Fulford Battlefield Research Website


Presentation script
 Recording the events of September 1066
tanged arrow from Fulford
yorks releif map

The Fulford Tapestry Website

The planning process
The Public Inquiry
Archaeology work
Precautionary principle
Supervisory failures
Site's potential
Presentation script

York City Planning documents online


YouTube videos


The Final Report

Finding Fulford cover

Kindle edition of Finding Fulford is now available

The Fulford Tapestry


Visiting Fulford

Map York


Below are the archaeological questions that were set for the inquiry. The inspector failed to debate any of them. The questions were however discussed in my presentation which is appended below. The inspector either ignored or dismissed what is reported here.

J) the extent to which the proposed development is consistent with advice in Planning Policy Guidance Note 16: Archaeology and Planning with particular regard to:

i) the adequacy of any assessment and field evaluation to determine the character and extent of the archaeological remains and the options for minimising or avoiding damage;

ii) having regard to the assessment and field evaluation, whether the physical preservation in situ of archaeological remains is justified, taking into account the presumption in favour of the physical preservation of nationally important archaeological remains and their settings; and

iii) where the physical preservation in situ of archaeological remains is not considered justified in the circumstances of the case and development resulting in the destruction of the archaeological remains should proceed, whether appropriate and satisfactory provision can be made for the excavation and recording of the remains;

My name is Charles Jones. I am here to represent the team who have carried out some extensive work to investigate the location of the battle of Fulford. As such it is my privilege to present the picture produced by the hard work of many people and the analysis of numerous experts in diverse fields who are working together to unlock the secrets of past battle sites.


At the heart of my case are three questions:

1.      Is this the site of the 1066 battle of Fulford

2.      Has the relevant work been done to discover if this is the site

3.      Should we preserve this piece of heritage

Since there is agreement among all responsible authorities, including the developers, that Germany Beck is the likely location for the battle of Fulford, I will not dwell on the many planning rules that protect areas where the presumption must go in favour of preservation such as paragraph Jii of the call in letter. But we will need to examine the available evidence to say where along Germany Beck this event might have occurred.

Instead I will explain the sort of investigations that are relevant to discover an ancient battle site. This is a new field of archaeological research so I would crave your indulgence later while I explain the why and the what of the work we have done. As I will note several time, conventional archaeology has failed to reveal any ‘evidence’ at either of the other battle of 1066. I will have to examine whether a case set out by the developers which is based on ‘the absence of proof’ is can be used to justify the destruction of the site. I will also I’m afraid have to deal with the effect that the denial of access to pursue some key lines of research has had on our ability to present an even better evidential case.

Yesterday we discussed what an important habitat Germany Beck was. I will be looking at the same environment from a historic point of view today. Environmental studies are an increasingly integrated and important part of archaeological investigations and so this proof deals with the ecological history of Germany Beck from the time that the last ice retreated until the present day. Pollen and tree rings are valuable records for modern archaeologists.

Alternative uses of the site have not been assessed. It is also important that I set out an alternative vision of the site. The importance of battle sites, and this battle of 1066 in particular, is argued with the support of all those who have in recent years presented TV series about battlefields. The uses that could be made of this site will be set out later.

Fulford Battlefield Society invited the developers to discuss ways that will allow our heritage and housing to coexist. It has from the beginning asked if we can cooperate by providing the relevant archaeological evaluation. In the absences of any discussion, we will ask that the application be rejected so long as the planned access route is along the line of the ditch that we will now argue separated the armies on 20 September 1066.      


Fulford Battlefield Society

The Society was formalised at the end of 2001 by a number of people who had been independently investigating the site for several years. It was successful in its application for a Lottery Grant from the Local Heritage Initiative fund. This money has been used to expand the project and employ the necessary experts. Five years of work has yielded a substantial amount of data related to the battle although much of the site has yet to be studied because access has been denied.


Statement of case

To deal with the first of the three questions -Is this the site of the battle of Fulford?

All parties have stated at some time that Germany Beck is the likely location of the battle.

