Battle of Barnet
Richard III-fever galvanises hunt for the Battlefield at Barnet (1471)
After the archaeological excavation of the grave of Richard III War-of-Roses enthusiasts hope to get funding to locate the battlefield at Barnet, where one of the famous battles in the War of Roses took place.
The Battle of Barnet is considered a decisive engagement in the Wars of the Roses, the dynastic conflict between the houses of Lancaster and York. At the Battle, Edward IV led the army of the House of York against the army of the House of Lancaster, which was backed by Henry VI and led by the Earl of Warwick
First the Lancastrians were set to win, but the weather was misty, which resulted in “friendly fire” from the Lancastrians against one of their contingents led by the Earl of Oxford. Under cries of treason, the Yorkist troops got the upper hand. Afterwards Edward IV ruled England for another 17 years. At his side his brothers fought, amongst those a very young Richard III, at that time the Duke of Gloucester.
Barnet is nowadays a sleepy suburban development located about 10 miles to the North-West of London. Local enthusiasts, however, hope to ride on the Richard III wave and get a chance to reinvigorate its dwindling high streets through a reinvention of the Barnet Museum, which houses the local collection of stray finds from the Battle.
One of the challenges is, that the exact location and layout of the battlefield is not known. However, he same challenge met researchers from the University of Huddersfield, who were responsible for the rediscovery of the Battle at Bosworth. Here a team led by Dr Glenn Foard, applied techniques of battlefield archaeology to locate the exact spot, where Richard III died.
In connection with this research large amounts of spent ammunition from very early fire-arms were found. All in all the field at Bosworth yielded more than 30 canonballs or “round shots”, which is more than has been found on all European battlefields put together. This find decisively changed the way historians thought of the use of artillery in the Late Middle Ages.
Out of this grew an interest in the technology, ballistic capabilities and forensic signatures of early firepower. Currently Glenn Foard together with Steven A. Walton from Leeds University are busy documenting, measuring and recording small artillery and handguns preserved in collections across Europe. The project – Early European Guns Project – is set to open up “for new insight into the formative stage of Gunpowder weaponry in Europe” .
It is believed that cannons were for the first time used in a pitched battle at Barnet and that chances are, a systematic location and mapping of the battlefield will enrich our knowledge about the weaponry at that time.
The project is being commissioned by War of the Roses experts at the University of Huddersfield, but digging will not commence, unless money is provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Battle of Barnet at the homepage of the The Battlefields Trust