Medieval War of the Roses

Battle of Ferrybridge 1461

Battle of Ferrybridge was a preliminary engagement between the houses of York and Lancaster before the larger Battle of Towton in 1461.

The Battle of Ferrybridge was a small engagement before the larger battle took place at Towton. After Edward IV had proclaimed himself King of England, he gathered together a large army. they marched northwards toward the Lancastrian position behind the River Aire in Yorkshire.

27th March 1461, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick lead the Yorkist vanguard to towards Ferrybridge. The Lancastrians had destroyed the bridge that crossed the River Aire, making it impassable. The Earl of Warwick ordered that the bridge be repaired, bridging the gaps with wooden planks to make it passable once again.

battle of ferrybridge 1461
Battle of Ferrybridge 1461 – painted by Graham Turner

While the bridge was being repaired, the Lancastrian archers fired a volley of arrows into the Yorkists while repairing the bridge. Some of the men were killed on the bridge, while others fell and drowned in the freezing water.

The Lancastrians were seen off by a small number of Yorkists, they managed to cross the broken bridge. The Yorkists set up camp on the north side of the River, while the bridge was being repaired to make passable once again.

Battle of Ferrybridge

28th March 1461, during the morning Lord John Neville (Warwick’s cousin) and Lord John Clifford lead a large Lancastrian army to ambush the Yorkists.

The Earl of Warwick’s Yorkist army had been taken completely by surprise. Lord FitzWalter, Warwicks second-in-command became mortally wounded while rallying his men. Many of the Yorkist men were killed during this early attack. Lord FitzWalter died of his wounds a week later.

Lord Neville had become slain in an ambush during the Lancastrian retreat. The Earl of Warwick received an arrow to his leg, putting him out of action.

Edward IV arrived after the battle with his main army. Edward IV and the Earl of Warwick returned to the bridge, to find it still a ruin.

Yorkist Calvary in pursuit

William Neville, 6th Baron Fauconberg took the Yorkist cavalry upstream to Castleford, where they crossed the Ford. Lord Fauconburg and his advance party pursued Lord Clifford, his half-grand-nephew and the Lancastarian army towards Ferrybridge. The retreating Lancastrians got as far a Dinting Dale where the Yorkist cavalry caught up with them, and attacked their flank.

During the skirmish, Lord Clifford had become struck down and killed with an arrow to his throat. Earlier while in pursuit, he had removed a piece of armour that would have given his neck protection.

After the battle

The Yorkist repaired, and crossed the bridge spanning the River Aire and marched on to Sherburn-in-Elmet to camp over night. The Lancastrians marched to Tadcaster, north of Towton for encampment.

The fight continued the following day, at the Battle of Towton.