One of my ex-students is a Ricardian. Never keen on modern stuff from the 16th century onwards, she approves of our move to teaching the Wars of the Roses at A level. Shs’s been really helpful with ideas for some study tours in our local area. We’re planning an A level revision day at key sites in the local area. Here she shares some knowledge about Towton. It might be useful to others, so we are sharing it here:
“There’s a trail that goes all the way round the “Bloody Meadow” that isn’t marked on OS maps or Google maps or anything, and doesn’t seem to be online either, but it’s pretty straightforward. There are something like 6 information panels and it starts at a small parking spot on the road that goes to Lotherton Hall from Towton; the last panel is just before you get into Towton. I’m not sure exactly how long the trail is but probably at least a couple of miles.
There is a Towton Battlefield Society; they have a website that lists guided walks and things like that. I seem to remember there being a visitor’s centre in a Portakabin thing next to the Crooked Billet pub (on the road to Lotherton Hall) but you would have to ask the society.
You can’t go onto much of the actual battlefield; the field that’s opened on Palm Sunday is the big one at the end of the trail that is actually a large garden. On Palm Sunday they have a reenactment and stalls and things like that; it’s quite fun but I don’t know if it’s practical for a group of students. (Also there’s a charge to get in.) There is nothing there the rest of the year.
At the top of the hill, at the start of the trail, is the memorial cross and a couple of signboards; the first signboard is actually a bit down the road I think, in a different field. The path down to Cock Beck is near to one of the last signboards, where the battlefield trail joins the Old London Road. (It’s quite hard to find; it goes into a patch of woodland.) It’s quite steep and very bumpy, so I don’t really advise running too fast (I nearly fell over last time I tried that, but still, it was good fun… if not good for health and safety). At the bottom there is a bridge over the stream/river (it was called the River Cock in the Middle Ages; I don’t know if it’s actually shrunk or whether it has just been demoted); the river was of course in full flood after the battle because of all the snow, but I’ve never seen it that high.
Side note – I always hope I’ll find something exciting in the river. Apparently a few years ago someone found a Bronze Age circlet whilst metal detectoring a bit upstream. I have only ever succeeded in finding golf balls and interesting pebbles and getting very wet. Anyway, it’s more symbolic than anything else. The Lancastrians, pursued by the Yorkists, tried not to drown in the river, and carried on up the Old London Road and right through Tadcaster (which is probably the most exciting thing to happen there until our very own battle in 1642).
Another side note – the hill that goes up from the beck is called Wingate Hill, and at the top of it there is a mysterious cross that the Internet is curiously silent about. I like to think it’s to do with the battle, because the badly eroded decoration looks rather like a rose, but the one source I have found that mentions it reckons on it being to do with the plague (but it didn’t say which plague). I have a few pictures if you need any, including one of the mysterious (but probably irrelevant) cross on Wingate Hill.”