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Towton Battlefield

Selby, England, United Kingdom

About Towton Battlefield

Towton Battlefield near York in northern England is the location of the Battle of Towton, a decisive encounter in the Wars of the Roses. Fought on 29 March 1461, this was the largest and bloodiest battle of the war. Over 28,000 men are thought to have died on a single day. The battle ended in a comprehensive victory for the Yorkists, confirming the young Edward IV’s hold on the throne.

An increasingly bitter conflict, the Wars of the Roses had been underway for several years before the Battle of Towton, as the houses of Lancaster and York fought for supremacy. Prior to the battle there had been several fierce clashes, principle among which was the Battle of Wakefield in which the leader of the Yorkist faction, Richard Duke of York, was killed. However, the Yorkist cause continued under Richard’s eldest son Edward, who soon defeated a Lancastrian army at Mortimer’s Cross.

As neither side could vanquish the other, Edward had himself proclaimed king in London before marching north to confront the Lancastrians. The two huge armies met at Towton.

Though the Lancastrians initially held the high ground, the wind was very much against them and withering fire from Yorkist archers forced them to attack. After several hours of bitter fighting in dreadful conditions a second Yorkist force entered the fray and struck the Lancastrian flank. Soon after these reinforcements joined battle the Lancastrian lines buckled and a full scale rout ensued. With no quarter given, thousands of Lancastrian soldiers – peasantry and nobility alike – were cut down, trampled or drowned as they attempted to flee. After securing his victory Edward returned to London for his official coronation at Westminster Abbey.

Today little remains at the site of such carnage, and the battlefield is mostly open farmland. A medieval stone cross – the Towton Cross – stands by the side of the road to mark the site, along with some battlefield information panels which set out the events which took place here.