This months regular meeting will be preceded by an EGM to elect a successor to Mike Ingram as Chair, and also to appoint a Vice Chair, Secretary and Treasurer. There is also a vacancy for a general committee member open as well. The EGM will commence at 7:30pm. All paid up members are eligible to stand for election, and to vote. Details have been sent out to all paid up members. If you wish to participate or join the Society, please contact us through the email address on this page.
The EGM will be followed by Michael Brown’s talk “Death in the Garden”.
Graham Evans Secretary Northamptonshire Battlefields Society
The Society is deeply saddened to announce the death of its founder and Chair, Mike Ingram. Mike died suddenly of a heart attack on the 10th December. The following tribute was written by Society Secretary, Graham Evans
I regret to say that my good friend Mike Ingram passed away on Friday unexpectedly, from a heart attack. He was 59. Mike was the Chair and founder of the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society, and a tireless advocate for the history of his home town and county. His role in the reinterpretation of the 1460 Battle of Northampton was revolutionary, breaking down the accumulated fiction that had commenced in the Victorian period, and still survives today in poorly researched modern works and on websites with more graphics than analysis. Mike first came to notice in respect of the battlefield location at the 550th anniversary conference in 2010 organised by Northampton Museum, where he spoke, together with Dr Tom Welsh and Harvey Watson, about where the battlefield might be. This over turned the popular notion that the Lancastrians fought with their backs to the River Nene, placing the battlefield squarely in the grounds of Delapré Abbey, between the Abbey and the Eleanor Cross. This general location was adopted in the English Heritage Battlefields Register. His research was refined and then published by the Society in his book, The Battle of Northampton 1460. His analysis is now universally accepted by anyone with any knowledge of the Wars of the Roses. If you have even a passing interest in the subject, then you should go and get a copy.
The threat to build football pitches and changing rooms on the battlefield area led him and fellow enthusiasts to form the Northampton Battlefield Society in 2014, and campaign for its preservation. I wasn’t in at the ground floor – too busy commuting and dealing with other things – but I joined quickly after. That campaign was ultimately successful, with Mike demonstrating what would become almost a trademark use of social media, primarily Facebook, to raise awareness and get the message across. It was this template that Mike and the Society then followed to campaign for the conservation of the Eleanor Cross. It is true to say that without him and that campaign one of the most significant medieval landmarks in the County, one of national importance, would have been allowed to rot away due to the indifference of an incompetent council that proved world class at dodging its responsibilities and passing the buck. Mike’s persistence and willingness to get up people’s noses was an important driver in the eventual victory. He took great joy in explaining the battlefield to people, and loved little more than walking round Delapré park, pointing out the landscape with a walking stick or umbrella, filling the story of the battle with lively anecdotes and detail. He was a talented battlefield guide, and when the Guild of Battlefield Guides honoured the Society with an award a lot of it was down to him (although he still didn’t take the Guild’s qualification and get “badged”. He was the best on the 1460 battlefield, and didn’t need anyone to tell him so or evidence to prove it).
