Scotlands History

The Battle of Stirling Bridge

Edward I’s army under the command of John de Warenne and Hugh de Cressingham planned to cross the River Forth at Stirling. The narrow wooden bridge offered the safest river crossing as the Forth widened to the east and the treacherous marshland of Flanders Moss lay to the west.

William Wallace and Andrew Moray had arrived at Abbey Craig, north of Stirling, before the English army. They watched from the hilltop as the English force - made up of English, Welsh and Scots knights, bowmen and foot soldiers - made camp to the south of the river. The English army had between 200 to 300 cavalry and 10,000 foot soldiers to the Scots' 36 horsemen and 8000 foot.

John de Warrene gave orders for the English army to cross Stirling Bridge to face the Scots next morning. At dawn the English foot soldiers began to cross the bridge but John de Warrene was still in bed in Stirling Castle. He arrived late to the field and recalled his men.

Two Dominican friars were sent as envoys to negotiate the surrender of the Scots with Wallace and Moray. They were told by Wallace in no uncertain terms to return to John de Warrene and to:

Tell your commander that we are not here to make peace but to do battle, defend ourselves and liberate our kingdom. Let them come on, and we shall prove this in their very beards.

John de Warrene called a Council of War but ignored the advice of Scots knight Richard Lundie who said ‘My Lords, if we go on to the bridge we are dead men.’ Hugh de Cressingham urged the Earl of Surrey to cross and quickly finish the Scots. Over the next few hours the English heavy cavalry - knights and mounted men-at-arms - led by Hugh de Cressingham slowly made their way over the wooden bridge and waited in the loop of the River Forth. Wallace and Moray watched and prepared their men for battle.

The Scots seized the moment. Wallace and Moray sent their spearmen down to attack. The Scots cut off the escape route back across the bridge and attacked the trapped knights, bowmen and foot soldiers. The mounted knights floundered in the marshy ground and Edward’s army was forced back to the deep waters of the Forth. In an hour the Scots had slaughtered the trapped men. Some English knights managed to fight their way back across the bridge. A few foot soldiers swam to the south bank of the river but the rest were cut down.

John de Warrene had the wooden bridge set on fire and cut down to keep the Scots from following as he retreated to Berwick. The hated Treasurer of Scotland, Hugh de Cressingham, was flayed alive by the Scots. It is said that Wallace had some of his skin fashioned into a belt for his sword. Andrew Moray was seriously wounded during the battle. He never recovered, dying from his wounds two months later.

The Scots knight Richard Lundie switched sides after the Battle of Stirling Bridge, joining Wallace against Edward at the Battle of Falkirk.

  • Painting of a soldier in helmet and chain mail holding a spear
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