June 17 – The Battle of Blackheath

Posted By on June 17, 2022

On this day in Tudor history, 17th June 1497, in the reign of King Henry VII, the Crown forces were victorious against the Cornish rebels at the Battle of Blackheath, or the Battle of Deptford Bridge, as it is also known.

What caused the Cornish Rebellion? What happened at the Battle? And what happened afterwards?

Find out in this video or the transcript below.

Transcript:

On this day in Tudor history, 17th June 1497, the Cornish Rebellion was brought to an end by the Battle of Blackheath, which is also known as the Battle of Deptford Bridge, when Henry VII’s forces were triumphant against the rebels.

A year earlier, King Henry VII had attempted to introduce new legislation regarding tin-mining into the Cornish Stannary Parliament. However, he was met with opposition from the Cornish tin miners. The tin miners were even more unhappy when he then suspended the Stannary Court, meaning that they lost the privileges the Stannaries had offered them since the early 1300s, and so were no longer exempt from civil jurisdiction or from paying taxes.

In 1497, things got worse when heavy taxes were levied for the king to finance his campaign against Scotland and Perkin Warbeck. Cornish rebels led by Michael an Gof, a blacksmith, and Thomas Flamank, a lawyer, decided to march to London to air their grievances and call for the execution of John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury and the king’s Lord Chancellor.

As the rebels marched through Somerset, they were joined by James Tuchet, 7th Baron Audley. They then marched through Bristol, Salisbury and Winchester before moving into Kent where they hoped to drum up support from the county that had risen up under famous rebel Jack Cade. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful in their mission.

By the time the rebels arrived at Blackheath, which is now a district of south-east London, on 16th June, Henry VII had diverted the army he’d sent north with Giles, Lord Daubeney, back south to meet the Cornish rebels. Daubeney’s forces numbered an estimated 8,000 and the rebels had started with 15,000 but by the morning of 17th June many had deserted, leaving the Cornish rebels with 9-10,000 men. The king’s mustering brought the royal forces to about 25,000, so the Cornish forces were significantly outnumbered.

The Earls of Oxford, Essex and Suffolk attacked the rebels from the right and the rear, while Daubeney’s forces attacked them at the front. At Deptford Bridge, it looked like the Cornish archers would beat Daubenay’s forces, but then Daubenay’s spearmen were able to take the bridge. Without horses and artillery, the Cornish forces were no match for those of the king. The rebels were finally forced to surrender after losing somewhere in the region of 1-2,000 men.

The royal forces captured about 1,500 rebels. Rebel leader, Michael an Go was able to escape the battlefield and flee to Greenwich, but was apprehended there and taken to the Tower of London. An Gof and Flamank were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 27 June 1497, and Baron Audley was beheaded on Tower Hill on 28th June 1497.

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