Battle of Neville's Cross - 1346




Battle of Neville's Cross click to enlarge


In 1346 the greater part of the English army of Edward III were away at war fighting against the French with the assistance of among others Thomas Hatfield, the Bishop of Durham who took along his own private army. The French were desperate for the English to be diverted and called upon King David II of Scotland to attack the English northern border. King David gladly obliged and sallied forth into England with 20,000 men who wrecked and plundered parts of Cumberland and Northumberland before entering Durham where they made camp at Bearpark to the west of the city. The Scots were comprised of three factions under the respective commands of King David, the Earl of Moray and Sir William Douglas.


On the 17th October the men of Sir William Douglas went on a rampage throughout Durham straying as far south as Ferryhill where to their surprise they encountered part of an English army of some 15,000 which pursued them north. Under the leadership of Sir Ralph Neville and supported by the men of Thomas Rokeby and Lord Percy, the English were successful in this initial encounter and a number of Scots lost their lives. Moving north the real battle took place on the Red Hills in the vicinity of a stone cross called Neville's Cross (which existed before the battle). Arrows were fired, axes began hacking, swords were thrusted and as the bloodbath continued the indication was that the Scots were going to lose. David, the Scottish king fled from the scene.In the far distance praying monks spectated from the Cathedral’s central tower while nearby on a hill called the Maiden's Bower atCrossgate Moor other monks watched at closer quarters. Here they held high the holy cloth of St Cuthbert, which was a call for the support of God in this battle.


The call seemed on this occasion to be answered as the Scots were easily defeated. Meanwhile in the vicinity of Aldin Grange where the road from Crossgate to Bearpark crosses a tributary of the Wear called the River Brownley, a Northumbrian soldier by the name of Copeland came across a rather exciting discovery, for there beneath the arch of Aldin Grange Bridge lay hiding none other than David King of the Scots who was badly injured from two spears that had pierced his body. Copeland quickly captured the Scottish monarch and for a time the English held on to him for ransom.

Eventually a fee was agreed for the return of King David to Scotland and he was released. The canny Scots never paid the fee !. The Victory at Neville's Cross was long commemorated in Durham City folklore by local children. Boys of the city traditionally claimed that if you walked nine times around the Neville's Cross and then put your head to the ground you could hear the sound of battle and the clash of arms. Attempted today it is more likely to distract motorists and result in the sound of clashing cars.


See also:
•  Map of the battlefield




This page was last updated on 19 April 2024

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Last modified: Monday, 11 October 2021