The Big Dig: Discovering Bosworth
By Glenn Foard
British Archaeology, Issue 112 (2010)
Introduction: On August 22 1485 the last English king of the House of York, Richard III, was killed on the battlefield of Redemore in Leicestershire, defending his throne against the pretender Henry Tudor. Within hours the crown, supposedly found in a thornbush, was placed upon Henry’s head and a new royal dynasty was born.
Despite being such an iconic moment in English history, the memory of it became obscured and the supposed site of the battle migrated across the landscape. In 1985 historian Colin Richmond pointed out – to widespread controversy – that Ambion Hill, said to be the battlefield since at least the later 18th century, seemed not to fit the original accounts. This set off a quarter century of dispute between historians, with alternative sites scattered across more than 6km between Market Bosworth and Atherstone.
When Leicestershire County Council were planning to revamp their Bosworth Battlefield Visitor Centre (opened in 1974 on Ambion Farm, which they had bought the year before, and have recently renamed Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre), they turned to archaeology to resolve the problem. In 2005 the Battlefields Trust was commissioned to undertake a study over three seasons, with £154,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. An interdisciplinary team was brought together, with historians, palaeo-environmentalists, a soil scientist and a placename scholar, working alongside archaeologists and a group of volunteers. We systematically applied each step of the evolving methodology of battlefield study.