A brief overview of the battle
While at Ripon on the night of 15th March, the royalist commander Sir Andrew Harclay received news from a spy in the Lancastrian ranks that the army of the Earls of Lancaster and Hereford would arrive at Boroughbridge the following day. Overnight, Harclay’s force marched to Boroughbridge.
There were two crossings of the River Ure near to the town: a bridge and a ford. These crossings were the only way Lancaster and Hereford could continue retreating north in an attempt to escape the royal army that was pursuing them. By reaching Boroughbridge before the earls, Harclay ensured that they would have to fight to get across the river.
It was only after the Lancastrian force had begun to take quarters in Boroughbridge on 16th March that they found out that Harclay had reached the river crossings before them. This illustrates two crucial facts: the weakness of the earls’ scouting, and that the subsequent battle was fought very late in the day.
Harclay deployed his pikemen in the Scottish schiltron formation, supported by archers, at both the bridge and the ford. Meanwhile, the Lancastrian forces had split, with Hereford leading an attack on foot at the bridge and Lancaster planning to mount a cavalry attack at the ford.
The battle was over very quickly. In a short action at the bridge, Hereford, his standard bearer and two other knights were killed, and many of the others were wounded. Traditionally, Hereford is said to have been killed by a pike thrust between the planks of the wooden bridge into his anus. The assault at the ford fared little better – Lancaster’s cavalry was forced back by Harclay’s archers before even reaching the water’s edge. After this, Lancaster and Harclay agreed a truce whereby the earl’s men were allowed to retreat into the town overnight, and would either surrender or resume the battle in the morning.
Harclay received reinforcements during the night, and the following morning entered the town. Lancaster had no chance of resisting, as many of his troops had fled during the night, but refused to surrender and took refuge in a chapel, where he was captured by Harclay’s men. Subsequently, he was taken to Pontefract where he was executed six days after the battle.
The pictures that follow are based on rough estimates of the positions of the opposing forces according to this map: http://www.battlefieldstrust.com/media/217.pdf(please note the map is in PDF format).
I based my estimated positions of the bridge and ford on a very rough estimates of where the centre of the positions marked on the map were. However, it is important to note that the positions on the map are themselves estimates, and that the position of the ford is extremely uncertain. Therefore, while the pictures I took near to the bridge are probably fairly close to where the action took place, my estimated position of the ford could quite probably be nowhere near where it actually was.
A view of the modern bridge from the estimated position of Hereford’s men
The modern bridge from the Lancastrian side of the river
Lastly, a picture of the plaque on the Lancastrian side of the modern bridge