Saturday, 30 June 2018

Battle of Stoke Field, 16th June 1487

The last stand of Martin Schwartz and his German and Swiss Mercenaries at Stoke Field, 16th June 1487

As part of our weekend in May travelling up to Partizan in Newark which was on the Sunday we also spent Saturday as guests of Wargames Foundry where we took the day to play a rather large game of Dux Bellorum, both events reported about here on JJ's

Partizan 2018
Wargames Foundry - Devon Wargames Group Day

Following our game some of our little group decided to make up for last year's visit and complete the day by walking the nearby battlefield of Stoke Field.

Wargames Foundry - Devon Wargames Group Day 2017

The weather compared with our visit in 2017 could not have been more different and with the rain confining our visit to Stoke Church and the commemorative stone to the fallen together with a very brief look at Red Gutter the scene of bloody slaughter in the rout that followed the battle, we saw nothing of the actual field of battle.

The satellite picture below is the map of the battlefield I created using the grid references created by the good folks at the Battlefield Trust who are the guardians of British Battlefields and do great work at protecting them from the vandals of British history.

You can see Foundry Miniatures building in the centre right of the picture  on the lane leading into East Stoke.

The Fosse Way or Road can be seen in the lower right and the battlefield is bordered on the left of picture by the River Trent.

The grid points I used for our visit are circled in white and the white arrows indicate the route of our walk starting from Foundry and turning right onto the old medieval road, Humber Lane, that runs parallel to the Fosse Way and is thought to be the approach route used by the opposing armies.

The satellite picture with the Battlefield Trust references to plot our progress across the battlefield. The positions of the armies is taken from the Battlefields Trust data with the favoured positions shaded.

To further aid understanding what the pictures I took show, I have transposed the likely positions of the two armies at Stoke Field based on the data provided by the Battlefields Trust, with a link below for further reading and I have orientated my views to be either looking towards East Stoke, the River Trent, the Fosse Way or the favoured Lancastrian position

An out line of the battle and events leading up to it can be found in the link below.

In summary, the battle of Stoke Field was fought on 16th June 1487 and was the culmination of a campaign started by the Yorkist John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln who fled the court of the Tudor King Henry VII and with the help of Margaret Duchess of Burgundy who supplied some 2,000 German and Swiss mercenaries, raised an army in Flanders with later additions when the force sailed to Ireland on the 4th May 1487.

It was in Dublin that Lincoln decided to validate an impostor or pretender who had been introduced to him at the start of the campaign, a young man called Lambert Simnel although that may not have been his actual name. In Dublin Simnel was crowned by the Irish nobility and clergy, Edward VI, and with their puppet pretender proclaimed the rightful King, Lincoln sailed for Lancashire, where after landing on the 4th June and a few days of manoeuvring his forces against those of Henry VII the two armies met on Stoke Field, with the Tudor/Lancastrian force now outnumbering those of Lincoln's with 12,000 Lancastrians versus 8,000 Yorkists.

Lambert Simnel proclaimed by Irish supporters of the Yorkist rebellion in 1487

The battle would be the culmination of the long and bitter Wars of the Roses and would finally confirm the establishment of the new Tudor dynasty on the throne of England with the Yorkist army destroyed and with most of its leaders dead on the field of battle or never heard from after it.

Point 1

We started our tour by walking back towards East Stoke from the Wargames Foundry buildings and turning right up the old medieval road, Humber Lane, the approach route likely taken by Lincoln and his army.

Today the lane turns into a muddy rutted farm track that makes its way across the open fields of the battle site.

Looking along the hedgerow on the right of Humber Lane towards the River Trent. 

Looking back towards East Stoke with Humber Lane to right of picture

Looking along Humber Lane and the slight incline towards the ridge held by the Yorkists and the Lancastrians position further on
Point 2
The weather was gloriously hot and sunny on the day we visited and the sight lines made it easy to imagine the two armies drawn up facing each other in battle array.

Looking along Humber Lane towards the position held by the Yorkists 

Point 3/4
The top of the slight ridge, known as Rampire Hill is obvious when reached offering good views out over the neighbouring countryside and a good position for any army of the period to hold.

It seems likely that the more experienced and better led Lancastrian army under the Earl of Oxford must have really hurt the Yorkist forces atop this pinnacle with accurate and punishing arrow fire to cause them to surrender the advantage it offered and charge down on to the lower ground held by Oxford's vanguard.

The centre of the Yorkist position on Rampire Hill (shaded block on the map above) looking down towards the Fosse Way running alongside the white buildings on the right

The same point above but looking along the ridge in the direction of the River Trent

Looking towards the trees and the position of 'Red Gutter' on the Yorkist right that led the routers towards the River Trent position 474224, 349768 on the map above

A Lancastrian hare occupies point 5 on the map at the T Junction at the end of Humber Lane

The hare on the move, all legs and ears
Point 5
The ground occupied by Oxford's vanguard and the area between the two armies positions was bitterly fought over as the Yorkist mercenaries fought hand to hand to break Oxford's smaller contingent but were never able to overcome them as the other Lancastrian battles under Jasper Tudor kept feeding reinforcements into the battle.

As the hand to hand fighting went on the poorly protected Irish troops were shot to pieces by accurate arrow fire from the Lancastrian archers with many of their dead at the end of the battle being described as looking like hedgehogs, their bodies being pierced by so many arrows.

The view at the junction looking at the ground held by the Lancastrians at the start of the battle

The left flank of the Lancastrian line

The view from the Lancastrian line looking uphill towards the Yorkist right along the hedge line out towards the Trent

The view to the Lancastrian right facing towards the Yorkist left with track leading to the Fosse Way in the background 

I was fortunate to visit Bosworth in September 2012 on the day the body of Richard III was discovered in a car-park in Leicester. That visit preceded the start of this blog by three months so I guess I might have to put a post together with my pictures from that day, some time.

My only collection of WOR figures produced for a Devon Wargames Group game a few years ago, but a collection I intend to return to later.

The interesting thing is that Bosworth has captured the imagination, with the death of the last English king on a battlefield and the last Plantagenet, Richard III the dastardly villain portrayed by Shakespeare, has all helped to place the battle in pole position as the final full stop on the Wars of the Roses. Stoke Field was a larger and more bloody affair than Bosworth and its effects were more crushing and final and perhaps it is time that 1487 and Stoke Field is declared the full stop of the Wars of the Roses.

Next up, Mr Steve has been on his travels and so I have I. Plus a big game of Augustus to Aurelian in the Dark Ages, and Steve M and I attended this year's Chalke Valley History Festival.