1.      The developers in their 1995 desktop study noted “The location for the battle is open to conjecture. The geographical details that the River was to the right (west) and the Ditch was on the left (east) suggests that the Ditch mentioned may refer to Germany Beck. This theory was adhered to by K Penn who wrote the report on the A64 Outer Ring Road evaluation in 1973. Broadhead in his article gives the location of the battle on Fulford Ings (SE 609488).  Without further field evaluation this issue seems likely to remain unresolved.  …. The site of the battle of Fulford, based on interpretation of the available evidence does suggest that this event may have occurred either on the site or very close to the eastern boundary of the site. Whether information relevant to this event would be forthcoming from the development of the site is difficult to say.  …  it is recommended that further evaluation of the proposed development area be undertaken” When this was written the area of Germany Beck did not form part of the proposed development. The developers still accepted Germany Beck as the site for the battle when we took part in a public debate in early 2001, it was agreed with the developer’s representative Anne Finney that we both accepted Germany Beck as the probable battle site so we spent the evening talking about the history of the area differing mainly in how much of the battle took place to the west of the A19.  So we were only arguing about a few hundred metres.

2.      Dr Paul Stamper, the Battlefields Panel Co-ordinator for English Heritage, wrote to the city in May 2004 saying  ‘The degree of proof which our own criteria require for registration is high – more than tradition or likelihood – and other then in the most exceptional cases such as Hastings is unlikely to exist for such early battle. ..while the available evidence is insufficient to allow the inclusion of the site on the Register of Battlefields, your authority may still be minded to conclude that on the balance of probability it has a significance as the most likely site of this important event.’ That was, and still is, the view of English Heritage.

3.      Writing to English Heritage in September 2003 the CA says ‘The supposed site of the Battle of Fulford may lie in part within the proposed housing development..’ CA assessment for EH is that ‘If this interpretation is accepted, and it appears to me to be a reasonable interpretation, the main issues in my opinion is the acceptability or otherwise of any impacts the development may have on the historic landscape…’ The city archaeologist wrote in his report to the planning committee “.. the evidence for this being the site of the Battle of Fulford is more difficult to evaluate.  It has not been possible to locate and describe features, deposits or indeed the landscape within which the Battle of Fulford took place with any reasonable degree of certainty or accuracy.   However, it is inherently likely that the Battle of Fulford was fought in this area.”

4.      Also worth noting is the comment made by English Heritage when writing to the City Archaeologist that ‘’Preliminary work by Glenn Foard of the Battlefield Trust …. confirms the area of the proposed development as a strong possibility for the site of the battle.’

All of these experts have looked at the evidence then available and named Germany Beck as the likely location for the battle. They reached their independent conclusions presumably by assessing the literature and inspecting the landscape. The unambiguous assessment by expert opinion maintains that Germany Beck is the right place to look. We must not therefore confuse the problem involved in proving that this is the site with probable identification of the site.

I would now like to explore the way we set about this task on my way to answering the next question – ‘What physical evidence can be found for the battle’. Please bear with me because we are dealing with a new subject. For those who watch TV this is less Time Team and more CSI. It is not about digging a number of holes but of examining the available data in a more forensic way. 

So let me move onto the Archaeological evidence

A report of the work the group has undertaken is due to be published in late 2006 which will make a strong, evidential case that Germany Beck is the core of the battlefield of 1066. Pending this, an outline report has been prepared for the public inquiry.

Sadly the work required for this inquiry impacted on the time available to prepare the archaeology. It was a difficult decisions as it would have been ideal to produce a full report of the work at the inquiry. But it was not only the timing of the inquiry that forced this decision.

1.      It is taking longer than expected to analyse the mass of data. The pre-publication plan calls for those academics who assisted in devising the investigation reviewing the work and this will take time.

2.      We are having to develop techniques in what is a new field and this is slow work.

3.      There is still such a ‘hole’ in our data which can only be filled when we have access to more of the site. So our report can only report can only be definitive on some of the landscape while much other work in still in progress.

But we do have some valuable results which significantly increase our confidence in locating the battle site to the part of Germany Beck where it is proposed that the access road should be constructed. It might be stating the obvious, but a battle is a dynamic event and so it is not so much a single point but covers an area.



The investigation for me began rather slowly with an examination of the literature in 1998. A retired archivist of the Borthwick Institute, Reginald Dearlove, had a special interest in the battle and was able to provide details of the various suggested locations recorded in antiquarian literature.

The Fulford Ings was the popular choice but others placed the battle nearer to the southern city limit. Germany Beck is not listed as the location in any source until Britton’s History of Fulford. Attempts were made to reconcile various locations along the Ings. Concurrently, my work with the Territorial Army required me to entertain visiting senior military officers and a contemplation of a local battlefield provided a useful entertainment. It became clear as we walked the ground that Germany Beck was a sensible fit for the literature and the military minds unanimously favoured the beck as a defensible ‘choke point’.

