Bosworth Battlefield Rediscovered - a report

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Bosworth Battlefield Rediscovered - a report

Postby Sekhemet » 21 Feb 2010 19:43

Hi all,

I had the good fortune of being present at the well attended Bosworth Battlefield Rediscovered conference which took place on Saturday 20 February 2010 at Leicestershire County Hall. I have written up a report of the day, which uis below. I'm no expert in these fields, so hope I've done justice to each speakers' discussion, all of which were excellent.

It was a really interesting conference, with many destinguished speakers, and I felt very priviledged to have been there. I took some photos of the finds on display and the Burgundian cannon brought in by the King's Ordinance, which can be found here:

http://s270.photobucket.com/albums/jj114/TowtonBattlefieldSociety/Bosworth%20Conference%20Feb%202010/

The conference was broadcast live through the Bosworth website, and may be available for viewing shortly so keep an eye on the website. The presentation slides may also be available soon - Prof. Anne Curry's slides are already available (it is 9.5MB!!!!!), which you can download them directly from the conference website http://www.mfproduce.twofourdigital.net/Content/Templates/Custom/LCC/Default/Webcast.aspx?webcast=acbacbfa-3758-46eb-8d00-ff383b10e055.

Enjoy - Fran



Bosworth Battlefield Rediscovered
A report on the Conference held at Leicester County Hall on 20 Feb 2010
By Frances Perry


On Saturday 20 February 2010, 90 people from various background interests came together to hear some of the most influential experts discuss aspects of the Battle of Bosworth, and the findings yielded from the works on the surrounding areas to date.

I was lucky enough to arrive early, and had a chance to speak to a member of The King’s Ordinance; a re-enactment group specialising in 15th century gunnery of Burgundian influence. Their group made the gun barrel in the traditional manner in a Holland forge over a very long and labour intensive week. The frame was also lovingly hand-made, and looked just as the images of Burgundian cannons shown on slides later in the day.

Mr Roger Wilson, Chairman of Leicestershire County Council opened the conference by welcoming guests and the collaborating organisations: the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Battlefields Trust, Bosworth Battlefield Trust and Leicestershire County Council.

Professor Richard Holmes, President of the Battlefields Trust, and military historian spoke first of the importance of the battle at Bosworth, as Winston Churchill put it, as one of the bloody ‘punctuation marks of history’. He spoke of the importance of the contribution of battlefield archaeology to military history, and that this was the first time that an interdisciplinary study of a battlefield had been undertaken and which was the only way forward in future programmes of battlefield study. Prof. Holmes discussed the variables to be considered before any physical archaeology could be started: questioning the sources; considering the landscape changes by viewing the micro-terrain and finding out when bogs were drained and land enclosed; comparing the local traditions of place names, and local histories and records. Even, finally, the archaeology is often incomplete, and even with all the above variables combined, they almost never meet up leaving a gap in knowledge. In the case of Bosworth, it was only after hundreds of man-hours of voluntary metal detectorists working to strict patterns of search that a clearer picture could be ascertained.

Dr Glenn Foard, of Leeds University and the Battlefields Trust, first discussed the problems associated with historical maps of the area. Saxton’s atlas of 1576 shows the area was well known as ‘Bosworthe’, but indicated only a broad area. This broad area can be traced through to Pryor’s atlas of 1777 where we suddenly see a sword (to indicate a battle) apparently randomly placed on the area after the name, rather than indicating the exact geographical location. This sword was replaced by crossed swords in the same geographical area on later maps. Later historians added troop formations, deployments and even marshes, where none then existed. From 1985 to 2002 there was great debate over the exact area of the battle, with Jones, Foss, and Williams all identifying slightly different locations. Dr. Foard explained that it was only turning to archaeological finds that the true location could be confirmed with certainty, the 15th and 16th century lead shot and balls, the gilded piece of quillion (cross guard), and the silver gilded boar badge.

