In the 7th century Northumbria was all but at war with Wales. The Welsh King Cadwallon, who was advancing on Northumbria, destroying all in his path, was met by Oswald and a Northumbrian army.They met on a small plateau near to Hexham and not far from Chollerford. 'Heavenfield'. Oswald is said to have made and presented to his men a wooden cross, which they all prayed to before the battle. The battle went well for the Northumbrian's.The Welsh King and most of his army were slaughtered and driven back for good. St. Oswald's chapel was built on the site and rebuilt in 1737 and is still standing. The battle signified the complete conversion of Northumbria to Celtic Christianity.
After 1066 the Normans made their way North. At York the Bishop of Durham and several Earl's swore allegiance. Others however did not swear allegiance and several mass murders took place. Comyn (Comine) marched his Norman soldiers into Durham City where he settled. On hearing of Comyn's arrival several thousand men were mustered from all around Durham and Northumberland. The combined forces attacked the Normans and many including Comine were killed. William himself hearing of the defeat travelled North and virtually without remorse destroyed and slaughtered everyone and everything in his path.
Walk in the City
All resistance destroyed, William placed Walcher in charge. Making him the first of The Prince Bishops. Walcher made the people suffer until finally they could not tolerate the persecution. After murdering a Saxon noble the people asked to be able to make peaceful representations. Several hundred attended a meeting at Gateshead. The bishop refused to listen to them. Several of the peoples representatives asked to speak in private with the bishop. On doing so they immediately killed him! The men then went south as far as Durham where they attacked the Normans based in the Fort. The Normans held out for 4 days until the Northumbrians gave up their fight and dispersed.
Walk in the Town
In 1093 King Malcolm travelled south into Northumberland, seeking vengeance for treatment at the court of William Rufus. His armies murdered and stole as they progressed. In the late autumn his army was camped 1 mile north of Alnwick. The defence and the stopping of Malcolm was left to the keeper of Bamburgh Castle Robert de Mowbray. The Scottish armies far out numbered Mowbray's men and had he fought them in open battle he surely would have been defeated. The Scottish having no fear of Mowbray were therefore driven into mass confusion when Mobray surprisingly attacked the massive Scottish army. Malcolm was killed and his army defeated. Two northern land marks were left as a result, one being at the spot where Malcolm was killed,1/2 mile north of Alnwick 'Malcomswell'(a spring and nearby cross). The other Hammund's Ford a nearby Ford named after Hammund the person who killed Malcolm.
In 1172 King Henry II ruled England. His son obsessed with taking the throne persuaded King William of Scotland to join him in an attempt to overthrow the English monarch. In 1174 massive Scottish army of over 100,000 men crossed the border into Northumberland. The army splitting, swept all over the land in different directions stealing and pillaging as they progressed. They met little resistance until a large force who had failed to take Prudhoe castle turned to Alnwick after destroying most of the villages en route. William and a group of knight's were camped outside of the town awaiting the regrouping of the remainder of the Scottish Force. Unknown to them around 100 knights had left Newcastle and without warning attacked. A brief struggle ensued and William was taken prisoner.
In 1346 King David of Scotland an ally of France invaded England. Crossing over into England via the Cumberland border he swept into Northumberland pillaging all in his path. Taking Hexham he advanced into Durham stopping 3 miles west of the city at an area now known as Bear Park. Although taken by surprise the Northern Nobles gathered a substantial army together to confront David. In October that army of 15,000 were camped near to Bishop Auckland in an area called Auckland Park. They then on searching for the Scottish met a small party of scouts near to Merrington. Engaging them at Ferryhill they forced them North to Sunderland Bridge. The English now ready for full battle engaged the full Scottish army on 'red hills' near to the rivers Browney, Wear and Dearness in an area now known as 'Neville's Cross'. After fierce fighting the Scottish were said to have been slaughtered and their King, David captured (later released). One of the English commanders Lord Neville, (and this is disputed!), is said to have paid for a cross to be built at the site of the battle...Neville's Cross...to thank God for the victory.
Walk the Battlefield
In 1461 England was split by the 'Wars of the Rose's'. Red Rose of Lancashire (Henry VI) : White of Yorkshire (Edward IV). At that time in Northumberland, Lancastrians held Castles at Hexham, Bywell, Langley, Alnwick, Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh. In 1464 at The Battle of Hedgley Moor near Wooler in Northumberland, Sir Ralph Percy a Lancastrian supporter, and son of The Duke of Northumberland was killed fighting a superior Yorkshire army. On hearing of the defeat Henry moved the majority of his troops to Hexham. At the same time Lord Montague (Yorkist) left Newcastle with an army in pursuit of Henry. Henry immediately left his men in the command of Lords Somerset and Tailbois to meet their fate. Both armies met at Devil's Water, a stream at Dilston near to Corbridge. The skirmish/fight (no real Battle took place) saw Henry's Lancastrians defeated for the last time. Henry was later captured in Lancashire. Somerset, Tailbois, and most of the Lancastrian leaders were immediately, or soon after the battle, executed.
