Category Archives: Lancaster

The bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil

Click to embiggenThe chances are, you’ll never have heard of it. If, though, you ever drive over to the east coast of Yorkshire from the Manchester area (or vice versa, I suppose), take a tip from me. Leave the M1 for a while onto the little-travelled B1217. It’s a pleasant relief to take country roads for a short stretch between the hellpit of the M1, and the hugely horrible A64.

The meandering B road passes an Edwardian mansion, Lotherton Hall, and bends through the village of  Saxton. Past the Crooked Billet pub, the narrow road lopes onto rising farmland. Through tall hedges you will glimpse cornfields and copses in this particularly English landscape. Shortly after the hedges give up the ghost, you’ll see something of an anomaly on your left. A big old holly bush squats by the road, dark and gloomy and alien-looking. You can park nearby.

If you then peer behind the old holly, you’ll find an ancient, weather-worn gothic cross. No one knows who first put the cross here – it lay in a ditch for centuries before being righted again. On its base, amongst flowers both dried and fresh, you’ll see a recently added date – March 28, 1461. The anonymous inscriber got the date wrong: it should be the 29th. The 29th of March in that year of turmoil during the Wars of the Roses was a Sunday – Palm Sunday, in fact.

Click to embiggenOn that snow-driven day, perhaps the most significant day of the entire struggle for the throne between Edward and Henry, 100,000 men met at this place to hack, stab, slice, suffocate, bludgeon and trample each other to death. This was by far the most murderous battle ever fought on British soil, yet most of you will never have heard of it. A hundredth of the entire British population died in the blood-stained snow between dawn and dusk that day; almost 30,000 men –  three times the number of casualties than on the first day of The Somme.

This was a horrific, bloody brawl. Imagine, if you can, the driving, stinging blizzard; the deafening racket of clashing arms and armour, the pleading of men, the screaming and howled obscenities; the stench of puke and shit and trampled entrails. If you fall, you’re dead in seconds, the life crushed out of you by the sheer weight of men jammed into this meat-mincer. If hell has ever been upon the earth, this was it. The death toll was so great, and bodies piled up so much, that occasional pauses were called in the fighting in order to drag corpses of the way.

Click to embiggenThe Lancastrians began to push the Yorkists back, and the core of the fighting drifted into a vale now called Bloody Meadow. If you walk up the lane a little from the cross, you’ll see the bowl of this small valley before you. The slaughter, unremitting, continued late into the afternoon. The Yorkists, led by Edward, the son of Richard, 3rd Duke of York , were outnumbered and outfought. They became ever more desperate as they gave way, inch by bloody inch, across the field. Then, up what is now the B1217, marched an army bearing aloft banners that displayed a white boar. These were the men of the Duke of Norfolk, whose fresh reinforcements pelted into the Lancastrians’ flank. The Lancastrians were stopped in their tracks, faltered, and began to give ground, tripping over the corpses of their own dead. The beleaguered Lancastrians bent, broke and ran like buggery. Then the rout began. If the battle was vicious, the rout added a whole new level of brutality.

Click to embiggenFar more men died in the rout than in the battle. Bridges in the path of the fleeing Lancastrians shattered under the weight of armed men, plunging many to a freezing death in the icy water. Thousands were caught and mutilated, for it had been agreed in the parley before the battle that no quarter would be given, no mercy shown. Part-hidden, in a naked stand of ash trees, was the grim Bridge of Bodies, built of Lancastrian dead to form a dam, the rushing waters streaming with crimson grume. Panicked, hysterical men scrambled across the River Cock over the carcases of the fallen. From Tadcaster to Towton, the fields were strewn with corpses and body parts. The fleeing men made easy targets for horsemen, and foot soldiers killed many who had dropped their weapons and thrown off their helmets to breathe more freely. And all the while, the blizzard raged.

In 1996 a mass grave of more than 40 bodies was discovered at Towton Hall. It delivered the bones of some of the soldiers who had fought and died at Towton. The skeletons showed evidence of terrible wounds – there were some with at least 20 head injuries. They all died horribly.

“The thing that shook us was that these people had been butchered. Perhaps the most spectacular ones are where people have had part of their head sliced off, or their head cut in half. There’s much evidence of mutilation. That noses and ears were hacked off.” – Dr Alan Ogden, a palaeo-pathologist.

Click to embiggenWhen you know the history of this place – the significant battle that took place here to decide the fate of the English throne, the awful toll it took, the hellish things that happened to thousands of men, you can’t simply stroll amongst the corn and enjoy the sun. The terrible deaths of those thousands haunt your thoughts. There are ghosts here.

