AnnexA. A critical analysis of the Advice Report
The designation report is deeply flawed and contains many significant factual inaccuracies as well as misrepresenting some theories and opinions as if they were fact.
On the one hand it fails to address the many pointers to the battlesite noted within the annex attached to the designation report which was produced by the expert panel set up by English Heritage and ignores the substantial body of published information about the location of the battle. On the other, it introduced naïve, contentious or false information into its discussion and consideration.
Had the author attempted to balance their discussion by introducing some of the available evidence, they would have been driven towards a different conclusion.
The methodology in this critique
Because I am very critical of the errors of fact and the consistent bias in the report, I have included the original text and then indented my comments below. There are a few paragraphs on which I have no comment since these are quoting sources – otherwise the whole of the original designation decision is repeated here, in italic.
Much as I would like to maintain a measured approach, balancing praise with criticism, the author of the first half of the report makes this impossible because they have chosen only to present points that they believe call into question the case for designation. Consequently my comments are entirely and forcefully critical. In my view this is a sub-standard report and should be withdrawn by English Heritage.
Most of the site being assessed for inclusion on the Register of Historic Battlefields is subject to an extant outline planning consent for housing.
Currently the detailed planning application for over 600 houses is under consideration and has revived a substantial number of objections. It is unclear how designation would effect(sic) the determination of this by City of York Council which has expressed its opposition to the designation.
The author might have noted that the original applicationhas expired. An application to extend the time limit for implementation has been submitted to the LPA together with applications for reserved matters. None of these applications has yet been determined. Now is an excellent time to designate the battlesite of Fulford so that the planners and the developer can reconsider the proposed layout. There is space for heritage and houses to co-exist.
This consent was granted following a public inquiry in 2006. The report to the Secretary of State concluded:
“Taking all those matters into account, I consider that there is no archaeological evidence to show that the application site contains the location of the Battle of Fulford. Moreover, on the basis of the evidence adduced, I am doubtful that it is even likely that the battle was fought here. I agree with English Heritage that the available evidence is insufficient to allow the inclusion of the site on the Register of Battlefields.”
I have published a very critical essay on the inspector’s report. I refer to my book, Finding Fulford, appendix 1, page 270-281.No significance should be attached to the inspector’s opinion; He was neither a historian nor an archaeologist. His statements and argument are flawed and his conclusion is demonstrably wrong. Furthermore, this information is irrelevant for the designation process and this highly contentious quote should not have formed any part in the advice report unless the author was also prepared to address the published critique of the poor reasoning and misrepresentations incorporated within that report.
So why is the Planning Inspector quoted here without addressing the criticisms? They might at least have juxtaposed the observation by noting the many experts, as well as their own experts, who have stated that there is archaeological evidence to locate the battle.
"Finding Fulford" by Charles Jones (2011) has attempted to establish Germany Beck as the site of the battle although elements of the thesis are disputed.
The stated intent of the investigative work was to find the battlesite of Fulford and not to establish Germany Beck as the location. All possible sites were investigated and an examination of these other suggested battlesite was detailed in Finding Fulford chapter 6, pages 217ff.
The claim that ‘elements of the thesis are disputed’ cannot stand by itself because there is nothing within this designation report that I can interpret as challenging the hypothesis presented for Germany Beck as the location of the battle.
Publication and public debate is needed rather than innuendo or uncritically following the views expressed in out of-date planning documentation presented by the would-be developers. I have given at least ten formal presentation of the work over many years and always called for the audience to challenge the emerging hypothesis. The published report addresses all the arguments and possibilities and took three years to write and peer review before publication.
The published evidence has addressed all of the challenges that have been raised. I would record that many test have been undertaken in the last six years, such as the XRF work, to test the Germany Beck hypothesis. Furthermore I have written a chapter in the report Finding Fulford entitled ‘Projects to test and develop understanding.’ The author should at least list the points that are challenged so I can address them.
Some people have a vested interest in creating doubt but EH has a duty to make an independent judgement based on current, and reliable, argument or evidence and this the designation report fails to do.
This[‘Finding Fulford’]goes a considerable way to making available the research of Charles Jones much of which informed some of the claims made during the public inquiry.
