Chapter 4 The Battle of Chesterfield
Chapter 5 Aftermath
The Battle of Chesterfield was fought in the later stages of the Baron’s War, a civil war fought in England between 1264 and 1267. The sheer savagery of what happened in Chesterfield was rooted in that struggle. The major battles of Lewes and Evesham had already been fought, but the war was far from over as the countryside remained in turmoil and nobles were still choosing which side to support.
The town of Chesterfield was then a fairly minor market town, but it occupied a strategic position astride roads leading to York, Derby, North Wales and Lincolnshire. Not only that but it was perched on top of a spur of high ground between two swift rivers and so could be easily defended. Into this walled town came the rebel Robert de Ferrers, Earl of Derby, and his army. Derby was expecting reinforcements from Yorkshire, but they had not yet arrived.
Meanwhile, advancing from the south came Prince Henry of Almain with a larger royalist force. Henry knew where Derby was, but he had no idea where the rebel reinforcements might be, nor how many there were. There were, in fact, no less than four armies manoeuvring around Chesterfield in the middle of May 1266, none of which was entirely certain where the others were nor how strong they were.
The armies would meet in Chesterfield in a battle of great savagery and merciless violence. It was to be one of the most unusual battles of the middle ages as it was waged through the streets of the town, largely after dark and with the men fighting by the light of burning houses. When it was over the streets of Chesterfield ran red with blood and were piled high with the dead and the wounded. The defences of the town had been found wanting and would need replacing.
But although Henry of Almain had won a victory for King Henry III the underlying discontent had not gone away. The royal government would have to give way before peace came to England. And Henry himself had sown the seeds of his own destruction, sparking an act of savage revenge that would come years later and many miles away.