Scottish Wars of Independence in Yorkshire
The death of King Alexander III of Scotland in 1286 left the Scottish throne empty. With King Edward I’s assistance, John Balliol ascended to the throne in 1292. In 1296, Edward demanded that Scotland join him in war with France, but John refused. Edward invaded Scotland and humiliated King John. Scottish nobles rebelled against the English invaders, leading to years of warfare. Scottish clergy called for Robert Bruce to take the crown.
In 1307, Robert was crowned and Edward I died. His son, Edward II, lacked his father’s military experience and his army repeatedly suffered defeats. At the same time that Edward II was battling the Scots, he was also plagued by a baronial revolt. The English nobility despised the influence that Hugh le Despenser and his son had over the king. Conflicts with rebellious nobles and Scottish kings continued until the deposition of Edward II by his wife Isabella in 1328.
St Gregory’s Church, Bedale
Originally a Saxon church, St. Gregory’s was enlarged in the 12th and 13th centuries. The effigies of Brian Fitzalan, (b 1243, d 1 June 1306) and his wife Muriel can be found in the church. Between 1287 and 1300, Brian Fitzalan added the south aisle, the five light windows in the east wall and a chantry for his mother, first wife and three infant children. In 1330, the lower stages of the tower were built by Sir Brian’s second wife, Matilda; it was built as a place of refuge against invading Scots.
Sir Brian Fitzalan was said to be a ‘beloved and faithful friend’ of Edward I. During the discussions of the Great Cause (succession of the Scottish throne after Alexander III died without a male heir), Fitzalan was the warden of the castles Forfar, Dundee, Roxburgh and Jedburgh and was made a Guardian of Scotland. Fitzalan fought against the Scots in 1299, 1300, and, for the last time, in 1303.
Battle of Myton, 20 Sep 1319
In 1314, Robert the Bruce defeated Edward II’s army at Bannockburn and captured Berwick on Tweed. In August 1319, Edward besieged the town. Rather that reinforcing the town against the English army, a Scottish force was sent into England via Carlisle in a diversionary attack. The Scottish army crossed the Pennines into Yorkshire, where they plundered and destroyed as they went. The Archbishop of York took charge of the defence of Yorkshire with an army assembled from the local population.
The English army was a rapidly-assembled militia, mainly drawn from York; the army did not have the necessary core of men-at-arms, who were engaged at the siege of Berwick. The forces did include many clerics, which is why the engagement was dubbed the White Battle.
Although outnumbering the Scottish force, the English army was inexperienced and ill-equipped. After crossing over the River Swale at Myton Bridge, the disordered English troops were attacked by the Scottish. The Scottish forces had set fire to three haystacks, the smoke screening them from the English view. The English army began to flee, but the Scottish forces captured the bridge, forcing the English to hold their ground or brave the Swale. Many drowned attempting to escape the Scottish attack. Much of the English force was taken prisoner, to be ransomed later.
St. Mary’s Church, Kirkby Fleetham
The Church of St. Mary’s was constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries with 15th and 19th century additions. In the south wall of the chancel is the 14th-century monument of Sir Gilbert de Stapleton (d. 1321). He served Edward II as escheator north of the Trent; after the death of a tenant, the escheator held an inquisition to determine if the king had any rights to the land. He was also one of the barons who conspired against Piers Gaveston.
Battle of Boroughbridge, 16 Mar 1322
In 1322, Thomas of Lancaster and his rebellious barons were losing support and King Edward II was in pursuit of the rebel forces. The Earl of Lancaster wished to hold out in Pontefract, but was persuaded to march north to Dunstanburgh to seek Scottish assistance. In February of that year, Sir Andrew de Harcla, warden of Carlisle and the Western Marches, had been ordered to assemble the knights and men-at-arms of Cumberland and Westmorland.
