Village Focus: Quarelling kings to beloved Black Sheep in North Yorkshire's Towton

Towton battlefield. Picture: Gary Longbottom.
Towton battlefield. Picture: Gary Longbottom.

Hundreds of years ago, it was the scene of England’s biggest battle but the North Yorkshire village of Towton is an unassuming place today and of a size which can be observed with a mere swivel of the head.

Rather than attempts to settle disputes over quarrelling kings, as was the case in the bloody Battle of Towton in 1461, it is a far more inconsequential conflict that has recently required resolution.

The Rockingham Arms, Towton. Picture: Gary Longbottom.

The Rockingham Arms, Towton. Picture: Gary Longbottom.

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This is a community with no amenities other than its sole pub, The Rockingham Arms, but even that fact was not enough to stop it from falling out of favour with some locals as its gastro-offerings were branched out into the realms of fine dining.

In an attempt to reconnect with its lifeblood customer base, the pub is going “back to basics”, its general manager Laura Ramsay said.

Following a five-week closure over the summer, the Rockingham reopened a month or so ago.

“People would come here for steak pies, burgers and other traditional pub dishes so when the food changed, customers started going elsewhere,” said Ms Ramsay, who moved to the village four years ago.

She said she wanted to re-establish the pub as being welcoming place for different community groups and local businesses to meet, as well as reviving old favourites on the menu.

“We are a village pub and we want to get back to being the community hub it always was. This pub should be at the heart of the community. It’s the only thing in Towton, there is no shop or garage, so the pub matters.”

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With its food menu revised, head chef Karl Forsyth is using “as much local produce as possible” including fresh veg, eggs and potatoes from nearby Quarry Farm. The farm also supplies logs for the pub’s fire.

When The Yorkshire Post's Country Week was in touch this week, the bar was flush with Black Sheep and Farmers Blonde on cask.

“As long as I’m here, I will not let go of Black Sheep,” Ms Ramsay said. “People come here for Black Sheep because they know we keep it in great condition.”

The pub’s overhaul has been well received by villagers, she said.

“We are very lucky here, everyone is very friendly. We’re a small community and we look out for each other.”

The Towton parish, on the southern edge of Tadcaster, is home to a little over 200 people including the residents of the village of Kirkby Wharfe and the smaller hamlets of Grimston and North Milford.

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Towton is famous for the 15th century battle which was a decisive engagement during the War of the Roses. The battlefield is carefully maintained to this day by the Towton Battlefield Society which has worked with landowners to mark out a circular walking route around it, complete with interpretation boards to explain what happened.