(Updated February 2022)
England has been involved in military conflicts worldwide, but did you know that many conflicts were also fought on its home soil? Here are some of the English battle sites that saw battle in days gone by.
(NB You might be interested in a new post we’ve published >>> The Kings And Queens Of England)
1. Myton, North Yorkshire (Battle of Myton Bridge)
In 1319, during the Scottish Wars of Independence, 15,000 Scots crossed into England and attacked Yorkshire. An army hastily assembled by the Archbishop of York sought to defend the county, but they were outnumbered and defeated by the Scots.
2. Battle, East Sussex (Battle of Hastings)
In 1066, King Harold’s army fought against William, Duke of Normandy. William attacked with both cavalry and infantry, while the English troops fought mainly on foot behind a wall of shields. For much of the day the English position held firm, but when the Norman troops began to retreat they broke formation and became vulnerable to attack from William’s cavalry.
King Harold himself was famously killed by an arrow to the eye but the fighting continued until all his bodyguard were slain. The decisive Norman victory shaped the future of both England and Europe, and the battle was immortalised in the Bayeux Tapestry.
3. Northallerton, Yorkshire (Battle of the Standard)
The Battle of the Standard was one of two major battles fought in England’s largely forgotten civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda.
On 22nd August 1138, the Scottish King David I crossed the border into England in support of his niece Matilda’s claim to the English throne. He headed an army of 16,000 men, and with King Stephen otherwise engaged in fighting rebels in the south it was left to a locally-raised army to repel the Scots. Although greatly outnumbered, the English won the day, inflicting heavy casualties on their neighbours.
4. Lewes, Sussex (Battle of Lewes)
On 14 May 1264, the downs to the north-west of the town of Lewes were the site of a battle between the army of Henry III and the forces of a number of rebel Barons, led by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester.
After initial success, the Royalists were overwhelmed and retreated to Lewes Castle. It was from there that Henry’s son, Prince Edward, eventually escaped and raised another army in a bid to overthrow de Montfort.
5. Evesham, Worcestershire (Battle of Evesham)
Evesham was the site of the decisive battle in the Second Barons’ War.
On the morning of 4 August 1265, de Montfort met Prince Edward in battle once again, and this time the odds were in the prince’s favour. The royal army was at least twice the size of de Montfort’s rebel forces and the battle became a rout. Both de Montfort and his son Henry were killed, along with about 4,000 of his men.
6. Maldon, Essex (Battle of Maldon)
A marauding army of Vikings sailed up the River Blackwater in the year 991. After a fierce battle against the Saxons, the invaders won but paid the price with heavy casualties. A statue of Byrhtnoth, leader of the Anglo-Saxons in Maldon, stands in the town as a tribute to the battle.
By Ken Eckert
7. Boroughbridge, Yorkshire (Battle of Boroughbridge)
The long dispute between King Edward II and his cousin, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster came to a bloody end at the Battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322.
Following defeat at Burton on Trent, Lancaster’s rebels were retreating north when they were met by Royalist forces under the command of Sir Andrew de Harcla, Warden of Carlisle. The Royalists outnumbered the rebels four to one, and Thomas was captured and later executed.
8. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland (Battle of Halidon Hill)
Another conflict between the English and Scots, the Battle of Halidon Hill was the result of the English King Edward III’s support for Edward Balliol’s claim to the Scottish throne.
When in the spring of 1333 the two Edwards headed north with an army of 8,000 men and laid siege to the Scottish-held town of Berwick, they were met by an army of 15,000 Scots. But while the Scots may have had more men, it was the English who had the territorial advantage. Positioned on Halidon Hill to the north of the city, their archers were able to rain down arrows on the advancing Scots, winning the day with negligible losses from their own ranks.
9. Neville’s Cross, Northumberland (Battle of Neville’s Cross)
In 1346, some 12,000 Scots rampaged their way through northern England. To stop them, an army of 7,000 Englishmen were enlisted by William Zouche, Archbishop of York. One cold October morning, the English launched a surprise attack on the Scots. The ensuing battle saw the invaders forced back across the Scottish border.
10. Otterburn, Northumberland (Battle of Otterburn)
With King Richard II distracted by battles with his rebellious barons, the Scots sought to seize the advantage with a series of raids on towns in northern England. In 1388, James, Earl of Douglas was leading his men home from one such raid on Durham, looting and burning as he went, when he was met by Henry “Hotspur” Percy. Percy was the son of the Earl of Northumberland and had gained his nickname as a result of his fiery spirit.
After an initial skirmish, the Scots continued homeward with Percy in hot pursuit. When Douglas stopped once more to lay siege to the castle at Otterburn, the two armies met again and the fighting continued into the night. The Scots eventually secured victory, but Douglas was killed on the battlefield.
