Hotspur and the Percys 1377-1461

Hotspur and the Percys 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.

Alnwick Castle and the Lion Bridge. the lion is the symbol of the Percys. Photo: David Simpson.

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June 22, 1377 – KING RICHARD II

Richard II, the son of Edward the Black Prince, and grandson of Edward III, becomes the King of England.

July 16 1377 – Percy is Earl of Northumberland

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

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.

Raby Castle
Raby Castle © David Simpson 2021

1378 – Newcastle coal shipments

Newcastle is shipping some 15,000 tons of coal per year with an export market including parts of Europe.

1378 – Crook

Crook in the Wear valley is recorded as ‘le Croke next Brauncepeth’ in 1378. Crook is named from a secluded nook of land that was probably formed by the Beechburn Beck.

1381 – Gaunt owns Dunstanburgh

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

Dunstanburgh Castle from Embleton
Dunstanburgh Castle from Embleton © David Simpson 2020

1384 – Scots smash Northumberland castles

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

1386 – Whitton Tower

Whitton Tower, a pele tower near Rothbury is built by the Umfravilles, Lords of Harbottle.

Aug 6, 1388 – Scots raid to 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 (the son of the Earl of Northumberland) are safe behind Newcastle’s walls.

Brancepeth Castle
Brancepeth Castle. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Aug 19, 1388 – Battle of Otterburn

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.

Information board at the Battle of Otterburn site
Information board at the Battle of Otterburn site © David Simpson 2021

1389 – Lumley Castle

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

Lumley Castle
Lumley Castle © John Simpson

1390 – North Shields

‘Shields’ had begun actively trading as a port again by a this year despite attempts by Newcastle to kerb its trade. It was about this time that it came to be called ‘North Shields’ rather than ‘Shields’ to distinguish it from the other Shields across the river.

North Shields (left) and South Shields (right) looking towards the mouth of the Tyne
North Shields (left) and South Shields (right) looking towards the mouth of the Tyne © David Simpson 2018

1396 – Coal shipped from Sunderland

There is a record of coal shipped from the River Wear at Wearmouth to Whitby Abbey on the Yorkshire coast.

Whitby Abbey © David Simpson 2021

1397 – Raby Nevilles become earls

The Nevilles of Raby Castle in the County of Durham gain the title Earls of Westmorland.

1399 to 1400 – Richard II imprisoned and murdered

Richard II, criticised for ‘favouritism’, is imprisoned by Parliament at Knaresborough Castle and 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.

Knaresborough Castle
Knaresborough Castle © David Simpson 2021

Sep 30, 1399 – KING HENRY IV

Henry Bolingbroke, the new Earl of Lancaster who is the son of John of Gaunt who died this year, becomes King of England after overthrowing Richard II.

1400 – Yarm Bridge

A bridge is built across the Tees by Walter Skirlaw, the Bishop of Durham. Egglescliffe and Yarm had previously been linked by a ford.

Yarm viaduct
Yarm Bridge (in the foreground) linking Yarm and Eaglescliffe. Photo © David Simpson

1400 – Newcastle a county

The town of Newcastle enclosed within its walls, becomes a county in its own right. The castle remains within the county of Northumberland.

Durham Tower Newcastle Town Walls
Durham Tower, part of the Newcastle town wall  © David Simpson 2021

1402 – Battle of Humbleton Hill

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.

The Bendor Stone
The ancient Bendor Stone near the Humbleton Hill battle site © David Simpson 2018

July 21, 1403 – Hotspur killed in battle

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.

Harry Hotspur statue, Alnwick
Harry Hotspur statue at Alnwick unveiled in 2010 © David Simpson 2021

June  5, 1405 – Archbishop Scrope executed

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

1406 – Scottish king captured off Yorkshire coast

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

Earl Percy is killed at Bramham Moor fighting Henry IV. His limbs are placed on the Tyne Bridge as a warning to rebels. The earl is succeeded by Henry, the son of Harry Hotspur.

The Medieval bridge at Newcastle
The Medieval bridge at Newcastle

1410 – Witton Castle

Sir Ralph Eure is granted retrospective permission by the Bishop of Durham for converting his manor house near Witton-le-Wear into a castle. Sir Ralph had already undertaken the conversion without a licence to crenellate.

