York Council gives go-ahead for homes to be built on most likely site of the Battle of Fulford
26 April 2013
Battlefields Trust members may have read in the press (see bit.ly/17kSMJx) about the decision by York City Council to allow the construction of around 600 houses on the probable site of the battle of Fulford (1066). Chas Jones from the Fulford Battlefield Society had applied to English Heritage to have the battle registered and the Trust was satisfied that the evidence in support of the application would be carefully assessed by English Heritage and its Battlefields Panel. In the event the application was refused on the grounds that the battle was not securely located.
Identifying the location of medieval battlefields is nortoriously difficult. The limited documentary evidence, dating from some 150 years after the battle, indicates that Fulford was fought south of York by the river Ouse in the vicinty of the town and near to a marsh. Whilst this is insufficient to locate the battle with absolute certainty, based on inherent historical military probability the Germany Beck location preferred by the Fulford Battlefield Society is its most likely site. Germany Beck cuts a morain ridge and a force advancing from Riccall, where the Norse army landed, would most likely have followed this route to York, making the Beck area, with the river to the west and marshy ground to the east, a good location for the Anglo-Saxon army to deploy a blocking force. Archaeological work commissioned by Chas Jones has also found evidence of metal working at the site that may or may not be associated with the battle and there have been suggestions that arrow heads have also been found.
This uncertainty led English Heritage to conclude the site's location was not sufficiently secure (one of the criteria for registration) to warrant inclusion in the Battlefields Register. The Trust understands English Heritage's reasons for coming to this decision in so far as the inclusion of unsecure sites on the register potentially raises questions about the credibility of other designations, increasing risks to battlefields generally.
However the Battlefields Trust understands English Heritage has been asked to look again at the evidence for the location of the battle and awaits its conclusions with interest. The Trust opposes the decision by York City Council to allow the construction of homes and judges that the decision should have been postponed until English Heritage has completed its deliberations and further analysis of the archaeology of the site had been completed given the importance of the battle.
As a pressure group, the Battlefields Trust's ability to prevent construction on the Fulford site is limited. The Trust intends to work with the Battle of Fulford Society to do what it can to allow time for further investigation of the Germany Beck site to be undertaken. In the meantime it will write to York City Council deploring the decision on these grounds and asking it to delay issuing its planning consent until English Heritage has completed the review of its non-registration decision. In addition the Trust is asking that the archaeological investigation and supervision required before and during development as part of the outline planning permission involves a professional battlefield archaeologist to ensure that the work is conducted to current best practice methods and the finds assessed by someone with expertise in this area . It encourages members of the Trust and like-minded individuals to do the same. Those wishing to do this should write to:
The leader of York City Council, Councillor James Alexander (firstname.lastname@example.org), copied to the Chief Executive, Ms Kersten England (email@example.com) via email or by post to either at York City Council, West Offices, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GA
Please click here for a copy of the letter sent to Councillor Alexander by the Battlefields Trust.
For an overview of the Battle of Fulford and its historical significance please click here
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