32. Early uses of 'Flodden' to Refer to the Battle Site


There is a quite widely held view that the use of the placename ‘Flodden’ for the site of the battle between the Scottish and English armies in 1513 did not come about until long after the event.

Indeed it has been suggested that it was Sir Walter Scott in Marmion: a tale of Flodden Field who first referred to the battle in this way. Scott started to write Marmion in 1806 and it was published in 1808, but several years previously, in August 1792 he spent some time in Northumberland, near Wooler, with his uncle. While there he wrote a letter to his friend William Clerk of Penicuik in which he clearly refers to Flodden as a ‘field of battle’. Although the year 1792 is now long in the past, a quick calculation shows that it is closer to the present day than to the battle.

One of the questions which I wanted to research as part of the transcription component of the Flodden 500 Project was whether any documents have survived revealing much earlier uses of ‘Flodden’ for the name of the battle. In particular I was interested to look for documents from the Scottish side because unsurprisingly there is much less information in general about the aftermath of the battle from there than from the English side. The bulk of my research has been done at the National Records of Scotland and National Library of Scotland and original manuscripts have been accessed where possible.

References to ‘Flodden’

This work has unearthed a number of early documents which clearly refer to ‘Flodden’ as being the site of the battle. The earliest is an instrument of sasine in favour of Alexander Maxton, son and heir of Robert Maxton of Cultoquhey, near Crieff, who was killed at Flodden. It is partly in Latin, partly in Scots and is dated 1 June 1514. The relevant text in the sasine is “. . . in campo bellico flodonn . . .” i.e. “in Flodden battlefield”.

Somewhat later there is a decree of declarator of non-entry (this deals with the failure of a tenant’s heir to renew investiture after the tenant’s death) dated 12 December 1544. Although more than thirty years after the battle, this legal document was to resolve an inheritance dispute linked to the death of Thomas Maule of Panmure in Angus and regarding his death it says “. . . thomas maule deit in the feild of flowdonn. . .” There is a description of Thomas Maule’s involvement at Flodden in George Crawford’s ‘The Peerage of Scotland”, published in 1716:

“Sir Thomas, being the particular favourite of his master, King James IV he accompanied him to the battle of Flodden; and while he was on his way thither, he made his testament at Dundee, that he might free himself from all worldly intanglements, and the better, as he expresses himself, to dispose him to the service of his King and country in the war. And ‘tis recorded of this gentleman, to his immortal honour, that tho’ many of the first quality left the King, before the army engaged with the enemy; yet he would not, tho’ he was a very corpulent man, and advanced in age, but personally engaged in the battle, where he fought with remarkable courage, and received many wounds, of which he fatally died, on the fatal 9th September 1513, his estate by his death devolving on Robert his son and heir.”

A few years later there is an instrument of sasine in Latin dated 16 October 1553 concerning the inheritance by the grandson of John Haldane of Gleneagles who died in the battle and this says “. . . Joannis haldane de glennegas . . . obiit . . . sub vexillo de flowdonn . . .” This translates as “John Haldane of Gleneagles . . . died . . . under the banner of Flodden”.

Later still, there was a disputed inheritance issue going back to the death of Adam Halkheid at the battle. This is contained in the Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, is dated 9 February 1565/66 and states that Adam “ . . . was slane at the Feild of Flowdoun . . .” When Adam died possession of various lands in the ‘regalitie of Dunfermling’ passed to his wife Helen who was subsequently remarried to a man called Charles Danielstoun. When Helen died in around 1537, Danielstoun assumed possession and would not let Adam’s son Henrie nor later his widow Kathrene or even later their son David Halkheid (i.e. Adam’s grandson) gain possession. The Register states that Danielstoun “ . . . wranguslie retenit and kepit his possessioun . . . “ of the properties “ . . . by quhat titill of rycht the said David knawis nocht”.

So references to ‘Flodden’ arise very soon after the battle but there are also further Scottish documents within a year of the battle which refer to Twizelhaugh either as the battle site or where the Act of Dispensation was agreed and yet further documents which simply indicate that the battle took place in Northumberland.

References to ‘Twizelhaugh’ and ‘in campo bellico’

Thus there is a legal document dated 15 February 1513/14 concerning the inheritance of Andrew Murray of Blackbarony (near Peebles), as heir to his father John Murray who died at Flodden.

The Twizelhaugh reference is “. . . John[n]e p[at]ris dictj andreu qm obijt in campo bellico apud twisilhauch in anglia. . . “. This translates as “ . . . John, father of the said Andrew, who died in the battlefield by Twizelhaugh in England . . .”. Black Barony is now a hotel and the earliest component of the structure to remain are parts of a sixteenth century tower house which may date from the period of this document.