Informed of the rebels’ movements, Harcla marched his forces to meet Lancaster’s forces on the Great North Road. On the evening of 15 March 1322, Harcla arrived at Boroughbridge, where the Great North Road crossed the River Ure. Although Lancaster’s forces were stronger in armoured knights and men-at-arms, the opposed river crossing removed this advantage.
On 16 March, Lancaster reached Boroughbridge; with the king pursuing Lancaster from the south, the only option would be to fight for control of the bridge. Part of Lancaster’s forces headed toward a ford further along the river, to flank Harcla’s forces. The fire from Harcla’s archers halted the Lancaster’s cavalry before they reached the water. Lancaster negotiated a truce for the night. During the night the High Sheriff of Yorkshire reinforced Harcla’s troops. The next morning Lancaster was called to surrender. He would not, but fled to Boroughbridge chapel. Harcla’s men captured Lancaster; he was taken to York. On 22 March, Lancaster was executed at Pontefract Castle.
Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Thornhill
There has been a church on this site since at least the 9th century. The oldest surviving parts of the church are the 15th-century tower and Savile chapel. The earliest monuments in the church are Anglo-Saxon stones, but there are several effigies located in the Savile chapel.
Sir John de Thornhill (d. 1322) died shortly after the Battle of Boroughbridge, as he is last mentioned in a Parliamentary writ for 25th March 1322, three days after the execution of Thomas of Lancaster at Pontefract, when he was given commission to raise 500 footmen for a Scottish campaign. Sir John Savile (d. 1482) was the Sheriff of Yorkshire, Constable of Sandal Castle and Steward of Wakefield. Although no records confirm his involvement, it is very likely that he was present at the Battle of Wakefield. It is possible that he was captured after the battle and held in York; therefore he did not fight at Towton.
There is limited parking at the church.
Scotch Corner, Sutton Bank
In the summer of 1322, Edward II launched an invasion of Scotland; it was a disaster. After returning from Scotland, the king took up residence in a Yorkshire abbey-either Rievaulx or Byland. On 13th October, the Scottish army marched overnight from the position at Northallerton, hoping to the surprise the English. Instead, they came upon the steep escarpment, known today as Sutton Bank. The English had been alerted to the Scottish movements, and on 14th October, the armies of the Earl of Richmond, Henry Beaumont, and the Earl of Pembrokeshire reached Old Byland to hold the ridge and block the path to the summit (possibly the route of the A170). Instead of marching 15 miles around the ridge via Helmsley, Bruce chose to fight. Whilst the group of Scots engaged the English on the path, a group a Highlanders scaled the cliff to outflank the English. The site of this attack is thought to be the field knows as Scotch Corner. The Scottish cavalry left the defeated English in search of Edward II; the king escaped, but left behind all of his possessions, armour and his privy seal.
Byland Abbey is one of the great Yorkshire Cistercian abbeys, settled in the late 12th century. After the defeat of the English forces at Sutton Bank on 14th October 1322, the invading Scottish forces ransacked Byland Abbey. It is possible that King Edward II had been staying at the abbey, with Queen Isabella, after his unsuccessful campaign into Scotland.
The Scottish cavalry went in search of the English king after their victory, but Edward II escaped before their arrival at the abbey. He had left in such haste that all of his possessions, including his privy seal, had been left behind. Even if King Edward was not at Byland, the abbey’s lands were ransacked by the Scots as they followed Edward south.
The abbey was founded by St. Bernard of Clairvaux in 1132. It was here, in October 1322, that King Edward II had made camp after his unsuccessful campaign in Scotland. On 14 October 1322, the king sat down to a meal of ‘two swanis roastit, divers fowls, Salmonys and other fishis with divers pies of meat and fruitis and sweetmeats. A Tun of Claret wine and a keg of burgundy wine with the best abbey ale.’ After their victory at Sutton Bank, the Scottish cavalry rode to Rievaulx Abbey in search of the king.
Edward was hustled from the abbey and made for Bridlington, to board a ship. He abandoned 100 men and his queen to beg for their lives. The Scottish forces seized all the goods Edward had left, including: his finery, personal treasury, armour, and the privy seal of England. In total the king left 100 horse loads of goods.
