The Wars of the Roses saw major battles unseat kings and resulted in the deaths of leading magnates and thousands of men on the field and within routs. Those battles weren’t the only violent acts of the period though. Many historians have noted feuds between lords as being a contributory factor to the outbreak of the wars, citing the way in which local issues resulted in lords and the gentry seeking out allies which ultimately created the power blocs who went to war in 1455, and again in a more sustained manner from 1459. How true that is, is a matter for a different post. What is true, is that the 15th century saw much violence: though not an unusually high amount. Some is tied to the Wars of the Roses as they contributed to lords decisions as to whom they should support. Others are unrelated but illustrate the crowns inability to keep the peace at times within some regions. They also show that opportunism was a factor and that often the aggressor was able to secure a pardon.
Well known regional feuds prior to the Wars of the Roses
Some of the feuds of the mid 15th century are well known. The Percy-Neville feud and the disputes between the Bonville and Courtenay families have received much attention. In part because these are major players in regional and national affairs. In part because they were the main, but not only, examples of feuds used to illustrate ties between local and national conflict by influential 20th century historians such as R.L. Storey and K.B. MacFarlane. Their studies are far from being the only ones that explore violence in the period, and some note that recourse to violence was actually not only a norm but quite acceptable under certain circumstances.
That violence could be justified may seem alien to a modern mind. However P. Madden in her seminal work on violence in East Anglia in the first two decades of the reign of King Henry VI notes that limited acts of violence were viewed at the time as being justifiable if they were perceived to be within the natural order of society.
15th Century Disputes. Evidence and Legends
Disputes did turn violent. From ransacking a rivals property to large scale assaults, private battles, and assassination attempts. They vary from those such as the standoff at Dartford in 1452 that are well documented, to others for which little beyond local legend remains. For some there are legal records, as Commissions of Oyer and Terminer, or attempts at arbitration, were recorded. For others, the evidence is lacking.
A century of unrest?
The following list is a working document. It is far from being a full record. Sieges are omitted unless a relief force engaged near but not at the siege. Major battles are also omitted for the time being. Clashes relating to the rebellions in the early 15th century have not been included but may be at a later stage.
Please note any additions or corrections in comments. They will be much appreciated.
15th century regional violence in England, Ireland and Wales
Note the primary focus is actions related to affairs under the juristiction of the kings of England. This includes Wales and Ireland. Some Anglo-Scottish clashes are included but these are not really the focus of the following list, they simply remind that there were external matters for the king, council, magnates to consider whilst also maintaining peace as far as was possible.
Opinion: Violence of the 15th Century
The level of violence was noted by the Croyland Chronicle. Though it is an exaggeration it shows that the abbey was concerned:
“And not only among princes and people had such a spirit of contention arisen, but even in every society, whether chapter, college, or convent had this unhappy plague of division effected and entrance… the consequence was, that… the combatants…. attacked each other wherever they happened to meet.”
Violent feuds in the 15th century.
Feuds turning violent: 1415-1425
Oxford, 1417 or 1418. [Townsfolk led by the mayor, bailiffs and some Aldermen atracked an abbots attourney and his men. They proceed to lands held by the Abbey of Osney where they diverted water away from the weirs, stole fish, looted, and imprisoned the abbots men].
Swetenham, Cheshire. 1422. [40 armed men led by Thomas de Wetenhall and Thomas de Davenport attack properties of Thomas de Swetenham]
Feuds turning violent: 1426-1430
Armagh, 1428 [“All this land is severed” Archbishop Swayne of Armagh].
Skirmish at Great Deddington March 1430 [Somerton v Aston]
Chesterfield 1 Jan 1434 [Foljambe-Pierrepoint/ Longford dispute]
Chester, 5th regnal year of reign of Henry VI. [John de Kyngesley led a band of 300 men into the town. It caused enough alarm for Thomas Beaufort to halt court proceedings]
Cheshire, 5th regnal year of Henry VI. [Adam de Bostok leads attack on properties belonging to John de Kyngesley].
Alpraham, Cheshire, 5th regnal year of Henry VI. [John, son of Sir Robert Savage of Clyfton, indicted for leading a 60 man raid that seized Thomas de Kyngesley].
Haselyton, Cheshire, 5th regnal year of Henry VI. [John Savage (as above) led raid on home of Thomas Corke of Hasleyton. Bows and catapults noted as being used in the attack].
Feuds turning violent: 1431-1435
Badington, Dallinghoo and Creting St. Peter, 1432. [Seized by Robert Wingfield as part of a feud between the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk].
Farndon, Cheshire, 1434. [Hugh de Dutton, his sons and his retainers attacked by a force led by Robert Ffyton].
Longley, 1434 [Sir Henry Pierrepoint and Thomas Longford led an attack on Thomas Bradshaw and his companions].
Feuds turning violent: 1436-1440
Bradford Wood, Cheshire. 1437. [George de Wever led 24 men in an ambush on Henry de Weryngton, abbot of Vale Royal. Monks injured. It was possibly a revenge attack. The abbot had used ecclesiastical priviledge to get off a rape charge 5 years earlier].