I would point out that while I am the author of report, the investigative workwas undertaken by academics from many universities and hundreds of members of the public during the Lottery Funded project. This was a decade-long, thorough investigation to locate the battle site.
Referring back to the quote in the Secretary of State’s reportprepared by the inspector, it should be noted that he also ignored all the evidence that I presented at the inquiry. He even implies that much of the work had been made up. This is what he says:However, I am concerned that the allusion to finds, including a furnace and a ‘billet hoard’, and to forthcoming reports, seems to be something of an illusion.
How was it possible for the inspector to make such a statement when he knew that the developer’s archaeologist had, unannounced, demanded to inspect the finds on the eve of the inquiry and they had immediately been taken to the finds-store to inspect them and shown the field-work folders? So the statement that the evidence informed the inspector’s conclusions is wrong.
What I am trying to build up is a picture of a public inquiry decision that was not related to the available evidence. So I cannot accept that ‘it informed some of the claims made at the public inquiry’ because the inspector ignored the facts and instead presented a fabricated and thoroughly flawed story.
But I had expected English Heritage to address the evidence as set out in their Designation Selection Guide. I am very disappointed that within this designation process, the available evidence is again being ignored. Equally important is the fact that the designation report is so heavily based on subjective interpretations in the same out-of-date planning documentation. It is highly irregular to have as Selected Sources, several references to unspecified Planning Documentation whose purpose was to promote one opinion and not to present impartial data.
“The Archaeology of English Battlefields” (CBA Research Report 168, 2012) by Glenn Foard and Richard Morris has presented a synthesis of what is currently known about the survival and character of archaeology related to different periods of conflict.
I have not yet seen a copy of this CBA publication. Later in the designation report it is suggested that the authors claim that very little physical evidence is likely to have survived on battlesites of this era. This was indeed the assumption that we made when I planned the project to find Fulford with Glenn Foard himself. When we did this in 2002 we disagreed about the values of metal detecting but I nevertheless decided that the density of fragmentary finds might provide interesting data. Chapter 4 of Finding Fulford illustrates how much information can be extracted from find-density plot. The ‘hot spots’ led to the identification of the hearth areas and I have recently delivered a conference paper on the subject.
This is therefore an area of active debate where data is still in short supply (which I am trying to remedy by seeking data sets from Sweden where methodical surveys of ferrous material have been undertaken). I am also promoting a model for plotting morphology and will soon publish another paper promoting the use of XRF which, I believe, has the potential to reveal a great deal more. So I am sad that not a single word about the unique nature of the finds from Fulford is felt worthy of note while a hypothesis that nothing is likely to have survived apparently merits two mentions.
Paradoxically, the finds that emerged from Fulford could indeed be said to support the Foard/Morris hypothesis since, for the first time, there is evidence that battlesites were cleared immediately after a battle. Fulford suggests that they are right in general but wrong with respect to Fulford.
Their hypothesis does not support the implication of the designation report that evidence is unlikely since Fulford has provided abundant evidence of the post-battle processing. This finding at Fulford would cause most battlesites of this era to be devoid of weapons because they were immediately and methodically cleared so would support the Foard/Morris observation.
So the synthesis of some other data-sets does not challenge the location of the Fulford battlesite – rather it provides what is possibly a unique place to test the Foard/Morris hypothesis. I look forward to engaging with the authors about how we should investigate the finds that remain to be discovered from Fulford because we were blocked from investigating the sites once we revealed what we had found to the developers and the city archaeologist. I am in no doubt that it will make a valuable contribution to our investigation of early medieval battlesites.
Evidently Glenn and I still disagree but he has had invitations to inspect the remarkable physical finds that emerged along Germany Beck but has not yet taken up my invitation. The designation author is wrong to cite this hypothesis twice in the report without addressing the way the evidence from Fulford provides a proper test. The way I suspect most people will read the report is to assume that the finds from Fulford should be ignored which is why I am so critical of this ‘advice report’.
The applicant responded, presenting further arguments in favour of the identification of Germany Beck as the site of the battle.
Given the space devoted to reporting what the other respondents,who it is noted did not make ‘any direct comment’ on the consultation report, a fair-minded report might have noted the new information that I (the applicant) provided in response to the consultation which in not reflected in the designation report or its expert annex.