By a happy chance, a DPhil student from Manchester University, Susannah Gill, was willing to undertake an environmental survey of the Ings for her dissertation. This revealed that the Ings was an unlikely location for the battlefield because it was too wet. It also provided a model for the rate at which the ground level had risen since 1066. This was a great help in refining the search area.

Germany Beck became the focus of attention although when talking to local historians in Fulford, they raised the possibility of Naburn and even Middlethorpe as battlesites. These were subsequently investigated. There are reports of military-style artefacts being discovered along both banks of the river. However, nothing could be found to support these suggestions. It is feasible that military artefacts might have been moved in the mud by the flow upriver from York to emerge at Naburn during one of the regular floods. There were many stories but nothing was ever seen to allow this line to be pursued although such find would not be inconsistent with Germany Beck as the focus of the battle.

It was when talking to local historians in Fulford that I leant of the possible housing development planned for the area. However, at that stage, there was no indication that Germany Beck was to provide the access route and the housing was some distance from the area of investigation. The area to be investigated by the group of interested people that was getting together was initially defined as running from the Ings opposite Bishopthorpe Palace to the eastern part of Walmgate Stray. A large area of investigation was defined whose location was still at that time a matter of active, indeed lively, debate. Artifacts could also be scattered beyond the fighting area itself. With the help of members of the York Metal Detectorists Club and donations for several local firms, work began in late 2001.

By another happy coincidence, the Battlefield Trust and York Archaeological Trust were jointly considering an investigation of the battles around York at this time. After some discussions, a plan emerged to seek some funding to allow a proper investigation to be undertaken. Investigation of battlefields did not have a methodology at that time so there was much discussion with academics of many disciplines prior to an application being submitted to the National Lottery for money. With Lottery funding, professionals could be brought into the project and allow much more work to be undertaken than unfunded amateurs could hope to achieve. It was at this time that I became the coordinator of the team.

Around this time also, the first international battlefield archaeology conference was held in London which provided more input especially from Doug Scott who had pioneered the work of investigating battlefields in America for their Parks Department. The Battlefield Trust, again with Lottery backing, was able to appoint the country’s first battlefield archaeologist, Glenn Foard. He helped devise a plan of work which has been the basis of the work the group has undertaken at Fulford.

However our understanding of how to look for battlefields continues to develop fast and is currently the subject of much academic study with the first postgraduate course being launched and English heritage sponsoring a project based at Leeds university to devise methodologies for sites of different ages.  One can understand the developer’s frustration that their development has coincided with the emergence of this new way of investigating battle fields. However, they have over the years been unwilling to cooperate in a programme that might have seen the work completed by now and been a part of developing the methodology.

The investigation is therefore only half compete but every piece of work has increased confidence that Germany Beck is indeed the location of the important battle of Wednesday 20 September 1066.

The Project

With all the expert input mentioned earlier, a programme of work was prepared and a Lottery grant, under the Local heritage Initiative, was received in October 2002. It was recognised that there were considerable problems investigating an ancient battlefield.

Why is it so difficult to find ancient battle?

   There are no identifying structures and the landscape has probably changed since the battle.

   This is ‘surface’ rather than ‘built’ or ‘buried’ archaeology. Artefacts will not be in a context to help their dating and identification.

   The surface at Fulford is prone to flooding and damage from regular agricultural use. The floods and human activity might have removed, flushed or buried evidence.

   The armies arrived, fought, died, fled or marched away after some hours. They did not have any sort of camp nearby. The battle was an ephemeral event that made a greater impact on history than it did on the landscape.

   The weapons of war would be recycled both during and after the battle. Almost a millennium had elapsed for items to corrode or be found. This is a very ‘cold crime scene’ and clues will be hard to find.

   No other battle site of this antiquity has so far yielded a weapons or artefacts that can be linked to the battle. No weapons have been found at Hastings or Stamford Bridge. Our work, however, might help explain this omission.

          The location of any mass graves was unlikely as the soil and subsequent activity would have dissolved or distributed any mortal remains.

What was done and what does it mean?

Soil survey

In terms of priorities, reconstructing the shape of the landscape was ‘number one’. Understanding the soil beneath our feet seemed the best place to start. The group was immensely lucky to have the advice and training we received form Dr Andy Howard, then of Bradford University.

Using a variety of augers, soil cores were taken.