After this tantalising taste of the finds, the conference turned to the documentary evidence, presented by Professor Anne Curry of Southampton University. She explained that due to the nature of 1485 as an internal civil war, documentary evidence was scarce. The York Rolls indicate that between 8 July and 16 August 1485, the city duties were defensive in nature, but by 19 August, they become offensive, and 80 troops were sent to aid the King at a daily pay of 12d. The problem is whether those troops actually got there, or if the letters from Henry were even answered or not. No Shire levies appear to have been called out, and from July 1485, Richard’s administrative records appear to have fallen into disarray. Prof. Curry suggested instead turning to the 1475 indentures raised in the face of the perceived threat of invasion from the French for a more accurate approximation of the number of troops provided. There was no standing army in England at this time, so documentary evidence can be found from Commissions of array, the provisions of troops by nobles, Royal household accounts and the use of foreign troops in muster rolls. For example, Northumberland provided 6 peers, 9 knights, 51 men-at-arms and 350 archers for the 1475 expedition.

However, there is little to describe the numbers of foreign troops, though we know there were foreign troops on Henry’s side, probably experienced Swiss-trained French mercenaries. A Burgundian coin and unknown livery emblem is among the new finds, but this alone is not clear evidence of French, or even Burgundian troops. They do suggest, however, a diverse military presence on Henry’s side.

Questions still remain. Though compensation payments such as £20 to Ferrybridge for damage after the battle hint at various locations, they do not indicate where Richard’s defensive position was. Did Northumberland engage in battle? The French chronicler, Jean Molinet is the only source to mention guns on Richard’s side, sp does this mean only Richard had guns? Was there a marsh on Henry’s right? What were the phases of troop movement, and were archers deployed in front of both armies? The role of Thomas Stanley is unclear in the battle from documentary evidence. So too is the duration of the battle. The Italian writer, Polydore Vergil indicated 2 hours duration, though Prof. Curry questioned whether this was traditional military literature informing history, rather than fact. Lastly, the numbers of men in the battle is not clear, though Prof. Curry stressed the number of men on both sides was not important – this was not a political battle, but one of deciding who would be king.

Professor Matthew Strickland of Glasgow University opened the afternoon conference with a discussion on archery and its tactical use and effectiveness on the late 15th century battlefields. He referred first to Christine de Pisan’s 1410 Livre des Fait d’Armes which set out battle formations which were successfully used, perhaps informed by the powerful Duke of Burgundy at that time. Prof. Strickland quickly concluded that it appears by the late 15th century, no rigid tactics were employed for the use of archers – units were placed both on the wings, but also in front of formations of troops, with tactical co-ordination between the men-at-arms and the archers of their respective retinues. Archers were disciplined and flexible rather than stationary missile projectors, who offered an effective offensive role as light infantry. Prof. Strickland went on to briefly examine the analysis of modern experimentation of a 150 pound draw longbow. With a 1.9oz arrow head, the range was between 344 and 360 yards. With a 3.3oz armour-piercing head the range was 250 to 272 yards. However, considering the energy / joules required to kill a person in mail (120 joules), wrought iron munitions armour (120 joules) and white plate armour (270 joules), the killing efficiency of archers in the late 15th century may not have been high. However, the role of the archer may have been more of distraction and provocation. With a 1.9oz arrow head, the range was between 344 and 360 yards. With a 3.3oz armour-piercing head the range was 250 to 272 yards. . Therefore, one of the primary roles of archers may have been to provoke the opposition into attacking first, as at Tewkesbury and Towton, thus giving their side the military advantage.

Professor Steve Walton of Penn State University followed with an information packed half hour presentation on gunpowder weapons in the late 15th century and their battlefield use. The first message was that by 1450, the use of guns in battles and sieges was not a remarkable. They may not even have been decisive weapons in battle. Certainly, there was a shift of psychological effect from the sound the gun made and its effect on horses, to a fear of being hit, and the anger it invoked with troops. By this time, most towns and naval ships were investing in guns and artillery pieces. From 1460 onwards, Royal patents for skilled specialists related to guns and gunpowder were being signed, such as grants to gunners in the Tower, who were notably mainly foreign experts. Additionally, iron mining in England was increasing, and a relatively cheap commodity to both obtain and produce guns.

From a study of surviving Burgundian guns, it is evident that the variety and shape of guns and their carriages and wheels was not standardised. Both wrought iron and bronze were being used to make guns. Unfortunately, no full surviving examples of guns from England have been found – we can only compare the foreign surviving examples with remains such as the Castle Rising cannon, the Nottingham Castle gun, the Blair Atholl cannon and the Cattewater gun. From 1485 onwards there appears to have been a standardisation of bores and shot, with three distinct types of gun: Feldschlanger (small bore diameter and varying bore length), Bombards (large bore diameter and length) and Steinbuchsen (stone shooters with a small bore length and medium bore diameter). The lead shot would have been made by each gun crew to fit their own gun bore, and the lead shot would only have killed those it directly hit and possible those directly behind the first victim.

