Colours of Conflict - Exhibition, York Archaeological Trust 'Wars of the Roses' project

Posted on 11 June 2013

This summer I worked with the York Archaeological Trust on a project relating to the Neville-Percy feud during the Wars of the Roses (1455-1487).

‌This was an excellent experience that allowed me to combine my interests in the late fifteenth century and museum studies in order to help engage public understanding of this complicated but enriching time period. The results of this project, called Colours of Conflict, will be on display in the Micklegate Bar Museum from August 2013.

Although less well known than the disputes surrounding the crown, the Percy-Neville feud was a watershed moment in late medieval history that saw fighting erupt in the north of England between two noble families. Scholars do not know the exact reason for the disagreement, however, our exhibit will trace the first skirmishes in 1453 to the feud’s unraveling in the 1470s and 80s. I have been given the opportunity to look at some of the most important figures in late medieval history and examine how their seemingly “local” dispute could help instigate a civil war that would destroy much of the English aristocracy.

While researching I was given the opportunity to research and photograph different locations across Yorkshire. I travelled by train and bus to Spofforth Castle, Topcliffe, and Heworth Green on the outskirts of York. Both Spofforth and Topcliffe were manor houses owned by the Percy family. The former was badly damaged following the Battle of Towton in 1461 while the latter was the site of Henry Percy, 4th earl of Northumberland’s murder in 1489. Heworth Moor, today known as Heworth Green, was the first skirmish of the Percy-Neville feud. Working on this project gave me the opportunity to work and think about history outside of the library and engage with the locations where these events took place.

Working with IPUP and the York Archaeological Trust has been an edifying activity and an opportunity that has contributed to my decision to pursue a career in public history. I have enjoyed engaging with others who share similar historical interests as myself and working with the Richard III team in helping to facilitate interest in the English king’s world. It is a humbling experience to see how a person can still receive so much affection and interest 500 years after his death. Hopefully our work with IPUP will ensure that there is even more.

Caitlin Cushing

MA CMS
IPUP Intern