Battle of Northampton 1460
List Entry Summary
This battlefield is registered within the Register of Historic Battlefields by English Heritage for its special historic interest.
Name: Battle of Northampton 1460
List entry Number: 1000028
The registered battlefield is defined to the west by London Road, the A508, and to the south and east by the Nene Valley Way, the modern A45 Northampton by-pass. The northern boundary follows an irregular line, taking in, to the east, former meadowland north of the Nene, before crossing the river and excluding land to the north of Delapré Abbey.
The battlefield may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District Type: District Authority
Parish: Non Civil Parish
National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.
Grade: Not Applicable to this List Entry
Date first registered: 06-Jun-1995
Date of most recent amendment: 23-Apr-2015
Legacy System Information
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System: Battlefields
This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.
List entry Description
Summary of Battlefield
Battlefield, site of the Battle of Northampton, 10th July 1460.
Reasons for Designation
Northampton Battlefield, the site of the Battle of Northampton in 1460, is registered for the following principal reasons:
* Historical importance: the Battle of Northampton was one of the key engagements of the Wars of the Roses, which saw the defeat of the Lancastrian army and the capture of King Henry VI; * Topographical integrity: the location of the battle is relatively well documented, and much the greater part retains its topographical integrity; * Archaeological potential (1): the greater part of the registered battlefield has been grassland since enclosure in the early C18, meaning that there is a high probability that artefacts lost or fired in the engagement remain in the former ploughsoil; * Archaeological potential (2): the royalist encampment, most unusually, was defended by a ditch; if located, its character and fill are likely to be highly informative; * Technological significance: Northampton was one of the first battles where artillery was deployed, even if it proved ineffective.
The Wars of the Roses were caused by the protracted struggle for power between the reigning dynasty of the House of Lancaster (red rose) and the competing House of York (white rose).
Having been scattered a few weeks after the Battle of Blore Heath (23 September 1459), the Yorkist leaders soon remounted their campaign against the Lancastrian King Henry VI. On 10 July 1460 a Yorkist army under the Earl of Warwick approached the defensive encampment of the King's army on the southern side of Northampton, alongside one of the main crossing points across the River Nene. The camp (one of the very few fortified camps documented during the Wars of the Roses) lay close to, or even took in, the precinct of Delapré Abbey, a Cluniac nunnery (buildings listed Grades II* and II).
DESCRIPTION OF MILITARY ACTION Attempts to negotiate a settlement between the two sides failed. It is generally accepted that the Yorkists attacked in the early afternoon, advancing from the south downhill across the open fields of Hardingstone village, although an alternative interpretation has the Yorkists attacking from the west, from the road leading to Northampton. Waurin's account suggests there may at first have been an attack on one of the town gates. The accounts in general suggest the defining event was when, apparently by arrangement, the Lancastrian Lord Grey’s troops helped the attackers into the defended camp. King Henry was captured and a number of the leading Lancastrian noblemen were killed. Many soldiers drowned in the rain-swollen Nene.
Richard, Duke of York, returned from Ireland after the battle to press his claim to the throne, after which the Wars of the Roses only intensified.
The registered battlefield extends northward for c.1.5 km from a low, wooded, ridge to the north of Hardingstone village. The battlefield divides broadly into three roughly equal zones: the aforementioned downslope ridge to the south; level ground with Delapré Abbey to the centre; and the former meadowland alongside the Nene to the north, much of it quarried away for gravel after 1955 and now a lake. Since the mid 1970s the southern half of the battlefield has been a golf course. The digging of bunkers and tree planting and ground levelling to define fairways have adversely impacted upon the ridge and furrow landscape, as has the construction of a bund around the east and west sides of the golf course to deter joy-riding.
FEATURES The Eleanor Cross erected c.1292 to mark a resting place of the funeral cortege of Queen Eleanor (d.1290), wife of Edward I, (listed Grade I and a Scheduled Ancient Monument), from which the Archbishop of Canterbury observed the battle, still stands at the south-west corner of the registered battlefield. In the first two zones defined above, on the modern golf course and in the grounds around the Abbey including beneath Charter Wood (planted 1989) to its east, are well-preserved areas of ridge and furrow. These lay within the medieval open fields of Hardingstone village which were enclosed in 1765, when the arable land largely went down to grass and a park was created around Delapré Abbey.
There are two main groups of buildings on the registered battlefield. The first is the Delapré Abbey complex, including its walled garden and former farm buildings; the second, midway along the east boundary of the registered battlefield either side of Eagle Drive, is the post-medieval Home Farm and a modern hotel. About 300m south-west of Home Farm, again on the registered battlefield, is the modern golf Club House.
Much of the battlefield is a conservation area and is publicly accessible by various rights of way and permissive paths. There are views across it from several vantage points, notably from close to the Eleanor Cross.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL POTENTIAL The battle was fought over the open field land and possibly the meadowland of Hardingstone. After the battle agricultural land use continued a further 300 years until Hardingstone was enclosed in 1765. Much of the arable land then went down to grass, as which it has remained ever since. This means that, other than where disturbed by the erection of buildings, by quarrying, and by the more substantial earth moving associated with the golf course, there is a strong likelihood that artefacts lost in the course of the battle survive below ground. Several finds of shot have been reported over the years; only one, a lead cannonball relocated in 2015 and apparently found some years before in the eastern part of the registered area close to the modern hotel on Eagle Drive, is known to survive.
Two sets of cut features (that is, excavated and backfilled) may lie within the battlefield, although not currently located. The first is the defended, ditched, Lancastrian camp, which most sources suggest lay close to Delapré Abbey, perhaps on the level ground to its south. The second is any pits made for mass burials. Leland, writing almost within living memory, records a tradition that some of the dead were buried in the Abbey’s graveyard (which lies beneath the later walled garden to the north of the Abbey) and others at St John’s Hospital, in Northampton itself.
DEFINITION OF AREA The registered battlefield is defined to the west by London Road, the A508, the main historic approach to Northampton from the south. To the south and east the boundary follows the course of Nene Valley Way, the modern A45 Northampton by-pass. The northern boundary follows an irregular line, taking in, to the east, former meadowland north of the Nene, before crossing the river to zig-zag around and exclude the land to the north of Delapré Abbey developed in the C19 and C20.
English Heritage, 'Battlefield Report: Northampton 1460' (1995), accessed 11-JUN-2015 from https://content.HistoricEngland.org.uk/content/docs/battlefields/northampton.pdf
Land Use Consultants, 'The Site of the Battle of Northampton, 1460. Conservation Management Plan' (June 2014), accessed 19 February 2015 from http://www.northampton.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/6910/site-of-the-battle-of-northampton-1460-conservation-management-plan
Glenn Foard and Tracey Partida in ‘Northampton Battlefield: 1460. An Assessment’ (2014)
National Grid Reference: SP 76314 58913
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End of official listing