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Discover Yorkshire’s Battlefields

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Welcome to Yorkshire, a county steeped in history and alive with passion. The length and breadth of our wonderful county is adorned with historic palaces and castles, bloody battlefields, romantic retreats and country homes – all of which have played key parts in creating Yorkshire’s rich history. With more than 90 sites in Yorkshire, they are the source of legends, conjuring up tales of bravery, heroism and adventure. They helped shaped the very county in which we live, visit and love. They are Yorkshire’s battlefields. Welcome to our new guide, celebrating these historic sites. We now invite you to discover more and create your own history!

Gary Verity Chief Executive Welcome to Yorkshire

York Archaeological Trust Chris Tuckley is Acting Head of Interpretation at York Archaeological Trust, with responsibility for the JORVIK, DIG, Barley Hall and Micklegate Bar attractions. He has recently completed work on a new exhibition at Micklegate Bar to mark the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Towton. He was awarded a PhD by the Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds, in 2009.

Discover Yorkshire’s Battlefields O Viking Battle of Fulford, 20th September 1066 In September 1066 the Norwegian king Harald Hardrada sailed up the Ouse with an invasion force of 300 ships. Accompanying him was Tostig, the exiled Earl of Northumbria and brother of the English king, Harold Godwinson. They encountered an army led by Earls Edwin and Morcar a mile and a half south of York’s walls, in an area of open fields and marshland. The battle itself is thought to have been short, with the English troops driven back to flee towards the city, or to drown in the Ouse. York surrendered and an agreement was reached whereby the Vikings would receive hostages and tribute at Stamford Bridge.

O Viking Battle of Stamford Bridge, 25th September 1066 King Harold of England was preparing the south for an anticipated invasion by Duke William of Normandy when news reached him of Hardrada’s invasion. Turning at once to the north, he marched his army day and night, arriving at Stamford Bridge with such suddenness that the Vikings were taken completely by surprise. Both Hardrada and the rebel Tostig were slain in the battle that followed. The Viking army was decimated, but survivors were allowed to return to Norway on condition that they never return. Stamford Bridge was a victory for King Harold and marked the end of the Viking Age in England, but the toll that it took on the English army may have contributed to its defeat at the Battle of Hastings less than three weeks later.

Dr Chris Tuckley Acting Head of Interpretation, JORVIK, DIG, Barley Hall, Micklegate Bar Museum


O Viking Clifford’s Tower and Baile Hill, York September 1069 Two motte and bailey castles were built in York by William the Conqueror in 1068-9 to enforce his rule in the region. In September 1069, King Swein of Denmark sent a fleet up the Humber, and the Northumbrians rose in revolt against their Norman overlords. The garrison was overwhelmed, and the castles captured and dismantled. William returned to re-establish control in a massacre of the northern people remembered as the ‘Harrying of the North’. The stone keep known as Clifford’s Tower was built between 1245 and 1272. It takes its name from the rebel Roger de Clifford, whose body was gibbeted there following his execution for his role in the Battle of Boroughbridge. During the Civil War, York Castle was garrisoned by Royalist troops, suffering damage during the siege of York in 1644.

O The Anarchy Battle of the Standard, Northallerton 22nd August 1138 One of only two major battles fought during the civil war known as ‘The Anarchy’. King David I of Scotland supported his niece Matilda in her claim to the English throne, but when he marched into Yorkshire with his son, Henry, he found his way barred by an army raised by Thurstan, Archbishop of York. This army carried at its head a pole (or ‘standard’) on which were mounted sacred artefacts and symbols. The Scottish attack met with a storm of English arrows, which felled them in great numbers. Even a successful cavalry charge by Prince Henry did not prevent a bloody rout. The mass burials of horses and men which followed the battle are recalled in the name of a local trackway, Scot Pits Lane.