At around the same time a document dated 10 March 1513/14 in favour of Colin Campbell as heir to his father Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy who was killed at Flodden includes the words “. . . obiit . . . in campo bellico nuper in Northu[m]birland . . .” which translates as “ . . . died . . . in the battlefield recently in Northumberland . . .”

Gilbert Kennedy, son and heir to David, Earl of Cassillis (who perished in the battle) obtained the right to inherit from his father on 29 May 1514 and in turn his son, also a Gilbert, had his inheritance confirmed in a document of 21 May 1534 stating “. . . p[er] actum dispensationis quond[am] carissimi p[at]ris n[ost] ri Jacobi quarti Regis Scotie fact apud Tuisilhauch in Northum[b]erland in Anglia.” i.e. “ . . . through the Act of Dispensation which our dearest father James IV King of Scotland made at Twizelhaugh in Northumberland in England”. Grandson Gilbert was born in 1515 and would have been only nineteen in 1534 and so still a minor; the Act of Dispensation would have allowed this inheritance to go ahead despite his age.

English Monumental Brasses

There are three known brasses which refer to Flodden. The most significant one is that of William Molineux who died in 1548. The brass, which is in Sefton Parish Church, Lancashire, shows Sir William with his two wives and was engraved c. 1570 and it states in Latin, translated here as “William Molineux, knight and lord of Sefton, was thrice sent against the Scots when Henry VIII was King in England, and acquitted himself bravely, but especially at Flodden, where he captured with his own hand two standards of arms of the Scots who were most stoutly resisting. . .” Flodden is spelled ‘ffloydon’.

In Tickencote, Rutland, there is a brass inscription which commemorates Sir Anthony Wingfield, who died at Flodden. However, this brass probably dates from much later and it is likely to have originated from Letheringham, Suffolk. The inscription reads:

At Floddenfeld did brauely fight and dye
Of Wingfeldes Sonnes ye famed Sir Anthonye:
But Dethe hee counted mickle gain sith hee
Over ye Scot did gain ye Victorye

And at Flamborough, Yorkshire, a brass inscription for Sir Marmaduke Constable, dating from around 1520 refers to his involvement in the battle as follows “He was also at Barwik at the winnyng of the same .... A brankisto feld wher the kyng of scottys was slayne he then beyng of the age of thre score and tene . . .”. So Constable, who was appointed joint commander of the English third division with Sir Edmund Howard, was of a similar age to that of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey.

In conclusion, it is apparent that the Scots always referred to the battlefield site as Flodden, whilst for the English it came later, as they originally referred to it as Branxton of the Scottish field. It is ironic that the name used by the loser is the one which has come down through history and is the one used today.

References (and notes on information sources)

‘Sir Walter Scott’s letter to William Clerk concerning the battle of Flodden’, Barry Prater, History of the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club, Vol 52, part 3, 2013 (published 2014).
Alexander Maxton - instrument of sasine, document GD155/15, National Records of Scotland. Also “The Maxtones of Cultoquhey” by E Maxtone Graham, published by The Moray Press, Edinburgh (1935), available in the National Library of Scotland, ref R.172.e.
Thomas Maule’s descendents - decree of declarator of non-entry, document GD45/27/63, National Records of Scotland. Also “The Peerage of Scotland” by George Crawford (1716).
John Haldane - instrument of sasine, document GD198/82, National Records of Scotland.
Halkheid inheritance dispute - Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, Vol 1 (1545-1569), p428, transcription available in the National Records of Scotland.
“James IV and the Act of Dispensation”, Barry Prater, this publication.
Andrew Murray of Blackbarony - retour of service, document GD/32/11/6, National Records of Scotland.
Colin Campbell - precept of clare constat, document GD112/75/11, National Records of Scotland.
Gilbert Kennedy, Earl of Cassillis - precept from Chancery, document GD25/1/321, National Records of Scotland. Also “Historical Account of the Noble Family of Kennedy, Marquess of Ailsa and Earl of Cassilis”, Anon., p 30-34, Edinburgh (1849).
Monumental Brasses - information provided by William Lack, Monumental Brass Society. Specific details contained in:
• Sir William Molyneux - “A Series of Monumental Brasses, Indent and Incised Slabs from the 13th to the 20th Century”, edited by William Lack and Philip Whittemore, vol II, part 5 (2009).
• Sir Anthony Wingfield - Monumental Brass Society Transactions vol XII, p.183 (1976).
• Sir Marmaduke Constable - “Monumental Brasses of the East Riding”, by Mill Stephenson, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, vol XII, pp.207-8 (1893).