Weardale Campaign, image 1
Illustration of the Battle of Stanhope Park between English and Scottish armies in 1327, taken from Froissart’s Chronicles.
Source: Froissart’s Chronicles, 1470 edition (BNF, FR 2643-6).

Copyright: Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Weardale Campaign, image 2
The location of the battle is clearly indicated<empty> by the tented symbol on this map drawn almost three hundred years after the event by John Speed. c.1611. Source: Map of Durham by John Speed. c.1611. Copyright: G. Priestman.  

 

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: Bruges, Flanders
Current Location: Bibliothèque nationale de France
Theme: Military
Period: Medieval
Date: c.1470 AD

What is it?
Illustration of the Weardale Campaign of 1327, taken from Froissart’s Chronicles, (BNF, FR 2643-6). Froissart started his first chronicle in about 1370 based directly on the Vrayes Chroniques of Jean Le Bel, who had been present throughout the campaign. This illustration is from a lavishly illuminated copy of his chronicles commissioned in the 1470s and is attributed to the leading Brugeois artist Loiset Leyedet.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
The Weardale Campaign was an encounter between an English army of over 50,000 men led by Edward III and Roger Mortimer, and a large Scottish army some 20,000 strong, led by James Douglas and the earls of Mar and Moray. It occurred during the summer of 1327 in Stanhope Park.

Why is it important?
Edward was 14 years old when he became king early in 1327 under the guidance of his mother Isabella and Roger Mortimer. The Scots took this as an opportunity to resume hostilities across the border ‘laying waste by fire and sword’ to the northern counties. The English left Durham on 20th July to engage the Scottish army. As recorded by the chronicler Jean le Bel, heavy rains and swollen rivers hampered the relatively immobile English, and it was not until the 30th July that that they finally caught up with the much more mobile Scots, who had established a strong defensible position on high rocky ground overlooking the River Wear just west of Stanhope. The English army formally arrayed ready for battle on the opposite bank. Though not certain it is probable that the English were south of the river. Douglas now refused an invitation to leave his strong advantageous position to do battle, and as Edward declined to attack, a standoff ensued with only a few chivalrous skirmishes in no-man’s land. The illustration clearly depicts this scene.

The plan was to besiege and starve out the Scots, but on the morning of August 3rd the English awoke to discover that the Scots had decamped during the night. They had moved upstream and taken up an even stronger position on high ground within Stanhope Park with forest cover. The English responded by establishing a new camp on high ground opposite the Scots. That night Douglas and about two hundred men secretly forded the Wear and attacked the English camp crying ‘Douglas! Douglas!’. Before retreating they killed some three hundred men and reached the king’s tent, cutting its cords and killing his guards and chaplain, but the young Edward managed to escape. There was to be no success for Edward in this his first campaign.  After further days of standoff, on the night of the 6th August, Douglas and his army secretly decamped. Carefully making their way on foot and leading their horses through dangerous swamp, presumed impassable by the English, they escaped Weardale and fled to Scotland.

For Edward the campaign was a humiliating failure and a financial disaster, but he no doubt learnt from his Weardale experience, reigning for fifty years as one of England’s most successful and influential monarchs.

Further Information

    Text References:
  • Rogers, Clifford. J., ‘War Cruel and Sharp, English Strategy under Edward III, 1327-1360, Boydell Press, 2000.

  • External Links:
  • Bibliothèque nationale de France

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