As they failed to do so, it is listed here to counter-balance the coverage given to the out-of-date submission by those who have a vested interest in not having the battlesite designated:
1. The work to install new foul drainage pipes across the ings “added detail of the 1066 landscape reinforces the Norse descriptions of the battle.”
2. I am sad that the mention of the northern bank is portrayed as ‘very problematic’ within the designation report’s annex. The ‘northern’ bank of the Ouse is only recorded by one writer (Symeon) and followed by another (John of Worcester – and not v.v as the annex suggests). Hemming’s Saga talks of the battle taking place along a river which is translated as the ‘Upper Ouse’. It is possible that what we now know as Germany Beck was known as a part of the Ouse, justifying the reference by the few English writers who mention the north bank of the Ouse.
3. It was pointed out that it proved possible to provide a remarkable amount of quasi-objective testing of the texts by setting them in the re-constructed 1066 landscape as discussed in ‘Finding Fulford’. This analysis also looked at the different ways the Latin and Norse texts had been translated.
4. Four examples are cited where the role of the tides provides another objective test for the texts and my reply to the consultation notes that understanding the tides enhanced our understanding of the course of the battle that the literary sources and physical evidence have given us.
5. It was noted that two sets of finds had been located by other people, and one set was seen by the PAS experts, since the report was published. They were exactly of the type and in a location where their existence had been predicted. This should have been noted since it raises confidence in the programme of work required to expand and confirm the location of the site.An entire chapter (6) in Finding Fulfordwas devoted to describing the work that now needs to be undertaken.
6. Criticism was made of the June consultation report because it suggested that the distribution of finds had been disturbed by collection and this persists in the annex to the designation report. This was precisely what the evidence suggests had happened at Fulford. Perhaps I have failed to communicate that the evidence from Fulford suggests that the metal was indeed gathered: Some was made into axe heads, arrows and horse accoutrements but much was turned into square, triangular or tubular billets. There is even enough evidence to speculate that iron was being broken into pieces suitable for manufacture although the slag and billets suggest that most ‘scrap’ was turned into tradable billets by forge-welding. It seems impossible to me that this unique piece of archaeology does not warrant some comment by the report’s author.
MAP Archaeology responded on behalf of Persimmon Homes Ltd and Hogg the Builder (developers of the site). This response made no direct comment on the contents of the initial report but set out the history of archaeological investigation of the site and the reasoning behind the view that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that Germany Beck is the site of the battle. This response was in addition to a number of documents including a Historic Landscape Assessment submitted prior to consultation.
It is difficult to engage in a discussion when one party feels empowered to claim that there is ‘insufficient evidence’ but had consistently declined either to do relevant work or to allow others to undertake it. It has been pointed out many times that their schemes of work scarcely overlapped with the action of the battle that has now been identified. Furthermore it has also been noted that the method adopted was not suited to discovering battlesites and this is indeed noted in the EH letter of 24 March 2004:
“ ..an uncertainty we feel could have been reduced had different techniques been utilised for the assessment of the area. As we discussed, at the root of the issue therefore lies the specification for the work hitherto undertaken” (EH reHB 6014/729/0014 by John Hinchcliffe)
It is not sensible to allow the claim that there is ‘insufficient evidence’ to stand, and then to cite this as a reason in deciding to reject the designation, when the process of discovery was recognised as inadequate while attempts to amend it have been blocked. The recognition that permission to carry out relevant archaeological research was denied should have been crucial to forming an opinion on this topic and this well documented defect should have formed part of the decision process for the desingation.
I also note that the CoYC’s archaeological officerwrote, in response to Glenn Foard’s criticism of the 2004 Historic Landscape Appraisal, that further archaeological work could not be requested because:
‘…we have been in discussion with the applicants since 1996 and I have at every stage agreed the archaeological objectives and methodologies for evaluating this site’.
The Archaeological officer therefore recommended to the case officer that they should make a judgement based on the defective specification which was criticised by EH (see above) and others.