1.      The simplest auger was a 1.2m engineering auger which could take a 1 cm core.

2.      Next there was a 6m, 2.5cm auger on long term loaned from the University of York with various collecting tips to match the soils.

3.      Finally there was the power auger from Leeds University which took cores as deep at 8m and with a 4cm cross section.

The first phase was in support of the metal survey. This work generally preceded any metal survey work which allowed areas where the surface of 1066 was likely to reasonably near the surface. A simple one cm engineering auger was used and a team of two could take 10 measurements per hour.  This was also used to explore Walmgate Stray which was believed to have been wetter and might have provided part of the marshy flank and a possible escape rout for the routed defenders. However, both of these speculations could be dismissed after the soil survey.

The next phase was to explore the beck bottom and banks. The hope was to use this gash cut into the landscape to explore possible crossing points and look at the underlying layer of boulder clay. The results were inclusive mainly because it was so difficult to drill into the clay. The indications were that there were a number of crossing points where stones had been embedded in the clay, and that the whole length of the beck was remarkably consistent from which it might be concluded that its path has been stable and ‘natural’ or ‘unimproved’.

The early phases also helped to identify the fact that a number of old channels ran south from the beck. Land access limited this work where we hoped to identify the details of the land surface that we believe formed the marshy left flank of the defenders. Several channels were identified and a second phase of archaeology by the developers was also revealing as was the geological map of that area. However, it would be good to return to see if this area indeed provided a secure flank.

During this work, several extensive areas of staining due to charcoal were revealed. It is hoped that it will be possible one day to return to explore these properly and take samples for carbon dating. However, they lie above a layer of peat which predates the battle by two centuries and no model exists to estimate the relevance of their depth (around 1m). They are interesting for several reasons.

1.      They are near the places where evidence of metal working has been found

2.      Little is known about the way bodies were disposed and cremation cannot be ruled out. The charcoal stains are near the centre of the action.

3.      The site of two extensive modern pyres was investigated for comparison and no similar pattern of staining was detected. The material had been dispersed into the environment. The implication is that these might have been covered, as would happen if charcoal was being prepared.

It would be nice to have been able to conclude this investigation but requests for access were refused.

The third task was a transect across the Ings. This was done to confirm the earlier work by Manchester University and to understand the ecology of the Ings and the historic course of the Ouse. If, for example, the river had meandered it might have opened up other areas for investigation as battle sites. We now know that the 1066 Ings surface was over 2m below present. This very difficult work does much credit to those who often had to work in wet and cold because of the times of year allocated to us by the managers of the SSSI area, English Nature. The present course of the Ouse, south of York and as far as Bishopthorpe, has not moved for several millennia. The deepest core was over 7 metres long, extracted using a power auger from Leeds University.

The Leeds team also took the deep cores near the A19 crossing which was trying to explain the strange course of Germany Beck. 

This fourth area of investigation demonstrated that the course of the beck was changed when the two bridges over Germany Beck were constructed. The modern bridge over the A19 spans the channel cut by the water of Germany Beck at right-angles. The probable course of the channel, and the way it has migrated since the last ice age, can be confidently described. What made this particularly exciting is that the revised location makes sense of three comments in the description of the battle by Snoori.

·         ‘The banner of earl Morcar advanced bravely’ as one would expect for a force attacking downhill.

·         Morcar’s advance would have prevented him from observing the counter attack along the river bank which might account for why he was reported as responding slowly to the threat.

·         The rather gruesome claim that the attackers could walk dry-shod to the city is consistent with the very hard boulder clay at the fording place that was probably covered with a thin layer of alluvial material and vegetation.

The fifth, and final soil survey project, was designed to locate the old road running south of York. Roads were thought by the experts to be very important to locating the battle. This has already involved drilling about 50 cores. This work has uncovered much evidence but it is not easy to interpret. There appears to have been a good deal of sub-surface activity as the crossing has migrated east perhaps as the level of the Ings has risen with annual flooding. It would certainly explain the dog-leg in the shape of the modern A19 where it crosses the beck. This would have been a good crossing point with the alluvial deposits pushing the ford steadily east.  So our work suggests that crossing point was moving with a ford linking the two sections of the morraine separated by the drain we know as Germany Beck.

A further, tentative conclusion is that the beck formed a delta as it flowed towards the Ouse. The present route of the beck, which flows north, counter to the nearby river Ouse makes sense when the land a few metres below the present surface is understood.

The conclusion from all of this soil-survey work is that we can be confident in interpreting the shape of the 1066 landscape.

