The Battle of Wakefield took place on December 31st, 1460, and this site in Yorkshire was the very first visit we made on our 15th century tour, on a cold but sunny day in January 1999.
In June 1460, the Yorkists had defeated the Lancastrians at Northampton, and King Henry VI had been captured. He was then forced to accept Richard, Duke of York, as the next in line to the throne.
Henry’s queen, Margaret of Anjou, who had retreated to Wales, refused to see her son disinherited, and gathered the Lancastrian forces at Pontefract in south Yorkshire. Meantime, York and his son Edmund moved to Yorkshire, occupying York’s castle at Sandal, just outside Wakefield, while Warwick remained in London to safeguard the custody of Henry VI.
A Yorkist foraging party was ambushed at Wakefield Bridge, and the survivors raced for Sandal Castle, pursued by the Lancastrians, who amassed in the area between the castle and the river Calder. Since they seemed to be trapped there, York decided to attack.
|View of the battlefield from Sandal Castle|
Unfortunately, he didn’t realise that the right and left flanks were hidden, and of course they came out of the woods and annihilated the Yorkists. Richard of York and his son Edmund were both killed, and York’s brother-in-law, the Earl of Salisbury was also captured and executed. Their heads, festooned with paper crowns, were hung on the Micklegate Bar in York.
|Monument marking where Richard of York was killed|
Sandal Castle must have been must have been an impressive construction in the 15th century. The large motte on which the keep stood is still visible from Wakefield Bridge, and there is evidence of an extensive wall and other buildings, as well as two moats surrounding the castle.