Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Ponteland: The Battle That Never Was (NZ165729)


Not being best placed in terms of border disputes between the English and the Scots, the town of Ponteland has seen surprisingly little in the way of military action over the centuries. The ‘exception that proves the rule’ was, of course, the town’s complete destruction by the retreating Scots prior to the Battle of Otterburn in 1388. Other than that, though, it’s done pretty well.

Perhaps typically, therefore, Ponteland was the site of the battle-that-never-was during the century preceding Otterburn. During the reign of English King Henry III (1216-1272), relations with the Scots were fairly cordial – Henry effectively enjoying overlordship of his counterpart, Alexander II. Things occasionally got a bit frisky, though, one such episode being a fall-out between the two monarchs in the 1240s. The Scots, it seems, were casting their eyes over the northern counties with a view to reclaiming the large tracts of land which they had previously occupied during 1139-57 – all of this fuelled, apparently, by some traitorist muckraking by one Walter Bisset.

Whatever the cause of the tension, King Henry decided that a show of strength was required and marched north in the summer of 1244 to Newcastle, and thence to Ponteland, where the action was expected to begin. Alexander was waiting for him there at the head of a large army and everyone held their breath. Instead of fighting, however, “a treaty of peace was concluded between them, on the vigil of the Assumption [sometime in August], chiefly at the instance of the Archbishop of York and of other nobles.” A royal marriage was subsequently arranged, thus ensuring the peace – at least for a while.

The ‘Treaty of Ponteland’ is supposed to have been signed at the spot now occupied by The Blackbird Inn, where a fortification of sorts is known to have existed.

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