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Looking north east towards Danesmoor Spinney, on the valley floor, from the north eastern slopes of Edgcote Hill.
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Danesmoor was probably the broad floor of the upper reaches of this valley a the south eastern edge of Edgcote parish.
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The Battlefield

In view of the problems concerning the location of the action at Edgcote, a far more detailed discussion of the battlefield is presented here than for most of the other battlefields on the website.

The location of the battle in the parish of Edgcote seems incontrovertible. Not only do certain contemporary sources describe it as the battle of Edgcote, one specifies it was fought on the land of a certain Clarell who, according to Baker, was at that time the lord of the manor of Edgcote. Several other late 16th century sources specify it as the battle of Danesmoor, which is known to lie in Edgcote parish.

Accurately locating the action within Edgcote parish is far more difficult. Haigh discusses the three main alternative locations and scenarios for the battle. However neither Haigh nor English Heritage attempted a detailed reconstruction of the historic terrain of the battlefield, though Haigh has used the various county maps and secondary works such as Baker and Beesley.

Research for the preparation of this website has also failed to identify any estate maps of the parish of Edgcote before the 19th century, with which to resolve the question. However consideration of the topographical evidence in the primary accounts of the battle does provide a basis for an interpretation, particularly the statement that the battle took place on Danesmoor. A moor, in this region at least, was typically an area of low lying land which was periodically wet and thus unsuitable for arable cultivation. It was not marshland, though sometimes moors might include small areas of marsh, as seen in the case of Redesmoor where the battle of Bosworth was fought.

Firstly it is clear, from D N Hall’s research, that Edgcote’s open field system was still functioning in 1469. The landscape of Edgcote was transformed in the 16th century, the open field being partly enclosed in 1502 and more between 1596-1625. Culworth was enclosed in 1612 but Chipping Warden not until 1733. None of these are however well documented and reconstruction of the medieval landscape here will pose considerable problems.

In order to identify Danesmoor, in the absence at least immediately of documentary evidence in the form of accurately located field or furlong names, one needs to locate a low lying are which was never cultivated in ridge and furrow.  Examination of the air photographic evidence for the parish as it was in the 1940s (see the images in the download area) reveals very extensive survival of ridge and furrow, the earthwork remains of the medieval open field system. There appear to be four areas lacking ridge and furrow in Edgcote. The first two can be dismissed as they represent the site of the medieval village of Edgcote, now deserted, and the meadow on the alluvial area along the floodplain of the river Cherwell, which is highly unlikely ever to have been described as moor. This leaves two areas. The first is on the top and the very steep north facing slopes of Edgcote Hill in the south of the parish, the wrong topographical location for the moor. The other is the floor of the valley at the south eastern edge of the parish. Here, in the upper part of a small side valley to the main Cherwell valley, there is one or possibly two areas of very flat valley floor which lacked ridge and furrow. Between them was a large block of ridge and furrow. This is a wide flat area on Upper Lias Clay and so will have been poorly draining, before modern drainage.

Danesmoor, the site of the battle, is described as Hegecote seu Danysmore in the 15th century. (Gover, 1933, The Placenames of Northamptonshire, p.34, quoting MS Tanner 2, f.104, Bodleian Library). On Eyare’s map in 1779 and 1791 it is described as Dunsmore. According to Gover the derivation of the name is obscure but certainly does not refer to Danes, though by tradition, recorded by Morton (p.542) and by Beesley (p.56) in the 18th and 19th centuries the moor gained its name as the place of a battle between Saxons and Danes in the 9th century. Eayre’s map of Northamptonshire in 1779 & 1791, followed by Bryant’s of 1826, both show Danesmoor as the area of the Cherwell valley in the north east part of the parish running up to Trafford bridge. This is also the area that described as Danesmoor by Beesley in 1841, who places it immediately to the west of Danesmoor Spinney. However the Northamptonshire county historian Baker, writing in 1822 (p.500), is very specific that ‘Danesmore (for so it was certainly called as long since as 1469) or Dunsmore (as the Countrey People now frequently call it) a pretty spacious Valley on the South of Edgecote…’. He also says that ‘The spot now called Danesmoor is a small plantation of a few acres, but the name at this period had doubtless a much more extended application.’ There is no land between the Cherwell and the spinney which would seem to accord with the description of moor, ridge and furrow apparently covering all this area between the meadow beside the Cherwell and Edgcote Hill. In contrast the upper reaches of the side valley, to the south of the spinney fits very well with the description of a moor.

