The Battle of Homildon Hill

I just love it when I learn something new out the blue. The plan was an early start to bag Humbleton Hill, a 298 metre hill overlooking Wooler. On the map, a hill peppered with Gothic letters: a couple of settlements, a fort, a hut circle, and a homestead. Plenty to pique my interest.

But I soon came across an information board detailing The Battle of Homildon Hill which took place on 14th September 1402.  It took me a short while to twig that Homildon Hill is an old name for Humbleton Hill.

The battle involved Harry Hotspur, the eldest son of Henry Percy, the 1st Earl of Northumberland, and a marauding Scottish army. At this time the Percys were supporters of King Henry IV.

The Percys’ family seat was Alnwick Castle, Harry Hotspur was born there. I have been aware for some time of a supposed connection with the Percys of Kildale, who witnessed several important grants made by the Northumberland branch1“Parishes: Kildale | British History Online.” 2021. British-History.ac.uk <https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/north/vol2/pp249-253> [accessed 25 June 2021] ‌.

I digress. This battle between the Percys and the Scots took place at the north east foot of Humbleton Hill, seen left in the featured photo taken from the neighbouring Harehope Hill.

Henry IV was crowned King in 1399 and soon invaded Scotland, but a rebellion in Wales by Owain Glyndŵr diverted his attention. The Scots, led by the Earl of Douglas, seized the opportunity and raided Carlisle and Newcastle. Laden with plunder they headed back north up the east coast and found themselves blocked at Wooler by the Percys.

The actual battle site is unknown but the current thinking is within the arc of trees on the left in the photo. Uphill, to its right, in the field were the Scots. To its left, English archers. In the field, this side of the valley, were the English knights and men-at-arms.

Although the Scots had the better defensive position, constant torment by the English longbows provoked them into attacking to break through the formation. The English archers separated allowing the Scots a way through but continued the onslaught of arrows. The English knights and men-at-arms routed those who managed to break through. Several Scottish nobles were captured to be held for ransom.

King Henry demanded these ransoms be paid to him upsetting Percy which led to Hotspur joining forces with Douglas against the King at Shrewsbury the following year; a battle in which Hotspur was killed.

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