The Battle of Humbleton Hill

To the North of the main A697 road, near Bendor Crossing at NT698297, there is a standing stone. In all probability this stone is of prehistoric origin but, on maps, it is marked as a ‘Battle Stone’ and is popularly thought to comemorate the battle of Humbleton, or as it was then called, Homildon Hill.

The battle of Homildon Hill took place on the 13th of September, 1402. Scottish troops, under the command of Archibald, Earl of Douglas, were returning from a successful raiding party into England. They had been as far south as Durham and were on their way home with the spoils.

When the troops arrived in the Wooler area they discovered that a large English force, under the command of Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy was lying in wait for them at Milfield.

Aware of the strategic advantage it should have provided them the Scots took up positions on Humbleton Hill.

However the English didn’t mount the more traditional frontal attack the Scots were expecting. Percy, taking advice from the Earl of March, launched a more devastating assault. Volley after volley, thousands of arrows, were rained down on the hill killing eight hundred of the Scottish troops. Defeated the Scots fled. They fought their way past Akeld and anorther 500 were killed both here and crossing the Till and Tweed.

On holy-rood day, the gallant Hotspur there, Young Harry Percy, and brave Archibald,
That ever valliant Scot, At Holmedon met,
where they did spend A sad and bloody hour.

Act 1, Scene1, Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1

Even to the present day ploughing to the North of Humbleton can still occasionally unearth skulls and bones of both human and horse. The fields where the slaughter took place are known now as ‘Red Riggs’ because of the blood they were stained with.

A walk up Humbleton Hill today can be a peaceful, solitary experience with the only sounds being those of the wind and the sheep. Local artist Sarah Hugonin sees this Hill as a revitalising place. Whatever the weather or time of year, she walks up the Hill daily from her home in the tiny hamlet of Humbleton but Sarah is aware that the sights and sounds from her window were not so peaceful all those years ago.

2002 was the 600th anniversary of the battle.

As this important anniversary drew near Sarah felt the date should not slip by without being commemorated, so she organised an event. On Saturday 14th September 2002, at 11am, Canon Bob Burston lead a service including prayers of peace and an account of the battle was read by the Reverend Arthur Wiltshire. A Northumberland Pipes lament was played by Morag Pugh and David Geddes. Then Her Grace, Elizabeth the Duchess of Northumberland carried a wreath, designed by Sarah, to the summit of Humbleton Hill.

Sarah explained, “The Duchess has ancestors from both the English Percys and the Scottish Douglas family, and as the wreath is to be made of thistles and roses a reuniting of the two warring sides will be a strong theme of the day”.

Nae thirsty shaft e’er reac’d the earth
Unstain’d wi’ Scottish bluid…

‘The Battle of Humbledown Hill’, 1791