Battling into the Record Books

It’s easy to think that the ‘record’ locations in each of our counties relate just to the natural landscape – the highest place, the longest river or the tallest tree, for example. But there are of course many record locations that relate to the history of our locality, each of which tells part of the story of the communities and lives of our county ancestors – from the oldest buildings to the ancient churches, monasteries and castles, from prehistoric times to the modern day.

Most of us know the dates and names of some of the great battles of British history, and of course every one of those fought in the UK has a location and a battlefield site, whether it be the Battle of Culloden, fought near Inverness in April 1746, which was the last battle fought on British soil, or the Battle of Hastings, fought in 1066 at what is now Battle in East Sussex. Most counties have their own oldest battlefield, whether dating to a major pitched battle or a local skirmish – so what are the oldest battlefields in your own county?

Some of the oldest recorded battles in Britain took place in locations that historians haven’t quite identified. The Battle of Mons Graupius took place in AD83 or 84 between the Romans and the Caledonian army (the Romans won!) somewhere in the Mounth area of Aberdeenshire, but nobody quite knows where, even though it was a huge battle and is well recorded in the Roman histories.

The oldest known battlefields are more recent. The Battle of Heavenfield took place in AD633 between the Northumbrian army and the Welsh army (the Northumbrians won!) on a battlefield 6km north of Hexham in Northumberland, right next to Hadrians Wall, at a site you can visit (Grid Reference NY93576954) on the B6318 road east of the village of Chollerfold. Much further south, the Battle of Maldon was fought between the Viking invaders and the Anglo-Saxons on 11th August 991AD (the Vikings won!). The site, just south of Maldon in Essex, is the marshy land on the south bank of the River Blackwater, near to what is now South House Farm, opposite Northey Island where the Vikings were camped (Grid Reference TL86720553).

Somerset, in south west England, is a county where some of the historic battlefields are of great importance in the county’s own history and also of national importance. Two important battles from the Anglo Saxon era are believed to have taken place in Somerset, although their precise location is not known. The Battle of Peonnum took place in AD660 between the West Saxons and the local Britons, with the battlefield believed to be either at Penselwood near Wincanton  or at Penn near Yeovil. In AD 878 the Battle of Cynwith between the West Saxons and the Vikings has been interpreted by historians as taking place at Cannington Hill in Somerset, but no clear site has been identified (and it may have been at Countisbury in Dorset).

The oldest known battlefield site in the county is much more recent and dates from the 5th July 1643. The Battle of Lansdowne was fought as part of the English Civil War 8km north of Bath (the Royalists won!), and is commemorated at the site just south of the helpfully named village of Battlefield (Grid Reference ST72307020).

Probably of greater importance, though, is the site of the Battle of Sedgemoor, at Weston Zoyland near Bridgwater. The battle on 6th July 1685 was the last pitched battle ever recorded in England, and was fought between the troops of James II and the supporters of the Duke of Monmouth in the so-called Monmouth Rebellion (the King’s troops won!). The site is well marked on local maps and has several interpretation boards (Grid Reference ST35103560).

Visiting the sites and understanding the lie of the land is possible for both the Battle of Lansdowne and the Battle of Sedgemoor from the maps and descriptions at www.battlefieldsofbritain.co.uk  or at the Battlefields Trust website (www.battlefieldstrust.com ). These sites can be used to identify the ‘record’ battlefields in your own county, too.

And Finally….!

The Must Get Out More Question !

Where and when did the last invasion of Britain by a hostile foreign force take place?

The Answer to the Last Question

Where is the longest section of straight road in the UK?

The longest section of straight road in the UK is part of the A15 in Lincolnshire. This section runs 22.71km (14.11 miles) from Scawby, just south of the junction with the M180 (Junction 4), south east of Scunthorpe, to Brattleby, 7km north of Lincoln. The A15 here follows the line of the Roman road Ermine Street that ran from London to Lincoln and on to York

(Grid Reference SE95700532 to SK97108266)

The Record Locations

You can use the Grid References provided to locate record locations on a map at www.streetmap.co.uk

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