Horrible history of Clyst Heath

What lies beneath Bishop’s Court and the A379 spur off Junction 30 of the M5? The answer is the site of the two battles of Clyst Heath in 1455 during the Wars of the Roses and 1549 during the Prayer Book Rebellion. The OS Explorer Map has a little crossed-swords symbol to mark the both of them. Copying shamelessly from the Wikipedia article on Clyst Heath

Battle of Clyst Heath (1455)

The Courtenay family of Tiverton Castle and Colcombe Castle, who had been earls of Devon since 1335, were challenged in the 15th century by the rise of the Bonville family of Shute. The Bonville–Courtenay feud during the Wars of the Roses resulted in several acts of violence, culminating on 15 December 1455 when Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon and William Bonville met decisively at the Battle of Clyst Heath, where Bonville was defeated and after which the Earl sacked and pillaged Shute.

Battle of Clyst Heath (1549)

In the evening of 5 August 1549, during the Prayer Book Rebellion, John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford and Lord William Grey and their troops had pitched camp on Clyst Heath. Russell and Grey were concerned about the burden of the large number of rebel prisoners that had been captured from previous encounters at Fenny Bridges, Woodbury Common and Clyst St Mary. An order was issued that the prisoners should be killed, which was done. According to John Hayward, more than nine hundred prisoners were slain.

The following day the rebels attacked the camp of the Royal army and the subsequent battle lasted the entire day, with heavy losses on both sides. Lord Russell’s troops were finally victorious, but John Hooker later reported: “Great was the slaughter and cruel was the fight and such was the valour and stoutness of these men [the rebels] that the Lord Grey reported himself that he never in all the wars he had been did know the like.”

What this 1549 report from Hooker doesn’t quite mention, though, is the brutal massacre by Russell of 900 prisoners. Horrible history indeed.

Battle of Clyst Heath 1455