“Walk in the margin of the corn as it is ruffled by the blustering wind. Above, the thick mauve, mordant clouds curdle and thud like bruises, bowling patches of sunlight across the rise and fall of the land. In the distance is a single stunted tree, flattened by the south wind. It marks the corner of this sombre, elegiac place.  It would be impossible to walk here and not feel the dread underfoot – the echo of desperate events vibrating just behind the hearing. This is a sad, sad, dumbly eloquent deathscape.” – A. A. Gill, 2008

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Church

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The bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil.

The chances are, you’ll never have heard of it. If, like us, you ever you drive over to the east coast of Yorkshire from the Manchester area (or vice versa, I suppose), take a tip from me. Leave the M1 for a while on the little-travelled B1217 for a short stretch between the M1 and the hugely horrible A64.

DSC06816The meandering B road passes the Edwardian mansion, Lotherton Hall, bends through the village of  Saxton and the Crooked Billet pub, and lopes on into rising farmland. Through the hedges you will glimpse cornfields and copses in this typically English landscape. Shortly after the hedges give up the ghost, you’ll see something of an anomaly on your left. A big old holly bush squats by the road, dark and gloomy and alien-looking. You can park nearby.

If you then peer behind the old holly, you’ll find lurking there an ancient weather-worn gothic cross. There’s no record of who first put the cross here – it lay in a ditch for hundreds of years before being righted again. On it’s base, amongst flowers both dried and fresh, you’ll see a recently added date – March 28, 1461. The inscriber got the date wrong: it should be the 29th. The 29th in that year of turmoil amidst the Wars of the Roses was a Sunday – Palm Sunday, in fact.

DSC06817On that snow-driven day, perhaps the most significant day of the struggle for the throne between Edward and Henry, 100,000 men met at this place to hack, stab, slice, suffocate, bludgeon and trample each other to death. This was by far the most murderous battle ever fought on British soil, yet most of you will never have heard of it. An astounding 1% of the British population died in the blood-spattered snow between dawn and dusk that day, almost 30,000 men –  three times the number of casualties than on the first day of The Somme.

This was a horrific, bloody brawl. Imagine, if you can, the driving stinging blizzard; the deafening racket of clashing arms and armour, the pleading of men, the  screaming and howled obscenities; the stench of puke and shit and trampled entrails. If you fall, you’re dead in seconds, the life crushed out of you by the sheer weight of men jammed into this meat-mincer. If hell has ever been on earth, this was it. The death toll was so great and bodies piled up so much that occasional pauses were called in order to drag them out of the way.

DSC00438The Lancastrians began to push the Yorkists back, and the core of the fighting drifted into a vale now called Bloody Meadow. The slaughter, unremitting, continued late into the afternoon. The Yorkists, led by Edward, the son of Richard, 3rd Duke of York , outnumbered and outfought, became ever more desperate as they gave way, inch by bloody inch, across the field. Then up the B1217 marched men bearing banners displaying a white boar – it was the Duke of Norfolk, with fresh reinforcements who pelted into the Lancastrians’ flank. The Lancastrians were stopped in their tracks, faltered and began to give ground, tripping over the corpses of their own dead. The beleaguered Lancastrians bent, broke and ran like buggery. Then the rout began. If the battle was vicious, the rout added a whole new level of brutality.

DSC06815Far more men died in the rout than in the battle. Bridges in the path of the fleeing Lancastrians shattered under the weight of armed men, plunging many to a freezing death in the icy water. Thousands were caught and mutilated, for it had been agreed in the parley before the battle that no quarter would be given, no mercy shown. Part-hidden in a naked stand of ash trees was the Bridge of Bodies, built of Lancastrian dead to form a dam, the rushing waters streaming with crimson grume. Panicked, hysterical men scrambled across the River Cock over the carcases of the fallen. From Tadcaster to Towton the fields were strewn with corpses and body parts. The fleeing men made easy targets for horsemen, and foot soldiers killed many who had dropped their weapons and thrown off their helmets to breath more freely. And all the while, the blizzard raged.

In 1996 a mass grave of more than 40 bodies was discovered at Towton Hall. It delivered the bones of some of the soldiers who had fought and died at Towton. The skeletons showed evidence of terrible wounds – there were some with at least 20 head injuries. They all died horribly – Dr Alan Ogden, a palaeo-pathologist, said:

“The thing that shook us was that these people had been butchered. Perhaps the most spectacular ones are where people have had part of their head sliced off, or their head cut in half. There’s much evidence of mutilation. That noses and ears were hacked off.”

DSC00443When you know the history of this place – the significant battle that took place here to decide the fate of the English throne, the awful toll it took, the hellish things that happened to thousands of men – you can’t simply stroll amongst the corn and enjoy the sun. The terrible deaths of those thousands haunt your thoughts.  A. A. Gill said it well in 2008 –

“Walk in the margin of the corn as it is ruffled by the blustering wind. Above, the thick mauve, mordant clouds curdle and thud like bruises, bowling patches of sunlight across the rise and fall of the land. In the distance is a single stunted tree, flattened by the south wind. It marks the corner of this sombre, elegiac place.

