Wakefield and Towton: War of the Roses

by Philip Haigh

I am thoroughly enjoying Pen and Swords Battleground tour series! They have really inspired me to go back to England and take their books with me so I can visit some of these incredible sights. Philip Haigh’s book is another brilliant addition to this series and his driving and walking tour of the battles of Wakefield, Ferrybridge and Towton are so detailed and informative even just reading about the tour made me feel like I was there.

To begin Haigh provides a basic overview of the political atmosphere in England leading up to the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. What led Richard, Duke of York and his supporters to challenge King Henry VI and those at court? He details the battles, such as the Battle of St Albans, how the deaths of important political figures affected the decisions that were made and the events that unfolded over the course of the year. This detail provided a strong understanding of exactly why the Battle of Wakefield took place.

Haigh then provides an informative and detailed look at the events that unfolded from the Battle of Wakefield where Richard, Duke of York, his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland and the Earl of Salisbury, father of the famous Kingmaker, were killed. Moving to the political changes and upheavals in England following the battle, through to the little known, and often overlooked, Battle of Ferrybridge, to the famous and devastating Battle of Towton.

Detailed maps, photos and images are provided which help the reader to visualize what happened at Wakefield, Ferrybridge and Towton. I am a very visual person so I found these extremely useful to understand how the armies were positioned and how they maneuvered themselves within the battles.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the battle of Ferrybridge which happened the day before Towton and is often overlooked or only given a brief mention within other history books. Haigh goes into a great deal of detail about this battle, what happened, how the Yorkists and Lancastrian’s positioned themselves and maneuvered about one another, the deaths involved and how the loss of around 2000 men affected the upcoming atmosphere and morale of Towton.

Throughout the book, Haigh also provides names of other books that the reader may be interested in exploring if they wish to learn more about a certain battle, person or aspect of the Wars of the Roses. I thought this was a great touch as it provides the reader with an opportunity to further their knowledge if something in particular sparked their interest.

The tour guide at the end of the book was absolutely brilliant. The guide is very detailed, providing lots of information about how to travel along the same route as those that did five hundred years ago. It also provides suggestions at where to stop and park and even ideas of places to pause and have a bite to eat or get a refreshment. These were great little touches. In addition, there were lots and lots of photos and maps so you can check if you are in the right place.

I thoroughly enjoyed Philip Haigh’s book on the battles of Wakefield and Towton and I learnt a great deal about the battle of Ferrybridge, which is so often overlooked, but just as important. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about important events in England’s history.


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