When Hall describes the battle, he says there were three hills of different heights in an almost triangular configuration between which the battle was fought. Beesley’s interpretation of the location of the battle, followed by various later authors, led him to interpret Hall’s description of the three hills as Wardon Hill to the north of the Cherwell, Edgcote Hill immediately to the south west and that to the east as the hills in Culworth. These then lie on the three sides of the wide plain formed by the river Cherwell, though it does involve the distortion of the compass locations of the hills as described by Hall. However Hall’s description of the battle seems to imply that the hills were fairly close to each other. He certainly states that Pembroke was on the west hill, the rebels on the south and that the rebel reinforcements approach over the hill on the east, with the action being fought on the plain between the three hills.

The small valley identified by Baker as Danesmoor does indeed have three hills of different heights surrounding it. The floor of the valley is quite wide and would accord well with the plain described as lying between the three hills, where the action was fought. This has been the site of the battle as described by several authors, an interpretation considered but dismissed by Haigh, in favour of the site first described in detail by Beesley. If one reverts to the former site then all the accounts, slim though the topographical information may be, seem to fall into place. The hills are of different heights but form a very rough triangular area within which lies the spacious plain. The rebel troops coming late to the battle from Northampton would have approached, as the accounts say, over the eastern hill, along the route via Culworth from the Banbury Lane, the main route from Northampton to Banbury. On the south the hill initially occupied by the rebels lies close to the Banbury Lane, which seems quite likely to have been the approach of the rebels, who were certainly near Northampton when the first skirmishing of the campaign took place the day before the battle. Finally the western hill, where Pembroke’s forces were initially deployed, could have been approach from the west, via Wardington and the main road which leads from Banbury towards Daventry. This was a major route leading via Banbury, where we know Pembroke was the day before the battle, to the north east midlands where Nottingham was the Earl’s objective. Unfortunately the road pattern of the late medieval period is however still not well understood and, until it is, there will be problems interpreting the battle and particularly the advance of the armies to the battlefield. Although the Roman road system to the small town immediately to the east of Chipping Warden had almost certainly been long disused, the Welsh Lane may have been an important road since the late Saxon period, originally connecting the burhs of Buckingham and Warwick. The only early map for the area, of Chipping Warden in the 16th century unfortunately does not include any detail as to the road system or landscape of Edgcote.

The one topographical element that is difficult to associate with such an interpretation is that by Waurin, who says that the two armies camped on either side of a small stream or river the night before the battle. If one accepts this, and there are questions over the accuracy of Waurin’s topographical evidence, then it is difficult to identify where this might have been. It seems unlikely that the tiny stream in the valley of Danesmoor, running north into the Cherwell, was meant. Most authors favouring the Beesley interpretation of the battle have identified the stream as the Cherwell, with fighting taking place for the control of the crossing at Trafford bridge before the main action on the plain to the south. In this scenario the rebel force considered to have advanced to the battlefield along the Welsh Lane.

The issue will only be finally resolved, if at all, by detailed documentary analysis to confirm the exact location and extent of Danesmoor. This requires the detailed reconstruction of the open field system of Edgcote, the pattern of which can be recovered by archaeological study, as the air photographic evidence demonstrates. This will then need to be interpreted using documentary sources to recover the names for the furlongs and other topographical features, if the necessary documents survive. As the manor belonged to Thomas Cromwell in the 16th century and then was confiscated by the crown after his execution, it seems likely that the National Archives will contain some relevant material. Once this research has been completed then, given the success of the Towton survey, it seems likely that the confirmation of the exact location of the action could be achieved by an intensive, accurately mapped and systematic archaeological metal detecting survey.


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