Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Battle of Neville’s Cross (NZ260424)

© Copyright GordonGriffiths and licensed for 

This most famous of military encounters – perhaps the most notable in County Durham’s history – took place between the English and (of course) the Scots on 17th October 1346. On this occasion, it was the former who emerged victorious, placing the latter on the back foot for many years thereafter.

The battle took place during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. The French, keen to divert the enemy away from hostilities in the south, persuaded King David II of Scotland to open a second front – which he duly did (if a little late) in the autumn of 1346. In early October, he led 12,000 troops over the border and into the northern counties of England, expecting little in the way of opposition.

After a week or so of pillage, they arrived on the outskirts of Durham City on 16th October and camped at Bearpark, to the west. The English, however, had drawn together a military presence in the area, and, under the command of the likes of the Archbishop of York and the Lords Ralph Neville and Henry Percy, skirted around the threatened city considering their options.

Early on 17th October 1346, a Scottish raiding party fell upon a branch of the English army, were duly routed, and were then followed during a hasty retreat to the site of the main invasion force. Various manoeuvrings followed in the ensuing hours, until the two forces were drawn up against one another at roughly the spot where the present-day railway line crosses the Great North Road (now the A167). A procession of monks from Durham Cathedral then performed a ceremony within sight of the brooding Scots to raise the spirits of the English ranks.

The English, though fewer in number, were better positioned than the Scots; and their longbow salvos soon overwhelmed the enemy’s pike. After three hours, King David of Scotland slipped away wounded, but was found hiding under a narrow bridge which still crosses the River Browney to the east of Bearpark. The day, for the Scots, was lost, and their king taken south – where he languished in Odiham Castle, Hampshire, for more than a decade. He wasn’t released (on payment of a hefty ransom) until 1357.

As for the commemorative cross, this was erected by Lord Neville shortly after the battle. It has been periodically vandalised and altered over the years – but a small fragment remains in the nearby suburbs.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post Mick. Have wanted to visit the site for some years now. Your post has been the catalyst to go off there very soon,
    Tom Moss