The Cotswolds And The Wars Of The Roses - January 12
Tim Porter, a well-known historian, came from his home in Moreton-in-the-Marsh to tell us what reminders of the Wars of the Roses and the fifteenth century we would find throughout the Cotswolds. Heís a very entertaining speaker and the church hall at St Nicholasí Church Warndon was packed with members and guests for our first meeting of 2013.
His talk was accompanied by slides illustrating all the churches, castles, stately homes and countryside mentioned.
The Cotswolds became rich from sheep farming in the fifteenth century. The Cotswold breed has a long fringe, with a long, narrow skull. This latter can be seen on the sheep on the brass of John Fortey in Northleach church. He died in 1459, and some of his wealth from sheep farming was used to build the clerestory, nave and porch. The latter is unusual for having a room above for the parish priest.
Cirencester church has a chantry chapel financed by two retainers of Richard Duke of York, whose brasses are in the church. In the east window is a stained glass roundel showing the head of Richard Duke of York. There are Yorkist badges of falcons and fetterlocks in the stonework.
The last battle between private armies fought on English soil was at Nibley Green on 20th March, 1470 between William, Lord Berkeley, and Thomas, Lord Lisle with a combined force of more than 1,000 men. The south aisle of North Nibley church is medieval and was paid for by Lord Berkeley to celebrate his victory. Lord Lisle was killed. Both sides claimed ownership of Berkeley Castle and resorted to arms after failing to reach a settlement in court.
Burford was a Warwick manor and the almshouses were built by Richard Neville in 1457. The church is mainly fifteenth century with the porch having two rooms above it. Two Yorkist armies met here in 1461 - one victorious at the battle of Mortimerís Cross, led by Edward Duke of York, and one defeated at second St Albans, led by Warwick. It was probably here that they decided to march on London and declare Edward king.
In Ebrington church lies the tomb of Lord Chief Justice John Fortescue. He was a Lancastrian and served Henry VI. He wrote several books on the law. He was present at the battle of Tewkesbury but pardoned afterwards. Edward IV allowed him to keep Ebrington.
Sudeley Castle was built by Ralph Boteler in the 1440's. He became rich serving Henry VI in France and at home as Lord High Treasurer. He also rebuilt Winchcombe church but had his own church built at Sudeley by the same masons. When Edward IV became king Ralph lost the castle which was given to Richard Duke of Gloucester. Thereís no evidence that he visited it and although credited with building the splendid banqueting hall, recent research on masonsí marks suggests it may have been built by Ralph. Lord Botelerís daughter-in-law, Eleanor, married Edward IV before he married Elizabeth Woodville.
North Aston church has a fine fifteenth century alabaster monument to Sir John Anne and his wife Alicia Gifford, and much of the existing church dates from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Another fine alabaster tomb in Broughton church appears to be man and wife but is grandmother and grandson - two separate tombs put together. She is Elizabeth Wykeham and wears a Lancastrian collar. He is William Fiennes, second Lord Saye and Sele, husband of her grand-daughter, wearing a Yorkist collar of sons and roses. He was killed at the battle of Barnet.
Another effigy wearing a Yorkist collar lies in Kington church. This is Sir Thomas Vaughan of Hergest, who died in the battle of Edgcote on July 26 1469. He was fighting for William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke against the troops of the Earl of Warwick. Edgcote was fought in open countryside at a place called Danesmoor. An ancient drove road goes right across the battlefield. Both armies would have been following such roads.
North Leigh church has a fifteenth century chantry chapel off the north aisle containing a large altar tomb with two alabaster effigies of a man and woman lying side by side. The woman is Elizabeth Blackett, whose first husband was Sir William Wylcot, Sheriff of Berkshire and Oxfordshire in 1392. Sir William died in 1411 and Lady Blackett was granted a license to build a chantry. Lady Blackett died in 1442. Both wear the Lancastrian collar.
Bledington church has some yellow medieval glass showing the white lion of March, for Edward IVís Mortimer relatives, and a sun in splendour rose. Thornbury church has a knot for the Stafford family in stonework; Fifield church contains glass showing a Yorkist sun in splendour and a Tudor crown in a thornbush commemorating Bosworth. At Shipton under Wychwood the font was probably given by the Earl of Warwick and shows a bear and ragged staff and a sun in splendour rose. The bear and ragged staff appears on the roof of Compton Abdale church. Chedworth church was also patronised by Richard Neville, and the turret containing the rood stair was built in 1485. Fairford church has glass showing medieval soldiers and their weapons.
As Edward IV raced Margaret of Anjouís troops to Tewkesbury, Margaret fooled Edward into thinking they would give battle at Sodbury. Once he realised his mistake, Edwardís men sped along the Portway, the ancient road high up on the western edge of the Cotswolds. Margaretís army were barred from Gloucester and the river crossing there so had to press on to Tewkesbury, where they arrived too late in the day and too exhausted to cross. Edward rested his men at Cheltenham then continued on to Tredington, 3 miles south of Tewkesbury, where they spent the night. Both the churches at Cheltenham and Tredington still look much the same as they would have done when Edward was there. Tewkesbury Abbey contains many reminders of the battle - the plaque to Edward of Lancaster, the armour on the sacristy door, the Yorkist badges on the ceiling - but there is no plaque to the bodies of the slain Lancastrians buried in the north transept. Also in the abbey are the remains of George Duke of Clarence and his wife Isabel Neville. The entrance to the crypt is marked with a plaque and explanatory notice with a portrait of George.
Didbrook church was rebuilt in 1475 as some Lancastrian fugitives from the battle of Tewkesbury were killed by Yorkist pursuers inside the church.
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