St. Hilda’s Church, Ampleforth
Originally, the church of St. Hilda was a dependent chapel of St. Michael, Coxwold and eventually the Augustinian priory there. In 1220, the church became a parish church. Against the inside west wall of the tower are the remains of a 14th century effigy of a bearded man wearing a quilted shirt and a close fitting coat. A sword hangs from his belt, over his shoulder peers the head of a woman wearing a wimple and a small square cap. The engraved name reads Willelmus de Jarpenville(?). The style of the monument dates it to the 1320s, but this William is unknown. It has been suggested that this knight fought and died at the Battle of Byland in 1322.
Church of All Saints and St James, Nunnington
This 13th-century church was restored in the 1880s and has a Perpendicular west tower dating from 1672. In the south wall of the nave, placed in an arched recess is an effigy of a knight that is cross-legged, his feet resting on a lion, wearing a finely carved suit of chain-mail with a surcoat.
Sir Walter Teyes (d. 1325) frequently served in the Scottish wars under Edward I and Edward II. In 1309, he was made joint Governor of the City of York with Robert de Hastings. In 1322, he fought at Boroughbridge against the Earl of Lancaster and witnessed the defeat of the English at Byland by the Scots under Robert Bruce.
All Saints Church, Ingleby Arncliffe. Date: c1325
All Saint’s Church dates back to 1821, replacing an earlier church which was in existence since the 12th century. Some of the original features of the medieval church were incorporated into the present structure, including the 14th-century east window and the 12th-century porch.
The effigies are those of Sir Robert Colville and his brother William. During the reign of Edward I, Robert Colville was present at the muster at Carlisle. From 1300-20, Colville was the commissioner of array for York, being responsible for conscripting local men to fight. It is very likely that he would have been at Bannockburn in 1314. He was also involved in the death of the king’s favourite, Piers Gaveston. He advised Edward II in 1312 at York and in 1324 at the great council at Westminster.
St. Oswald’s Church, East Harlsey
The church of St. Oswald at East Harlsey was originally constructed in the 12th century and restored in 19th century. In the chancel is an effigy of a knight. Sir Geoffrey-de-Hotham (d. 1326), often called Sir Gilfred, was Lord of the Manor in 1316. He had fought with Edward II against the Scots and he was one of the rebelling barons who attacked Scarborough Castle to capture Piers Gaveston.
St. Helen’s Church, Amotherby
The church of St. Helen has always been a dependent chapel of All Saint, Appleton-le-Street. Although Norman in origin, the current church dates mainly from 1871, when the nave was rebuilt and a north aisle added. The tower is 15th century.
The 14th-century effigy of Sir John de Bordesden (d. 1329). Briefly excommunicated in 1303, John de Bordesden was a colourful character who lived in the parish of Newsham. From 1307-10, he was involved in lengthy disputes with the prior at Old Malton over grazing rights. In 1308, John complained that the prior had broke into his house, carried away all of his goods, unroofed the houses; he claimed that the prior has sent men to kill him or to contrive to have him arrested for trespass. John later retaliated by driving the prior’s cattle over the river then destroying the bridge so that prior could not retrieve them. John de Bordesden fought with Edward II’s forces against the Scottish in several battles.
St. Nicholas Church, West Tanfield. Date: 1335
The church of St. Nicholas was constructed in the 13th century, with a 19th century restoration. Located within the church are several effigies, including that of Sir John Marmion. The name of John Marmyon appears as one of the followers of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster who were pardoned for the death of Piers Gaveston. Sir John fought against the Scots in 1314 and 1322-3. In October 1322, he was appointed commissioner of array for the North Riding, conscripting local men to fight against the Scots. In 1329, he was offered the King’s protection to travel to the Holy Land. On his return, he found that someone had entered his park, hunted, and carried away his deer. The manor of the Marmion family is nearby, where a 15th century gatehouse is all that remains.