It was in 1388 that Henry Percy, known as Hotspur for his reckless bravery, clashed in single combat with the Scottish chieftain James, Earl of Douglas, at Barras bridge, under the walls of Newcastle. This was a prelude to the Battle of Otterburn, fought by moonlight on 15 August, when Douglas was killed and Hotspur taken prisoner.
Jean Froissart, who visited England and Scotland in 1356, 1361 and again in 1394-95, calls it, in his celebrated Chronicles of the Hundred Years' War, 'the best-fought and severest of all battles'. This encounter is described in 'The Battle of Otterbourne':
And they hae burnt the dales 0' Tyne
And part of Bamburghshire,
And three good towers on Redeswire fells
They left them all on fire.
This ballad is often confused with the stirring Chevy Chase, which tells of the Earl of Northumberland's vow to hunt for three days across the Border 'maugre the doughty Douglas'. Of it, the Elizabethan courtier, soldier and poet Sir Philip Sidney famously said: 'I never heard the old song of Percy and Douglas that I found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet'. Ben Jonson said that he would give all his works to have written Chevy Chase.