Re-enactors raised a king’s standard on the same spot it was flown exactly 530 years before to commemorate a bloody Nottinghamshire battle and open a weekend of events.
The Battle of Stoke Field was fought on the morning of June 16, 1487 near the village of East Stoke, between Nottingham and Newark.
An army led by Lancastrian King Henry VII defeated a Yorkist rebel force led by the Earl of Lincoln and Lord Lovell – ending the Wars of the Roses.
Up to 23,000 men took part and as many as 5,000 died – but the site is little-known in Nottinghamshire as much of it is out of bounds on private land and there is no visitors’ centre.
But this weekend the owners of Stoke Hall, in East Stoke, are opening up its grounds to commemorate the battle with a series of events.
They include the first-ever official guided tours by a historian on parts of the battlefield on private land, including Burham Furlong, where Henry VII’s standard is thought to have been raised at the end of the slaughter.
The Foundry war games business and shop, which is in the grounds of the hall, is also hosting demonstrations and a participation game.
On Friday’s full anniversary Ian Brandt from the Beauforte Companye re-enactment group raised a replica of the flag on the same site – 30 years after he attended the last official commemoration at Stoke Field in 1987.
“It’s very good to be back here – this is an especially important event because there’s been no commemoration for 30 years and the profile of the battle needs to be raised – it should be more widely known,” he said.
“Most people think the Wars of the Roses ended at Bosworth in Leicestershire with the death of King Richard III (in 1485) but this was the last battle and it secured Henry on the Throne.”
Stoke Hall owners Bryan and Diane Ansell sought permission from landowners to allow members of the public access for the weekend events.
The couple run Foundry and Bryan previously owned and ran the famous Games Workshop miniature wargames business.
Diane said: “You would not think it now when you stand in Stoke Field but 530 years ago, it would have been soaked in blood after one of the most brutal battles ever to take place in England and one which is regarded as a landmark moment in this country’s history.
“It promises to be a very exciting and fascinating weekend for anyone who is interested in local and national history and we are expecting plenty of visitors from all over the country.”
Although less well known than the Battle of Bosworth, the Battle of Stoke Field is believed to have been bigger and represented the House of York’s last attempt to wrest back control of England from King Henry VII, who was crowned after the Yorkists were vanquished by the Lancastrians at Bosworth two years earlier.
This time, 8,000 Yorkists rallied around Lambert Simnel, an imposter they were attempting to pass off as Edward, Earl of Warwick, and claim his right to the throne.
However, although their army was larger and boosted by well-armed Irish and German mercenaries, the Yorkists were cut down mercilessly by Henry’s archers at Stoke Field.
With the battle reaching its end after three hours and with their numbers dwindling fast, the surviving Yorkists attempted to escape down a gully but were cornered and massacred.
The gully still exists and is known locally as Bloody Gutter.
Triumphant, Henry raised the Royal Standard on Burham Furlong and the spot is marked by a memorial on a large stone which reads “Here stood the Burrand Bush planted on the spot where Henry VII placed his standard after the Battle of Stoke 16 June 1487”.
Virtually all of the leading Yorkists were killed at the battle although Simnel, perhaps because Henry realised he had been used as a puppet, was spared his life and given a job as a serving boy in the King’s kitchen.
Henry went onto rule until his death in 1509 and was succeeded by his son, Henry VIII.
Events at Stoke Hall run from 10am-5pm on Saturday and Sunday June 17 and 18, and also talks with medieval historian Mike Ingram, displays of combat by the Beauforte Companye, a demonstration and participation wargame and a talk about the life of King Henry VII.
Battlefield tours with admission cost £12 and people are advised to book in advance on the Foundry website because space will be limited.
General admission only is £5 and can be paid on the gate, or booked on the website.