It is stated that EH’s response and notes (20/05/04) did not alter the comments by the archaeological officer (Notes made by CoYC officer relating to Outline Application 01/001315/OUT). It is clear that by 2004 the archaeological officer had already determined that further archaeological work would not be called for in spite of the criticism from EH and others. But the designation report still refers to the would-be developer’s work as if it is both up-to-date and relevant. It is neither of these and this had been reported many times.
Michael Rayner wrote to the CoYC case officer in 2005 on behalf of The Battlefields Trust stating the following:
“The main over-riding concern is that there has still not been a thorough archaeological survey conducted to the standard required for a site of potential historical significance. … As I believe you are aware, the Fulford Battlefield Society has led a research-programme on part of this site, which has found a large number of artefacts, many of which are currently undergoing analysis in part to see which may come from the 11th century.
It is extremely disturbing that MAP’s report can state categoRiccally that ‘there is no evidence at all that it [the Battle of Fulford] took place on the site of the proposed development’ (para. 9.1.). This is simply not the case, with a range of historical, archaeological, geological and landscape evidence pointing to the land alongside Germany Beck being the site of at least part of the battle. Indeed, in earlier documentation the developers themselves admit to this as being the ‘probable’ or ‘likely’ site of the battle. Moreover, part of the reason for a lack of archaeological evidence is no doubt due to the refusal of the landowner of part of the site to allow archaeological survey work to take place. It is worth quoting again part of Glenn Foard’s report on MAP’s earlier work, relating to battlefield archaeology:
‘In their conclusion, MAP make the sweeping statement that, given the absence of physical evidence related to the battle recovered in the field investigations undertaken on the site, ‘the battle did not take place on the area of land around Germany Beck’. They also suggest that the failure of past development in the area to provide any supporting evidence while it did produce Roman and prehistoric remains challenges the identification of Fulford as the site of the battle. This simply demonstrates their complete lack of knowledge of the nature of the physical evidence likely to exist on a battlefield and the ease with which it can be located. …
In making their assessment of the lack of battle archaeology from the Germany Beck site and more generally from the Fulford area, MAP have failed completely to take account the points raised in our earlier submission with regard to the problems in the investigation of battle archaeology of the early medieval period. We have already clearly explained that most of the techniques to which they refer and the particular methodology by which they were undertaken, and this appears also to be true of the new work in the On line Pond Area as well, are wholly unsuited to addressing questions regarding the archaeology of battle. The criticism of the methodology of their trial trenching made in our previous submission still holds true, and apply equally to the newly reported trenching of the On Line Pond Area. No attempt is made in their new reports to address these criticisms. … This apparent lack of appreciation for the nature of battle-related archaeology for a battlefield of the 11th century remains a serious problem in MAP’s new Historic Landscape Appraisal. In para 9.7 it is claimed that the application site has been subjected to ‘rigorous archaeological investigation’. This simply is not true, unless the results have not been made available to us. The Battlefields Trust submits that truly rigorous archaeological investigation must take place, …The concerns raised in G. Foard’s report relating to the battle archaeology remain” (Letter by M Rayner, The Battlefields Trust, to CoYC on 4 April 2005).]
So while this designation report notes that a number of documents were submitted by MAP, balanced reporting should also have noted that I too had submitted material to allow for a proper appraisal.
The Historic Landscape Appraisal is an utterly discredited document (My report to EH in April 2005, Michael Rayner’s letter 4 April 2005, partly quoted above etc). I am investigating the precise circumstances that led to the production and acceptance of this document as I have received evidence from a whistleblower to suggest that various parties agreed to adopt this misleading appraisal at meetings in February and March 2005. I have written to senior management at English Heritage, City of York Council and the Institute of Field Archaeology reporting my evidence and asking them to investigate the role of their officers or members. I must await their feedback before deciding what actions to take.
But I include the document sent to English Heritage in April 2005 outlining the defects in the Historic Landscape Appraisal as appendix 1. I also include a short description of the local geology and the last ice age to allow the contention that Germany Beck was a later construction to be dismissed -This was the key conclusion of the document cited by the designation report’s author and is wrong.
Since the author of this designation report had chosen to rely so heavily on the old planning documents they should have been aware that no work relevant to battlefield archaeology was required before granting planning permission since they were told many times by their own officers and others.
The credibility, motivation and poor specification of the documents that have been relied to provide baseless ambiguities introduced by the designation report’s author should have been better tested.
