The Rising of the North

  • 27 Sep 2019
  • Article

The 'Rising of the North', in 1569, was the most significant armed domestic rebellion that Elizabeth I faced during her reign, and yet few people in the north, and even fewer in the rest of England, have any knowledge or awareness of the uprising.

Brancepeth Castle, a few miles west of Durham and one of the homes of Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland, became the centre for meetings of discontented Catholics and gentry and was the starting point for the march south of thousands of men; some hoping to free Mary Queen of Scots and set her on the throne, some unhappy with the Protestant church services and ministers and some resenting the 'new men' appointed by the Tudors, agrieved at the loss of their traditional feudal rights and authority as the northern aristocracy.

450 years ago, in the autumn of 1569, Brancepeth Castle was alive with the comings and goings of horsemen and foot soldiers. They were mustering here from all over the North of England, summoned by the Earls of Westmorland and Northumberland. Led by the Earls and their wives, they marched to Durham, where they were welcomed by local people, burned Protestant books, reinstated the stone altar and held Mass services. From there they marched south, their ranks swelling to 6,000 as they travelled.

Elizabeth and her advisors hurriedly strengthened many towns along the road south and mustered an army of 14,000, marching north to meet the rebels. Mary Queen of Scots was quickly moved further south out of the rebels reach.

Lack of clear leadership and planning resulted in the rebel army halting near Tadcaster, uncertain how to proceed and aware of the forces massing against them. They retreated, capturing Hartlepool port on the way and also Barnard Castle. The leaders fled to Scotland, while their army melted away.

The Queen’s revenge was fierce – those who had nothing with which to bargain for their lives were executed in their own villages and towns. Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland lost his head. Other leaders eventually fled to the Continent, with their lands and property confiscated by the Crown.

To mark this very significant chapter in the history of the north of England, Brancepeth Archives and History Group, in conjunction with Brancepeth Castle are organising a series of events in the Castle, where it all began:


Find out more about Brancepeth Castle here.

Cover image: Engraving by T. Matthews, Drawing by John Preston Neale of Brancepeth Castle, Durham (1818) from The Mechanical Collection, p.262.


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