This Day in History: 1460-12-30
On 30th December 1460, the Battle of Wakefield was fought on the plain ground between Sandal Castle and the town of Wakefield i.e. to the north of Sandal Castle. This battle has often been overlooked in history mainly due to its short duration (one to two hours) and the number of combatants, about 30,000, when compared against some of the great battles of the era at St Albans, Towton and Barnet. However, this battle changed the course of English history as the Yorkists were routed, losing 2,500 men, and Richard Duke of York, himself, who was killed and his head subsequently displayed on Micklegate Bar in York. There are many theories why Richard engaged the Lancastrians in battle when significantly outnumbered: the Yorkists had approximately 5,000 troops against the Lancastrians’ 15,000-22,000 troops. These theories include York’s underestimating the Lancastrian force and not realising that the Lancastrians had been split and hidden in woods to the west, east and north of the castle, meaning that when Richard charged down the hill he was quickly surrounded. Also, Lord John Neville, on his long march North, had purportedly got word to Richard that he would raise troops to support his cause and arrive on the battlefield with 8,000 men, but he quickly changed sides, leading to the Yorkist army being encircled by enemy forces. Following the battle, Richard’s second son Edmund, Earl of Rutland was captured close to Chantry Bridge by Lord Clifford and subsequently slain. The Earl of Salisbury was captured and taken to Pontefract where on the following day he was executed and his head removed and placed on Micklegate Bar along with Edmund’s and his father’s.