The Battlefield

The general character and location of the action is well known and is not open to dispute. The mapping of the deployments and attacks presented here is broadly based on Adair's interpretation, with some modifications relating to our cursory analysis of the earlier character of the terrain. However what is missing at Lansdown is an effective understanding of the fine detail of the terrain as it was in 1643, to be able to place some of the events accurately within the landscape and to fully understand them.

It would appear from the accounts of the battle that the hilltops and plateau were where the open fields tended to remain in 1643, while the slopes and lower ground seem mainly to have been enclosed. Where field boundaries did exist on the plateau and on the upper slopes they were typically stone walls, not surprising as limestone geology lies beneath the whole of the plateau and hilltops of Lansdown, Freezing and Tog Hills. The lower slopes and valleys are almost all on clay, and here the anciently enclosed fields were enclosed with hedges, in a few places set atop high banks. In several locations the upper slopes of Lansdown Hill were wooded and, although it is unclear exactly how extensive the woodland was, apart perhaps from much of Beach Wood, its distribution may have changed somewhat since 1643. In part this is because on the east side of the main road there is the landscape park of Battlefields House, laid out in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is clear that the road pattern itself has also been altered, particularly where the roads ascend Lansdown Hill and possibly also Freezing Hill. There is also good evidence to show that the pattern of hedged fields has seen significant change.

Hence although we can all see very clearly the effects that the natural topography, the steep scarps and areas of plateau, had on the action, it is far from clear exactly how the enclosed fields, roads and other aspects of the man made terrain influenced the action. The first phase of the action, in particular the fighting on Tog & Freezing Hills, will only be understood when we have a detailed reconstruction of what was open and what was enclosed land in 1643. Yet even on Lansdown Hill itself the pattern of walls of 1643, the exact extent of woodland and the character and extent of the quarry pits, which provided royalist musketeers with some cover to advance on Waller’s final position, remain uncertain.


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