After the Duke of York’s second Protectorate (ending 1456) Queen Margaret had not forgotten his claim to the throne and started gathering support against the Yorkist Lords. In 1458 the Queen stopped supplies and funds being sent to the Earl of Warwick, who resorted to pirate raids against both enemy and friendly shipping to pay his troops (which raised his popularity with the now rich garrison and with the commoners at home, who thought of him as a swashbuckling hero. At the time Londoners were renowned for their hatred of all foreigners!)
Warwick was summoned to the capital to answer charges of treachery and after a brief skirmish with the royal guard in London, Margaret declared all three Yorkist Lords traitors. In 1459 York planned to meet the Earl of Salisbury with an army of his northern retainers, and Warwick with the Calais contingent at his castle of Ludlow. At the same time King Henry was raising an army in the midlands and James, Lord Audley and the Queen had gathered over ten thousand men at Market Drayton in Shropshire.
Marching South with an army of three to six thousand men, Salisbury managed to successfully avoid Henry’s army, but was ambushed by Audley at Blore Heath. When Salisbury’s scouts spotted enemy banners appearing on the other side of a hedge, Salisbury positioned his men on a ridge above Wemberton Brook with wagons formed into a laager (a protective circle) on his right flank, and the Burnt wood sheltering his left. As Lord Audley advanced, realizing they were heavily outnumbered, Salisbury had his men dig trenches and fix stakes around their positions. At 1o’clock in the afternoon Salisbury’s centre is supposed to have feigned retreat, drawing Lord Audley’s cavalry into the battle. As the enemy advanced Salisbury quickly circled round and intercepted them as they forced a crossing over the brook, inflicting heavy losses with his archers. The Lancastrians stubbornly attacked again (Lord Audley had been given strict orders to capture Salisbury) but Audley was killed and his men pushed back.
Lord Dudley took command and ordered his remaining men to attack on foot resulting in fierce hand-to-hand combat. As it became clear the Yorkists were winning, several hundred of Lord Dudley’s men deserted to the enemy and attacked their own side, shattering the feeble Lancastrian line.
The Lancastrian’s lost two thousand men during the battle while the Yorkist lost no more than five hundred, however Sir John and Sir Thomas Neville were both trapped and captured by an enemy squire during the pursuit – surely a blow to their father, the Earl Salisbury.
After the victory at Blore Heath the Yorkists marched towards Worcester. They quickly fell back to the fortified positions of Ludford Bridge, after encountering a much larger Lancastrian force. On 12 October 1459, Andrew Trollope, who commanded the Calais contingent, defected to the King when offered a pardon, bringing with him, his men and much information on York's army and plans. York was outnumbered by more than three to one, unsurprisingly that evening, York, his two sons along with Warwick and Salisbury fled knowing any battle could not be won, to Calais and Ireland.
Finding themselves leaderless next morning, the Yorkists disbanded leaving the Lancastrians free to plunder pro-York Ludlow.