Siege of the Tower of London, 2-19 July 1460

The siege of the Tower of London (2-19 July 1460) saw the Lancastrian forces in London isolated in the Tower while the main Yorkist army moved north to victory at Northampton (Wars of the Roses). In 1459 the Yorkists had suffered a humiliating defeat at Ludford Bridge and their leaders had fled into exile. The earls of Warwick, Salisbury and March had fled to Calais, where they had a strong military base, and began to prepare for a return to England. The Lancastrians made an effort to retake Calais, but without success. In early June 1460 the Yorkists captured Sandwich and on 26 June the three earls landed back in England at the head of a force of between 1,300 and 2,000 men.

Battles of the Wars of the Roses
Battles of the
Wars of the Roses

As the Yorkists moved across Kent they gained support and their army grew in size. The defenders of Canterbury changed sides and by the time they approached London some contemporary reports claimed that they had between 20,000 and 40,000 men. This was almost certainly an exaggeration, but they did outnumber the Lancastrian defenders of London. As the Yorkist army approached the city the attitude of the city began to change. On 27 June the common council had agreed to support the mayor and aldermen and resist the Yorkists. They also refused to accept Henry's appointees, Thomas Scales, Lord Scales and Robert Hungerford, Lord Hungerford, as captain of the city.

On 28 June they posted men-at-arms on London Bridge and prepared to resist any attempt to cross the river. They also sent a message to Warwick telling him that they would resist any efforts he made to enter the city.

Warwick responded with the standard Yorkist message - he and his men were loyal to the king but opposed to his advisors and planned to reform the Royal government. The approach of the large Yorkist army was making the defenders nervous, and they now agreed to let Warwick and his men into the city.

On 1 July Warwick reached Southwark, and on 2 July his army crossed London Bridge and entered the city. Lord Scales retreated into the Tower of London, and prepared to withstand a siege. A large number of Lancastrian supporters including many non-combatants and ladies took refuge with Scales.

On 4 July, having raised money and gathered supplies, the vanguard of the Yorkist army left the city. The main army followed on 5 July, leaving Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury and Sir John Wenlock to watch Lord Scales in the Tower. Lord Scales had had a successful military career, and in 1450 he had successfully defended the Tower against Jack Cade's Rebellion.

Both sides had some artillery. Lord Scales used his to bombard the city of London, killing a number of the citizens, a move that would make him some very vindictive enemies. Salisbury posted his bombards on the south bank of the river and fired at the tower itself, damaging the walls.

On 10 July the Yorkists captured Henry VI at the battle of Northampton. By 14 July they were back in London and the combined army pressed the siege of the Tower. It was now clear to Scales and Hungerford that further resistance was futile, and they opened surrender negotiations. The siege ended on 19 July. Scales and Hungerford were both granted safe passage by the Yorkists. Hungerford escaped from the city and went on to fight for the Lancastrians at Towton, but Scales was less fortunate. He attempted to reach sanctuary at Westminster Abbey but he was recognised by a woman, taken prisoner by a party of Thames boatmen and murdered. His body was dumped at the church of St Mary Overy in Southwark.

Books on the Middle Ages - Subject Index: War of the Roses

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (25 November 2013), Siege of the Tower of London, 2-19 July 1460 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_tower_london_1460.html

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