Towton Battlefield

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Palm Sunday, on the 29th March 1461 was an awful day for weather in North Yorkshire.

For most of the day a snowstorm raged.

This did not stop a famous and bloody battle from taking place at Towton, during the War of the Roses.

This isolated site of open fields is three miles from the town of Tadcaster, between Leeds and York and is best found from the A.64.

Opposing sides, fighting for the Houses of York and Lancaster to bring about their choice of King, met over a large area of countryside.

75,000 Englishmen took part in the battle, which lasted ten hours and took place during the snowstorm.

The Yorkists were heavily outnumbered, but had the huge advantage of a strong wind at their backs, which drove the snow into the faces of their enemy.

The Yorkist bowmen took full advantage, firing volleys of arrows into the hordes of men, whilst the arrows of the Lancastrians fell short of their targets.

Savage hand to hand fighting then ensued, and such was the carnage that truces had to held so that bodies could be dragged from the front line in order that fighting could continue.

The local River Cock was said to have run red with blood.

28,000 men were killed, the bloodiest battle ever held on English soil.

At the end of the day, the Yorkists emerged victorious and this led to Edward IV replacing Henry VI as King of England.

It is said that red and white or 'burnt' roses grew on the site in the years that followed.

William Shakespeare wrote about the battle in his play Henry VI, Part III.

Lead Chapel, a tiny stone built church in the middle of an isolated field still stands, near to the present day Crooked Billet pub and is the place where some troops prayed before and after the battle. It is open to visitors and is today dedicated to ramblers.

A monument was erected at the battle-site in 1929.

In 1966, a mass grave site was unearthed and the bodies found had horrific bony injuries from slash wounds.

Five further mass graves were identified and excavated in 2011 and 2012. Artefacts are still regularly found.

There is an active and energetic historical society who conduct battlefield visits, walks and events throughout the year and there is even a tapestry being created to commemorate the battle.

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