Border Warfare


 The Battle of Homildon Hill     

    14  September 1402

King Henry IV had only recently acquired the English throne by the murder of his cousin Richard II. He felt threatened with just cause, as there were many who did not support, him regarding him as an impostor.

In an effort to consolidate his position, he made overtures to Robert II of Scotland. An invitation to Robert to accept him, Henry, as the rightful king of England, met with distance coolness.

Border raiding was on the increase and the Scots' ties with France were worrying. Henry could quite foresee the presence of French troops at his northern borders.

Henry thought it time to sort it out with the Scots and possibly make a pre-emptive strike.

With an army of three divisions, one of which he led, Henry penetrated far into Scotland, reaching Edinburgh. Is army was not powerful enough to take Edinburgh without a long siege. The weather was particularly foul and withdrew his army south where he became involved in a clan dispute which resulted in him being joined by the Scottish Earl of March who was engaged in a bitter dispute with the Douglases.

The Douglases, as always, were powerful took advantage of the confusion to take a raiding army of 10,000 men into England and reached Newcastle. 
Having made their presence felt for a while they set about returning north to Scotland with their plunder.

Meanwhile, an English army under Percy, deployed to challenge the Scots as they crossed the Till, heavily burdened and particularly vulnerable to attack.

The Scots' intelligence warned them of the threat and they were not prepared to march into a trap for the benefit of the English. They made camp on Homildon Hill, just north of Wooler, on the edge of the Cheviots feeling very secure, protected by the great wastes of Cheviot on their flank and to their rear, and, in front, a downwards slope to the Millfield Plain beyond.

The English approached cautiously and occupied the hill opposite and considered how to tempt the Scots to the flat land below. The English archers were brought into play. Out of range of anything the Scots could throw at them, they poured valley after volley into the French positions, close packed about their baggage.

Like sitting ducks, there was only a limited amount of punishment the Scots were prepared to take and they quickly became more interested in the lives than in their plunder. They made for the low land. There was nowhere else to go. They made a few fruitless charges with the cavalry but they too were picked off by the bowmen. They scattered and the English forces, largely intact, perused them ruthlessly. Most of the killing occurred in the fields around the Bender Stone. Some attempted to cross the Till. A few made their way back to Scotland.

Douglas himself was wounded and captured. He is said to have been wounded in five places and lost an eye. Among the Scots dead were two barons, eighty knights and numerous others of lower rank. More were killed in the pursuit than on the battlefield.

Percy Hotspur was triumphant and ransoms from the surviving Scots nobles would bring him great riches.

But Henry had other ideas. Being short of money, he had the prisoners placed in his custody.

The ill feeling which resulted led eventually to the rebellion against Henry and to the battle of Shrewsbury in 1514.

In that battle, Harry Percy Hotspur was killed by an arrow. 

Such is life, and death.

The Battle of Homildon Hill is said to be Hotspur's revenge of the Battle of Otterburn, defeating the new Earl Douglas and his massive army on the northern slopes of Homildon Hill.


Shakespeare's 'Henry IV' begins at Warkworth Castle with news of the battle.