22nd March 1322.

In medieval times it was important to settle on a suitable name for battles so it could be used by chroniclers. Hastings is a typical example of this locative approach, despite the battle having taken place nearby. 

The naming of battles is determined by clear criteria so the fighting at the Author’s home town of Burton-on-Trent in the 1321-22 civil war has been reduced to a skirmish.(1)

There had been sieges in Kent and Shropshire and movement of arms in half a dozen counties,   but it is Boroughbridge, Yorks, the culmination of action, fought a few days after Burton, which commands the battle name.

However the name of the battle was academic for one rebel against Edward II, as it was Today in 1322 that Thomas 2nd Earl of Lancaster, who had fled north, was later beheaded at Pontefract (Pomfret) for treason.(2)

In a later civil war in 1403 the Battle of Shrewsbury had many different names for about a hundred years, but Shrewsbury is the name that history remembers, and not the fields of the townships of Harlescott, Albright Hussey, Albright Lee, to the north of the town.

A royal wardrobe clerk noted that a servant [at the battle] had lost a horse in campis de Hynsifeld prope solopiam die belli: translated: a field of Hynsifeld near Shrewsbury on the day of the battle.

In 1415 Henry V met with the senior French Herald and agreed on the name from a nearby castle: Agincourt.

Shakespeare records in Henry V:

King: What is this castle call’d that stands hard by

Herald: They call it Agincourt.

King: Then call we this fight Agincourt.(3)

The bloody War of the Roses, Battle of Towton, 1461 was called: Palme Sunday felde also bataill at Shirbourne beside Yorke, as it took place on Palm Sunday.

Bosworth 1485, is first found in a York Council Report which records the battle on ‘The Field of Redemore’, and in York City House Book as ‘Apud Redemore Juxta Leicestre’: Near Redemore close to Leicester.

In other records the battle is describes as ‘Brownehethe’, ‘Bellum Maravallenses’, ‘Sandford’, ‘Dadlyngton Field’, the name of Bosworth it appears did not emerge for 25 years.

Premeditated encounters were often drawn away from settlements to take place on waste land which later weren’t to be recognised or as significant places for historians to latch onto.

(1) British History rejected Burton as a skirmish owing to the small proportion of combatants employed.

(2) Thomas was the eldest son of Edmund Crouchback and Blanche of Artois. Thomas was later venerated as a saint and martyr, but never canonised.

(3)  French chronicler Enguerrand de Monstrelet: ‘the King added all battles ought to bear name of fortress near to where fought’.

Ref: PRO Just 1/11389 mm/British History 1994 re Burton.

Ref: War and Society in Medieval and Early England, Ed. Dianna Dunn.Liverpool UP 2000.

Ref: Battlefields: The proper Register of Historical Battles (EH) Sept 1994.

Ref: PJ Foss: The Field of Redemore, Battle of Bosworth, 1485, Leeds 1990, P 16-24.

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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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