O The Anarchy Malton Castle, August 1138 Details of the siege laid here by Archbishop Thurstan’s army after the Battle of the Standard are scarce; it seems that Eustace Fitzjohn, who held the castle at Malton at that time, had taken the side of Matilda and King David I of Scotland. He reportedly intended to deliver the castle up to David, and had given his men instructions to raid the surrounding villages. A portion of Thurstan’s army besieged the castle on their return from the Battle of the Standard and burned the town. Nothing of Fitzjohn’s castle now remains, but a steep earthen bank that falls away towards Castlegate and fragments of later stone walls are still visible. 2

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O Scottish Wars of Independence Myton-on-Swale, Battle of Myton 20th September 1319 Encouraged by recent victories over the armies of the English king (as at Bannockburn in 1314), the Scots made ever bolder inroads into Yorkshire. One raiding party menaced York; with the king occupied elsewhere, the Archbishop took charge of a rapidly assembled force that went to halt its progress. Much of the manpower was recruited from York’s religious houses, and the garments of the churchmen led to the ensuing engagement being dubbed ‘The White Battle’. After crossing over the River Swale at Myton, the inexperienced English troops were confronted by the Scots, who had set fire to three haystacks, producing smoke that screened them from view. The English began to flee, but were cut off from the bridge. Many drowned in the Swale. The Lord Mayor of York was one of those who perished.

O Scottish Wars of Independence

O Wars of the Roses

Battle of Boroughbridge, 16th March 1322

Battle of Towton, 29th March 1461

When the rebellious Thomas Earl of Lancaster reached Boroughbridge, fleeing as the king pursued him from the south, he found the bridge on the Ure held for the king by Sir Andrew de Harcla. Harcla refused to negotiate with Lancaster, whose army tried to force a crossing on foot, only to be repelled by pikemen and archers. Lancaster’s cavalry headed towards a ford further along the river, but the horsemen were halted by a storm of arrows. A truce was made, and during the night Harcla’s troops were reinforced by the Sheriff of Yorkshire. The next morning Lancaster was called on to surrender. Captured and taken to York, he was executed at Pontefract Castle on 22nd March.

On Palm Sunday 1461, the Yorkist army of Edward IV fought with an army loyal to Henry VI at Towton; the battle left a reported 28,000 dead. Although the Lancastrian army occupied an advantageous position at the outset, it found itself facing into the wind and blinded by a snowstorm. Its arrows fell short, whereas those of the Yorkist archers proved lethal. Forced into advancing, the Lancastrian infantry pushed forward, and hand-to-hand combat is said to have lasted for hours until fresh Yorkist troops arrived on the field. The Lancastrian retreat became a bloody rout, with many drowning in the Cock Beck as they tried to escape. Amongst the Lancastrian dead was Henry Percy, the Third Earl of Northumberland. After the battle, when Edward rescued the heads of his father (Duke Richard) and brother (the Earl of Rutland) from Micklegate Bar, he had them replaced with those of Lancastrian captives.

O Wars of the Roses Battle of Bramham Moor, 19th February 1408 Henry Percy, the First Earl of Northumberland, was in open rebellion against King Henry IV. He returned from exile in 1408, accompanied by Lord Bardolf, The Abbot of Hailes and the Bishop of Bangor, at the head of an army of loyal Northumbrians and lowland Scots. A force led by Sir Thomas Rokeby, the Sheriff of Yorkshire, barred their way at the river crossings in Knaresborough and Tadcaster. The rebels withdrew to Bramham Moor; by agreement between the two parties, it was decided that battle should take place there. The sheriff fought under a flag of St George. The brief engagement resulted in the death of the Earl, whose body was stripped and beheaded. Bardolf died of his wounds soon after. The king came to York to pass judgement on the rebels; the bishop received a pardon, but the abbot was hanged.

O Wars of the Roses York City Walls, York

Sandal Castle, 30th December 1460

As York’s most important gateway, Micklegate Bar is traditionally the point at which kings and queens of England enter when visiting the city. It is also the place where the heads of traitors were displayed. Tradition has it that the head of Henry Percy (Harry Hotspur), whose father later perished at Bramham Moor, was displayed on the Bar after his death in battle in 1403. Micklegate Bar also witnessed the surrender of the city to the forces of Parliament on 16th July 1644, following a long siege and the Battle of Marston Moor. Damage from the siege can still be seen, most notably at Walmgate Bar and St Mary’s Tower, Marygate; the latter was undermined and destroyed in an unsuccessful attempt to breach the city’s defences.

