28th April – Making History

This month’s talk is by Major Tom Mouat MBE, who was part of the team that helped to implement the Dayton Peace Agreement that brought the Bosnian War to an end over 25 years ago. This will be a unique opportunity to hear about one of the pivotal events of late 20th century history from someone who was there.

Entry is free to Society members, or £7.50 on the door for non-members. Please book a ticket through our Eventbrite link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/making-history-tickets-320658848247

24th February Matt Lewis – Yorkist Foreign Policy

An email has gone out to members with details for next week’s talk by Matthew Lewis on “Yorkist Foreign Policy 1461-1485” . The meeting is on 24th February. Talk starts at 7:30pm, doors open 7.00pm. The volunteers from Delapre Abbey are providing a tea and coffee station in the Salon next to the Library (please make a donation in the box provided) for those who want some refreshment before we start (and perhaps afterwards too!)Tickets for attendance in person at Delapre Abbey are now available via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/yorkist-foreign-policy-matthew-lewis-tickets-272588648987?fbclid=IwAR3-GUnmbBRbqiMYzSmKxth2awar4WG612BztESYDS20mXgiqbZ2S73Wk2o

2022 Membership Mailing

The slightly delayed Membership Card mailing went out today, 2nd class post. In addition to the normal membership cards and speaker leaflet we are introducing Pin Badges and Car Stickers to help publicise the Society and enable members and enthusiasts to recognise each other! These will be available for general sale from the Society at our monthly meetings and other outings.

32mm Pin Badge with new Society Logo
75mm Vinyl Car Sticker

First Meeting of the Year sees large turnout

Mike Brown and some Mandrake

Our first meeting of the year had a record turnout for the last 12 months, with about 60% of our members participating either on line or in person. We started with our EGM, which saw Graham Evans elected as Chair, Steve Churchus as Vice Chair, Lynn Aisbett as Secretary and Vincent Clive taking over as Treasurer. Other committee posts were unchanged. Graham was optimistic that this new team would be able to take the Society forwards and build on Mike Ingram’s legacy.

The speaker for the evening was Michael Brown, who gave us “Death in the Garden”. This was one of Michael’s Talks that our own Mike had specifically asked for. It was a good choice and held the audience enthralled. A full report will appear in the next edition of our newsletter, “The Wild Rat”.

Michael didn’t have any of his books on the subject on hand to sell, but they are currently available from Amazon for £12.99: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Garden-Poisonous-Throughout-History/dp/1526708388/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2NCHLWQMCHB5X&keywords=Death+in+the+Garden&qid=1643377263&sprefix=death+in+the+garden%2Caps%2C58&sr=8-1

Michael would also like it to be known that his latest book on medieval gardens is available from the publishers with a £5 discount, making it cheaper than Amazon: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/A-Guide-to-Medieval-Gardens-Hardback/p/20264

EGM Update 27th January

Meeting Attendance
There are still tickets available for the meeting via Eventbrite. Mike Brown’s “Death in the Garden” talk will follow immediately after the EGM: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/247827788587

Election of Officers
The Committee have been advised that the following individuals have put there names forward to serve in the following positions:

Chair – Graham Evans
Vice Chair – Steve Churchus
Secretary – Lynn Aisbett
Treasurer – Vincent Clive

In addition Jean Hawkins has volunteered to join the committee.

Should any other member wish to put their name forwards for either the Committee or to serve as an Officer of the Society, please contact the Secretary at Wildrat1460@gmail.com by 5pm, Wednesday 26th January 2022.
Should no further nominations be received, the above named individuals will be elected unopposed.

Extraordinary General Meeting 27th January 2022

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
Northamptonshire Battlefields Society

Mike Ingram RIP

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

Mike, holding his NHF award for best publication 2021. A well deserved award for his book “Northampton 5,00 Years of History”

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. 

I shall miss him very, very, much.

NBS Wins Second Heritage Forum Award

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.