Thursday, 22 August 2013

This Day in History - Battle of Bosworth 22nd August 1485

It was this day in history that the Henry Tudor defeated Richard III in the penultimate battle of the Wars of the Roses. With the recent discovery of Richard's body at Greyfriars in Leicester, plus the screening of the BBC television series 'The White Queen', has raised considerable interest in this time period.

Following on from our visit earlier this year (click here) my brother and myself decided to once again to travel the fifty odd miles and spend a couple of nights in Leicester to explore the city at our leisure and to attend the anniversary re-enactment (I usually get some funny looks/reactions whenever I tell people where I go for my holidays).

On the Sunday we visited Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre for their 528th anniversary re-enactment. Once there we had the opportunity to attend the unofficial launch of the book "Bosworth 1485 A Battlefield Rediscovered" by Dr. Foard & Prof. Anne Curry. It's a fascinating read, finally revealing the location to the site that had been lost for hundreds of years. Also the authors convincingly argue that far less combatants were involved than is normally mentioned (the authors using different methods; Curry using the financial accounts and Foard using landscape archaeology to reach their conclusions). There are lots more fascinating insights but you'll have to buy the book to find out.
As the visitor centre was due to be refurbished Leicestershire County Council with Lottery funding understandably wanted to know exactly where the battle took place. The relevant experts were given three years to find the precise site of the battlefield after numerous locations had been proposed. The main purpose of the book records the results of this search.
In the talk, two years and fifty one weeks into the search Foard honestly admitted that he had given up hope of ever finding the site as no real evidence had been found. In what sounds like the plot from a thriller with just one week left he authorised one final use of metal detectors to check a field on the very outer edge of the possible locations. A small lead shot, just 30mm diameter and undoubtedly from a medieval weapon, saved the day. Given extra funding, and just as importantly time, the team went on to find over thirty pieces of various sized shot along with various other pieces of contemporary military providence.
View from Ambion Hill looking toward Fenn Lanes Farm - site of the conclusion of the battle of Bosworth.
One of the many reasons people had been looking in the wrong place was mainly due from the misreading of historical maps which is discussed in detail in the book. Even though the site had been noted during numerous occasions, including a skirmish during the English Civil War, the location itself was eventually lost. It turns out all previous thoughts were wrong, historians Hutton, Nichols, Jones, Wright, Burne, Williams all misplaced the site with only Foss (1998) getting near. The site is actually on the old Roman road (on the particular stretch called Fenn Lanes) between Leicester and Mancetter, located west of Dadlington and north-west Stoke Golding.
The location of a long gone marshy area that was pivotal to the battle had also proved problematic but a local farmer mentioned to the team that his tractor had previously become bogged down for three days in a certain field. Further testing confirmed this was the site of the medieval marsh. This was where the high status silver boar livery badge was discovered and probably the site where Richard III died in his attempt to charge Henry Tudor to ground. The vicinity is on private land but there are numerous public paths through the area. A visit to the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre is highly recommended to give you a good idea of the background, plus how and why it happened and where. 

All of this has motivated me to get underway with my own long delayed Wars of the Roses period figures (side by side with two other projects). A Dudley Council historian has given my a far clearer idea of how to proceed with painting the (unknown) livery of Lord Dudley and his retinue which should then enable me to finally publish my eight part posting for this fascinating character.