In 1317, Thomas Earl of Lancaster besieged this castle, and in 1460 it provided a base for Richard Duke of York and his army prior to the Battle of Wakefield. Richard’s Lancastrian enemies were raiding his estates from their base at Pontefract, and he and the Earls of Rutland and Salisbury had travelled north to deal with the problem. The ensuing battle is supposed to have been between the castle and Wakefield town, a monument erected on Manygates Lane in 1897 is said to mark the spot where the Duke fell. Rutland and Salisbury also perished, the severed heads of all three were spiked on York’s city walls. The castle was garrisoned by Royalists during the English Civil War, putting up stiff resistance against besieging Parliamentarians. After Pontefract Castle had fallen a full siege was laid, reducing its walls to rubble.

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O Wars of the Roses


O English Civil War Battle of Tadcaster, 7th December 1642 In December 1642 the Earl of Newcastle’s Royalist forces moved to attack Lord Fairfax’s army at Tadcaster. Fairfax determined that Tadcaster was not defensible, and ordered that its bridge be dismantled to prevent the Royalist forces crossing into the town on the west bank. He began to withdraw, leaving musketeers manning an earthwork to the east of the bridge, but the Royalists closed on the Parliamentarian rearguard so quickly that men had to return to support them. The Royalists fell back to shelter behind hedges nearby, and the armies exchanged fire until nightfall. Under the cover of night, the Parliamentarians withdrew, and on the following morning the Royalist army occupied the town. Although the Royalists now held a key strategic position, they had suffered numerous casualties.

O English Civil War Battle of Adwalton Moor, 30th June 1643 Lord Fairfax was stationed with his army in Bradford as the Earl of Newcastle drew near; he decided that the town could not be held against artillery, and determined to launch a surprise attack on the enemy camp three miles off. Newcastle’s army was already on the march, however, and the two armies collided at Adwalton Moor. The Parliamentarians were forced to advance uphill, harassed as they went by musketeers amongst the hedgerows and houses. The considerable firepower of Fairfax’s army kept the Royalists at bay, halting two cavalry charges. For a time it seemed that Newcastle would sound a retreat, but one Colonel Posthumous Kirton led a company of pikemen in a desperate charge that broke in amongst the Parliamentarian musketeers. Encouraged by this display of courage, there was a general advance which forced the main body of Fairfax’s army into a retreat.


English Civil War

Battle of Marston Moor, 2nd July 1644 One stormy summer evening, five armies met in the fields between Long Marston and Tockwith. Forces commanded by Prince Rupert of the Rhine and the Earl of Newcastle represented the Royalist cause; those of the Earl of Manchester and of Lords Leven and Fairfax fought for the Parliamentarians. The engagement began at around 7pm, when the Parliamentarians suddenly advanced on the Royalist camp, surprising the enemy at supper. The Royalists had some success at the eastern end of the battlefield, when a counter-charge repelled a 4

cavalry attack and exposed the enemy infantry, but this advantage was squandered when Royalist horsemen left the battlefield to chase fleeing soldiers or to target the enemy’s baggage. The western flank of the Royalist line was routed by cavalry under Oliver Cromwell and David Leslie, and the Royalist horsemen failed to regroup to any effect. The infantry which remained was left helpless in the face of repeated cavalry charges. Newcastle’s Whitecoats refused to give in as they fought on into the night. They gathered in a ditched enclosure, only surrendering when just 30 were left standing, surrounded by the bodies of 3,000 of their comrades.