Witton Castle.
Witton Castle. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Mar 20, 1413 – KING HENRY V

Henry IV dies and is succeeded by his son Henry V as King of England.

July 22, 1414 – Battle at Yeavering

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

Yeavering Bell
Yeavering Bell. Northumberland, a battle was fought nearby Photo © David Simpson 2018

1415 – Bishop regains part of Tyne Bridge

The Bishop of Durham obtains a suit from the King’s Court recovering his third of the Tyne Bridge taken from him by the Newcastle mayor. It is claimed that the bishop had not been properly maintaining his third of the bridge, an annoyance and inconvenience to Newcastle trade.

1416 – Prior Washington

John De Washington becomes the Prior of Durham, one of the most powerful positions between the Tyne and Tees. His coat of arms features Stars and Stripes and today he is recalled by a plaque in Durham Cathedral.

Plaque to Prior Washington
Plaque to Prior Washington, Durham Cathedral © David Simpson 2021

1417 – Percy is Border warden

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 – Newcastle women arrested for dressing as men at Durham Cathedral

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 procession at Newcastle dressed in men’s apparel.

Durham Cathedral from Gilesgate
Durham Cathedral from Gilesgate. Photo © David Simpson

1419 – Scots capture Wark

Scots capture the castle at Wark-on-Tweed from Richard Ogle.

Sep 1, 1422 – KING HENRY VI

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

Mar 28, 1424 – Hostages exchanged at Durham

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.

1429 – Cathedral hit by lightning

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

1430 – Death of Roger Thornton

Powerful merchant and wool trader, Roger Thornton has died. Later known as Newcastle’s Dick Whittington, he was the mayor of the town nine times and also served as a Newcastle MP.

Dec 15, 1430 – Truce renewed at York

The Anglo-Scottish truce is renewed.

1431 – Bradley Hall

Bradley Hall, a manor house near Wolsingham in Weardale is crenellated (fortified as a castle) by Cardinal Langley, Bishop of Durham, as a defence against the Scots and other raiders.

1434 – Town walls for Alnwick

Permission is given for town walls to be built at Alnwick

The Hotspur gate, Alnwick
The Hotspur gate, Alnwick © 2018 David Simpson.

1436 – Disobedient nuns

Standards and morals of nuns at the convent of Neasham near Darlington are under investigation by the Rector of Houghton on the instigation of the Bishop of Durham.

Sep 10, 1436 – Battle of Piper Dene

Scots under William Douglas, Earl of Angus, defeat the English under Henry Percy in a minor skirmish, though the location of the battle is far from certain – possibly a couple of miles to the south of Wark-on-Tweed.

1442 – Guild of Barber Surgeons

The Guild of Barber Surgeons is established in Newcastle. Barber surgeons are responsible for medical surgery and amputations.

1446 – King confirms monks’ rights at North Shields

Henry VI confirms the trading rights of the Tynemouth monks at North Shields. For two centuries the monks have been operating a port at North Shields much to the aggravation of Newcastle further up stream.

1448 – King Henry visits St Cuthbert’s shrine

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

Tomb of St. Cuthbert, Durham Cathedral
Tomb of St. Cuthbert, Durham Cathedral © David Simpson 2021

1448 – Gateshead hospital given to Newcastle nuns

The Bishop of Durham has given the hospital of St Edmund at Gateshead to the nuns of St Bartholomew in Newcastle after their nunnery was destroyed in a fire. The nuns will use this site up until its closure by Henry VIII.

1452 – Keelmen

Keelmen are listed amongst the Newcastle trades. They ferry coal to collier ships on the Tyne in their keel boats.

1455 – Earl of Northumberland killed in battle

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

Warkworth Castle
Warkworth Castle, home to Harry Hotspur. was the principal residence of the powerful Percy family from around 1332. Photo © David Simpson 2018

1457 – James fails to take Berwick

James II of Scotland fails in an attempt to take Berwick which has been in English hands since 1333.

Old postcard showing Berwick
Old postcard showing Berwick

1460 – Scottish king killed in Roxburgh accident

James II, King of Scotland, is killed by an exploding cannon at Roxburgh in the Scottish borders.

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