Mike didn’t just care for the Delapré battlefield, but was also active in the interpretation and preservation of Naseby battlefield. He served as Chair of the Naseby Project Trustees for a short period of time, and was an active trustee for many years. It was a great sadness to him when he was not retained on the board of Trustees when his last term expired. He was a superb guide to Naseby field, and I never really understood it properly until he drove me round in his litter strewn car, from location to location, stopping to explain the events and sneaking a quick cigarette at the same time. It was his love of Naseby that led to him, Phil Steele and I ending up there during BBC Radio Northampton’s “Northamptonshire Week” outside broadcast being interviewed on the county’s heritage for the breakfast show. It was one cold, wet, morning, and the last time the three of us were together. It was brilliant. Mike also found new things to say about Naseby, and his research on the role of the Rockingham Garrison, (which you can read in his chapter on Naseby in our book on Northamptonshire’s battles, which I co-authored with him) does much to explain why the battle’s final phases turned out that way. Naseby is also an example of Mike’s passion for the truth. He was approached to provide corroboration that a piece of jewellery found by a metal detector was dropped by Charles I after the battle. Based on what he knew it was clear to him (and to me, when we discussed it) that this was highly unlikely. The find was well away from the escape route, and was where the Rockingham Garrison had arrived on the battlefield. It would have been easy to have endorsed the find, gone along with the story, and been part of a national media event. It’s just it wasn’t true, so he couldn’t say it. He was then accused of effectively being jealous of the find and the associated story that had been cooked up. Anyone who thought that obviously did not know the man, and the insult to his integrity upset him considerably. He was proud of what he researched and what he found out, but he’d admit if he was wrong. He set the standard for us all. Ironically his greatest battlefield passion wasn’t in Northamptonshire, but across the county border in Leicestershire. Mike was a Ricardian – a subject which we disagreed about and discussed frequently – and he was fascinated by Bosworth. His first book on Bosworth, “Battle Story – Bosworth 1485” published in 2012, made real sense of the battle as confirmed by the battlefield survey findings. Mike had never been convinced by the Ambion Hill site, and his understanding of the sources enabled him to put together the most believable and coherent narrative to date. He followed up with his “Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth” in 2019, which is a tour de force in respect of the battle. His interpretation of the background, placing the battle in its European context was ground breaking and makes it essential reading for anyone interested in the battle. I was immensely privileged to read the chapters as he was writing it. Our views didn’t always completely overlap, and I’m proud that I did change his mind in a few places. You see, he could listen as well as speak, and was prepared to learn from anyone. It is a regret that I never found the time to do the Bosworth battlefield tour with him. Another lesson learned – never put off things if you can do them today. I also never did one of his Stoke Field walks, which he did with his friends from Wargames Foundry.
Before we leave the battles, I must also record my gratitude for his help and guidance when I wrote my Edgcote book for the Society. He co-led the tour that convinced me we were looking in the wrong place, and he fully embraced the research Phil and I did, again willing to change his mind in the face of evidence. Taking him round Edgcote as we understood it and have him endorse our views was a proud moment too.
In recent years Mike made his living from being a historical tour guide and adult education lecturer, together with writing his books. He was a frequent guest on local radio, always there when local perspective was needed on a historical story, pushing the importance of Northampton in our nation’s story. I think his relationship with John Griff was particularly important to him, and his desire to talk about Northamptonshire dove tailed perfectly with John’s desire to promote our county’s heritage.
Mike was “Mr Northampton History”, a role he invented for himself, effectively, and recognised when he was invested into as a Freeman of the Ancient Borough of Northampton. Mike came from a long established Northampton family, who once owned a sizeable business on the Market Square. Again, a very proud moment to be recognised in such a way.
Mike’s career choices meant that he suffered during lockdown, but it did give him the time to write his local history magnum opus “Northampton: 5,000 Years of History”. A tour de force of “I didn’t know that!” when you read it, it does full justice to the history of the town he loved so much, and garnered the award you see him holding at the top of the page. He used to send me each chapter as he was writing it. Every morning for several weeks a new chapter would pop up in my in box, and I would read them avidly, marking them up and sending them back. His experience of using a publisher previously had irritated him considerably, and he resolved to self-publish, like we had done for the Society’s books. It proved to be a wise move. His reputation made it a book eagerly anticipated, and sales exceeded expectations. If you don’t have a copy, and want to help, then buy one now. You’ll be informed and entertained, and all the profits will go to his family.
