Friday, 27 May 2022

1471 - Piggy Longton and the Spy Master.

The free Jester figure from Hammerhead 2022

It has been a while since the Dungborough Chronicles have made mention of Piggy Longton, this most battle prone of hamlets, so this post will summarise the simmering intrigue of the past few days as a sort of catch-up.

Readers will recall that recently, King Henry (Lancastrian) had been a guest of a supporter, Lord Darcy, at the hamlet of Piggy Longton.

Henry was awaiting the arrival of Somerset and his contingents, to escort him on his continued journey to London. However all of this was to be interrupted when Yorkist forces under Lord Salisbury attacked Lord Darcy at Piggy Longton, seeking the capture of King Henry (Lancastrian) and have him replaced by the Yorkist - Edward.

Salisbury, heading a Yorkist army, had previously sent messengers to a Yorkist supporter, Lord Trebian of West Rottington, who had neighbouring estates to Lord Darcy, advising that he was about to attack Piggy Longton and ordering Trebian to bring his forces to the battle to co-ordinate an attack into the rear of Darcy’s positions.

Lord Darcy’s patrolling cavalry had diligently intercepted the messengers and so Trebian remained unaware of the plan and of the part that he was meant to play. 

Darcy urgently moved King Henry to the safety of Crispin Priory 25 miles to the east, while fast riders were dispatched to hurry Somerset, who was presently two days march away from Piggy Longton. 

When Salisbury attacked, he was surprised to find that Darcy was ready for him and annoyed that Trebian, who in reality was oblivious to his orders, had made a ‘no show’.

During the battle, just a few of Somerset’s lead units managed to make it to the battlefield in time to join the fighting. Despite his advanced notice of the attack and having some limited support from reinforcements, Darcy was defeated and had to abandon Piggy Longton. 

Salisbury, finding the King gone and questioning Trebians apparent disregard for his orders, began to wonder whether treachery was in the air.

At great pains to prove his allegiance to Salisbury, Trebian deployed his best spy, Master Jack, into Piggy Longton to get information as to where King Henry was being kept.

For those needing a fuller catch-up to all of this recent background, a link to the Chronicle covering the Battle of Longton Fields has been placed into the Resource Section at the foot of this post, together with a post that explains the geo / political history of Piggy Longton.

The Parish of Piggy Longton

We are now up to date and here is the most recent development.

Darcy and Somerset had been biding their time, waiting for reinforcements so that they could at least match the size of Salisbury’s army, before making their attack on Piggy Longton and clearing the way to reach Crispin Priory, some 25 miles beyond the hamlet.

It was important that they moved the King as quickly as possible to London, to prevent Yorkist rebels taking London and putting Edward one step closer to taking the crown for himself.

Master Jack, disguised as a Jester and wearing the colours of Lord Grayson, a prominent Lancastrian supporter, had set himself up outside Piggy’s popular tavern. Each evening, for just a few coins and and a tankard of best Smoggy Ale, he would perform at the tavern, slowly gaining the trust of customers …. especially those who had rather imbibed too much of the local nectar.

Master Jack may have been Lord Trebian’s best intelligence man, but years before, he had also been a stable lad at Oak Leaf Farm at the same time as the landlord’s son, Osmund Ackley. On Jack’s third night at the tavern, Osmund was visiting his father and he instantly recognised Jack. He told his father that the Jester was in fact a Trebian man.

The Landlord, James Ackley, had a propensity for guile and once again he saw opportunity for making himself a much valued tenant to Lord Darcy. The Landlord set his cunning plan in motion and immediately dispatched his son to visit the camp of Somerset and Darcy to appraise them of the revealed and now ensnared Jack.

He then sent for his trusted brother, John Ackley the wheelwright and recruited him to his subterfuge. John was to pretend to be quite drunk and make an incidental contact with Jack. During the conversation, he would let slip the lie that the King and a contingent of Darcy’s best men-at-arms, were waiting for rescue at Little Banbury, a deserted village 30 miles due north.

Salisbury was so elated by the news that he never stopped to question the authenticity. To capture the King was a prize that would certainly elevate him to Edwards inner circle. He immediately sent his best men and two contingents of retinue archers to Little Banbury.

James Ackley now sent word to Darcy that Salisbury had taken the bait, leaving the hamlet only lightly defended. Somerset and Darcy readied their men and marched on Piggy Longton intending to retake it and score a hurtful victory on Salisbury’s divided force.

By the time they arrived at the hamlet, the better part of Salisbury’s force were a full days march away and those that  remained at Piggy Longton were about to be sorely tested.

What a peach of a plan and what could possibly go wrong? Well, Salisbury was no lightweight. He had sent instructions to Lord Trebian to provide the hamlet with contingents of bill and bow in his absence. They too were on the march.  

To be continued in a field by you …… soon!

Resource Section

The Battle of Longton Fields - LINK

The geo / political history of Piggy Longton - LINK


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