Visitors to Dunbar's Lauderdale Park were transported back to 1296 last weekend (30th April/1st May 2016), as we marked the 720th anniversary of the First Battle of Dunbar.
The battle was the first field engagement of the Wars of Independence, and was fought near the village of Spott just to the south of Dunbar. The forces of King John of Scotland were attempted to crush the vanguard of the English army, which had advanced on Dunbar whilst the main body was still at Berwick-upon-Tweed. But things did not go to plan, and after the Scots came down from the heights at Brunt Hill they were counter-charged by the Earl of Surrey and his heavy horse. They were utterly routed, and a great haul of prisoners was taken. Edward of England arrived the following day to oversee the surrender of Dunbar Castle. King John's days were numbered, and the Scottish leadership was thoroughly discredited by the collapse of serious resistance in the wake of Dunbar.
In 2016 it was an altogether more child-friendly affair, as we chose to mark the battle with a Family Weekend. Visitors could visit a medieval soldiers' encampment, hosted by "Britannia XIV" and friends, trying on an array of armour and feeling the weight of the weapons of the day. There was a chance for children to try their hand at archery, and the Trust held its first sand-box archaeology activity, which proved a real hit with our junior excavators! Most excitingly though, the children were invited to form their ranks and files and test their courage in battle, which led to a great deal of parental amusement!
Strong winds and bitter rain may have hampered the setting up, but the sun came out for the event days and a wonderful time was had by all. Visitors came in their hundreds, and we are hopeful that we have helped raise the profile of this significant but oft forgotten battle.
The Scottish Battlefields Trust is grateful to Dunbar Community Council for its support of this event.