On 21 July 1403, the fields north of Shrewsbury witnessed one of the bloodiest battles seen on English soil. It was the first time English archers found themselves on opposing sides, and the longbow tactics learned during the Battle of Shrewsbury were later used to devastating effect against the French at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.
When Henry IV failed to reward the Earl of Northumberland, and his son, Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, for their efforts in securing the northern border counties of England and for fighting the Welsh, the Percys sought revenge, determined to split England.
Hotspur raised an army of Cheshire archers, planning
to join with other rebel supporters. When King Henry heard of this plan, he rushed to Shrewsbury, securing the town on 20 July. The next day, in fields just north of the town, battle commenced.
Picture the scene
From the Battlefield Heritage Site car park, take the path beside the information panel and climb some steps to reach the viewing mound summit, offering an overview of this historic battlefield. About 14,000 of King Henry’s archers prepared for battle in the fields at your feet.
In the distance, behind where the church now stands, Hotspur’s estimated 10,000 archers gathered. For most of the day the troops were quiet, while negotiations between the two leaders took place.
Head towards the churchyard of the Grade-II listed St Mary Magdalene, built in 1406.
It was to this spot that King Henry’s troops charged across the fields, once, two hours before sunset, negotiations had failed. They were deluged by arrows from Hotspur’s troops. Archers wore little armour, because they needed flexibility to draw their arrows, and as Hotspur’s troops advanced, a bloody hand-to-hand combat ensued. Rebel Hotspur was killed after two hours of fighting.
A mass burial took place on this very spot and Henry IV declared a church be built here, “for the souls who fell.”
Found in the fields
The fascinating Battlefield 1403 Exhibition has displays of longbows, armour, chain mail and a detailed history of the battle. Retrace your steps back to the church, passing an information panel. Head back through the fields where Henry’s troops charged,
ready to die for their king.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Battle of Shrewsbury Heritage Site car park is signed off the roundabout on the A5124, on the northern outskirts of Shrewsbury.
Free parking from 6am to 9pm.
FIND OUT MORE
Shrewsbury Visitor Information Centre
Museum, Barker Street,
Shrewsbury SY1 1QH
Shrewsbury SY4 3DB
Penn Peel Cottage B&B
Shrewsbury SY4 3NB