The last time I met and spoke to Mike in person was after the Battlefield Society meeting in November. I’d just given a newly prepared talk, called “Monstrous Regiment”, about women who dressed as men to join the army in times gone by. When I’d been working on it Mike sent me little bits, most notably the story of Agnes Hotot, which lays the ground work. When I’d given the actual talk, and we were tidying up Mike was kind enough to say it was the best one I’d ever done, which gave me quite a buzz. As the Abbey had its Christmas light event on, the two of us and fellow Committee member Steve went and sat down and had a warm drink and talked things over. Plans for the Society for next year, the new City campaign, and so on. By the time we were done we’d put some of the world to rights, and we were looking forwards to January’s talk and all the other things we were going to do in 2022 and beyond. I shall remember him like that. Full of ideas, opinions, drive and care for others.
The Society was again honoured by the Northamptonshire Heritage Forum in their awards given for 2020/21. The awards were combined due to COVID, and covered two years. Although the Society was praised for its contributions in all of the categories entered, it didn’t run out a winner in any of them. However, the judges were so impressed by the breadth of our entries, and the vigour with which we addressed both our subject area and the challenges presented by the last few years that we were awarded a Special Award. We are enormously proud of the recognition given to us by the Forum. We’re a small organisation compared to the others competing for wards, and we like to think we punch above our weight.
Northamptonshire Battlefields Society has been received the “Hindsight” Best Publication Award at the Annual Northamptonshire Heritage Forum Awards. The event, which took place on the 4th July at Holdenby House, was hosted by the owner of Holdenby, James Lowther, Deputy Lord Lieutenant. Also present were Earl Spencer, the Forum’s Patron, David Laing, the Lord Lieutenant of the County, and Chris Heaton-Harris, MP for Daventry.
The Award was given for Graham Evans’ book “The Battle of Edgcote 1469 – Re-evaluating the Evidence”, published to commemorate the 550th Anniversary of the Campaign and Battle. The judges were impressed by the quality of the research and the work done with Aberystwyth University to make the Medieval Welsh Poetry about this battle in Northamptonshire available to a wider audience.
Graham took the opportunity in accepting the award to draw the attention of those present, particularly Chis Heaton-Harris, to the lack of statutory battlefield protection.
All talks start at 7:30pm unless otherwise stated Venue: Currently Talks are available to members only, via Zoom. An announcement about restarting physical meetings and location will be made in due course Members: Free, Non-Members £7.50
28 January Military Aspects of Medieval Welsh Poetry- Dr Jenny Day
The Welsh Poets of the 15th century were the hit of the Edgcote Conference in 2019. Jenny is the expert on weaponry in Welsh Medieval poetry, so we are excited she is able to come and tell us more about this fascinating historical resource.
25 February Uncrowned Queen: The Fateful Life of Margaret Beaufort – Dr Nicola Tallis
Margaret Beaufort is a pivotal figure in English history and one who divides opinions. “Uncrowned Queen” is Nicola’s third book, following biographies of Lady Jane Grey and Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester.
25 March Like Father and Son? Warwick the Kingmaker and Edward IV – David Santiuste
David makes the case for the much overlooked Edward IV. Often only thought of as Richard III’s older brother, Edward was the most successful war leader of the Wars of the Roses, and it is about time for a thorough re-assessment of his life and times.
29 April The Arte Militaire – Warwick Louth
Warwick is an experienced battlefield guide and trained as a battlefield archaeologist. His book, “The Arte Militaire” is a ground breaking study of historic military manuals and their use today in understanding battles.
27 May The Northampton Riots – Mike Ingram
Northampton has not always been a peaceful town. Under the pressure of a growing population and radical ideas, its citizens often vented their feelings in a violent fashion. This is the story of civil disturbance in Northampton
24 June Northamptonshire and the Cuban Missile Crisis – John Bassett OBE
A couple of years ago John enthralled us with his talk on the SOE and OSS operations planned in Northamptonshire. Now he’s back to talk about our county’s role as the world stood on the brink of oblivion. John worked for over a decade in the Foreign Office and GCHQ, so offers us a unique perspective on events.