·         Across the Ings, the beck created a marshy delta as it flowed to the river Ouse.

·         Along the edge of the river, a firm walkway or levee created the Ings which were wetter in 1066. The ings were probably drained by the digging of channels to create pasture when the settlement of Fulford was built after 1066. Water Fulford, south of the fording place, would not be an occupied settlement until about a century after the battle (Confirmed by pottery finds).

·         The defender’s shieldwall along the line of Germany Beck from the place on their left, where there is the first major fork. (This roughly where the area we have been calling the sink begins). To the right where the moraine dipped below the Ings would have provide the defenders with a straight line about 300 metres long. This is consistent with a force of between 3 and 7 thousand warriors. 

·         Offset right of centre relative to the defender’s shieldwall was the area of the ford. This is the only area where the landscape of Germany Beck has been substantially altered. The beck used to loop through what is now the Fulford Parish Council play area which has been illegally filled burying the natural amphitheatre where earl Morcar’s men were trapped about 2 metres below the modern surface. 

We hope to use suitable software soon to visualize the 1066 landscape using the data from the core samples, coupled with the survey work. The landscape revealed during 4 seasons work is consistent with the literature and makes military sense for a battle of that time. The exciting point is just how little the landscape has changed since 1066 and how the sub-surface discoveries enhanced our understanding of the literature.

Landscape archaeology

The story of why the Germany Beck area was selected as the focus of our work was told earlier. Through the early years of the investigation the assessment was continued, using air photography, ancient mapping, written records which were studied. With much guidance from Keith Challis, then working with York Archaeological Trust, the area south of the city was assessed.

The conclusions again pointed back to Germany Beck as a suitable place to block any attack from the south. Just as important, a study of the maps provide no other suitable locations for the battle closer to the city.

There are many tempting pointers, and some fragments of archaeology, indicating the possible route of a road going towards the beck from the city. The location for the nearest community to the beck was probably based along St Oswald’s Road, a kilometre north of the beck. Battles of the time avoided built-up areas which is consistent with this location for the settlement which we might call ‘Old Fulford’ but which is called Sutton on one old map. The construction of the present village of Fulford in the century after the Conquest is consistent with the name similar to Fulford first being associated with the battle in the century after the event. This well described the muddy crossing place. It might have been some time before the ground was firm enough or rich enough to afford a bridge.

Early maps also helped to show that key features around Fulford have not moved. This is confirmed by the local geology which explains the reason for the wet-lands to the east and Ings to the west of the Fulford glacial moraine deposited 15,000 years ago. The two moraines, the ‘Escick’ and the ‘York’ moraines, meet at Fulford. The breach provides a drain for the Walmgate, Heslington and Fulford wet-lands.

The landscape south of York is sandwiched between these two glacial retaining walls which has created a marshy area, now centred around the main campus of York University. The construction there is a creation of post-war hydrological technology. The many ponds and canals around the campus were built to cope with the geology of the last ice age.

So, the location of the battle at Germany Beck fits well with the literature, the maps while other work shows that the layout of this landscape has been remarkable stable. Almost as important, the geology precludes other possible sites that can feasibly be associated with the battle in 1066.

Metal detecting

The working hypothesis before the work at Fulford was undertaken was that no complete weapons would be found since no other battlefield had revealed any such finds. However, the exercise was deemed worth undertaking because the battle was fought by men clad in iron using iron weapons. So it was not unreasonable to expect there to be some increased trace of ferrous material on the battlefield.

Iron material is not normally collected by detectorists who can set their detectors to discriminate against ferrous material but the small army of volunteers from the York metal Detectorists Club agreed to do so for the purposes of our research. They contributed thousands of hours to the project over four seasons.

The hope is to carry out analysis by quantity, mass and find-density over the whole area. The preliminary findings from this work-in-progress plus an explanation of the methodolgy was presented to a gathering of archaeologists at the British Museum in April 2005. Meaningful analysis requires a study of the whole site and so far, several opportunities to gather this have been blocked by the developers. We are concurrently working with experts to see if this analysis will identify areas where there is more iron. Using advanced computing it might prove possible to identify ‘hot spots’.

The key ferrous finds among the thousands of items collected provide evidence of metal working on the site. You may recall that I said other sites of this era had not yielded any ‘military’ artifacts. We might now be able to explain this and possibly change the way medieval battle sites are investigated in the future. Here I must declare that this is my speculation as we have not been allowed to pursue this line of research although a specific and limited request to do so was made. Fulford provides, for the first time, compelling evidence that metal working was carried out near the heart of the action. A smithing hearth bottom was found adjacent to the charcoal stains mentioned earlier. The hearth bottom was probably only used once or twice.