It would be impossible to walk here and not feel the dread underfoot – the echo of desperate events vibrating just behind the hearing. This is a sad, sad, dumbly eloquent deathscape.”

You can read his full eloquent and evocative history of the Battle of Towton by clicking on this sentence. I highly recommend that you do.

SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM

I recently found this in a charity shop while wandering round the fascinating Lancaster streets –224113146

Of COURSE I bought it – who wouldn’t? Dscf3231Prepare for a bit of a history lesson, along with (obviously) some piss-taking. Here’s the feller to thank for this tasty treat. Jay C. Hormel, son of a butcher, developed SPAM assisted by French chef Jean Vernet. It was ready by late 1936, but as yet was unnamed. Hormel held a New Year party and gave guests a free drink for every name they suggested, and $100 for the winning name. “By the 4th drink people started to show imagination” DSCF3216Hormel commented. The name SPAM was suggested by actor Kenneth Daigneau, and is short for Shoulder of Pork and Ham, as any fule kno. Some of the other products in this photo show doubtful taste – “Arf” (which I hope wasn’t dog meat), “Dinty Moore” and “Spic” (geddit? Spic and Spam?)

SPAM was launched on an unsuspecting world in May 1937, and was a huge success. During the war it was sent over to Britain, and to Russia where Kruschev said “DSCF3215Without SPAM, we would not be able to feed our army”. American troops were given a special cheaper American Government version of SPAM which lacked the true flavour, probably leading  to the low opinion it has among large numbers of people.

DSCF3217The book’s got a lot of recipes – some of them seriously WTF-worthy. On the left you can learn how to make Spam Cheesecake (no really), while there are also such delights as Spamdoori Chicken Wrap, Nutty Spamburger and Deep Spam Pizza. I have a soft spot for Spam Porcupine – chunks of SPAM, onions & pineapple on cocktail sticks, poked into a cabbage – “the cabbage can be used afterwards for other meals” it says.

DSCF3218My favourite though has to be SPAM scones, which appear to be normal scones but with chopped SPAM added to the mix. Haven’t dared to try them yet, but the recipe suggests using “any leftover scones”  on top of a vegetable casserole and baked in a hot oven.

My favourite way to eat SPAM? Sliced thinly, fried to a crispy edge, and popped in a pitta with tomato or summat. Yum. Do let me know if you’re desperate for me to share further SPAM recipes, you saddoes.

Lancaster

Here’s our latest meander, courtesy of a quick drive up the M6 to deliver Ellie back to University. Lancaster’s a lovely city, and when there are stalls out on the streets selling all sorts of knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, oojamaflips and wossnames, the place hums with a happy babble. Here, people gather outside… well, can you guess what the building is?

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Mary bought herself Chinese food from a street-vendor, while I moved along a couple of stalls and had the tastiest biriani.

 

 

 

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This lass was something else – nice powerful thighs there….. sorry, drifted off for a moment. To preview her ‘Strongwoman’ act, she hoicked a bystander off his feet and carried him off. Much to the distress of his child (on the right), and the amusement of his OH (upper right).

 

Up the hill is the castle, but it costs a fair whack to be toured around, and as regular readers will know I am a Yorkshireman, and if it’s not free, it can bloody well bugger off. Here’s the outside of the castle with a pretty tree.

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In the castle grounds, ‘jolly re-enactors’ were teaching children to fight with swords, maces and other weapons. Cos that’s ALWAYS a good idea.

Dscf0909 From the castle grounds you get a lovely view. NOTE: Tom Wigam, apparently, is a dirty emo and a tramp.

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Next photos – gargoyles on the church, and Mary nomming her Chinese. I make no comparison. No comparison at all.

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And here’s the very pretty church interior.

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Another view from the castle, this time of the monument in Williamson Park. You can probably see Ellie’s house from here as well (not pictured).

Dscf0917 Lovely curves, both on the street and on the photographer (Mary took this one).

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And here’s Ellie looking picturesque while resting on the castle steps.

Dscf0924A red door yes, but WTF are these hooks for by the lamp? I can’t imagine, personally. (well, I can, but I doubt my weird ideas are anywhere near the actual truth)

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Despite the prominence of the signpost, I have absolutely no idea of the name of this square. Pretty though, int it?

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Houses looming like vultures over the corpses of two garages (poetic, eh?)

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Beehive!

On the old Co-op building. Something about co-operative insects or something, probably.

 

 

 

And here’s this post’s obligatory sweet shop.

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Interestingly, the streets of Lancaster are paved with old pennies and stuff, all glued into the pavement. Look closely, and you’ll see quite a few foreign coins as well (well, not in the photo you won’t, but if you were actually THERE you would)

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Finally, the sexy Queen Victoria towers greenly above us as we take our leave.

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