Thanks to a post on the Richard III Society Forum, I was steered to the following interesting Ian Arthurson article about medieval spying. We know that the Tudors excelled in this dangerous world, but it’s not so well known that it was quite rife during the Wars of the Roses as well. Royalty—and the Church—always needed to keep a finger on the pulse of the nation, friends and enemies alike.
There is a point where Arthurson mentions that in 1471 Edward IV sent out spies to follow the progress of Margaret of Anjou and her army from Bristol to Gloucester and then on to Tewkesbury, where of course, the battle ensued. A tradition in my Gloucestershire village of Churchdown is connected with these particular events. Churchdown, as its name suggests, arose on the slopes on an outlier of the Cotswold escarpment called Churchdown Hill or Chosen Hill (both apply) that some of Edward’s spies were positioned on the hilltop to watch the Lancastrian activities in the vale below.
If you stand on the western edge of the Cotswold escarpment and look down into the vale of the River Severn, you’ll see two hills rising from the flat countryside around. One is Robinswood Hill, and the other Churchdown Hill. Either would give splendid vantage points for spying upon what was going on closer to the river, so Edward IV chose well. Churchdown Hill is closer to Tewkesbury, so that’s the one to pick.
I can look at the hill from my house every day, and yes, I fully believe it would have been an excellent vantage point: https://deremilitari.org/…/uploads/2013/11/arthurson.pdf.
I also found a much lesser link on the subject of medieval spying. This places more emphasis on the involvement of the Church in the murkier side of watching what everyone was up to. It’s from this second site that I have taken the above illustration.