Cannonball from Wars of the Roses battle discovered

A lead ball, believed to be the oldest cannonball ever found in England, has been discovered on the site of the Battle of Northampton.

Battle of Northampton cannonball  - photo courtesy  The Battlefields Trust

The cannonball, which is about 60 mm in diameter, was discovered several years ago on a section of the battlefield known as Eagle Drive. The Battle of Northampton was fought on July 10, 1460, and ended with the Yorkist forces led by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, defeating the Lancastrians and capturing King Henry VI.

The ball was found several years ago by the late Stuart Allwork, but had been believed lost until last year. Since its rediscovery the cannon ball has been subjected to detailed analysis by Dr Glenn Foard from Huddersfield University, the Trust’s archaeological advisor and one of the UK’s leading experts on medieval artillery and battlefield archaeology. Dr Foard also led the team that found the true site of the Battle of Bosworth. A programme of research and scientific testing of the ball is ongoing, Dr Foard has concluded that “It is highly likely that the projectile was fired during the battle in 1460”.

The find shows that the whole area in which the cannon ball was found is of high archaeological importance. The Northampton Battlefield Society notes that “the Eagle Drive Cannon Ball itself has suffered massive impact damage from at least two bounces, and one gouge still contains small fragments of Northampton Sand and Ironstone. A testimony to the immense forces in play as the shot ricocheted across the battlefield.”

Mike Ingram, Medieval Historian, Author and Chair of Northampton Battlefield Society added, “This is a find of national significance and confirms the battle as one of the earliest in England where cannons can be shown to have been used. It also shows that the Eagle Drive area of the registered battlefield is crucial to the understanding of the whole site.”

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