 1487. The lane rises gently towards the hilltop, reflecting the very gentle nature of all the slopes on the battlefield except those dropping down into the Trent valley. From the top of the lane you can see in front of you the summit of the hill, where Henry is said to have raised his standard after the victory. The monument that marks the site of the Burrand Bush, which had been planted where Henry raised the standard, lies nearby but is not accessible. Burne placed the rebel army’s initial deployment on the hilltop facing south westward and the action beyond that, where we walked along the Trent Lane. Some other authors argue for a rebel deployment roughly along the line of the Humber Lane, where you are standing, with the royal army deploying on the lower ground across the Foss Way (A46) to the south. If that is correct then from here you have a clear view of across the heart of the battlefield. Whichever interpretation is correct, some of the routed rebel troops must have fled through this location to the Red Gutter, which is 500 yards to the north west. Many more probably fled towards East Stoke, in the direction you must now return, many ending up in the mass graves adjacent to the village.

Retrace your steps to Church Lane and turn left to return to the parking area. Past the last house and you have the brick boundary wall to Stoke Hall Park on your right and on your left pasture fields. In the 18th century this was still part of the village but the houses were probably removed when the landscape park was developed. The earthworks of the former houses and gardens can be clearly seen in this field on the left. The other mass grave, reported in the early 19th century, probably lay somewhere in the field on the last field on the left just before you pass under the bridge.

 

   
Printer Friendly VersionClose Window