City of York Council (CYC) responded to the consultation referring back to their previous submissions to the public inquiry in 2006, and challenging some statements in the initial report. In particular, the statement that the armies met across a ditch is questioned by CYC. This has now been amended but the implications of this are discussed further below. CYC's response concludes that they do not feel that the evidence exists to justify the inclusion of this site as the Battle of Fulford on the Register.
COYC was a party to the meetings where the untenable notion, suggested in the revised Historic Landscape Appraisal, that Germany Beck was a man-dug drainage ditch. This was a key part in the narrative agreed to counter the evidence that was emerging from the battlefield investigative work.
The COYC archaeologist has set an almost impossible ‘test’ to provide the evidence for the battle, namely to produce stratified and datable evidence which an ephemeral event, such as a medieval battle, can never produce. But he has never committed this condition to writing. Yet the request that further work should be required, or that our group should be allowed to investigate the hearth areas which might have provided the evidence demanded, were blocked by COYC. It is to the discredit of the COYC that they have not made this clear and have joined the developer in preventing our attempts to extract all the available evidence.
The report’s author fails again to report, and then investigate, any detailed claims. Such an investigation would have revealed that the COYC archaeologist has often expressed the view that Germany Beck is the likely location of the battle and the report’s author might then have noted that they had prevented the collection of ‘the evidence to justify the inclusion of this site..on the Register’.
This begins well by stating that the key considerations set out in the Designation Selection Guide are the significance and certainly about the location. There can be no disagreement with the first part of the assessment which states that “Fulford is of considerable political importance.”
Debate surrounding the Battle of Fulford has focused on the identification of the site of the fighting. Owing to this lack of certainty the battlefield was not included in the Register when it was established in 1995.
I do not believe the claim that the battle has already failed to reach the Register is correct. I began work on the site around 1980 and I am not aware that there was any debate surrounding the location. My enquires to English Heritage in 1997(?) told me that Fulford was not being considered for the Register.
However, with battles as early as Fulford, such certainty is rare. The Battlefields Selection Guide recognises this stating that "It is generally the case that the earlier a battle, the less the precision that can be offered in terms of where fighting took place; nevertheless, it remains a requirement for designation that a battle can be placed within a specific and particular topographical location with a fair degree of probability."
It is wrong of the designation report to raise the spectre of landscape change and the difficulty of matching it to acceptable evidence but then fail to explain that this was precisely the challenge that was met by the research at Fulford. First the 1066 surface was meticulously reconstructed. Then, the discovered landscape was compared with the literature and an excellent correspondence was noted. Subsequent work on the Ings on behalf of Yorkshire Water (as noted earlier) supported the Norse sources. Yet nowhere does the designation assessment and its annex note that the work was done to achieve precisely what the Selection Guide says is required.
Working with York Archaeological Trust, we made the reconstruction of the 1066 landscape the most important investigation. Personnel from Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Newcastle and Birmingham Universities assisted with this work to allow the 1066 landscape to be reconstructed.
This pattern of raising a problem but then failing to note how well it had been addressed by the work undertaken at Fulford persists through this designation report. The process they should have followed was to assess how well or badly this had been achieved. But it completely fails to do this. It does not even begin to address the available evidence but goes off at a tangent!
Accordingly, the only battlefield on the Register which predates Fulford, the Battle of Maldon (991), was identified on the basis of landscape analysis in the light of the fragment of Old English poetry known as "The Battle of Maldon". By matching what is known of the terrain of the C10 coast near Maldon to the account of the battle, the Causeway to Northey Island has been identified as the site of the battle. However, there is no archaeological evidence to support this and other candidate sites have been proposed although less convincingly.
The relevance of the debate about Maldon is not clear. As the designation report notes “there is no archaeological evidence to support this and other candidate sites have been proposed although less convincingly.”
What is the author saying? If they are suggesting that Maldon would not have passed current scrutiny, they have a case since I am not aware that any attempt has been made to reconstruct this area of mud-flats in the late 10th century. But a balanced assessment would place the Maldon battle in the defined zone with a high probability. Why does the author not contrast this with the situation at Fulford where there is significantly more certainty about the exact location because of the unique topography of the site that matches the literature?