Prof. Walton concluded that the shot found on the present battlefield location indicates lighter, more manoeuvrable guns rather than those of large calibre.

Dr Derek Allsop of Cranfield University followed this discussion with an exploration of experimental firing to ascertain the capabilities of late 15th century artillery. He hoped that these experiments could be used to predict the likely positions of the guns at Bosworth.

The firing rig was a tube of steel set on a trailer with an electronic firing mechanism. Each trial used a 60mm lead shot with 200 grains of modern gunpowder (fixed velocity). No wading was used. The aim was to control as may variables as possible: bore smoothness, length and width and firing mechanism, the launch velocity, tail wind, height of projectile, angle of projectile and black powder mix. The shot was both solid lead shot, cast in two pieces and sealed with a lead wedge, and diced shot – an iron cube encased in lead (which only reduce the weight by 10%).

The findings indicated that a one degree increase in angle increased the range by 250 meters to a maximum range of 600 meters at a 40 degree angle. Both shots types carried on rolling for some considerable distance after the first impact site. They also found that the ground softness and profile of the terrain affected the impact site and the distance travelled.

Dr Glenn Foard completed the series of talks with a detailed description of how Bosworth Battlefield was found. In 2004 Dr. Foard was asked to undertake a reassessment of the evidence. This led in 2005 to the Battlefields Trust being commissioned by Leicestershire County Council, with £154,000 funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to undertake a major investigation to resolve the issue.
A team of specialists were brought together from various disciplines to apply the techniques of battlefield archaeology to search for the battlefield.

The secondary sources for the battle and the armies were reviewed, along with a re-working of the primary accounts from the original sources and a characterization of the armies which were present. The historic landscape of the area was reconstructed from documentary sources and archaeological evidence, including analyzing field, furlong and other early names. Topographical clues included ‘Redemore’, ‘Brown Heath’, ‘Dadlington Field’, ‘Sandeford’, ‘marsh’ and ‘windmill’. It was confidently felt that Crown Hill is almost certainly where Henry Tudor became Henry VII - Crown Hill is only called by this name after 1505. Prior to the battle, it was called ‘Garbrodfelde’.

The soils were mapped to identify those which developed in waterlogged conditions and the peat deposits analyzed to establish when each area of marsh disappeared. It showed a vastly different, open landscape in 1485, and that a marsh could never have existed on Ambion Hill. Concentrations of marsh names and previous finds and a pollen analysis indicated Fen Meadow (as Foss indicated). However, Carbon14 soil layer analysis gave an upper date of 700AD, 800 years before the battle.

Just as this was a blow to Dr. Foard’s team, by sheer luck a farmer mentioned his father’s tractor being mired in mud at Fen Hole Farm between the villages of Dadlington, Shenton, Upton and Stoke Golding. The medieval marsh was small, and did not seem tactically significant, though a Roman Road appeared to dissect the area in half. The archaeological survey was moved to this area and a single 30mm lead ball was found, and then a single 60mm lead ball. These items, along with the description of guns by Jean Molinet, lead to a systematic archeological survey of 7 square kilometers using metal detectors – looking for copper alloy and lead only. They yielded 5000 finds, though only a few were significant to the battle.

A total of 25 lead roundshot fired from artillery, and 3 bullets probably fired from hand cannons were found in the area of Fen Hole Farm. All had different diameters, and some had iron or flint cores, indicative of 15th and 16th century shot. These finds indicated that Bosworth probably had larger guns than those used at Towton. Other significant battle finds appeared towards the village of Shenton, where a windmill may have been. A silver gilt boar badge, claimed to be of such high status (sumptuary rules) that only a knight of the King’s own retinue would have worn one. A gilded piece of quillion (cross guard from a high status sword) was also recovered and identified, along with a Burgundian coin, a gold ring and various harness furniture.

The balls are currently undergoing further scientific and forensic analysis, to hopefully obtain more detail as to the barrels used, whether they hit their targets, and if they were shot together or one at a time. There was no time allotted for looking at the arrowheads found.

Dr. Foard pointed concluded that these were early days - the end of the beginning for the study of Bosworth Battlefield.

