Northumberland, Family History

Flodden 1513'Soldiers re-enact  fighting.
Flodden 1513'Soldiers re-enact fighting.

Amazing discoveries

A talk by Linda Bankier described The Flodden Transcription Project. This cross-border project of Northumberland and Durham Family History Society with Heritage Hub at Hawick enabled archivists to have some rare time for their own research.

They visited various archives to locate documents relevant to the Battle of Flodden in 1513. These included The National Archives (TNA) in London and Edinburgh, British Library, Northumberland Archives, Alnwick Castle, and Cumbria and Durham Record Offices. Scottish sources yielded little, but amazing discoveries were made at TNA in London and Alnwick Castle. Most related to the English perspective.

Forty volunteers were involved in this Heritage Lottery-funded project and all received training in interpreting old handwriting. Documents included financial accounts, which proved much more interesting than imagined, correspondence and muster rolls.

By converting the amounts of money paid to present-day equivalents, Linda was able to form an idea of the wages paid to men involved in the battle. For example, the English campaign leader was paid the equivalent of £2,500 per day, an under-captain £96, whereas an ordinary soldier £16. The cash was transported by monks from York to Newcastle.

There are no details about the battle in the accounts, but other information included the cost of transporting the body of James IV to Windsor via Berwick and York at £6,000. The total cost of the campaign is calculated at a modern day £8million. Documents relating to the campaign in France give an idea of the cost of feeding the army and animals en-route – approximately £250,000.

Detailed information about the horses used in the battle came to light. Vivid descriptions were found, such as “a mare with a cloudy face”.

Despite the battle taking place in Northumberland only one document from the county was located. This was a Muster Roll in the Archives at Alnwick Castle, which had lain undiscovered for centuries due to the way it had been catalogued. It revealed a list of names of local men required to serve a few years later, many must have served at Flodden.

One of the volunteers obtained information from a friend who had been Archivist at Lancashire Record Office concerning a letter of thanks from Henry VIII to an Earl who had served in battle against “the King of the Scots”.

Linda’s talk concluded with a summary of the challenges faced by volunteers in transcribing the documents – inconsistent spelling, lack of punctuation, varieties in letter formation, etc. They were at least written in English; earlier, Latin or French would have been used.

The amount and range of information gleaned was astounding and has made a great contribution to our understanding of the background to the battle. Linda’s talk provided an informative and entertaining account of the project.

Our next meeting will be on Saturday, October 17, at 10am, at Bell View when the topic of Death and Dying will be on the agenda for members to bring stories and memorabilia. We anticipate some interesting finds. Everyone welcome.