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Flodden was the last 'major' battle fought between the English and Scottish on English soil. It was fought between James IV of Scotland and Howard Earl of Surrey (King Henry was in France)In August of that year James crossed the border into England with an Army of over 100,000 men to avenge the death of a Scottish Warden of the Marches, (English/Scottish border areas). The real reason was that he had been paid to invade by the Queen of France. Border castles were quickly taken as far as Ford Castle where near to Flodden Hill, James made camp to rest his men.When news of the Scottish force reached Newcastle, Howard gathered 50.000 troops and advanced toward Alnwick. James refused to be drawn into battle at Alnwick forcing Howard to move to an area near to Flodden. Several thousand Scots. deserted leaving the armies equal in numbers. However the Scottish army was rested and well fed; on the other hand the English were weak through rapid advancement, poor weather and lack of food. On 9th September the battle began with several hundred English volunteers deserting. The battle continued with equal ferocity from both sides, until the superior English bowmen delivered slaughtering blows killing thousands of Scottish including their King. Although the battle continued into the next day the death of their King and the mass slaughter of their fellows led the Scots to surrender.
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In Aug.1640 a Scottish army of 30,000 men, led by General Leslie crossed into England. The army was mainly made up of the religious group known as Covenanters, who were opposed to the English King Charles 1st.They quickly swept through Northumberland unopposed making camp on the high ground next to Newburn parish church overlooking the River Tyne. The main English forces at that time were further south at York. Until they could get there the task of preventing the Scottish advance was left to the small group of 'Royalist' English soldiers based at nearby Newcastle. Out numbered 10-1 the English sparsely positioned themselves along the south-side of the Tyne River facing the Scottish.The Scottish, far superior in numbers, and on an excellent vantage point were ready for battle. The battle began when a Scottish soldier was shot dead whilst watering his horse at the river. Scottish canons opened up and soon after the Scots crossed the Tyne and the English fled back to Newcastle.At Newcastle it was decided that the English troops abandon the city. All its stores and provisions were left to the advancing Scottish. This was a major blow to Charles 1st, with Northumberland and Durham now in the hands of the pro parliamentarian Scottish.
Civil war reigned in England; Royalist's under Charles and Parliamentarians with Scottish support, under Cromwell.
In 1644 a Scottish army of over 20,000 under the command of Lord Leven arrived at the 'locked' gates of the Town expecting to walk in as they had done in 1640. They were met by Mayor John Marley, 800 remaining Royalist soldiers and 900 Townsfolk. The main body of the Town's soldiers had been called south to Marston Moor to assist Charles in battle. Leaving the Town surrounded, Leven took the rest of his men south chasing any remaining Loyalists left in Durham into Yorkshire.
Although historian's praise the bravery of the Royalist soldiers of Northumberland who fought; Marston Moor was a crushing defeat for Charles.
After the battle Leven returned to Newcastle where he was joined by reinforcements. The Town was surrounded and totally cut off. The Scots having constantly bombarded the Town with canon, began to lay mines about the walls. Morale inside the walls was gradually wearing thin through starvation hunger and loss of men. The Scottish were unrelenting in their attack however, knowing that morale was gradually wearing thin, they constantly maintained contact with the besieged attempting to attain a peaceful surrender. Leaflets were sent into the town offering an honourable surrender and the preservation of the Town. The actual taking of the Town was inevitable, which depended upon how long the character and determination of the mayor could hold the entrapped starving townsfolk together.
The leaflets failed and shortly after, Leven threatened to destroy the spire of St. Nicholas's Church. Marley responded by placing several Scottish prisoners in the spire of the Church and sending Leven a letter asking where he was. The letter also asked why he was attacking the people of Newcastle, who never done him any wrong.
Leven was not impressed, the next morning mines were activated all around the walls and the heaviest bombardment to date began. The walls were breached in several places and the defenders fought in hand to hand combat.
The Town walls were breached at Close Gate, White Tower and Westgate, the Scottish took the Town. The normal plundering by victors after a battle was minimal, an air of respect was felt and the Scots only took what was necessary to maintain their own welfare. Marley was found and placed in the castle dungeon, from which he escaped.
Charles hearing of the brave defence of the Town gave the Town its motto
Fortiter Defendit Triumphans.
(Triumphing by a brave defence)