The other point noted about Maldon is that there is no archaeological evidence, which I take to mean no physical evidence, since environmental and landscape archaeology are powerful tools for the modern battlefield researcher. So why does the author fail to note that Fulford appears to be quite exceptional because the landscape matches the literature AND that physical evidence has been found that so perfectly matches all the other evidence?
For a number of early battles there is a strong tradition which has identified a particular location as being associated with the battle; At Northallerton (1138) the placenames “Scot Pit” and “Standard Leaze” show a long-standing association with the battle. At Fulford the association with Germany Beck seems to have been first made in the middle of the C20 so we are unable to adduce place-name evidence in support of the location.
Why does the author not report the lengthy discussion of naming evidence provided within Finding Fulford? The names that come to be associated with battles are not well studied and is of little help in locating a battle in the landscape. As I note in my own discussion, ‘a battle needs more that a place name. It needs the equivalent of a street name because battles of the 11th century covered just a few hundred metres”.
The battle is not and never has been known as the battle of Germany Beck so why does the author suggest a meaningless test that Hastings and Stamford Bridge, and all battles bigger than a skirmish, would also fail? But muddy ford describes the location of the battle very well as the research has described in detail the muddy fording place across Germany Beck that is a unique crossing place for those following the high ground along the moraines.
None of the examples noted are enough to localise a battle. I must again question why this negative discussion, which excludes the information about Fulford, is introduced while almost everything that leads one to locate the Fulford battle in the landscape is ignored?
The Germany Beck site under consideration for development has been the subject of extensive archaeological investigation.
The author again asserts that the archaeology has been ‘extensive’ which is the ambiguous term promoted by the opponents to the site designation. But the other key is its relevance. Why does the author not note that there has been much criticism by English Heritage, Glenn Foard, Michael Rayner as well as myself to the relevance of the work? (All cited above)
Having noted that this is a site under consideration for development, why does the author yet again miss the opportunity to note that attempts to do the relevant work have been assiduously blocked? The assertion is therefore so misleading as to be wrong.
Significant changes to the landscape have taken place since 1066, including agricultural drainage, the realignment of the beck, the encroachment of the village of Fulford and the municipal cemetery and the removal of tidal action on the Ouse, The investigation work has revealed evidence of Iron-Age, Romano-British and later medieval features on the site but nothing that can be securely identified as deriving from the Battle of Fulford.
To take this point by point
1. There have been remarkably few landscape changes since the area is underlain by hard moraine material. Furthermore, although the advice report details some changes that have taken place since the 11c, it goes on to state: “However, the valley of Germany Beck, identified as the focus of fighting, still remains clearly legible cutting across the line of the road”.
2. There is no evidence that Germany Beck has been realigned with two small exceptions:
Between Stone Bridge and Fordlands Road bridge the beck no longer loops to the south to provide the location of the fording place in 1066. The land has been filled to create a playing field. Where the beck runs to the north of Fulford Cemetery. It had previously meandered over the peat but is now canalised.
3. The village has not significantly encroached onto the battlesite because this is an area that floods.
4. The Cemetery has not altered the landscape at all and this land is of peripheral relevance to the way the battle was fought.
5. The removal of the daily tidal flooding is utterly irrelevant here although it was fully considered during the assessment of the landscape. The research by Manchester University showed that the rate at which the Ings is rising was not altered by the construction of the lock at Naburn. However, a study of the tide is indeed very important to understand the battle and provides confirmation of various early sources which is why it was so carefully studied and reported.
6. Conventional archaeology is designed to identify long-term occupation. The finding of iron-age and later finds is only relevant in that its drainage ditches show that there was a ditch, which we now call Germany Beck, in its current location and has not moved as this report claims in contradiction of its own experts and all the evidence.
So I am aghast that this catalogue of inaccurate information from those who oppose the designation is recited here to apparently demonstrate that the battle did not take place along the Beck. The failure to address the criticism of this list, which follows so closely the wording employed by the developers, is unacceptable in a serious report.