O English Civil War Pontefract Castle, 1644–1648 Following the Battle of Marston Moor and the Siege of York, the Royalist cause in Yorkshire was all but finished. Five garrisons held out for the king; these were at Skipton, Bolton, Sandal, Scarborough and Pontefract castles. Pontefract was reputedly the mightiest. A detachment of Royalists held All Saints Church below the castle, but heavy bombardment forced them to escape from the tower by means of a bell rope. The garrison refused to parley, even when a tower collapsed under cannon fire, and they held out until the Royalist general Marmaduke Langdale arrived to relieve them. The besiegers were driven off, but returned in March 1645. The famished garrison eventually surrendered on 20th July. The castle was briefly recovered in 1648, only to be besieged again in the autumn of that year; Oliver Cromwell himself conducted the siege for a time. On the execution of Charles I, the garrison declared for his son, and remained a dogged presence until finally surrendering on 25th March 1649.

O English Civil War Scarborough Castle, 1645 Although loyal to the king, Scarborough was only loosely blockaded until February 1645, when the town and St Mary’s Church were taken by assault, the governor, Sir Hugh Cholmley, retreated into the castle. Over the following months, the opposing forces in the castle and church exchanged fire, until a major attack was launched by the besiegers on 17th May, during which their commander, Sir John Meldrum, was mortally wounded. When the bombardment was renewed, the fortifications were gradually ruined, and the troops inside the castle were worn down by scurvy and lack of water. Having defended the fortress for over twelve months, Sir Hugh surrendered it on honourable terms.

Š Royal Armouries

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Skipton Castle Re-enactment

Adwalton Moor

Š Royal Armouries

Scarborough Castle

Š Royal Armouries

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Clifford's Tower, York

10 inspirational ways to get to know orkshire Heritage Yorkshire’s heritage includes magnificent ruins and imposing castles. The world famous York Minster towers over the historic city and you can visit Jorvik and experience Viking life! Imagine life as Lord and Lady of the Manor and discover Yorkshire’s many stately homes.

City Life Yorkshire cities such as Leeds and Sheffield offer everything from café culture to clubs, brasseries to ballet and gardens to galleries. You will find some of the best shopping opportunities around from Harvey Nichols to the famous historic Leeds market – you’ll be spoilt for choice!

Delicious Yorkshire’s famed food and drink can be found in abundant quality across the county’s numerous markets, farm shops and restaurants. From Michelin to madras, rhubarb to real ale, cheese to Yorkshire Pudding, Yorkshire is simply delicious! Indulgence Have an indulgent visit to Yorkshire and treat yourself to something special, unusual or downright decadent. Spend an afternoon in the historic Harrogate Turkish Baths followed by a night at a gorgeous country house hotel and dinner at one of Yorkshire’s five Michelin starred restaurants.

Artistic Yorkshire art comprises acclaimed theatre companies, ballet, classical music and modern galleries. Combine the visual delights of Yorkshire’s landscape with the best of outdoor sculpture and visit the world renowned Yorkshire Sculpture Park or the striking, modern Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield.

Yorkshire has it all: seven vibrant cities, three National Parks, miles of golden beaches, two UNESCO World Heritage sites and the world’s only UNESCO City of Film, exciting contemporary and historical attractions, a full calendar of international events, and more Michelin starred restaurants than any other area outside of London.

The Great Outdoors Yorkshire is famous for its countryside – the rolling hills, moors and dales. The National Parks of the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and the Peak District are perfect for walking holidays and the stunning coastline has some of the most popular seaside resorts in the UK.

Sport Yorkshire is passionate about sport and is home to Yorkshire County Cricket Club and many top football and rugby teams. The county is also a perfect place for all outdoor enthusiasts. From the best cross country mountain bike track in the world at Dalby and surfing at Scarborough, to the county’s nine top class race courses.

Family Fun There’s fun for all the family in Yorkshire. Why not step back in time and hop aboard one of our steam trains. Whether it’s the great outdoors, hands-on museums, the adrenalin rush of high ropes and zip wires, bike trails or just having fun on the beach, Yorkshire is perfect for families. Events and Festivals Yorkshire events cover a multitude of themes. For festivals, there is food and drink in the Dales and York, famous ales in Masham and of course many farmers’ markets. Music festivals cover everything from Early Music (Beverley) to rock at the Leeds Festival. Yorkshire Coast The Yorkshire coastline encompasses some of the UK’s most rugged and charming countryside, from tiny fishing villages clinging to rocky cliffs to glorious stretches of white sand and family friendly seaside resorts, with everything from windswept abbeys to the county’s award winning fish and chips. You can expect Blue Flag beaches and a chance to lose yourself in this naturally beautiful destination.

