A Rare Jewel

About six weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting one of the most pristine battlefields I’ve ever seen, that being Towton, in Yorkshire, England. The battle was about 550 years ago - one of the bloodiest engagements in English history - and yet today one would scarcely guess what happened there. I was able to stand at the spot of some of the fiercest combat ever known, and look out at rolling, vacant farmland. There were no houses, no buildings. Where I stood there was one lonely, interpretive sign, and to my left was a thin ribbon of a roadway with very little traffic. I might have been a Yorkist on a snowy, windy day in 1461, watching the Lancastrian arrows fall short. With the benefit of an expert on the battle – Helen Cox – explaining everything from the weather, to the topography, to the troops and their movements, it could have been no better.

Towton Battlefield - As viewed from Lord Dacre's Cross
I asked a dozen questions as I gazed on the panorama, and pondered at least a hundred more as we made the short hike through the weeds, back to her car. We then trod along a muddy lane to see the severe slope down to Cock Beck, and a perfect chance for me to learn about the rout, and the pandemonium toward Bloody Meadow. I had read about this, but it was different than I had imagined. Finally, I could envision how this battle headed toward its eventual ending, and the horror that the fleeing soldiers must have known.
The whole thing was captivating, to be honest, and as we stood back at Helen’s car – parked at the site of the Towton Cross - I took a few more pictures, and marveled. Not only was this place free of the buildings we so often see, it also wasn’t cluttered with monuments and signs. It’s a significant battlefield, and it’s practically perfect.

Towton - Center of the Line
And then not long after, I read an article shared by the Towton Battlefield Society, and it seems as if there are possibly changes creeping into the area. It didn’t seem much, maybe just a little development, the best I could tell. But it would be a start, and when things start eroding, they’re hard to stop. I’m always empathetic to the rights of property owners, but this is a different situation, with better options. Obviously I’m going to favor most battlefield preservation, and I will go on record as supporting what I believe to be the position of the Towton Battlefield Society, and others who want to save this incredible piece of history. As much as we criticize politicians – and often rightfully so – they do often have tough decisions to make. And I hope in this case they will work to understand the priorities of the historians and preservationists. The Towton Battlefield Society and others are working through their elected officials and other appropriate channels, and their efforts should be applauded. It won’t be easy, but this matters to them, and they won’t quit. I wish them victory, and hope to visit again some day, and view the results of their success.