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Duration 00:46:55

The battle of Towton – a 550-year retrospective

This talk introduces the biggest battle of the Wars of the Roses, described as ‘The largest, longest, bloodiest and most murderous battle ever fought in Britain’. It was the decisive clash in a snowstorm at Towton in Yorkshire on 29 March 1461. A new English dynasty came to the throne with Edward IV’s victory, but more Englishmen may have died at Towton than on the first day of the battle of the Somme. The talk outlines the events of that day, looking at some of The National Archives’ sources for the battle and examines the participants’ motivations. Dr. James Ross is a medieval records specialist at the National Archives. He has a particular interest in the politics of the Wars of the Roses, and the nobility and gentry during the period.


  1. Peter John Rhys Lewis says:

    The battlefield today, has been turned into a delightful nature trail, if delightful can be used, to describe what is without doubt, the mostly costly battle, if the number of casualties are taken into account.

    Towton lies ten miles south of York, near Tadcaster, and the on Palm Sunday 1461, at least 30,000, possibly more, lost their lives on a freezing cold March morning.

    Unlike most battles of the Wars of the Roses, between the Houses of York and Lancaster, it was decided that no quarter would be given, and it was a fight to the death, even after the battle had finished, the soldiers from the House of Lancaster who had dropped their weapons , and fled from the battlefield, were chased down, and killed, in a terrible rout, that is unjustly famous even to this day.

    Possibly as many were killed after the battle, as during it, making Towton without doubt the most costly conflict on British soil.

    The battlefield is part of a local farmers field, but the preservation trust has turned it into a very enjoyable two mile nature trail, with information boards high lighting the principal areas.

    Its still hard to believe such a stunningly beautiful area of Yorkshire, was the scene of such bloodshed over seven centuries ago.

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