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Battle of Pinkie Cleugh: Exhibition at Musselburgh

27/08/201311:35 am13/01/2015 12:27 pmLeave a Comment
Scene from the Bodleian Library roll map of the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh

Scene from the Bodleian Library roll map of the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh

Musselburgh Museum will re-open on 29 August with a new exhibition entitled ‘The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh: Then & Now’.  The display is being set up by Pinkie Cleugh Battlefield Group in connection with the new Battlefield Trail, which is expected to be open in time for the annual commemoration of the battle on 10 September. 

The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, which took place in the open country between Inveresk and Wallyford, was the biggest and bloodiest battle ever fought in Scotland. It occurred in 1547, and was the last battle between the separate kingdoms of Scotland and England. Pinkie Cleugh marked the culmination of Henry VIII’s effort, later called the ‘Rough Wooing’, to coerce marriage between the two child sovereigns, Edward VI of England and Mary, Queen of Scots. The immediate outcome of the fighting was a disastrous defeat for the Scots, more than 10,000 of whom were killed, compared with a few hundred English dead.  But when the war ended three years later, Scotland remained free of English power – and Mary, in due time, married the king of France. The two British kingdoms were peacefully united when Mary’s son James VI inherited the English throne from Elizabeth I, in 1603. 

Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, woodcut plan by William Patten

Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, woodcut plan by William Patten

Roger Knox, the Chairman of Pinkie Cleugh Battlefield Group, says, ‘Pinkie Cleugh was a decisive turning point in Scottish history, but it remains surprisingly little known. We hope that the four Battlefield Trail boards that we are putting in place will encourage the local community and others to visit the site of the battle, much of which can still be viewed as it was almost 500 years ago.

‘Our idea behind the exhibition is to use the accounts and images made by eyewitnesses of the battle, combined with modern archaeological studies, to show that you can still read the story of the battle in the landscape today.’

Items in the exhibition include a copy – loaned by the National Library of Scotland – of a book, published in London in 1548 by William Patten, with his day-by-day diary of the invasion expedition, and a large number of bullets and other battlefield artefacts recovered by archaeologists in recent years. 

Battle of Pinkie, 1547. Excerpt from the Bodleian Library map.Patten’s work includes a series of woodcut plans of the battle, and there are images also in a remarkable – but rarely seen – ‘roll map’ from the Bodleian Library’s collection, which is reproduced in the show at full scale. The painting is thought to be a copy, or more likely the artist’s preparatory sketch, for a ceremonial painting honouring the duke of Somerset. It may have been intended for display in the duke’s new palace beside the Thames, which was then nearing completion. The image constitutes a strip-cartoon, covering five scenes from the conflict over three successive days. The artist has included significant mapping detail from the coastal strip between Prestonpans and Leith, and there is a detailed perspective view of Leith itself, viewed from just offshore.

Also on display will be models of the battlefield terrain – and of the English warship, known as the ‘Subtle Galley’, which fired the opening shots in the battle. Costumes from the successful Queen Margaret University community drama about the battle will be on show. A further staging of the play is scheduled for 26 September in the Brunton Hall, Musselburgh. 

From 29 August, the exhibition will be open in Musselburgh Museum – in Musselburgh High Street, near the Tolbooth – on Thursday to Saturday from 10:30 am to 4pm. 

The annual commemoration of the battle by the Old Musselburgh Club will be held on 10 September at 1pm at the Memorial Stone site off Salter’s Road at the A1 junction.

There will be a lively and interactive storytelling morning at Haddington library on Saturday, 31st August, all about the Battle of Pinkie, and a chance to see a copy of the Bodleian roll map up close. Pop in to the John Gray Centre any time between 10.30am and 1pm to enjoy it for free. (Part of Family History Day and Archaeology & Local History Fortnight.)

Written by HelenB

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