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Battle of Myton





The year 1319 saw Edward II lay siege to the Scottish town of Berwick, once more back in Scottish hands. The recapture of Berwick was of great strategic significance for three reasons. Firstly, as the wealthiest town of Scotland it held great symbolic value, secondly, it could protect the English armies rear should they venture north again and thirdly, Robert the Bruce had sworn an oath to defend the town. In Edward's mind this siege would bring the Scots to battle, against a numerically superior foe.

The town garrison under the command of Walter Stewart, Bruce's son -in-law, held out bravely against ferocious attacks. Bruce sent James Douglas and Randolph to make an attempt to lift the siege. Douglas saw that he could not hope to relieve the town against such large numbers, With his typical ingenuity he realised that most of the English forces present were from the northern shires of England. This left the north open for him to raid. He moved rapidly down into England, devastating the countryside. The rumour was spread abroad that he intended to capture Edward's queen, who was lodging at York. Most of the shires regular fighting men were away with the army. It fell to Archbishop Melton to form an army of prelates, townsfolk and farmers to go out to meet the threat. The queen was rushed off to the safety of Nottingham and Archbishop Melton marched out to intercept Douglas and Randolph.

The English crossed over the River Swale at Myton to be confronted with a great cloud of drifting smoke, Douglas had set fire to bales of damp straw. Passing through the smoke, the English were faced with the Scots drawn up in a defensive schiltrom. The Scots let out a great roar and panic set into the English force. They turned to flee back across the Bridge only to find that a detachment of Scots hobelars had ridden behind them and held the bridge. It is claimed that more English drowned trying to escape across the Swale than were killed by the Scots. Because of the large number of the clergy who were killed the Scots dubbed the battle 'the chapter of Myton'. Douglas captured much treasure as the Archbishop had carried with him large amounts of church plate, so much in fact that pleas were later made to thirty one religious houses to provide funds to replace it.

When word of the battle, plus numerous reports of the devastation in the countryside, reached the English camp at Berwick there was near mutiny. The effect was just what Douglas was seeking. The English lifted the siege and headed off back to England. As the English army headed south, Douglas and Randolph bypassed them on their way back to Scotland, burning and raiding as they went.



Myton is close to Boroughbridge, in Yorkshire, England





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Last modified: Thursday, 16 January 2020