Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Battle of Northampton 1460

Well the parcel at the post office depot turned out not to be the hoped for Orcs & Goblins Army Book but a pair of shoes for my daughter! Oh well, perhaps Monday.

So Dear Reader, here are some pictures taken at the Carronade show 2010 in Falkirk of the Kirriemuir Wargames Club's display game of the Battle of Northampton 1460 and thus acknowledging the 550th anniversary of the battle, which was one of the early skirmishes of that conflict in English History that has become known as the "War of the Roses".

Looking down the table to the town of Northampton, the Yorkists forces of the Earl of Warwick are deploying to the left and the Lancastrian forces under the nominal command of King Henry VI, but in reality commanded by the Duke of Buckingham, deploy behind their entrenchments on the right flank, with Delph Abbey in the foreground.

The War of the Roses, like many Civil Wars, has complicated origins and started as a result of the desire of some of the major noble houses of England to exert their influence over the then King, Henry VI, who history tells us was a naive, passive and pliable character who in all probability suffered from a mental illness.

England had just been expelled from the European Continent with their final defeat by the French at Castillion in 1453 thus bringing to an end the 100 Years War, the news of which rendered Henry almost completely incapacitated. Various nobles vied to take the post of Regent, during the King's illness, with Richard, Duke of York initially taking the role, and also taking the opportunity of settling a few scores with his sworn enemy the Earl of Somerset, who had been another contender for Regent, and who was promptly locked up in the Tower of London.

However, after 18 months of incapacity, Henry recovered and had Somerset released, and Richard who  found himself isolated at Court, started to marshall his supporters with a view to winning back the King's influence, while Somerset moved to counter this and the two sides met at St Albans in May 1455. Somerset's forces were overwhelmed and Somerset slain. The King fell into Richard's hands and into his influence once again, but it was an uneasy situation, particularly as Henry's Queen, Margaret was a bitter enemy of Richard's. Eventually in 1459 the fragile peace was broken and hostilities broke out again and although Richard defeated Margaret's supporters at Blore Heath, his success was short lived and at Ludford Bridge, facing an army possibly as much 5 times greater than his own, Richard fled and went into self imposed exile in Ireland.

His supporters on the mainland, however, were not disheartened and under the leadership of the Earl of Warwick, grew stronger over the winter of 1459/1460 to such extent that Richard eventually felt it safe to return and again try and recover his position with the King. London fell to Richard's supporters and soon Warwick was moving Northwards. Henry, who was by this time now under the influence of another anti-Richard supporter, the Duke of Buckingham, moved his forces to Northampton and it was here that the two armies met on the 10 July 1460

Looking across the battlefield from the Yorkist position to the Lancastrian entrenchments. The Lancastrians with their artillery batteries deployed to the fore.

Buckingham, who was effectively Commander of the Lancastrian forces, notwithstanding that the King was present, soon realised that his army was greatly outnumbered by Warwick's. His army was entrenched behind strong positions but to their rear lay the River Nene and thus the Lancastrians were effectively trapped. And although they did have artillery batteries deployed the wet weather had effectively put those batteries out of action.

A close up of one of the Lancastrian artillery batteries, which ultimately played little part in the ensuing battle.

Looking across the Yorkist lines to the impressive sight of Delph Abbey.

After the usual parley negotiations had proved fruitless, the Yorkist lines pressed forward towards the entrenchments

But, as proved a recurring feature of this conflict, just as the Lancastrians awaited the Yorkist onslaught against their defences, they were undone by treachery within their own ranks when the forces of Lord Grey of Ruithin, allowed the Yorkist troops facing his men safe passage through the entrenchments. Their defences breached and outflanked the Lancastians could not hold and broke, with many drowning in the River Nene in their panic to escape the pursuing Yorkists. Buckingham and several high ranking Lancastrian nobles were cut down. The battle probably had lasted no more than half an hour. 

Henry was captured in his tent by a Yorkist archer and it was there that Warwick and the other Yorkist nobles presented themselves to the King and swore allegiance to him. The King was then quickly moved into the secure control of the Yorkist forces.

Soon after, Richard finally decided to make his claim to the Kingship, and although he, himself, was slain before the year end, the die had been cast by both Houses of York and Lancaster to claim the Crown for themselves, with Richard's son, Edward eventually being crowned Edward IV, even though Henry was still alive (although Henry was eventually dispatched in mysterious circumstances but in all probability on Edward's orders). The conflict was not conclusively settled until the Battle of Bowsorth Field in 1485, where Edward's brother, Richard III was slain by the forces of Henry Plantageant, who subsequently became Henry VII.

The trophy for best display game at Carronade 2010. The display also won the same award at the 2010 Claymore show in Edinburgh.

The display was the work, literally of one club member, namely Steve Rimmer, who provided the figures, terrain pieces and also devised his own set of rules for refighting the battle as well as a fantastic pamphlet with information on the battle and the conflict which was handed out to many, many interested members of the public at both shows - well done Steve!!!


  1. Very, very nice. love that set up.

  2. It was an impressive table, and was wholly down to Steve's efforts (although he would be the first to admit he didn't paint all the figures!) but his organisation and attention to the detail of putting the table together, the handouts (he even had colouring sets with line drawings of Medieval knights for the kids to colour in while the dads drooled over the table) and his enthusiasm for the period was exactly what was needed for a Display table

  3. Looks like a great game, its so nice to see War of the Roses posts on TMP.

    By the way I like those tents and castle, where do they come from?


  4. Amazing amount of troops there!!!! Looks very nice.
    I too would like to know where the tents are from

  5. @Raglan and Paul - I have heard back from Steve. Unfortunately, it's so long ago since he bought those tents he no longer remembers where he got them. He did suggest the Battleground models from Magister Militum for something simliar.

    The Castle walls were a special commission for him by Grand Manner to supplement some existing pieces he had from a company called Wood & Stone so these are not available to buy.

    The Abbey model is by Grand Manner and appears in their catalogue as "Busaco Monastery".

  6. Great display. What rules did you use?


  7. @Mike - the rules were Steve's own home grown rules which go by the name of "Overmighty Subjects".

    If I get his permision and I can work out how to use Google docs I will try and post a copy here