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Local Conditions in 1408

 

 
 

The Battle of Bramham Moor - 1408

THE BATTLE

Learning of the approach of Lord Percy’s rebellious army, King Henry set off to meet them but Sir Thomas Rokeby, the High Sheriff of Yorkshire, did not wait for the King to arrive with his army but gathered together a force of local Yorkshire levies and noble retinues and blocked the river bridge at Knaresborough.
 Lord Percy’s army advanced via Boroughbridge and Wetherby, where he hoped to raise his tenants then, with Rokeby in pursuit, passed through Tadcaster (one of the Percy manors) before the two forces met on Bramham Moor (then an unenclosed common) a couple of miles to the south-west of Tadcaster, on Monday 19th February 1408. 
The exact sizes and compositions of the contending armies is not recorded but they were certainly far smaller than the thousands engaged at Shrewsbury three years earlier and little detail of the actual engagement survives.  It is likely that the action followed the course of many medieval battles where the armies and generals were evenly matched.  Lord Percy is said to have positioned his men carefully and awaited Rokeby’s arrival at 2.00 p.m. when battle was instantly joined and, though not long in duration, was said to be sharp, furious and bloody.
It is generally believed that the English longbow, the ultimate weapon of its day (as evidenced at Agincourt seven years later), thinned the rebel lines before the English charged the northern forces and violent hand-to-hand combat ensued in a huge melee, probably with little tactical direction. 
The battle, often referred to locally as Camp Hill, ranged over the area bounded by Camp Hill, Headley Hall and Oglethorpe Hills (the highest point of the Moor) either side of the road to Toulston.  The training of the loyalist yeomanry was probably a decisive factor against the rebels who were quickly defeated after Lord Bardolph was mortally wounded in the early stages - very few escaped back to Scotland. 
The Earl himself, at the age of 66, died in a rearguard action. 
Judging from the original site of the Percy memorial cross he is believed to have died in the small hollow that lies between Oglethorpe Hills and Old Wood some 250 metres to the north of, though hidden from, Toulston Lane, where he was either killed fighting or was captured and summarily executed. 
The earl’s head was cut off, fixed on a hedge stake, and carried with mock procession to London where it was set up on the bridge “as a monument to Divine justice” and the four parts of his torso were exposed at Newcastle, Berwick, York and Lincoln.  
 After his head and quarters had been displayed for several months, the Earl’s remains were buried at the right side of the high alter in York Minster beside the grave of his son, Hotspur, on 2nd July 1408. Bardolph’s head with one of his quarters was also sent to London. 
Sixteen others were beheaded and quartered and, when King Henry arrived in York, many more were condemned to death and many heavily fined.  A number of the unknown dead from the battlefield now lie in two communal graves at the east end of Bramham churchyard where the cherry trees stand today.
The fortunes of war are illustrated by the fates of the Abbot of Hailes and the Bishop of Bangor both of whom were with the rebel army.  The former, taken in complete armour, was executed whereas the bishop, not appearing in the vestments of war was spared. 
In the early years of the nineteenth century a ring and seal were found that were supposed to have belonged to one of these ecclesiastical warriors.

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