On 15th May 1464, John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu led a force of 3,500 men, marching south from the border of Scotland. The Lancastrians had little time to prepare for the Battle of Hexham, despite warnings by their own scouts. Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset rushed his forces to a site near Linnels Bridge, in to a defensive position.
He had deployed his troops in three detachments in a meadow near the Devil’s Water, a fast flowing stream set in a deep cutting. He hoped he could engage Lord Montagu’s army before it moved past him into Hexham, Northumberland.
Battle of Hexham
At the beginning of the Battle of Hexham, Lord Montagu’s army rapidly charged down Swallowship Hill, and crushed the Duke of Somerset’s forces. Seeing the Yorkist advance, the right detachment of the Lancastrian army, commanded by Thomas Ros, 9th Baron Ros, turned and fled across Devil’s Water and into Hexham.
The Duke of Somerset’s remaining force seemed in a hopeless situation, they had become hemmed in and unable to manoeuvre. The Yorkist Calvary charged through an opening at the east end of Linnels Meadow. They then engaged the bewildered Lancastrian soldiers, as they became backed into the Devil’s Water by the advancing Yorkist infantry.
Retreat of the Lancastrians
During the retreat, some of the Duke of Somerset’s men drowned in the river. While others had been slaughtered, as they tried to climb the steep banks of the Devil’s Water, during the retreat towards Hexham. Most of the men became trapped in West Dipton Wood on the north bank of the river.
They became forced to surrender when the Yorkists approached. Duke of Somerset mounted his horse and attempted to fight his way out, he became unhorsed and badly wounded.
Thirty Lancastrian leaders had became captured including the Duke of Somerset, Robert Hungerford, 3rd Baron Hungerford and Sir Philip Wentworth. Three days later they were all beheaded at Middleham, Yorkshire on 18th May 1464. King Henry VI was kept safely away, before escaping to find refuge in the north of England.
A five year period of peace followed, but came unsettled by 1469. Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick had fallen out with Edward IV, then defected across to the Lancastarian side.