Edgcote Conference – 2019

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“… bothe the armies met by chaunce, in a faire plain, nere to a toune called Hedgecot …”

To commemorate the 550th anniversary of one of the most misunderstood and confusing battles of the Wars of the Roses period the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society, in association with Abington Park Museum in Northampton and the Battlefields Trust, held a full day study day and conference on the 27th July 2019.

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The Delegates gather for coffee and tea

Fought in South Northamptonshire just outside Banbury by armies from Wales and Yorkshire the Battle of Edgcote marked Warwick the Kingmaker’s first step from Yorkist to Lancastrian. The outcome of the battle was determined by a dispute over a fair maid from Banbury, and the timely arrival of a rag-tag group of rascals from in and around Northampton, – or was it?

The Audience Awaits

The full day conference looked at the campaign and battle, from why the Earl of Warwick felt compelled to abandon the House of York, to the mysterious “Robin of Redesdale” who plunged the Kingdom into such chaos, and the bloody executions at the foot of the Eleanor Cross in Northampton where long held grudges were settled.

The Speakers were:

Harvey Watson: “The Battle of Edgcote – an Introduction”
Harvey is a Trustee of the Battlefields Trust and editor of Battlefield Magazine. He provided a full introduction to the battle and the circumstances surrounding it, covering the traditional interpretation of the battle, based mainly upon the English sources.

Harvey goes back to basics

​Mike Ingram: “The Woodvilles and the War”
Mike is Chair of the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society, author of books on the Battles of Northampton and Bosworth, regular contributor to the Nenequirer and frequent speaker on Northamptonshire’s history. He covered the background to the Earl of Warwick’s rebellion and the tensions between him, as the most powerful noble in the realm, and Edward IV’s wife and family, that are commonly believed to have led to uprising.

Mike’s opening slide sums it all up.

Professor Ann Parry Owen “Words, weapons & warfare – the Welsh Bards and the Battle of Banbury”
Ann is an expert in Welsh poetry from the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh & Celtic Studies, and discussed the often overlooked evidence for the battle contained in 15th century Welsh Poetry. This source is often not covered in depth by English studies of the battle, despite one of the armies being predominantly Welsh. Ann had completed entirely new translations of poems related to the battle not previously fully available in English especially for the anniversary. She made a forceful case for the Welsh poetry to be the most reliable source available to us, and hopefully finally nailed the date of the battle as the 24th July and not the 26th as erroneously stated in later sources. This was a unique opportunity to hear her speak at a battlefields event, although hopefully not the last.

Unaccompanied by slides, Professor Ann kept the audience spellbound.

Phil Steele: “Edgcote and the Art of War”
Phil is a Trustee of the Battlefields Trust and long term member of the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society. He is a regular speaker on matters relating to battles in Northamptonshire. In this talk he looked at how the armies deployed and fought, going beyond the contemporary sources conventionally used, looking at what the chronicles and depictions in 15th century art and artefacts truly tell us about what was happening on the battlefield. His conclusions came as a surprise to many in the audience, in as much as he was able to say what we do not see, as well as what we do.

Phil makes a point about archers in artworks

Graham Evans: “The Source of the Problem”
Graham is Secretary of the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society and author of the recently published book “The Battle of Edgcote 1469 – Re-evaluating the evidence”. He rounded off the day with a look at the evidence we have, and how it fits together, before challenging a number of long held views about what actually happened (backing up Ann on the date of the battle from ignored English references), to whom and where. A detailed look at what the sources actually say and the late medieval landscape, trackways and drovers’ roads firmly overturned many of the traditional interpretations of the campaign and battle. He also provided the hopefully definitive guide to who Robin of Redesdale actually was.

The concluding session

In addition to the speaker programme, conference delegates were be able to visit the Society information stand and see the brand new battlefield model, specially built for this year’s anniversary by Phil Steele, with figures donated by Wargames Foundry from their Late Medieval range. We were also be joined by re-enactors who are also members of the Society, who brought along a sizeable collection of medieval armour and weapons.

The Battlefield Model

Feedback for the conference was very good, as these comments from people attending the day show:

“Great event”

“Thank you for a very well put together day. Very interesting.”

“Fantastic. Well organised, interesting & entertaining.”

“The Welsh poems presentation was worth the ticket price. ”

“Found it very interesting, especially the displays of the battlefield and the armour/swords etc.”

“The most in depth discussion I’ve attended.”

“Excellent day!”

Thanks must also be given to Debra Cox & the team at Abington Park Museum who did so much to make this a successful conference, and Dawn Hawkins Catering (dawnhawkinscaterer@hotmail.co.uk) who put on a magnificent spread for all tastes, including Vegan & Gluten Free.

Finally, thanks also to Society member Steve Williams who took most of the photographs, as the Committee were quite busy rushing around and doing everything else. Well done team!