Gloverstone, Cheshire. 1437. [George de Wever and companions attacked by party led by Hugo de Ravenscroft of Middlewich, Thomas de Croxton and John Cokker. May be related to previous entry for Wever].
Cheshire, 1438. [John de Huxley, Sheriff of Cheshire and his party ambushed in woods by a group led by Thomas de Stratham. Motive appears to be perception of poor administration of justice].
Gelderston and Stockton, Norfolk. March 1438 [Seized by the Duke of Norfolk].
Feuds turning violent: 1441-1445
Norwich 1441 [Disturbances investigated by Duke of Norfolk, probably riots but unsure of exact details]
Norwich 1442 [Held against Duke of Norfolk in protest about prior of Christchurch]
Brothertoft, near Boston in Lincs. 1442. [William Tailboys led attack which resulted in the murder of Thomas Lodde].
Letheringham, 1443. [The Duke of Norfolk’s men raided lands held by Robert Wingfield. The looting and damage caused was stated by Wingfield to be valued at £5000. The Duke was subsequently subject to a £2000 bond to keep the peace, bond dated 26 November 1443].
Ireland, 1444. [The Desmond’s raided deep into Butler territories].
Norfolk, Spring 1444. [Men of the Duke of Norfolk targetted lands held by Ralph Garney. They diverted a river and blocked water from reaching his fulling mill].
Feuds turning violent: 1446-1450
Stamford Bridge Summer 1447 [Lord Egremont v men of the Archbishop of York]
Cumberland 1448 [Percy defence against Scottish incursion]
Gresham, 1448. [Lord Moleyn’s men terrorised the lical community. A large retinue set about the men of the de la Pole’s and Paston’s. Culminated in Moleyns seizing Gresham Castle]
Horncastle, 14 March 1448. [William Tailboys led an assault on lands held by John Dymoke that resulted in the murder of John Stourror].
Gresham 1448 [Pastons driven from manor through use of force by Robert Hungerford, Lord Moleyns]
Boston, Lincolnshire. 2 October 1448. [William Tailboys led a raid on John Kede of Spalding that resulted in 3 murders being recorded].
Taunton 1449 [Earl of Devon besieged Bonnville held castle, broken by arrival of Duke of York’s retinue].
Spalding and Pinchbeck, Northants. 12 August 1449. [Men from Lord Welles’ lands in Deeping raided, looting goids]
Star Chamber, Westminster. [Account suggests that William Tailboys attempted to murder Lord Hastings outside the Star Chamber. Unverified].
Stanton Harcourt 2 May 1450 [Assault aiming to kill Sir Robert Harcourt]
Battle of Solefields 18 June 1450 [Cade Rebellion]
Feuds turning violent: 1451-1455
Standoff near Wallingford 17 September 1451 [Bonnville-Courtenay dispute]
Lackham Manor, near Bath. 1451. [Bonville-Courtenay dispute. Thomas Courtenay led a large force that drove James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire, from the manor].
Louth, July 1451. [Robert Wytham and accomplices attacked Louth killing one man and injuring others. Robert later charged, in 1456, on grounds of supporting the Duke of York].
Calais under threat [Commissions of Array 24 January 1452]
Standoff at Dartford 1 March 1452
Cumberland Summer 1453 [Egremont v Sherriff of Cumberland].
Derby, 30 July 1453. [Nicholas Longford’s servants attacked Thomas Blount at a nunnery].
Battle of Heworth 24 August 1453 Percy-Neville feud]
Ladmore near Newhall. Church Lawton. Bugwlawton. Pulton in Wallassee.1453 or 1454, date unclear. [Riotous assembly of men burnt houses, looted, murdered in a rampage through these villages].
Chesterfield, 1 January 1454. [Pierrepoint-Foljambe feud. Foljambe retinue attacked Pierrepoint supporters in St. Mary’s church murdering Henry Longford and William Bradshaw. Sir Henry Pierrepoint had two fingers cut off. When the murder was brought to trial Foljambe’s lawyer inserted the word junior after Thomas Foljambe’s name on official papers, thus making his ten year old son the defendant!].
Chesterfield, 2 January 1454 [Pierrepoint-Foljambe feud. Revenge attack by Pierrepoint supporters on property of Thomas Foljambe].
Near Exeter April 1454 [Attempt by Earl of Devon to ambush Bonville]
Longford, 30 April 1454. [Walter and Thomas Blount along with Nicholas Gresley led a raid on Longford assaulting tenants and damaging property].
York 14 May 1454 [Occupied in revolt by Duke of Exeter and Lord Egremont, forced to flee]
Lackham Unsure of date but before St Albans [Earl of Devon forces Earl of Wiltshire to flee. Large private army, Wiki suggests 5-6000]
Withington, Lancashire. 27 May 1454. [Sir John Warren led 100 men armed with swords, cudgels, and bows against a group led by Sir Nicholas Longford that included his brothers, Richard, Edmund and John along with members of the Vernon, Cockayne, Fitzherbert and Bonington families].
