Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Aftermath of the Battle

File:Map for Battle of Blore Heath by Ramsay.jpg

The troops had first faced each other sometime in the morning, and the ensuing battle had lasted most of the afternoon. By early evening, the Lancastrian forces were routed from the field, no doubt pursued by the victorious Yorkists. The main body of the surviving Lancastrian soldiers fled south east along Hempmill brook to rejoin the King's forces at Eccleshall ten miles away.
Many of the fleeing soldiers heading towards Market Drayton would have crossed the river Tern at Shifford's bridge. Two of the fields near this spot have peculiar names,Deadman's Den and Duke Langley's piece. It is possible that these names have connections with the battle, though it is impossible to say for certain.
Meanwhile, Salisbury had no desire to remain on the battlefield. He was aware that there were other Lancastrian forces in the area, and that he was in a Lancastrian heartland. Also, he was no doubt keen to proceed south west to join York at Ludlow. He rallied his scattered forces and headed two miles west to the town of Market Drayton, where he made his camp. It is probable that he acted on local advice in choosing the spot to camp, as it had a large flat top with sloping sides, so as to act as a suitable makeshift defensive position. The hill, which is now called Salisbury Hill is still there.

In order to cover his progress from the battlefield, Salisbury employed another clever ruse. He employed a local Augustian friar to periodically fire a cannon on the battlefield throughout the night. This would have dissuaded any other Lancastrian forces from approaching the battlefield by giving the impression that the Yorkists still maintained control. By the time the King and Queen arrived on Blore Heath the following morning at the head of a Lancastrian army, all they found was a deserted camp, a battlefield strewn with corpses and a frightened friar. Salisbury and the surviving Yorkists were already en route to Ludlow.
Whilst at camp in Market Drayton, Salisbury learned that two of his sons who had fought at Blore Heath, Sir Thomas and Sir John Neville had been taken prisoner at Tarporley in Cheshire. They were captured by a 17-year-old youth called John Done (whose father Sir John had been killed at Blore Heath), and held captive at Chester Castle. It is possible the Neville brothers were searching for a safe house after having been wounded.
The final death toll at Blore Heath is impossible to calculate for certain, and sources conflict. However, it is likely that at least 3,000 men perished, with 2,000 or more of these on the Lancastrian side. In common with many Medieval battles, the fighting at Blore Heath had been both fierce and bloody. Legend has it that Hempmill Brook ran with blood for three days after the battle.
It must remain a mystery as to what happened to all the corpses. No doubt, families and loved ones of the local men would have claimed their bodies and buried them elsewhere, but there must be hundreds of bodies buried somewhere in the vicinity of Blore Heath. It has been suggested that some of the dead are buried some three miles away at Fairoak (which would have been en route to Eccleshall castle) though this is unconfirmed.
In 1960, builders digging a water main near Salisbury Hill in Market Drayton uncovered five skeletons. These were investigated by a local bobby who decided that they were from the Battle of Blore Heath (though no formal archeological excavation was ever completed).

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