11. Shrewsbury, Shropshire (Battle of Shrewsbury)
By Thomas Pennant – This image is available from the National Library of Wales,
Perhaps one of the bloodiest of battles in English history was fought at Shrewsbury in 1403. An army led by King Henry IV defeated a band of rebels under the command of the self-same Sir Henry Hotspur Percy who had fought at Otterburn. Sir Henry’s body was quartered and the parts displayed in various parts of England to deter others from following his example.
12. St Albans, Hertfordshire (First Battle of St Albans)
In 1455, the narrow streets of St Albans became the scene of a fierce battle when Richard, Duke of York and his allies defeated a royal army commanded by Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. It was the first battle in what was to become known as the Wars of the Roses, a fight for the English throne between the noble houses of Lancaster and York. The battle ended in victory for the Yorkists, with Edmund killed and Henry VI captured.
13. Market Bosworth, Leicestershire (Battle of Bosworth Field)
One of the most important battles in English and Welsh history, the Battle of Bosworth Field pitted the would-be Lancastrian king, Henry Tudor, against the Yorkist Richard III.
Henry had crossed to Britain from France in August 1485, landing in South Wales. On hearing of his arrival, Richard mustered his troops and met him over the English border just south of Market Bosworth. Richard led a charge directly at Henry but his horse became trapped in boggy ground and he was killed in hand-to-hand combat. His crown was brought to Henry, heralding the beginning of a hundred years of Tudor monarchy.
14. Branxton, Northumberland (Battle of Flodden)
By Andrew Curtis, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11731831
1513 saw the largest ever battle between the English and Scots occur just outside the village of Branxton, with fierce fighting involving 26,000 Englishmen and 40,000 Scots. The Scottish king, James IV, was allied to Louis XII of France and launched the attack in retaliation for Henry VIII’s invasion of France. Henry’s men were victorious and James was killed in battle, the last British monarch to suffer such a fate.
15. Solway Moss, Cumbria (Battle of Solway Moss)
When Henry VIII broke with the Catholic church, he urged his nephew James V of Scotland to do the same. James, however, ignored his uncle’s requests to discuss the matter and a furious Henry responded by sending his army into Scotland to loot and burn border towns. When James retaliated by sending a Scottish army into England to do the same, the stage was set for battle.
The two sides met on 24th November 1542. The English won the day and took some 1,200 Scots prisoner. A humiliated James V died a few weeks later aged just 30, leaving the throne to his daughter, six day old Mary, Queen of Scots.
16. Edge Hill, Warwickshire (Battle of Edge Hill)
The hamlet of Edge Hill was the scene of the first battle of the English Civil War in October 1642. The Royalists and the Parliamentarian army fought for three hours with both sides suffering heavy losses. The failure of either side to win a conclusive victory prevented a swift end to the war, which continued for nine years.
17. Long Marston, Yorkshire (Battle of Marston Moor)
22nd July 1644 saw the largest battle ever fought on English soil, when 17,000 Royalists faced a combined army of 22,000 Parliamentarians and Scots at the Battle of Marston Moor.
In just two hours the Parliamentary cavalry routed the Royalists, demonstrating the decisive advantage of a well trained and equipped fighting force. Oliver Cromwell’s reputation as a commander was secured and the Royalists abandoned the north of England to his forces.
18. Naseby, Northamptonshire (Battle of Naseby)
Almost a year after the Battle of Marston Moor, the Royalist and Parliamentary forces met at Naseby in what is considered the most important battle of the English Civil War.
The two sides met on a foggy morning on 14th June 1645. Whilst the Royalist cavalry led by Prince Rupert of the Rhine fought the Parliamentarians from the battlefield, the Parliamentarian infantry slowly got the upper hand. By the time Prince Rupert returned, the battle was all but over. The King had lost his best officers and troops, and the writing was on the wall for the Royalist cause.
19. Worcester, Worcestershire (Battle of Worcester)
The Battle of Worcester took place on 3 September 1651 and was the final battle of the English Civil War. Charles II marched south with a mainly Scottish army but failed to gather the support he had expected. By the time he arrived at Worcester, Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army was ready and overwhelmed the Royalist forces with relative ease.
The battle sounded the death knell for any lingering hopes that the monarchy would return to England by force of arms. Charles fled to France and the Civil War was over.
20. Westonzoyland, Somerset (Battle of Sedgemoor)
The Monmouth Rebellion was an attempt to overthrow James II, who had become king of England, Scotland, and Ireland after the death of his brother, Charles II. Westonzoyland was the rebellion’s final battle. The Royalists were victorious and the Duke of Monmouth, the king’s nephew and leader of the rebels, was captured and executed.