Derby, 28 May 1454. Sir Nicholas Longford led a force reckoned to number 1000 into Derby under Lancastrian banners. Parts of the town sacked with a particular focus on Blount properties].
Manor of Longford, May 1454. [Attacked by retinue of Walter and Thomas Blount in retaliation for Longford’s actions in Derby].
Elvaston, 28/29 May 1454 [Foljambe-Pierrepoint/ Longford dispute. Longford family sacked Elvaston].
Battle of Stamford Bridge 31 Oct or 1 Nov 1454 [Percy-Neville feud].
Derby, April 1455. [Friends of Sir Nicholas Longford launched attack on the Blount family. Rowland Blount killed in the clashes].
Boston, Lincs. 1455. [John Fordham, gentleman, charged with leading attack on servants of Lord Beaumont].
County Wexford, 1455. [Edmund Butler attacks County Wexford, “with banners displayed, ridden, burnt, and destroyed the county of Wexford by time and space of four days and four nights, continually.”]
Newbury 1455 [Supporters of Duke of York sought out and hanged, drawn and quartered]
Clyst Heath 3 November 1455 [Bonville-Courtenay dispute]
Powderham 19 November 1455 [Bonville attempted to lift siege, Earl of Devon repulsed him, killing several men as Bonville’s force fled]
Feuds turning violent: 1456-1460
Chester, 1456. [Described as being the, “Year of riotous uprisings of the commonality].
Castleton July 1457 [Percy-Neville feud] Fleet Street 13 April 1459
Raid on Sandwich 14 January 1460
Newnham Bridge 22 April 1460
Battle of Ballymacaw June 1460
County Meath Summer 1460 [Conn O’Connor Faly of Offaly attacked English levies sent against him]
County Louth Summer 1460 [Sean O’Reilly raided north of Ardee in a chevauchee style campaign]
Battle of Mapastown 3 September 1460
Worksop 16 December 1460
Feuds turning violent: 1461-1465
Dintingdale 28 or 29 March 1461
Dodlesden, Cheshire. Sunday after Easter, 1461. [Jenkyn Teryvn led 100 Welshmen in raid targetting Richard Hyndeley who they kill].
Twt Hill 16 October 1461
Near Piltown, Ireland, Summer 1462. [4 days of raiding towns by Thomas and John Butler preceding the Battle of Piltown].
Battle of Piltown Summer 1462 [Fitzgerald-Butler rivalry]
Fethard, County Tipperary. 1462. [Earl of Desmind attempted to attack but was held back at a ford by men led by Philip Hacket. This is noted in bardic verse:
Philip’s fame was noised abroad when the Earl was before Fethard;
He stopped at the ford of the town and gave way to none”]
First Battle of Hexham 3 April 1463.
North East July 1463 [John Neville forces James III’s army to retreat to Scotland]
Drylswyn 4 March 1464 [John Dwnn and Roger Vaughan defeated Lancastrian rebels] From Tim Upton
Carmarthenshire Uprising 1465 [Sir Roger Vaughan commissioned to supress it].
Feuds turning violent: 1466-1470
Near York Summer 1469 [Montagu v Robin of Redesdale]
Northampton 22 July 1469 [Herbert v Rebels] From Tim Upton
Battle of Nibley Green 20 March 1470
Ribblebridge May 1470? [Duke of Gloucester v the Stanleys] From Tim Upton
Feuds turning violent: 1471-1475
Leicester 3 April 1471 [Lord Hastings v Courtenay and Beaumont] From Tim Upton
Skirmish at Chipping Sodbury 2 May 1471
Feuds turning violent: 1476-1480
Skircote Moor April or May 1478 between the Savile Family and the Pilkington Family slightly more unusual as both family’s were ardent Yorkists. [From Andy Strain]
St. Warburgh’s, Cheshire. 1478 and 1479. [Richard Olden, Abbot, ssued with £1000 bond of recognicance to keep the peace, renewed after breach].
Feuds turning violent: 1481-1490
Berwick Winter 1481 to August 1482. [Siege and skirmishes]
Raid on Dumfries 22 May 1482
Landing at Piel Island 4 June 1487
Battle of Tadcaster 10 June 1487
York 12 June 1487 [Scrope v Percy]
The Trent/ Sherwood Forest [Lord Scales harrassing Yorkist army who crossed the Trent on 15 June]
Church Minshall and Middlewich, 1489. [Armed opposition to (war) subsidy of one tenth].
Feuds turning violent: 1491-1500
Church-en-Heath, 1493. [Over 200 men led by Robert Macey of Goldborne Belowe, William Macey and the Alderney family raid surrounding villages, looting, stealing cattle, and assaulting many people].
Wilmslow, 1493. [Uprising said to number 1000 men]
Eccleston, Cheshire. 1493, Tuesday after Corpus Christie [40 men attacked property of Robert Grosvenor using bows and clubs. The action saw Sir William Stanley being implicated leading to his arrest and ultimately his execution].
Cheshire, July 1493. [Riots and minor uprising across numerous villages].
Sir William Bonnville.