Two men have discovered what are believed to be the earliest known fragments of battlefield handguns, which are thought to have been used at the Battle of Towton, fought in northern England in 1461. The find has been described as being of “genuine historical importance” and both men talk to presenter Jamie Coulson from BBC One’s Inside Out programme at 7.30pm on Monday 22 November.
Metal detectorist Simon Richardson and archaeologist Tim Sutherland found the fragments on the former battlefield of Towton near Tadcaster where 28,000 men are believed to have been killed more than 500 years ago during the Wars of the Roses.
Simon Richardson of Tadcaster said: “I had previously found a lead cannonball which is from a handgun or a very small mounted gun so I knew they had been used here but I never expected in a million years to find pieces of one.”
The fragments were taken for analysis to Oxfordshire where scientists confirmed they were from two handguns and probably the earliest cast gun fragments from Britain. Tim Sutherland from the University of York confirms in the programme that the fragments are “incredibly important”.
He said, “In terms of rarity, we don’t know of any other battlefield where these have turned up. In terms of the medieval period the find is – as far as I know – unique; and in terms of Towton battlefield, it is very, very important because we are looking at the cusp of the use of archery and the introduction of handguns. It is incredibly important. We still cannot believe we have actually found these.
“It is highly significant because before this period everyone was assuming that guns were just used as siege weapons to attack castles and to attack strongholds. The fact that these two fragments are on a medieval battlefield in the middle of nowhere – where there is nothing to be besieged – means that they are in use on a medieval battlefield in 1461. It is real data that we can put back into the research of medieval warfare.”