A call to the community of battlefield archaeologists has yielded two other sites with metal working finds on the battlefield. In Sweden one archaeologist has even suggested, based on unreported finds in Scandinavia, that there might have been some sort of metal offering after a battle.

However, the recovery of  many billets from an area that was formerly swampy, among which were two metal working tools, invites us to speculate that the owner intended to return to recover this heavy haul. The finds are of iron that has been hammered into a billet which are suitably shaped to be forged into weapons. Several are clearly axe-shaped. If these are contemporary with the battle, the destruction of the victors of Fulford at Stamford Bridge, five days later is one explanation why the hoard was not recovered by its owner.  All this remains an interesting speculation for now.

Even if these finds are not contemporary with the battle, an explanation needs to be found for why a short-term forge was established in the countryside when there was natural supply of iron and no building project nearby requiring the services of a blacksmith.

This is a very exciting discovery and it is frustrating not to have been able to complete the investigation because we were denied access to the land. If these do turn out to be contemporary or near contemporary with the battle of 1066, the impact on battlefield archaeology will be profound. It will, for example, explain why no significant metal finds occur on battlefields of this era. The metal was collected and recycled. This would vindicate our working hypothesis that we would be unlikely to find military artifacts on the site and our decision to investigate the small fragments that might have escaped the salvage teams. There is much more to be written about the ferrous finds but, for the moment, it will have to wait.

Our work so far has defined a landscape that is consistent with the battlesite which makes sense form the military and literary standpoint.


The nature of archaeological investigation on battlefields is new and the approach adopted at Fulford is pioneering. It is exiting to be engaged ‘at the cutting edge’ but from the point of view of saving the battlesite it is frustrating that the current review of battlefield archaeology by English Heritage based at Leeds university, is only just starting. A decade from now the techniques to identify ancient battlesites will probably be available. Our hope is that these will come in time.

 The city archaeologist points out that ‘there is no accepted methodology for evaluating 11th century battlefield sites.’  But goes on to say ‘it is reasonable to suppose that standard archaeological approaches would have produced some evidence’.  The work undertaken by MAP appears to make the same assumption. But recognised sites such as Hastings and Stamford Bridge have failed to yield conventional archaeological material so this assumption is unsound. Consequently the analysis about the battlefield that follows this assumption is undermined. Conventional archaeology does not work. Guided by the experts we have attempted a new approach.

In order to alert the developers and the city to the emerging techniques for investigating battlefields, the only full-time battlefield archaeologist in England, Glenn Foard was asked to assess the work undertaken by the developers. It was highly critical both in terms of the conventional archaeology and provided a methodology to investigate the site.

It would create the wrong to leave the impression that the archaeological work that has been carried out on the site has not been excellent and informative. It is just not relevant.

So to answer the question posed at the beginning ‘Has the relevant work been done to discover if this is the site?’, the answer is that the work done by the developers contributes very little while our work which lies just outside the development area has contributed to our understanding of the location and scope of the battle.

List of activities we would like to see done

Moving onto the third question ‘Should we preserve this piece of heritage’

Four letters have been submitted to the inspectorate. They come for some experts on the subject of battlefields who have all produced popular television series on the subject of battlefields. Richard Holmes – Writer and presenter of the ‘Battlefield Walks’ series. Tony Pollard – One of the ‘Two Men in the Trench’ who has just established the UK’s first graduate course for battlefield archaeology. and Dan Snow – Whose ‘Battlefield Britain’ series demonstrate the popular appetite to understand our heritage.  Tim Sutherland – Archaeological advisor on ‘Battlefield Detective’ and the lead investigator at Towton.

They all want to see the site investigated and interpreted for the benefit of the public.

 Battlefields are important cultural and heritage artefacts that are beginning to receive the attention they deserve.

For example, Dr John Carman, University Research Fellow in Heritage Value at The Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, University of Birmingham has been leading the academic debate about battlefields as cultural artifacts highlights the problems associated with preserving battlefields. He has written: “The category of ‘historic battlefield’ is a new category that has emerged from the shadows of archaeology over the last twenty years or so. As an object of specifically archaeological concern it is an interesting and problematic category, although this is not often acknowledged by battlefield archaeologists.”

