Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Borders battle fails to make national inventory


A research project centred on a 16th Century Borders battle between Scots and English armies has concluded that the conflict should not be included in Scotland's national inventory of historic battlefields even though it resulted in a crushing defeat for Henry VIII's troops.

Historic Environment Scotland's assessment of the Battle of Haddon Rig, which took place near Kelso some 29 years after Flodden in August 1542, involved detailed studies of The Hamilton Papers, formerly in the possession of the Duke of Hamilton, and now held by the British Museum.

The collection of letters and papers illustrate the political relations of England and Scotland in the 16th Century.

An 11-page report covering the research findings tells how an English army led by Sir Robert Bowes was encamped near the town of Kelso, and had dispatched raiding parties to ransack nearby settlements. 

Meanwhile, a Scottish force under the Earl of Huntly, advancing to engage the English, encountered the raiding parties and pursued them back to the main English army, who in turn had advanced to meet them. Although the two parts of the English army did converge before the Scots reached them, the subsequent battle was still a heavy defeat for them. 

Many of the English army fled before the fighting, and Bowes himself was captured along with hundreds of his men. However, fears in England of an immediate Scottish invasion following the victory proved unfounded.

In a section setting out the reasons for excluding the battle from the inventory, the report points out that The Battle of Haddon Rig does not feature highly in the national consciousness but is of some interest on grounds of association with historical events or figures of national importance. 

No artefacts from the battle have been recorded but there is some potential that future investigations of the relatively undeveloped land south east of Kelso in the area around Haddon Rig may identify archaeological evidence for a chase and skirmish in August 1542. 

"Although the high ground known as Haddon Rig remains a likely site for the English camp, the primary sources considered by this assessment provide insufficient detail to enable secure identification of the camp’s location, or of other landscape features associated with the battle, with the exception of some named settlements raided by the English forces.

"The degree of interest on these grounds is unlikely to make a significant contribution to our understanding at a national level. Furthermore, while certain named places in the accounts of the battle can still be identified today, these are spread across a substantial area along the River Tweed and the River Teviot. There is also uncertainty about the precise location of the English camp, from which Bowes advanced with the main force, and it is unclear exactly where the raiding party rejoined the main English force and where it is likely the main fighting took place. 

"Without more certainty about the approximate locations of key elements of the battle, it is currently not possible to define an area of interest for the battlefield with a reasonable degree of certainty. As such the battlefield does not currently meet the criteria for inclusion in the Inventory as a battlefield of national importance."

Nevertheless, this particular encounter is said to be of considerable interest so far as Scottish Borders history is concerned.

The report describes how on the morning of St Bartholomew’s day (24 August) 1542, an English force under Bowes made a cross border raid into Scotland. Accompanying Bowes was Archibald Douglas, the Earl of Angus, who had been in exile in England since 1528, when James V had escaped from the Earl’s control and began ruling Scotland directly. Having entered Scotland in the vicinity of Kelso, two sorties of around 100 soldiers were despatched to raid in the area around the town, one led by the Redesdale and Tynedale families, the other by garrisons from Berwick and Norham. 

The Scots advanced from Kelso with Sir Walter Lindsay’s men at the vanguard, and with the Earl of Huntly and the main battle array at the rear. 

"Fearing the loss of the cattle and sheep they had seized in raiding, George Bowes and Brian Layton’s account states that the men of John Heron (all of Redesdale), Angus and Sir Cuthbert Radcliffe, scattered and fled. This appears to have left Sir Robert Bowes, his brother George Bowes, John Heron of Ford, Sir Cuthbert Radcliffe and around 40 other men (described in correspondence by George Bowes and Brian Layton as ‘household servants’) who dismounted from their horses around their standard.

"Of these, around only 20 stood their ground to face the Scots. The majority of the fighting appears to have taken place following this disintegration of Bowes’ forces, with the Scots easily overwhelming the small remaining English complement."

"The exact number of losses is not clear from the accounts. Angus claims that eight men (out of around only 20 who stood their ground to fight) died in the main engagement. A further 70 of their company are also described as either killed or taken prisoner, although their fate was clearly uncertain to Angus at the time of his correspondence with the Privy Council. Lindsay of Pitscottie estimates the English losses at 10 score (i.e. 200 men).

"In addition to the casualties from the small remaining force who engaged the Scots, further losses were suffered in the groups who fled the field, with at least 400-500 captured, although one source suggests almost a third of the English force was taken, meaning just under 1000 captives taken."

The research report says there is potential for survival of remains of Bowes’ short-lived encampment, potentially in the land around Haddon Rig, for example evidence for fortified banks and ditches, and also scattered artefacts including pottery, soldiers’ personal effects, and weaponry (e.g. musket balls). 

Among the archaeological evidence which might survive of the engagement is evidence of archers, cavalry and possibly even shot from matchlock guns, and grave pits for the dead. However, as Haddon Rig was not so much a pitched battle but perhaps more a chase and skirmish with relatively low loss of life, many of the raiding parties fled the battle and some were killed on retreat. 

This might suggest that the likely quantity of remains will be small, and potentially widely scattered. The potential areas within which physical remains may be identified are numerous and extensive, and also probably hard to locate beyond a general area between Heiton and Hadden, a distance of around 10km, extending even to the English border.

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