Chairman’s newsletter

September 2018

The Society’s AGM will be held on Friday October 5th; 7.30 for 8.00 start in the barn at the Berkeley Arms.

AGMs might not be the most popular of events but they’re important in setting direction, getting your point across and setting future direction. It would be wonderful to see more people than the committee. Why not come along, find out about the last year and have your say in the next?

A key part of the meeting is, of course, electing officers. Nominations would be welcome.

Due to Linda Keen-Price deciding to step down, we will have a vacancy for a membership secretary. Linda has quietly and efficiently looked after membership things for many years. If you fancy stepping into her shoes, you’d be picking up a well organised set of files, and a well tried system.

Volunteers to help with some of the other aspects of the Society’s work would also be welcome. A new editor for ‘A Bit of a Slap’, who could get the magazine out on time for instance?

 

Aldi carpark

At the planning committee meeting on 30 August, the application to extend Aldi’s carpark into an undeveloped area of the battlefield was passed unanimously. There was no requirement at all to undertake any archaeological investigation, or even a watching brief.

Historic England washed their hands of the matter when consulted, saying that they felt that it was a County matter to respond to. The County Archaeologist’s reply said “As regards the archaeological implications of development, I advise that in 2011 the proposed site of Aldi Stores was the subject of an archaeological field evaluation. The result of that investigation was negative in that no significant archaeological remains were observed. On that basis it is my view that the current application site is unlikely to contain any significant archaeological remains. I therefore recommend that no archaeological investigation or recording need be undertaken in connection with this scheme”.

At best, this shows a complete lack of local knowledge and, unfortunately, research in the area. The Aldi store was built on the site of an existing car salesroom, vehicle workshop and petrol station, with large concrete bases sunk into the ground and underground fuel pumps. Not a promising site for archaeology.

The carpark extension is onto a patch of land which has had nothing done to it since it stopped being part of a field in the mid-seventies beyond having trees planted on it.

Whilst the County Archaeologist’s report is clearly full of errors of fact, it is also a pity that the Borough planning officers seem to have made no attempt to reconcile the detailed submissions from the Battlefields Trust and the Society setting out the history of the site with the County’s opinion. This was effectively dismissed in the report to the planning committee, by saying that in response to our comments Historic England was consulted but did not wish to comment.

There are lots of questions being begged here.

Of course, the likelihood is that little or nothing of significance to the battle would be found, but there is no certainty. How many of us expected the remains of a king to be found when a Leicester carpark was excavated?

 

Bosworth

There are problems at Bosworth at the moment which leads one to wonder if there’s a problem with the status of battlefields at Historic England. Rather than paraphrase, here is a recent email from the Battlefields Trust:

As many of you will be aware on 28 August the planning committee of Hinckley and Bosworth Council decided to defer the decision on MIRA’s Bosworth battlefield planning application until the next committee meeting on 25 September.  This application is for the construction of a Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) testing track, a control tower and storage building, ground works, landscaping and associated infrastructure on part of the internationally important registered battlefield at Bosworth and surrounding fields.

The Trust’s fundamental argument is that the area of proposed development is of key significance to the battle.  It is the place where Henry Tudor almost certainly first saw Richard III’s army and to give visitors a sense of this it is vital to preserve this part of the registered area and the wider battlefield surrounding it.  If this area is lost then it will not be possible to present the battlefield in this way. Given this, the Trust argues that the battlefield area should be extended to the west to cover the wider area of interest defined by the 2013 conservation management plan agreed by Leicestershire County Council. We also judge that better presentation of the battlefield, including at the location of the proposed development, could increase local economic benefits without altering the rural character of the area

We have written to the Council indicating a willingness to discuss solutions with interested parties which do not breach our red lines.  We have asked to accompany the planning committee when it visits the development site so we can explain the importance of the location.  The council is considering this offer and request.

We have separately taken legal advice on future options in the event that the planning committee decides to allow the development in September and are considering this.

It is important that Battlefields Trust members and those of our partner organisations continue to voice their disapproval for this planning application.  If you haven’t already signed the petition against the application at link below, could you please do so.

https://www.change.org/p/planning-hinckley-bosworth-gov-uk-stop-building-a-high-test-track-on-bosworth-battlefield

We continue to urge anyone who objects to this proposed development to voice their objection by writing with their name and address and using planning application reference 18/00425/FUL to planning@hinckley-bosworth.gov.uk

It would also be helpful if you could write to your local MP about this issue and you may wish to use the Trust’s core argument above in your letter.  MPs are also pleased to meet the constituents at their constituency surgeries if you wish to present your concerns about the potential loss of such an iconic national asset.

 

Battlefields at Westminster

Prompted by the Bosworth issue, Chris Skidmore MP for Kingswood, Bristol since 2010, recently led a debate in Westminster Hall on the subject of protecting historic battlefields with particular reference to the current issue at Bosworth.

The full debate may be found on Parliament TV:

https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/1fd46546-70ef-4e6d-9c8e-b6678623cfd2?in=16:30:00&out=17:30:00

He makes a number of important points about registered battlefields and changes which have been made since the creation of Historic England. There’s a lot of it, but it is worth listening to, especially in the context of what has happened with the Aldi car park.

Battlefield preservation seems to be slipping down the list of priorities in the present political chaos.

 

Banners

Summer is over and banners have to come down, unfortunately.  The date fixed is Sunday September 23rd. The team will meet at Elizabeth Wyatt House at 10.00am to be allocated duties. People who can climb ladders are welcome as are those who can roll up banners and transport them back to base.

The winter work of renovation starts on Monday 1st October in the afternoon at Elizabeth Wyatt. Tea and biscuits provided. There’s no need to book; just turn up.

This year has been comparatively kind to the banners and we haven’t had many running repairs to do. There are, though, a few banners now which definitely need work on them, but most are confined to failures of poles and of the adhesive holding the banners in place.

They’ve attracted a great deal of positive attention, which I can confidently report from having many discussions with visitors to the town when sitting at the Museum’s reception desk that banners are a unique (almost) and popular feature of the townscape.

 

Battlefield Guided Walks

Richard has been counting the people who have come on our ‘public’ walks in the last twelve months. One walk was cancelled because of the snow. On one occasion there were no takers. On the fourteen walks which went ahead there were 135 participants. In addition, 140 people came along to the hourly walks which we arranged through the Medieval Festival weekend.

The anniversary walk was a particular success, attracting eighteen people on what was a perfect day for a walk.

 

Robert Hardy Portrait

The search for a home for the portrait of Robert Hardy which was painted by Carol McIndoe has been found a home. It will be hung in the Tudor House Hotel. This is a very appropriate location, as it was his place of choice when he stayed in Tewkesbury. We have many memories of evenings in the bar of the Tudor. In due course, there will be an ‘official’ unveiling.