In Michael Rayner’s letter, the assertions of the Historic Landscape Appraisal with regard to the changed landscape, are repudiated as follows:
“There are several statements in the MAP report to suggest that because the landscape has changed or re-modelled since the time of the battle the battle cannot be appreciated. This is patently not the case, as with almost any battlefield there will have been some landscape change, …The landscape changes at Fulford, … are minor when compared to those at Hastings. ….at the unregistered site of the battle of Fulford, much of the landscape is still undeveloped. Therefore the potential remains at Fulford, to preserve, understand, interpret and present the battlefield in a way that is no longer possible at Stamford Bridge.”(Letter Michael Rayner, The Battlefields Trust to CoYC 4 April 2005)
A site visit prior to the decision would have established that the topography of the battle is still clearly recognisable and remarkably little of the battlesite has changed. To redress this failure in the process and in support of the assertion that the site is still intact, a series of images and panoramas have been provided (see Appendix 2 to annex A).
Charles Jones has retrieved ironwork which has the potential to date from this period but further analysis would be needed to demonstrate this with certainty. As Glenn Foard and Richard Morris point out in The Archaeology of English Battlefields, “English battlefields from before 1461 have yet to produce any artefact scatters, despite several investigations – in large part because most artefacts deposited were of ferrous metal” (p.23). Therefore we have a site which has not been confirmed by archaeological remains but, similarly, cannot be disproved by their absence.
The observations set out by Foard and Morris are repeated. But the author of this report fails to note the unique assemblages of tools, billets, slag, tuyère and hearth fragments found repeatedly, with these items always in close proximity, along the line of Germany Beck. This calls for some discussion and an explanation, but the report’s author is silent.
So why is the ‘retrieved ironwork’ ignored while mentioning finds from other eraspresumably implying some significance from their listing? The author should have addressed the way the finds corroborate the other strands of evidence.
This paragraph does not note that I was refused permission to re-visit the site to examine the hearth sites which might well produce some dating evidence. So it is disingenuous to say that it has not been confirmed by archaeological remains when the finds have such a military character. I accept that there is scope for more to be discovered but I have yet to find anybody who does not recognise this as probable battlefield re-cycling debris. (See for example the article published in the Journal of the Royal Armouries –June 2012 - where the finds are discussed).
All evidence for the battle, therefore, rests on a small number of documentary sources dating from the late C11 to the early C13. There are some characteristics of the battle which are generally accepted; the battle was fought on the banks of the River Ouse, south of York in the vicinity of Fulford with a marsh nearby. The Anglo-Saxon earls prevailed at the start of the battle before Harald Hardrada, whose banner was close to the river fought a successful counter attack, resulting in a great loss of life as men fled, some drowning in the river or marsh.
Why is the author dismissing so much landscape and physical evidence claiming that ‘all the evidence rests on a few sources’? I cannot yet claim that the site has been proven scientifically (but I have suggested two methods that might achieve this in the unique setting of Fulford). But what I do set out in my report is a balanced and critical approach to all of the evidence. An holistic approach allows the separate stands of evidence to be tested against each other. When they all support each other, and a study of Finding Fulford will reveal a number of cases where one strand was used to make predictions that were subsequently successfully tested (viz theodolite survey, several bore hole locations, double-blind sampling of metal collections etc).
The location of the site does not have to rest on a few sources and it is crass to suggest that this is the case.
However, debate persists about the formation of the battle in relation to the marsh and any dyke.
It is hard not to be flippant but ‘debate persists’ about all manner of conspiracies and crackpot theories. However, there really is no debate about the location of the marsh or the dyke, as the author goes on to state later in the paragraph. “No other similar breaks adjacent to the River Ouse exist elsewhere in the vicinity of Fulford. This gives Germany Beck a strategic value for checking the advance of the invading army. With the river to the West and softer, marshy ground to the East,…”
This is a very poor piece of work indeed because the author continues to raise speculative doubt where there is nearby evidence to refute the nonsense.
Indeed, differing translations of the Heimskringla (written in Old Norse c.1230) describe differing relationships between watercourses and the troops. Samuel Laing’s translation (1844) describes Harald Hardrada’s order of battle as “King Harald now went on the land, and drew up his men. The one arm of this line stood at the outer edge of the river, the other turned up towards the land along a ditch; and there was also a morass, deep, broad, and full of water.” The same passage in the 1966 translation by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson reads as “he went ashore and began to draw up his army, with one flank reaching down to the river and the other stretching inland towards a dyke where there was a deep and wide swamp full of water”. The critical difference here is that, according to Laing, the troops were aligned along a dyke which presumably drained in the Ouse, while according to Magnusson and Palsson, the troops were arrayed between the river and a dyke. The former conforms well to the Germany Beck identification, the latter less so.