After criticizing the way that military and social historians have dominated the choice of sites that are seemed to be important Dr Carmen concludes: “Instead we should be examining not the spectacular, the decisive and the memorable but precisely those ‘strategically piffling, pointless bloodbaths’ that Keegan refers to; these are the more usual and representative battles of any historical period.” The old view of ‘celebrity battles’ is being reassessed. When that process is complete, the relevance of Fulford to the events of the autumn of 1066 can expect to be appreciated.

There has also been much debate over the last 5 years that I am aware of and have contributed to about how to afford protection to battlefields and the various consultative process leading towards a new legal framework has been completed. The responsible government department say when I phoned them recently that the ‘White paper’ will be published ‘in the late summer’ but added the word probably. There is every indication that the site at Fulford will be afforded protection when the new act becomes law.

English Heritage has launched a project to define a methodology to investigate battlefields which should make life much easier for the planners of the future.

Fulford has the misfortune to be under threat at the very time when the importance of preserving these pieces of our heritage is being recognized as the letters from the TV presenters illustrates.

So the answer to the third question I posed was that the site is indeed important and worth preserving.

Potential of the site

This site has not been investigated by the developers or planning authorities to assess the economic, environmental or social potential of the site. The ODPM asks in D iv) if it makes ‘best use of land,’. In the guidance issued for the historic environment its economic value of clearly set out:

“Conservation and economic prosperity

“1.4 Though choices sometimes have to be made, conservation and sustainable economic growth are complementary objectives and should not generally be seen as in opposition to one another. Most historic buildings can still be put to good economic use in, for example, commercial or residential occupation. They are a valuable material resource and can contribute to the prosperity of the economy, provided that they are properly maintained: the avoidable loss of fabric through neglect is a waste of economic as well as environmental resources. In return, economic prosperity can secure the continued vitality of conservation areas, and the continued use and maintenance of historic buildings, provided that there is a sufficiently realistic and imaginative approach to their alteration and change of use, to reflect the needs of a rapidly changing world.

“1.5 Conservation can itself play a key part in promoting economic prosperity by ensuring that an area offers attractive living and working conditions which will encourage inward investment - environmental quality is increasingly a key factor in many commercial decisions. The historic environment is of particular importance for tourism and leisure, and Government policy encourages the growth and development of tourism in response to the market so long as this is compatible with proper long-term conservation. Further advice on tourist aspects of conservation is given in PPG 21 and the English Tourist Board's publication Maintaining the Balance.”(PPG15)

The officers failed to make such an assessment even though they were invited to do so. For a city where heritage plays such an important part in its prosperity, it is difficult to explain this calculated omission with the planning guidance clearly expects should be undertaken. There is no formula to compare the benefit to the community that the extra visitors to the developed battlesite might bring, compared with the benefit of housing for the residents. A city needs both and a judgment has to be made. However, that judgment must be based on some information. It is the failure to seek this information that is criticized here.

When effective presentation has been achieved, as is the case at Bosworth, Hastings and Culloden, over 100,000 visitors per year help to ensure the preservation of these important sites. At the latter site a successful attempt has been made to remove some of the unsightly and unhistorical modern features from the battlefield through the removal of trees and the re-direction of a road. If one looks abroad one can see that the value of such sites is more fully appreciated through the existence of protective laws, as is the case at Waterloo, protected since 1914, and in the U.S.A. where the National Parks Authority cares for many battlefields.


1.2.   Other battle sites attract substantial visitor numbers and Fulford is already served with car parking, public transport link and substantial public access.

1.3.   The bio-diversity of this site is impressive as anybody who has walked the area for many years can confirm. The land that forms part of this development links the ancient grazing land of Heslington Common to the network of waterways to the SSSI of the Ings and then to the river Ouse. This is a circumferential wedge offering a circular path to and from the city.

There are some other specific issues before I conclude:

ODPM asks in the call-in letter if ‘in situ’ preservation is appropriate to this site.

A conference was convened last year by English Heritage to reassess the general presumption that the favoured option of preserving sites beneath buildings.

While this is a sensible compromise in many cases, it is now clear that this does not preserve all types of archaeology which is leading to a review of this policy.

It is utterly inappropriate for a battlefield. Indeed is hard to see that burying the landscape below meters of hardcore, capped with tarmac can seriously be interpreted as ‘in situ’ preservation as the term is generally understood.

The landscape surface is the battlefield. Burying it beneath a road is not preservation in any sensible interpretation of the word.

