Tuesday, 29 September 2015 20:39

Battle of Barnet metal detecting starts

Written by
Dr Glenn Foard, Huddersfield University’s celebrated military archaeologist Dr Glenn Foard, Huddersfield University’s celebrated military archaeologist
A training weekend for local metal dectorists in a freshly ploughed field off Kitts End Lane has kicked off an archaeological investigation to determine the precise site of the Battle of Barnet of 1471.

A survey of land in and around the Wrotham Park estate will begin in late October under the direction of military archaeologists from Huddersfield University.

The Battle of Barnet was one of the decisive engagements of the Wars of the Roses, but the exact location of the battlefield has yet to be identified, and as a result it fails to get the recognition it deserves. At present the sole visual reminder is an obelisk at Hadley Highstone, erected in 1740.

Red and yellow flags were used to mark out sections of the ploughed field used for the training weekend.

Sam Wilson (right) project supervisor with volunteer, Eric Weinrabe

Each designated plot was searched methodically with metal detectors under the guidance of Dr Glenn Foard, military archaeologist at Huddersfield, and Sam Wilson, a student at the university, who is the project supervisor for the investigation.

Barnet Museum is leading the Battle of Barnet Project, which has commissioned the university to undertake an extensive two-year metal detector survey and excavation.

The investigation is being financed by a £50,000 donation from the Hadley Trust.

Dr Foard, who led the team that proved the site of the Battle of Bosworth was further south than originally believed, hopes to settle once and for all the disagreement over where precisely a Yorkist army of around 10,000 men clashed with a Lancastrian force of around 15,000 on land north of Barnet on April 14 1471.

Among those taking part in the training weekend were two members of the Hertfordshire District Metal Detecting Society, Eric Weinrabe of Edgware and Eddie Parker of Cat Hill, East Barnet.  

Mr Parker was the first to come up with a couple of interesting finds: a medieval coat hook and piece of buckle from the 18th century.

Once the survey starts in earnest the team will be looking for lead shot from either small-calibre handguns or artillery, and also buckles and other fittings from clothes and armour.

“Ideally if we can find sufficient lead shot and other traces of the battle we might be able to work out precisely where it took place,” said Sam Wilson, who is completing a PhD on battlefield archaeology.

“If we are really lucky we might find a badge or emblem from the coats of arms from the troops of one of the families taking part in the battle.

“The land in and around Wrotham Park has not been systematically searched before, and the Bosworth investigation proved that nothing can be taken for granted as to where a medieval battle took place and what might have occurred.”

Ideally if we can find sufficient lead shot and other traces of the battle we might be able to work out precisely where it took place

If the Battle of Barnet Project is successful with a new application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and can obtain the necessary finance, the aim is to conserve any finds and display them at Barnet Museum. Local residents and school-children will be encouraged to play their part in the investigation.

Since the discovery of King Richard III’s remains in a Leicester car park, there has been a great upsurge in interest in medieval history. Barnet was one of the key confrontations of the Wars of the Roses and saw the death of Warwick the “Kingmaker”, which explains why the battlefield has such high historical and archaeological significance.

In the 1800s historians thought that the battle took place around Hadley Green, to the south of Hadley Highstone, but the Battlefields Trust says this is disputed by later accounts which only came to light in the 1960s and which suggest it took place around what is now Wrotham Park, between the old road to St Albans at Kitts End and road to Hatfield, now the Great North Road.

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