Mike Ingram was the Chair and founder of the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society, and a tireless advocate for the history of Northampton and the county, who has sadly passed away.
His role in the reinterpretation of the 1460 Battle of Northampton was revolutionary, breaking down the accumulated fiction that had commenced in the Victorian period, and still survives today in poorly researched modern works and on websites with more graphics than analysis.
Mike first came to notice in respect of the battlefield location at the 550th anniversary conference in 2010 organised by Northampton Museum, where he spoke, together with Dr Tom Welsh and Harvey Watson, about where the battlefield might be. This overturned the popular notion that the Lancastrians fought with their backs to the River Nene, placing the battlefield squarely in the grounds of Delapré Abbey, between the Abbey and the Eleanor Cross.
This general location was adopted in the English Heritage Battlefields Register. His research was refined and then published by the Society in his book, The Battle of Northampton 1460. His analysis is now universally accepted by anyone with any knowledge of the Wars of the Roses. If you have even a passing interest in the subject, then you should go and get a copy.
The threat to build football pitches and changing rooms on the battlefield area led him and fellow enthusiasts to form the Northampton Battlefield Society in 2014, and campaign for its preservation.
That campaign was ultimately successful, with Mike demonstrating what would become almost a trademark use of social media, primarily Facebook, to raise awareness and get the message across.
It was this template that Mike and the Society then followed to campaign for the conservation of the Eleanor Cross. It is true to say that without him and that campaign, one of the most significant medieval landmarks in the County, one of national importance, would have been allowed to rot away due to the indifference of an incompetent council that proved world class at dodging its responsibilities and passing the buck. Mike’s persistence and willingness to get up people’s noses was an important driver in the eventual victory.
He took great joy in explaining the battlefield to people, and loved little more than walking round Delapré park, pointing out the landscape with a walking stick or umbrella, filling the story of the battle with lively anecdotes and detail. He was a talented battlefield guide, and when the Guild of Battlefield Guides honoured the Society with an award, a lot of it was down to him (although he still didn’t take the Guild’s qualification and get “badged”. He was the best on the 1460 battlefield, and didn’t need anyone to tell him so or evidence to prove it).
Mike didn’t just care for the Delapré battlefield, but was also active in the interpretation and preservation of Naseby battlefield. He served as Chair of the Naseby Project Trustees for a short period of time, and was an active trustee for many years.
“It was a great sadness to him when he was not retained on the board of Trustees when his last term expired. He was a superb guide to Naseby field, and I never really understood it properly until he drove me round in his litter strewn car, from location to location, stopping to explain the events and sneaking a quick cigarette at the same time” said Garham Evans.
“It was his love of Naseby that led to him, Phil Steele and I ending up there during BBC Radio Northampton’s outside broadcast being interviewed on the county’s heritage for the breakfast show. It was one cold, wet, morning, and the last time the three of us were together. It was brilliant. Mike also found new things to say about Naseby, and his research on the role of the Rockingham Garrison, (which you can read in his chapter on Naseby in our book on Northamptonshire’s battles, which I co-authored with him) does much to explain why the battle’s final phases turned out that way.” added Evans.
Naseby is also an example of Mike’s passion for the truth. He was approached to provide corroboration that a piece of jewellery found by a metal detector was dropped by Charles I after the battle. Based on what he knew it was clear to him that this was highly unlikely. The find was well away from the escape route, and was where the Rockingham Garrison had arrived on the battlefield.
It would have been easy to have endorsed the find, gone along with the story, and been part of a national media event. It’s just it wasn’t true, so he couldn’t say it. He was then accused of effectively being jealous of the find and the associated story that had been cooked up. Anyone who thought that obviously did not know the man, and the insult to his integrity upset him considerably. He was proud of what he researched and what he found out, but he’d admit if he was wrong. He set the standard for us all.
Ironically his greatest battlefield passion wasn’t in Northamptonshire, but across the county border in Leicestershire. Mike was a Ricardian – a subject which we disagreed about and discussed frequently – and he was fascinated by Bosworth.
His first book on Bosworth, “Battle Story – Bosworth 1485” published in 2012, made real sense of the battle as confirmed by the battlefield survey findings. Mike had never been convinced by the Ambion Hill site, and his understanding of the sources enabled him to put together the most believable and coherent narrative to date.
He followed up with his “Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth” in 2019, which is a tour de force in respect of the battle. His interpretation of the background, placing the battle in its European context was ground breaking and makes it essential reading for anyone interested in the battle.
“I was immensely privileged to read the chapters as he was writing it. Our views didn’t always completely overlap, and I’m proud that I did change his mind in a few places. You see, he could listen as well as speak, and was prepared to learn from anyone. It is a regret that I never found the time to do the Bosworth battlefield tour with him. Another lesson learned – never put off things if you can do them today. I also never did one of his Stoke Field walks, which he did with his friends from Wargames Foundry. Before we leave the battles, I must also record my gratitude for his help and guidance when I wrote my Edgcote book for the Society. He co-led the tour that convinced me we were looking in the wrong place, and he fully embraced the research Phil and I did, again willing to change his mind in the face of evidence. Taking him round Edgcote as we understood it and have him endorse our views was a proud moment too.” said Evans.
In recent years Mike made his living from being a historical tour guide and adult education lecturer, together with writing his books. He was a frequent guest on local radio, always there when local perspective was needed on a historical story, pushing the importance of Northampton in our nation’s story. His relationship with John Griff was particularly important to him, and his desire to talk about Northamptonshire dove tailed perfectly with John’s desire to promote our county’s heritage.
Mike was “Mr Northampton History”, a role he invented for himself, effectively, and recognised when he was invested into as a Freeman of the Ancient Borough of Northampton. Mike came from a long established Northampton family, who once owned a sizeable business on the Market Square. Again, a very proud moment to be recognised in such a way.
Mike’s career choices meant that he suffered during lockdown, but it did give him the time to write his local history magnum opus “Northampton: 5,000 Years of History“. A tour de force of “I didn’t know that!” when you read it, it does full justice to the history of the town he loved so much, and won Hindsight Award from the Northamptonshire Heritage Forum Awards for “Best Published Work”.
His experience of using a publisher previously had irritated him considerably, and he resolved to self-publish. His reputation made it a book eagerly anticipated, and sales exceeded expectations. If you don’t have a copy, and want to help, then buy one now. You’ll be informed and entertained, and all the profits will go to his family.
Evans said: “The last time I met and spoke to Mike in person was after the Battlefield Society meeting in November. I’d just given a newly prepared talk, called Monstrous Regiment, about women who dressed as men to join the army in times gone by. When I’d been working on it Mike sent me little bits, most notably the story of Agnes Hotot, which lays the ground work. When I’d given the actual talk, and we were tidying up Mike was kind enough to say it was the best one I’d ever done, which gave me quite a buzz. As the Abbey had its Christmas light event on, the two of us and fellow Committee member Steve went and sat down and had a warm drink and talked things over. Plans for the Society for next year, the new City campaign, and so on. By the time we were done we’d put some of the world to rights, and we were looking forwards to January’s talk and all the other things we were going to do in 2022 and beyond. I shall remember him like that. Full of ideas, opinions, drive and care for others. I shall miss him very, very, much.”
Friends and family of Mike Ingram are running a gofundme campaign to raise money for the funeral: Click Here
Published from a Memorium on Wargaming for Grown Ups