The Battle of Towton

On the morning of the 23rd March 1461 the massed armies of the Yorkists, led by Edward iV and the Lancastrians, led by Henry Vi fought on a battlefield south of Tadcaster between the villages of Saxton and Towton. It is estimated that up to 28,000 men lost their lives, some in battle, others butchered whilst fleeing the triumphant Yorkist troops or drowning in the Cock Beck and the River Wharfe trying to escape. The area leading down to the Cock Beck is called the Bloody Meadow where many of the men died.

The area is mostly arable land and little has changed since medieval times, it is rolling and quite featureless except for a solitary hawthorn tree which sits on the skyline next to a memorial stone. South of the battlefield sits the medieval Lead church, now standing alone in a field where it was once surrounded by the Baronial Manor of Lead. Many of the Yorkist troops were billeted there.

I’ve walked the site many times thinking about how I might interpret my thoughts and feelings about this awful day through my photography. The images I made are not about place, they are made to try and capture the sense of confusion, desperation, fear, pain and ultimately silence through death.

My choice of using ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) combined with multiple exposure in-camera was an attempt to create a distorted view to represent these emotions. The addition of red in post-processing providing a metaphor for the bloody events.

I realised I needed a unique way to present these images, as just posting them on social media or straight prints would not convey the essence of my thoughts. I therefore decided to present my work in a handmade book format. The book contains 3 main images that are suspended on a hinged cut-out, backed with images from the bloody meadow. The book contains a small poem with a line on each page.

The Bloody Meadow : I looked for the sun : But all I saw was red

I found the book Towton 1461:The Anatomy of a Battle by A.E. Boardman a valuable source of information to give me some insight into the events that happened on the day.

You can read more about the battle here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Towton