Battle of Old Byland 1322 – Scotland V England

Earlier this year, we were fortunate to be able to spend a few glorious days exploring North Yorkshire, whilst staying in a classic thatched cottage in the lovely village of Harome near Helmsley.
But the purpose of our visit was to get a grasp on the Battle of Old Byland which had taken place near Rievaulx Abbey way back in 1322. It was the first time since the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 that the Scots had won such a decisive, larger scale victory.
Robert the Bruce was still trying to force Edward 11 to formally recognise his kingship, but the English king was distracted by his rebellious northern magnates: one of whom, Thomas of Lancaster, was accused of trying to form an alliance with the Scots.
When the Scots poured over the border in early 1322 in their continued efforts to gain independence, Lancaster apparently did little to stop them which caused Edward to take successful military action against him at Boroughbridge and subsequently led to his execution for treason.
Edward then sent an army into Scotland with little success due to lack of food and resources following the Scots’ ongoing burnt earth policy. The English army retreated but not before wreaking destruction at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh and some of the Border abbeys.
In October, the Scots advanced once again all the way into North Yorkshire. By this time, King Edward and his queen had retired to Rievaulx Abbey; he sent a large English force to halt the Scottish assault but Robert the Bruce was able to outwit its commander, the earl of Richmond. Using tactics similar to those which led to his success some years previous at the Pass of Brander in the west of Scotland, King Robert sent his force to engage the enemy up an escarpment whilst sending another force over the top to surprise the enemy from the higher position.
Edward was forced to quit the safety of the Abbey, reportedly leaving many of his possessions behind.
It was difficult to ascertain exactly where the battle had taken place as there is an abbey by the name of Byland as well as the small village of Old Byland, some distance apart. My hunch was that it took place north of the village on the rugged edge of the upland moors.
In the course of our visit to the area, Rievaulx Abbey was an essential stop. And its glorious hillside position and existing ruins, a rich golden russet in the sunlight, remain etched in my mind. At one stage, this historically powerful abbey housed over 640 monks and was the mother house to a number of smaller but decidedly significant abbeys such as Melrose in the Scottish borders.
It was quite an instructive visit for me in terms of research for my next book, to see how far the Scots were able to make inroads into English territory, venturing even further afield to southern Yorkshire as well. I wondered at the intrepid, adventurous nature of the Scots leaders like Douglas and Moray to journey so far from their own borders and place of safety, in the full knowledge that their retreat may have been cut off, but they seem to have been able to undertake their hit and run raids with complete bravado and most importantly with continued success.
This time, it was definitely: Scotland 1 – England 0.

4 thoughts on “Battle of Old Byland 1322 – Scotland V England

  1. Hope you are getting lots of notebooks filled. Can’t wait for the next book.

  2. ritaroberts says:

    I love this history. ! Great post thank you.

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