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Killing Time: Challenging the Common Perceptions of Three Medieval Conflicts—Ferrybridge, Dintingdale and Towton—”The Largest Battle on British Soil”
Journal of Conflict Archaeology, Vol.5 No.1 (2010)
The Battle of Towton in March 1461 is said to be the largest battle ever fought on British soil and according to the historical sources appears to have been the longest. However, a careful reading of the sources suggests that the traditional understanding of the battle is based on a misinterpretation of the Medieval concept of time. It is suggested here that the battle was much shorter than has been supposed, and also that the Battle of Towton has been conflated with the battles at Ferrybridge and Dintingdale. What has until now appeared to be the largest battle in Britain and two contemporary small actions can now be seen as three interconnected conflicts, the combined effect of which was to put Edward IV onto the throne of England.
The Battle of Towton, notable for putting the first Yorkist King, Edward IV, on the English throne, is said to be the largest battle on British Soil (English Heritage 1995). It has always eclipsed the fighting at Ferrybridge and Dintingdale, said to have taken place on the preceding day (fig. 1). The dates, times and duration of these three conflicts, fought consecutively near York, England, at the end of March 1461 have caused consternation amongst military historians since the early nineteenth century. Some devalue the conflict at Ferrybridge, whilst many ignore the one at Dintingdale completely. Towton, therefore, appears to dominate. However, this dominance is a manufactured concept, as will be demonstrated below.