Battles and Clashes 14

The Battle of Ancrum Moor        

12 February 1545   




It was common practice for the wealthy to extend their holdings by marriage. Thus large tracts of estate were acquired by a family adding to their wealth, and power.

The piece of land Henry VIII was anxious to acquire was Scotland and, in pursuit of his aims, he proposed that his infant son, Edward, (by Catherine Seymour, wife number three), be married to the infant daughter of James V of Scotland.

He sent to James several Scottish nobles, who were his prisoners, to Scotland to negotiate. They had all promised to do everything in their power to get the Scots to agree.   

But the Scottish parliament would have none if it. They rejected Henry's master plan and Henry, furious at being frustrated, sent a strong force led by Hereford to invade Scotland. Thus, what was later known as 'The Rough Wooing,' came about. 

In May of 1544 a strong force landed on the Firth of Forth and quickly occupied and laid waste  Leith and then Edinburgh. It is said the fires of Edinburgh raged for four days. 

After this initial success and with the Scots shocked and demoralized, the English forces pushed on deeper into southern Scotland. Quarrelling amongst themselves, the Scots were unable to put up but little more than feeble resistance and the English forces, now under the command of Two of Henry's most ruthless officers, Sir Ralph Evers and Sir Brian Latoun. ravished the defenceless countryside with the utmost brutality, slaughtering and destroying everything in their path. 

The reivers of Liddesdale, opportunists as ever, changed sides and joined the English. Several Border chiefs submitted and went over to the English to save their necks.

The English force, led by Sir Ralph Eure, who, in an age of cruelty and little regard for human life, distinguished himself for his brutality and greed, was promised by the king all the territory he could conquer. He pursued his campaign with vigorous enthusiasm.

The English thrust onwards destroying Melrose and the Abbey. They callously destroyed the tombs of the Douglas family which further infuriated the Scots, but they were still weak and could do little but  to make limited raids against the enemy's flanks.

But the tide was about to turn.

Angus, the Scots lieutenant of the Border, began assembling a Scottish force to resist the relentless tide of the English advance. No was no shortage of volunteers now that they had a leader to follow.

On the 12 February 1545,the English were encamped on Ancrum Moor, heavy with plunder and confidence resulting from a series of successful encounters.

The Angus force now amounted to a mere 1200 men but were expecting the arrival of more reinforcements. Cautiously, Angus approached the English force and deployed his small army ready for battle but out of sight of his enemy. Riders dismounted and led away their horses to the rear.

The English were aware of this unusual manoeuvre and mistook the move as a sign of retreat. They were over confident after so many victories and they had intelligence that the Scottish force was small and ill assorted. But then the Scots were joined by Sir Norman Leslie, the Master of Rothes, who brought with him an elite force of 1200 lances.

While establishing themselves on the haugh beside the River Tweed, the invaders were alleged to have set fire to the Tower of Broomhill occupied by an elderly lady and her family and servants. They were all burnt to death, and this story , true or not, bolstered the Scots' resolve with the battle cry of 'Remember Broomhouse.'

The English, convinced they were about to engage a retreating and disordered force,  moved forward confidently in a body to the brow of the ridge and were confronted by the Scots army in battle array. The impetuous of their surge forward resulted in his men running headlong into a wall of pikes and lances. Being late in the day and facing west, they were blinded by the setting sun and the attack floundered. 
Eure then put his main force into action but the Scots fought  hard, sending them back in disorder, mixed with the earlier attackers.

Seizing his opportunity, Angus ordered an advance and the Scots moved into the disordered ranks of the English who quickly scattered. Layton and Eure attempted to rally his men but the situation was hopeless and the English were mercilessly hewn down by the Scots. 

The English lost 800 dead and more than that number were taken prisoner. 
No doubt contributing to Eure's defeat, during the battle the remnants of the reivers who had changed sides, reverted to the Scots ranks.

Both Eure and Layton were killed.  


The battle had been witnessed by the local people and, when they saw the English crumble, rushed to take part using whatever weapon they had to take revenge. With cries of 'Remember Broomhill', they set upon the enemy, wherever they could be found and showed the same lack of mercy they had suffered. Even the women joined in.

There is a tradition that a young woman whose lover had been killed by the English vowed retribution. Seizing a sword, she plunged into the ranks of the English troops wielding the sword against the hated foe until she herself was struck down.  

There is a monument erected to Lilliard and it serves as also as a memorial to the battle.

 'And long may all who that day fought,
   And wreaths of honour won,
  Live in their country's heart and thought,
   For deeds heroic done,
  And tell to each succeeding age
  How valiant hearts may battle rage,
  And foil a tyrant's armoured bands
  Who grasps at power with blood-stained hands.'

After the battle, Henry furiously reacted by sending the Earl of Hereford to Scotland where he laid waste huge tracts of land, destroying everything in his wake and putting to the sword every man, woman and child without exception.

Next year, in 1545, he returned again.

To locate the battle site, from Jedburgh take the A68 north. In about 4 miles, just past the Lilliards Edge Caravan Park, is the battle site, astride the road.

Map reference: 74 616 272

The End