Before You Go: Towton Battlefield

Re-enactors at the Site of the Battle of Towton
Re-enactors at the Site of the Battle of Towton. Gauntlett

The bloodiest battle ever fought in England was part of the War of the Roses, on Palm Sunday, in the year 1461, between the Yorkist King Edward IV, and the Duke of Somerset, fighting on the Lancaster side for Henry VI and Queen Margaret.

Basic Facts

The Battle of Towton took place on a snowy day in March, 1461, two miles north of Sherburn-in-Elmet and five miles south of Tadcaster. Reports indicate 42,000 men fought for the Lancastrians and 36,000 for the Yorkists.

Battle Statistics

Legends after the battle suggest that 80,000 to 100,000 men fought in the war. Casualty estimates range between 20,000 and 28,000 dead, and untold wounded. If these estimates are true (and there is some controversy), the Towton Battlefield saw the most killed in any War of the Roses battles; and the death count far outweighs most known historic battles in the world.

 

Recent Research and Findings

In 1996, a mass grave of 43 individuals was uncovered by workmen in North Yorkshire who were identified as combatants at Towton based on radiocarbon dates and recovered artifacts. Osteological analysis of the wounds exhibited on the skeletal remains supports the legendary brutality of the battle. An extensive battlefield survey is being undertaken to confirm or reject some of the current legends.

     

    Controversy

    One controversy currently being investigated is the number of people killed at Towton. While it has been determined that the Battle of Towton did actually take place at the historically documented site, researchers have some grave (if you'll pardon the pun) doubts about the number of dead and the presence of mass graves within the battlefield itself.

     

    Site Photographs

    From the Richard III Society, a collection of photos of the battlefield. And from the Real Richard III site, a virtual tour of the battlefield.

     

    Learning More

    Three books on Towton are presently available. Blood Red Roses is a 2000 book by Veronica Fiorato and others on the archaeological and osteological investigations of the mass grave at Towton. The Battle of Towton (1994) is a history of the battle by Andrew Boardman and others. And Towton 1461 (2003) is another history.

    • Blood Red Roses
    • The Battle of Towton
    • Towton 1461