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Hotspur and the Percies 1377-1461

The Percys were the most powerful Northumberland barons in the Middle Ages, matched only in the north by the Nevilles of Durham and Yorkshire. As Earls of Northumberland, the Percys were the chief defenders of the Scottish Border and they held the great castles at Alnwick, Warkworth, Bamburgh and Prudhoe. The most famous Percy was “Harry Hotspur”, who fought against the Scottish Earl of Douglas at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388.

1377 – PERCY BECOMES EARL (England)

At Richard II’s coronation, the Yorkshire based baron Henry Percy, becomes ‘first’ Earl of Northumberland, a title revived from Anglo-Saxon times.

1378 – NEVILLE BUILDS RABY CASTLE (Staindrop and Raby)

John Neville is granted a licence to build a castle at Raby by Bishop Thomas Hatfield. A market and an annual fair are granted to nearby Staindrop.

1381 – PERCYS OF PRUDHOE (Northumberland coast)

Last year John of Gaunt, Earl of Lancaster and Lieutenant of the Marches, inherited Dunstanburgh Castle. This year the Percys inherit Prudhoe Castle.

1384 – SCOTS SEIZE BERWICK (Northumberland and Durham)

Ford Castle is taken by the Scots; Wark and Cornhill Tower are destroyed and the Scots raid Durham and Cumberland.

August 6, 1388 – SCOTS ATTACK NEWCASTLE AND DURHAM (Newcastle and Brancepeth)

Scots under William Douglas raid Durham as far south as Brancepeth. On return the Scots engage in a skirmish at Newcastle. English forces under Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy are safe behind Newcastle’s walls.

August 19, 1388 – BATTLE OF OTTERBURN (Otterburn, Redesdale, Northumberland)

While the Scots under Douglas encamp at Otterburn on return to Scotland, Harry Hotspur heads north from Newcastle to attack them. Hot-headed Hotspur does not wait for the Bishop of Durham’s troops to join him. In the darkness, his troops attack Scottish servants and camp followers by mistake. This group fights back and alert the main force of Scots. Hotspur loses over 1,000 troops in the battle, Douglas only 200. Hotspur’s men flee but Douglas is killed despite his victory. Hotspur and his brother Ralph Percy are taken prisoner by the Scots and are later released on ransom.

1389 – LUMLEY CASTLE (Lumley, County Durham)

Tynemouth priory is plundered by Scots under the Earl of Murray. Meanwhile Lumley castle is being built by Ralph, Lord of Lumley.


The Nevilles of Raby Castle gain the title Earls of Westmorland.

1399- 1400 - RICHARD II IMPRISONED (Knaresborough)

Richard II, criticised for 'favouritism', is imprisoned by Parliament at Knaresborough Castle and is later moved to Pontefract Castle where he is murdered or starved to death. Henry IV, son of John of Gaunt usurps the throne with the support of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. King Henry raids Scotland.

1402 - BATTLE OF HUMBLETON HILL (Newcastle and Wooler)

Scots under Earl Archibold Douglas attack Newcastle. They are stopped by the English under Earl Percy at Humbleton Hill near Wooler and are defeated in battle. Later, the Percys fall into disagreement with the English king over Scottish prisoners taken in the battle and rebel against him.

July 21, 1403 - HOTSPUR KILLED (Shrewsbury and York)

Harry Hotspur Percy is killed in battle at Shrewsbury fighting against Henry IV. Hotspur raised a rebellion in Cheshire but the king intercepted him before he could join the forces of his father, the Earl of Northumberland. King Henry orders that Hotspur's head be sent to his widow. On August 11, Hotspur's father, Henry Percy, submits to the king at York.

June 5, 1405 - SCROPE EXECUTED (York)

Earl Henry Percy joins a rebellion against the king organised by Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York, but Scrope is captured and executed at York. Percy takes refuge in Scotland after the rebellion is defeated.

1406 - SCOTTISH KING CAPTURED (Flamborough Head, Yorkshire)

King James I of Scotland, aged 11, is captured by pirates off Flamborough Head. He was heading to safety in France, but is imprisoned in various parts of England for the next 18 years.

1408 - PERCY LIMBS ON TYNE BRIDGE (Bramham Moor and Newcastle)

Percy is killed at Bramham Moor fighting Henry IV. His limbs are placed on the Tyne Bridge as a warning to rebels. Hotspur's son Henry succeeds as Earl.

1413 - HENRY V CROWNED (England)

Henry IV dies and is succeeded by his son Henry V.

July 22, 1414 - BATTLE AT YEAVERING (Northumberland)

Scots are defeated in a battle at Yeavering, near Wooler, by Sir Robert Umfraville.

1417 - PERCY IS BORDER WARDEN (Northumberland)

Henry V appoints Earl Henry Percy as Warden of the East and Middle Marches. He will have responsibility for maintaining control in the Northumberland sections of the border.

1417 - WOMEN ARRESTED FOR DRESSING AS MEN (Durham and Newcastle)

Two Newcastle women were arrested after dressing up as men to visit St. Cuthbert's shrine at Durham Cathedral. According to Benedictine rules, women are not allowed to approach the shrine. As punishment, Matilda Burgh and Margaret Usher walk in a process ion dressed in men's apparel.

1419 - SCOTS CAPTURE WARK (Northumberland)

Scots capture Wark- on- Tweed Castle from Richard Ogle.


Henry V dies and is succeeded by his son Henry VI. He is the third monarch from the Royal House of Lancaster.

March 28, 1424 - HOSTAGES EXCHANGED (Durham City)

James, King of Scotland, a prisoner since 1406, is given freedom in exchange for English hostages at Durham City. The Treaty of Durham is signed in the hope of bringing peace to the Borders.


During a dreadful storm, a bolt of lightning hits the belfry tower of Durham Cathedral, causing a fire.

December 15, 1430 - TRUCE RENEWED (York)

The Anglo- Scottish truce is renewed.

1434 - TOWN WALLS FOR ALNWICK (Northumberland)

Permission is given for town walls to be built at Alnwick

September 10, 1436 - BATTLE AT PIPER DENE (Northumberland)

Scots under William Douglas, Earl of Angus, defeat the English under Henry Percy in a minor skirmish.


Henry VI makes a pilgrimage to the shrine of St Cuthbert .


Henry Percy is killed in battle at St. Alban's fighting for the Lancastrian cause, in the first battle in the Wars of the Roses.

1460 - KING KILLED AT ROXBURGH CASTLE (Roxburgh near Kelso)

James II, King of Scotland, is killed by an exploding cannon.

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