Personal Reflections

The conference was well put together with an impressive list of speakers who provided short, but information-packed presentations which were accessible to the diverse audience who attended the packed hall. The 25 lead shots found lend strong support to the final battlefield location having been found on Fenn Hole Farm between the villages of Dadlington, Shenton, Upton and Stoke Golding.

I felt that the silver gilt board badge, the gold ring and high status quillion piece were too few finds to firmly identify the exact location of the last charge of Richard's knights into battle. A certain element of sensationalism and fanciful extrapolation was linked to these finds, though this may have been done to capture the interest of the national media, for which there has been a great deal over the past week. I just hope that security is in place to protect the battlefield from future looting or damage, now the location is out.

I was disappointed to hear that the metal detectors were limited to non-ferrous metals - copper alloy and lead only, and the study of arrowheads were ignored, though this was probably due to time and funding shortages.

I felt that the release of this information on the location and finds may have been pushed through due to funding pressures rather than unequivocal evidence, but the huge amounts of interdisciplinary study, hard work and exciting finds shed new light on the battle and its location none the less. I look forward to hearing further studies of the finds and of future finds to corroborate the location of the battlefield, and the possibility of being able to better answer some of the questions left unanswered about one of the significant bloody ‘punctuations’ of English military history.
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Re: Bosworth Battlefield Rediscovered - a report

Postby Fab » 21 Feb 2010 22:56

Thanks !
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Re: Bosworth Battlefield Rediscovered - a report

Postby Motley » 22 Feb 2010 18:53

yeah thanks for the review. It is all interesting stuff.

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Re: Bosworth Battlefield Rediscovered - a report

Postby admin » 26 Feb 2010 12:37

Many thanks for writing up such a full account Fran, very much appreciated.
From what I've read, I'd be inclined to agree with your caution over the small number of relevant finds - however, there are are other known battle sites that yield very little in finds. It could be down to soil type meaning that the majority of metal objects (made of ungilded iron) have perished, or erosion may have dumped lots of them in concentrations (eg. streams, gullies) which have yet to be discovered, or are now at a depth below that which metal detectors can locate.
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Re: Bosworth Battlefield Rediscovered - a report

Postby Paul B » 26 Feb 2010 13:08

admin wrote:Many thanks for writing up such a full account Fran, very much appreciated.
From what I've read, I'd be inclined to agree with your caution over the small number of relevant finds - however, there are are other known battle sites that yield very little in finds. It could be down to soil type meaning that the majority of metal objects (made of ungilded iron) have perished, or erosion may have dumped lots of them in concentrations (eg. streams, gullies) which have yet to be discovered, or are now at a depth below that which metal detectors can locate.



Makes me wonder why they didnt rope someone into doing rappid magnetometry scanning for a by-line in the publication.
.... or I could be completely wrong.

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Re: Bosworth Battlefield Rediscovered - a report

Postby admin » 26 Feb 2010 14:30

Umm, did they?
(you are good at sounding sarcastic Paul, sometimes I'm not sure when you are being or not)
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Re: Bosworth Battlefield Rediscovered - a report

Postby Paul B » 26 Feb 2010 15:35

admin wrote:Umm, did they?
(you are good at sounding sarcastic Paul, sometimes I'm not sure when you are being or not)


Nope, not being sarcastic. They did not do ferrous metal detecting, but a quick magnetometer scan by a spod looking for publication credits would go a long way to targeting the next round of detector survey or detailed magnetometry for defensive works and ammo loss (dropped rather than shot).

a bit of map regression and landscape archaeology, delivered to sandhurst and a wargames club would be a handy experiment. good for the media as well
.... or I could be completely wrong.

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Re: Bosworth Battlefield Rediscovered - a report

Postby janner » 28 Feb 2010 23:45

Sandhurst...wargames, you don't mean Matt Bennett perchance?
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Re: Bosworth Battlefield Rediscovered - a report

Postby auvergne » 01 Mar 2010 16:14

Interesting.

Sekhemet, could you provide us a summary of the battle to make your report be appreciated by non-english people here?
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Re: Bosworth Battlefield Rediscovered - a report

Postby admin » 01 Mar 2010 16:21

http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

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Re: Bosworth Battlefield Rediscovered - a report

Postby craftyfighter » 01 Mar 2010 18:10

The Former Glorious leader of The Iron Door Collective
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