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Barnet: the ongoing archaeological search for Greater London’s only medieval battlefield

Barnet: the ongoing archaeological search for Greater London’s only medieval battlefield

By Bruce Watson

London Archaeologist, Volume 14, Number 5, 2015

Battle of Barnet, the Ghent Manuscript, Ghent University Library, MS236

Introduction: The Wars of Roses, the great dynastic 15th-century conflict between the houses of Lancaster and York, was marked by a series of bloody battles, one of which took place on the boundary of the London Borough of Barnet and Hertfordshire on the morning of the 14th April 1471, between half a mile to a mile (0.8– 1.6km) to the north of the town of Chipping or High Barnet.

The Lancastrian forces led by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, ‘the Kingmaker’ were blocking the northward advance of the Yorkist army led by Edward IV, who had marched out of London on the 13th April. Warwick’s forces had arrived first and were deployed in the open countryside to the north of the town.

During the 15th century the main road from London to St Albans ran northwards through the town and then, in the Hadley Green area, it forked left along Kitt’s End Road. The right fork, the Great North Road (now the A1000), was apparently just a drove road or trackway and did not become the main route way until the post-medieval period.


The solid geology of this area consists of Eocene London Clay, capped by superficial deposits of Pleistocene Stanmore gravels. The local topography consists of a broad ridge or watershed, which slopes gently upwards from south to north. The western slope of this watershed drains westwards into the River Colne, while the eastern incline drains into the catchment of the River Lea. Until 1777 this eastern incline was part of Enfield Chase. The earliest survey of the Chase in 1572 stated that its boundary in the Monken Hadley area was a hedge. In 1693 the Chase boundary was delineated here by a bank and parallel ditch. This area in the 15th century is believed to have been heathland or pasture, but by 1754 most of it (apart from the commons and the Chase) consisted of fields delineated by hedges.

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