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Getting here

Yorkshire by sea Ferry services to Hull and Newcastle link Yorkshire with Holland, Belgium and Germany. P&O Ferries operate overnight services to Hull from Rotterdam and Zeebrugge. Yorkshire by road Britain’s biggest and fastest highways cross Yorkshire from north to south and east to west, making getting here by car or by coach very simple indeed. For details of the quickest (or the most scenic) driving routes see the AA or RAC websites and 10










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BRADFORD 86 Leeds-Bradford International Airport is our busiest air gateway, with flights from Aberdeen, Belfast, Bristol, Exeter, Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Isle of Man, London Gatwick, Newquay, Plymouth and Southampton. You can also fly to Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield, Humberside Airport and Durham Tees Valley Airport. For more information go to


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You can get to Yorkshire by high-speed train from London or Edinburgh in less than two hours with Grand Central and East Coast services. The Midlands is even nearer to Yorkshire’s cities, while TransPennine services offer direct links from the North West and the North East.

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Ebberston and King Alfrid’s Cave Ripon Cathedral Fulford Clifford’s Tower and Baile Hill St. Andrew’s Church, Middleton Standard Hill, Northallerton Pickering Castle Sheriff Hutton Fountains Abbey Malton Castle Boroughbridge Myton Scotch Corner, Sutton Bank Byland Abbey Rievaulx Abbey St. Gregory's Church, Bedale Church of All Saints and Saint James, Nunnington St. Oswald’s Church, East Harlsey St. Helen’s Church, Amotherby St. Hilda’s Church, Ampleforth St. Mary’s Church, Kirkby Fleetham St. Nicholas Church, Guisborough All Saints Church, Ingleby Arncliffe St. Nicholas Church, West Tanfield St. Mary’s Abbey Franciscan Friary and York City Walls Towton All Saints Churchyard, Saxton Bootham Bar Spofforth Castle Heworth Moor Micklegate Bar Tadcaster Selby Walmgate Bar and St. Lawrence’s Church

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St. Mary's Tower Helmsley Castle Knaresborough Castle Scarborough Castle and St. Mary's Church Bolton Castle Sherburn Skipton Castle Topcliffe Northallerton Marston Moor Cawood Castle Newburgh Priory Old Mulgrave Castle Walburn Hall All Saints Church, Bolton Percy All Saints Church, Wath St. Michael's Church, Coxwold St. James's Church, Bilbrough York Minster All Hallows Church, Sutton-on-the-Forest Flamborough Head Scarborough Whitby Abbey Guildhall and St. Martinle-Grand

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St. Mary's Church, Little Driffield Stamford Bridge St. Martin's Church, Burton Agnes Beverley Minster Beverley Gate, Hull Bridlington Beverley Fort Airmyn St. Mary's Church, South Dalton National Picture Theatre, Hull St. Margaret’s Church, Hilston

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Castleford Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Thornhill Bramham Moor Duke of York Monument, Wakefield Chantry Chapel, Wakefield St. Oswald's Church, East Harlsey All Saint Church, Harwood Wetherby Bradford Leeds (and Royal Armouries) Wakefield Adwalton Moor and Oakwell Hall Bolling Hall Sandal Castle Pontefract Castle All Saints Churchyard, Pontefract Thornhill Hall Howley Hall

Please note that some of these sites are not visitor attractions; they include public parks, places of worship and even private dwellings or businesses. For further details (including information on opening times and access), please refer to We ask that visitors keep to public thoroughfares and respect the rights and responsibilities of local landowners, who safeguard these sites for future generations.

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Discover Yorkshire’s Battlefields

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Discover Yorkshire’s Battlefields  

The length and breadth of our wonderful county is adorned with historic palaces and castles, bloody battlefields, romantic retreats and coun...

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