29 July How Battles were fought in the Wars of the Roses – Phil Steele
Arrow storms, artillery barrages, cavalry charges or foot soldiers and men at arms in an unseemly brawl? What is the truth about the late 15th century English Art of War? Phil revisits the many sources looking for an answer.
August No talk
30 September Medieval Rebellions – Matthew Lewis
Matt Lewis branches out to a multi-reign analysis of the cause and nature of rebellions in Medieval England, with his latest book. Matt is always an entertaining and popular speaker, and we are pleased to have him back.
28 October AGM & talk (NB 7:00pm start) Philip Skippon – The Christian Centurion – Dr Ismini Pells
Phillip Skippon was a very important part of the group of officers who won the Civil War for Parliament. Often overlooked compared to Fairfax, Cromwell, Essex and Waller, at last we get to hear his story
26 November The Monstrous Regiment – Graham Evans
Long before the modern debate about whether women should serve in the front line, some joined up anyway disguised as men. The Wild Rat’s editor looks at some of their amazing stories, as we find out why they joined up, where they fought and how they did, and did not, escape detection.
All information is correct at the time of publication but may be subject to changes. Please keep in touch with the Society through our page on Facebook for the latest updates and news.
All talks start at 7:30pm unless otherwise stated Venue: Delapre Golf Centre, Eagle Drive, Northampton Members: Free, Non- Members £5
25 January – Overmighty Subjects: Factions and Feuds in the Wars of the Roses. Mike Ingram
Mike is the Society’s Chairman, a medieval historian, author of “The Battle of Northampton” the definitive account of the battle and local expert on The Wars of the Roses.
22 February – The Georgian Militia. Prof Matthew McCormack
Professor McCormack is an expert on the militia of the Georgian period. An absolute must for anyone fascinated by those dashing chaps in Jane Austen’s novels.
29 March – The Black Prince. Dr Michael Jones
Dr Jones is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the British Commission for Military History and a noted historical writer.
26 April – The Princes in the Tower. Mathew Lewis
Historical writer Matthew Lewis returns to discuss one of histories most controversial mysteries.
31 May – Uncovering Edgcote: Re-evaluating the evidence. Phil Steele with Graham Evans
Phil is the Society’s Vice Chair, and is leading the project to mark the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Edgcote in 2019.
28 June – Forging Identities: Heraldry. Dr Conny Bailey
Dr Bailey lectures in Art History at the University of Leicester, and has previously given talks at Northampton Museum.
26 July – The Man who Arrested the Earl: William Boteler Northamptonshire’s Swordsman. Graham Evans.
The editor of the Wild Rat discusses the life and times of the man who was Northamptonshire’s military governor after the Civil War.
August No talk
27 September – Eleanor of Castile: The Shadow Queen. Sara Cockerill
Sara is a historian and barrister who has written the only full length biography of Edward I’s beloved queen, and the woman after whom our Eleanor Cross is named.
25 Oct – AGM & talk (NB 7:00pm start) Agincourt past, present and future. Professor Anne Curry
Professor Anne Curry is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Southampton. She is a Medieval Historian and the foremost expert on the Battle of Agincourt. She was the Chair of the Trustees of the very successful Agincourt 600 Project. She is also a Trustee of the Battlefields Trust, and also the Royal Armouries. The 600th anniversary of Agincourt in 2015 provided an opportunity to reflect on the battle. But what more is there to know? Where next for studies of this iconic battle? Professor Curry shares her views on this nation-defining battle.
After a short sharp fight NCC have partially climbed down over the archive. However, the battle is not over it seems. Please see the below statement released today.
STATEMENT: NORTHAMPTONSHIRE ARCHIVES & HERITAGE SERVICE
Northamptonshire County Council has reviewed its decision to change opening hours at its archives and heritage service after listening to the views of its regular users and supporters.
The archives service will now be open for free access on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm and the first Saturday in each month, 9am to 1pm.
In light of financial pressures and reducing visitor numbers, there will be a review of the service ahead of the next financial year as part of the budget setting process and this will include a full consultation around any proposed changes.