I am reluctant to enter into a battle between translations as Finding Fulford addressed all of these. I consulted as many scholars as I could during the research – sadly Prof Palsson died with my enquiry to him unanswered. But I benefitted from the advice of the leading scholars around Europe and several evenings spent with the late Dr Richard Hall analysing all of these texts. The result provides the opening chapter of Finding Fulford. The author should study this.
There is no way to discriminate between words such as ditch or dyke and the words along, beside, towards are also interchangeable. A balanced view of all of the translations does not support the flimsy and frankly naïve analysis presented in the designation report extracted from the would-be developer’s proof of evidence for the Public Inquiry.
In any case, it is not appropriate for EH to use just a single translation (the translators that were quoted in fact worked together) as evidence that doubt exists about the location of the battle. Why was this translation chosen over all other translations? In case of discrepancies, the right method would have been to go back to the original source, in Old Norse. The translation offered in Finding Fulford is the result of consulting various translations of the Heimskringla and consulting various experts on the meaning of the text. To simply discard all this and present one translation to cause doubt is unworthy of EH.
However, it is also worth bearing in mind that the Heimskringla was written 150 years after the events in a foreign country and accuracy of detail was not an overriding imperative in its production. A level of caution needs to [be] exercised in claiming that this source either proves or disproves the identification of Germany Beck as the site of the battle.
The matter of the date at which the histories were set down has been dealt with extensively by academics. There is an appendix devoted to this in Finding Fulford which reports that modern academics accept the work of the various history saga. Recent work in Sweden has demonstrated that the transcribed sagas are proving to be remarkably accurate with one site of King Harald Hardrada’s hall being identified from the literature (Kunshalle – south of Kunslav).
This is yet another way to insert doubt into the assessment and follows so closely the line taken by the would-be developers while ignoring academic commentaries. So it is definitely not ‘worth bearing in mind’ when the sagas were transcribed unless the author is contriving to undermine a credible argument.
Of greater relevance is the motives the authors of the various ‘histories’ that were written at this time. An understanding of the skaldic tradition and its use of pagan imagery was fading due in part to the embedding of Christianity into the culture plus the spread of reading which were both undermining the oral tradition. Skaldic verses were praise poems where topographic details were of little importance and I am told the words chosen would be called on to fit the poetic needs of the verse since the deeds of the person who was the subject of the poem was the focus of the skald. It is also worth noting in any discussion about accuracy that the skalds were normally ‘embedded’ and fighting, and occasionally dying, alongside their employer. The skalds knew the events of which their verses spoke.
Archaeologists and historians might bemoan first the poetic licence and the subsequent conversion to prose but we have to live with the ambiguities bequeathed us. The author of the designation report should study all the sources, the landscape and the local environmental archaeological information. This will lead them to a very different conclusion.
In considering these three issues relating to location together, we reach a position that archaeological investigation has not proved the identification of Germany Beck as the site of the battle, one way or the other; that the documentary sources for the site have sufficient ambiguity in them that, while Germany Beck is a plausible candidate, it is not conclusive; and that Germany Beck remains the most desirable place for the Anglo-Saxon earls to draw up their troops adjacent to the river and in the vicinity of Fulford. While Germany Beck remains the most likely candidate for the site of the Battle of Fulford, it is not possible to say that it has been securely identified. The Battlefields Selection Guide is clear that historical importance and secure identification of the site are essential criteria for inclusion on the Register. While Fulford was clearly a battle of sufficient historical importance, significant ambiguity of the evidence for the site remains.
The report’s conclusion flows from the errors in fact, interpretation and process discussed above so I cannot accept that any significant ambiguity for the location of the site exists. Only by ignoring the evidence presented can the author contrive such a conclusion. I will address this defect in annex B.
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The author of the content is Charles Jones - firstname.lastname@example.org Last updated April 2015
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