Burden of ‘proof’ seems also to have been subtly shifted to those opposing change.

It is clear from every other aspect of the planning system that it is the proposer who is obliged to undertake an exhaustive programme to assess the impacts of their change before any decision is made.

There is extensive precedent where those who propose to disturb the status quo must shoulder the burden of investigation and demonstrate that their proposal will not do harm.

We would argue very strongly that the developers must resume this burden and answer the many questions posed. It is not enough to say that there is not enough evidence when we have been proposing to undertake relevant investigations.

Nature of the proof called for needs be explored to forestall claims by the proposers of the development that the location has not been ‘proved’.

Scientific proof requires some absolute, testable and reproducible evidence. This is absolute standard but nobody is suggesting that a battle should be restaged and the effects observed over a millennium. Modern science is forced by its high level of proof to operate with the theories of evolution, relativity and quantum mechanics. In this case the fact that a theory is unproved does not mean that it is wrong or that the scientists are uncertain about their theories. So it is acceptable to operate below the level of absolute proof in science.

The ‘criminal’ model of proof requires that a case is established beyond reasonable doubt. This still sets a challenge for the side that has to do the proving and it was argued that that burden must be bourn by the proposer of any development. 

The rule for civil cases rests on the balance of probability and this is a sensible test of ‘proof’ for archaeological sites.

All that remains is to find an appropriate forum to ‘try’ the evidence of the battlefield. The closed system adopted by the developers and planning authorities is not suitable as they are not impartial. The system must be opened up to ‘peer review’. As will be shown later, when this is done, the ‘trial of the evidence’ turns out to be flawed and their verdict is unreliable. 

Battlefield Register

The importance of the site is acknowledged by EH to COYC 5/04 ‘The battlefield of Fulford was clearly of sufficient political and historical significance to merit inclusion of the Register.’

Much is made of the battlefield register so let me say a few words about it.

But points out that the evidence so far available to them does not allow it to be ‘securely mapped’ adding that the degree of proof required for the old Register is high. It is relevant that the original Battlefield Register was compiled on the basis of existing data and no work has ever been commissioned to investigate the existing or new battlefields and the system is soon to be replaced by a new form of registration.



The impact of the proposed development on the Battlefield



The universal acceptance, plus the results of the investigations leave little room for doubt that Germany Beck is the place of the battle. It is certainly impossible to allow the planned road to be built until a the investigative work, that has been blocked by the developers, is completed and any fragile evidence destroyed.


ODPM asks in the call-in letter about PPG 16 and the ‘adequacy of any assessment’  as well as ‘options for minimising and avoiding damage.’

The work carried out by the group has gone well beyond raising reasonable suspicion is established, any proposal must mitigate against disrupting this important environment at Fulford. This is how the relevant Planning Guidance summarises the importance of archaeology: It is worth quoting in full as it is unambiguous about the value of heritage and the need to avoid its ‘needless and thoughtless’ destruction:

A: The Importance Of Archaeology

“3. Archaeological remains are irreplaceable. They are evidence - for prehistoric periods, the only evidence - of the past development of our civilization.

 “6. Archaeological remains should be seen as a finite and non-renewable resource, in many cases highly fragile and vulnerable to damage and destruction. Appropriate management is therefore essential to ensure that they survive in good condition. In particular, care must be taken to ensure that archaeological remains are not needlessly or thoughtlessly destroyed.  They can contain irreplaceable information about our past and the potential for an increase in future knowledge. They are part of our sense of national identity and are valuable both for their own sake and for their role in education, leisure and tourism.

“8. With the many demands of modern society, it is not always feasible to save all archaeological remains. The key question is where and how to strike the right balance. Where nationally important archaeological remains, whether scheduled or not, and their settings, are affected by proposed development there should be a presumption in favour of their physical preservation….”

Finally, I would like to rebut much of what is said in the MAP proof of evidence. Since this is almost entirely about the battlesite, I’m afraid it will take a little time but I hope that it can save some time by simply referring back to point I have made earlier.

Evidence presented to the public inquiry:

  1. Summary

  2. Archaeology

  3. Precautionary principle

  4. The ecology

  5. Supervisory failures and defects in the work done

  6. The potential of the area

  7. The impacts that will flow and what the rules say

  8. The exclusion of the community and their rights and role in the planning process

  9. Script for the presentation

  10. Closing statement (with call in letter for reference)

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The author of the content is Charles Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com   Last updated April 2015

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