In 2016, the service was visited by a total of 3,500 researchers, a drop of 50 per cent compared with 2006.
County council cabinet member for public protection, strategic infrastructure and economic growth Cllr André Gonzalez de Savage said: “Having listened to the views of our service users here in Northamptonshire and across the UK, a decision has been made to reconsider the proposed changes to opening hours.
“However, given our significant financial challenges, changes to customer behaviour and a growth in online enquiries, we need to consider how best to use our limited resources and will be reviewing the service in the coming months as part of the annual budget process.
“As part of this there will be a full public consultation in which service users will be able to provide their feedback ahead of any changes being implemented.”
Oh dear. Here we go again. Northants is once again doing its best to become philistine of the year. Yup the county that wanted to dig its battlefield up, brought you the Sekhemka debacle, and allowed one of the last surviving Queen Eleanor’s Crosses to crumble, is now attempting to price a visit to the local archives out of the market. This in effect stops anyone carrying out research into the town and counties amazing past (the archive is for both town and county, but run by the county). This is the county of spires, squires, kings and queens where national and international history was made. It was home to radicals from lollards to puritans, home and burial place of ‘founder of the Brownists and originator of the gunpowder plot. Amongst many others, it is the burial place of Napoleon’ s granddaughter and the inventor of the sandwich. And democracy was fought for in its fields many times! And that is just scratching the surface. Who knows what is there still waiting to be discovered. Are they really intent on making the town’s and counties history mere history?
To be fair, this time it is not the borough but the county council. However, the archive is in the middle of the town so both will no doubt, be tarred with same brush.
Over recent months there has been an awakening of the powers that be with the importance of the town’s and counties history and there have been serious attempts to raise the awareness of it locally and nationally, but in one foul swoop it has come crashing down to joke status again. The county sat on those meetings and went to events publically pronouncing the plans, so knew full well what was being admirably attempted, so why have they brought it all crashing down without consultation? No neither do I?
Perhaps it is a misguided attempt to cash in on the awakening?
For those of you who have not undertaken archival research before let me explain a typical process. You arrive at the archive and request the documents. Hopefully you have identified the correct file in which the information you are looking for is held. Sometimes there can be a number of different files in which the information may be found and you then you are typically restricted to three files at a time. You then have to wait for them to be found. Providing they have been put away from the last time they were viewed and not languishing on a trolley somewhere (that is assuming it has been catalogued and indexed correctly in the first place), and depending how busy the archive is, and how many staff are there, you should have the file within the hour, hopefully quicker, although it can be longer). These files are often little more than a collection of papers maps or rolls usually without indexes. It really is a case of trying find a needle in a pile of needles. This is a long and slow process. It can be much longer if it is not in modern English or before spelling was standardised or the writing is illegible. And even longer if in medieval Latin, French or Italian etc. So this might take several hours to complete.
You might not find what you are looking for, so you have to start the whole process again. And even then you might not find anything and have to go through the process several more times. I have spent a whole week at Kew researching one thing. On another occasion I spent two days going through the Astor Archive looking for evidence of an event but left empty handed. Kew of course is free but with the new system at Northampton, even a day is costing me serious money and a week? I will let you do the maths at £31.50 per hour. Yet there is still no guarantee that I will have found what I want. Speculative visits would of course be prohibitive under this new system.
The text then has to transcribed or copied (incurring additional costs).
You should now be able to see the problem! Contrary to popular belief writing history books pays little. You already have to pay a small fortune for images from recognised sources. So this puts any original research into the counties history out of financial reach especially if the intention is to write a paper, book or article. Instead people will be forced to rehash old accounts (some of dubious accuracy) and use less reliable sources. Or, and more likely, just ignore Northants contribution to history all together. This proposal will therefore be the death of historical originality and discovery. An immediate rethink is needed!
Here is a link to the petition, which at the time of writing had over 3,000 signatories.