Problems of location

The accounts refer to Myton on Swale, the river Swale and a bridge. Given the Scottish advance was from the North West to Boroughbridge, it is normally assumed that the Scottish army will have been on the north of the river Ure and west of the Swale, taking the protection of the rivers rather than placing it dangerously across their line of retreat. However, given the presence of a major road, on the east side of the Swale in the 14th century, running north to Topcliffe and thus across the Pennines to Carlisle, the latter need not have been a problem. However, if they had been on the east side of the river then the English army marching north on that road, the shortest route from York, would not have had to cross a bridge to engage the Scots. This would only have been necessary if the English had taken the more circuitous and improbable route via Boroughbridge.

The English army’s approach, if along the road on the east of the river Ure, will have brought it within a mile or so of Myton. From here Myton bridge gave access across the river Swale, leading into Myton Pastures, which is the site of the battle according to local tradition recorded in the 19th century and is the best fit for the limited topographical evidence in the contemporary accounts.

However there are several problems in the detail of current interpretations. One is the short distance that exists between the presumed Scottish deployment and the probable site of the bridge from Myton. It is difficult to understand how the English forces could have been allowed to achieve an unopposed crossing of Myton bridge, which would have taken the thousands of troops involved a considerable time, if the Scottish army was really positioned just under a mile (almost 1.5 km) away to the north west. If they did not intentionally allow the English crossing then it is perhaps more likely that the English advance was, as the accounts say, an attempt to catch the Scottish forces by surprise.

It is then possible perhaps that the Scottish forces were camped and that their initial deployment and first stages of the action were played out further to the west than the site suggested by English Heritage. What does seem fairly certain is that the final action occurred on Myton Pasture, as the English forces fled back towards the bridge over the Swale. It is also here that the majority of the ‘execution’ of fleeing troops may be expected to have occurred.

The second problem is the reported burning of hayricks as a smokescreen by the Scottish forces. Hay will have been cut and stacked by the end of July and typically the hayricks will have been in or immediately adjacent to the settlements. Rarely there may have been rick places in the open fields, but never would they have been on the floodplain because of the danger of flooding, so they will certainly not have been on Myton Pastures. If the ricks were close by the settlements then this means Ellingthorpe, 1200 metres to the west of Coney Hill, or Humberton, 900 metres to the north west of Coney Hill, or perhaps the undated settlement remains 700 metres to the north west, at The Knowles.


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