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"Sieges in War Of The Roses" Topic

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Arcane Steve27 Nov 2020 4:44 a.m. PST

In a recent thread, it was suggested that there were few if any sieges in the War of The Roses. Thresher01 kindly listed the following:
Siege of Harlech, 1461 to 14th August 1468

Siege of Alnwick July 1462

Siege of Alnwick Dec 1462 Jan 1463

Siege of Bamburgh Dec 1462

Siege of Dunstanburgh Castle, December 1462

Siege of Norham, June-July 1463

Siege of Dunstanburgh Castle, June 1464

Siege of London, 12-15 May 1471

Siege of St. Michael's Mount, 30 September 1473-February 1474

In addition there is the fairly well documented siege of Caister, which was discounted as a somewhat one sided affair against a fortified manor house rather than a castle.

In the course of research into my own project, which will hopefully be a model of Berry Pomeroy Castle for my WOTR Army, I came across details of the Bonville- Courtney feud that occurred in the West Country at the start of the WOTR.
You can read a good overview here:


In this account, three sieges are mentioned. Taunton Castle, Powderham Castle and Colcombe Castle. The latter was over quite quickly by the brief description but presumably some sort of forced entry took place. In addition to these incidents, mention is made of attacks on other property. Which leads me to ask the question, 'What constitutes a siege'?

I would be interested to hear your views as well as any information regarding the Bonville – Courtenay feud and Berry Pomeroy Castle.

MajorB27 Nov 2020 9:31 a.m. PST

Please can someone point to references to any of the sieges listed above in primary sources?

The Caister siege is documented in the Paston Letters, but I am not aware of any primary sources for the others?

4DJones27 Nov 2020 10:39 a.m. PST

Some primary sources for the Northumberland sieges:

John Warkworth 'A Chronicle of the first thirteen years of the reign of Edwards IV 1461- 1474; Camden Society Old Series,X, 1839

Fabyan, The New Chronicles of England and France

William Gregory's Chronicle of London Camden Soc. New series XVIII (1876)

Ye Google Mappes of Merrie Englande

4DJones27 Nov 2020 12:29 p.m. PST

… And something for your Christmas stocking, Major:

The Castle in the Wars of the Roses, by Dan Spencer

MajorB27 Nov 2020 1:45 p.m. PST

"What makes the Wars of the Roses so fascinating is that, compared to other famous medieval wars, castles were not the central focus for battles. Instead, castles during this period were used for garrisons, headquarters for military commanders, and as tools to show political favor for whoever was on the throne."

Hmm … interesting. Indeed, one for the pressie list …

Thresher0127 Nov 2020 2:42 p.m. PST

Thanks for sharing.

As for sieges, I would say any time a castle or manor is directly, or indirectly threatened with the use of force to take it, and/or to cut it off from re-supply and aid through blockade, causing the defenders/occupants of said structures to take measures to defend them, including calling for reinforcements from neighbors, gathering provisions from outside of the defended location, calling men to arms and increasing the watch guard, etc., etc..

Dn Jackson Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2020 3:25 p.m. PST

To me a siege exists when a blockade is put into effect. Once access to the castle/city/manor is restricted or cut off then the entity is under siege. If an enemy shows up and forces their way in that's not a siege, that's an attack. Just my thoughts.

Warspite128 Nov 2020 5:14 a.m. PST

@Major B:

The best source for Caistor Castle is the Paston Letters.
Letters to and from Sir and Lady Paston describe recruiting four men able to stand watch and ward, skilled in making bulwarks and in handling and repair of handgonnes and crossbows.
These were recruited, probably in London, as Lady Paston said that local men feared the wrath of Howard, Duke of Norfolk, who wanted the castle for himself.
The castle was eventually taken but the Pastons were then sued through the civil courts for causing the death of two of Howard's men with a gun stone.
The Pastons did not recover the castle until late in the reign of Edward IV.

There are also earlier letters describing the attack on Gresham Manor circa 1449 by Lord Moleyns (later Hungerford and Moleyns) describing Lady Paston's forcible eviction from the manor by a large gang equipped with all manner of weapons including battering rams and guns.
In a later letter she describes how their former manor had been re-fortified with gunports at low level to protect against the Pastons re-taking it.
Her description closely matches this one at Kirby Muxloe:


Arcane Steve01 Dec 2020 4:58 a.m. PST

Thank you all for your comments and contributions to the thread. A particular thank you to 4Djones for the book recommendation, which is extremely useful, and which will be added to my Christmas list.

As well as my Castle project, I am interested in the subject from a wargaming perspective, as much as a historical one. Hence my question, 'what constitutes a siege?'. In designing a wargames scenario which involves the defense of a manor/farm/ village, it would be useful to gather other perspectives.

It is clear to me that during the WOTR period, there was considerable unrest in the West Country, with private disputes coming to a head at both Nibley Green and the 'fight at St Clyst'. It is reasonable to assume that as well as these larger engagements, there were smaller encounters and raids on farms or properties that would not make the 'headline' Chronicles.

Thus 'primary sources'are likely to be hard to come by.
To quote Sir Charles Oman, 'we find ourselves wandering in a very dreary waste of fragments and scraps of history,strung together on the meagre thread strung together on two or three dry and jejune compilations of annals'.If Sir Charles Oman was struggling, then I suspect that the average wargamer will to.

However, if 'primary sources' are difficult to establish, it doesn't mean that an event didn't happen. Several sources seem to repeat the story that Powderham Castle ( Really a fortified Manor house) was placed under siege for two months.


I would rather open the debate out, with people contributing what ever source and information that they are aware of regarding such sieges.

Your time and contributions are much appreciated.

MacColla18 Jan 2021 11:32 a.m. PST

As I've posted before an another thread, the Winter 2020 (i.e. January 2020) issue of the Battlefields Trust magazine has a detailed article on the lengthy siege of St Michael's Mount – September 1473-Fenruary 1474 – with references. Warkworth, mentioned above, from memory was one of them. I don't have the magazine to hand at the moment and will post details when I have it.

MacColla23 Jan 2021 12:57 p.m. PST

The two contemporary sources for the siege of St Michael's Mount are Warkworth and William Worcester.

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