Jocelyn Stevens re-runs the Battle of Tewkesbury

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The Independent Online
THE SPECTRE of executive homes spreading across the historic battlefields of England was raised yesterday as both English Heritage and battle re- enactment groups prepared to defend the field on which Edward IV routed the Lancastrians in 1471 at the Battle of Tewkesbury.

Standing on the Gaston Field where Queen Margaret readied her Yorkist army, Sir Jocelyn Stevens, chairman of the heritage quango, said a plan to build 51 houses on such an important historic site was "an absolute disgrace".

Opposition to the development proposal was first reported in The Independent last year, when the alarm was raised by battle re-enactment groups, notably the local Companions of the Black Bear. Now, with English Heritage heading a powerful coalition to protect the site, the issue will go before a public inquiry opening on 10 March in the Gloucestershire town.

Bryant Homes Mercia Ltd wants to build the houses on what remains of the heart of the battlefield. Tewkesbury council was caught in a dilemma as its local plan earmarks the area for housing.

Tewkesbury was a crushing defeat for the Lancastrians under Margaret of Anjou. The Yorkists' opening bombardment provoked an attack which was repulsed. Retreating across the rain-swollen meadow, so many of Margaret's soldiers were slaughtered by the Yorkists that another part of the battlefield is still known as the Bloody Meadow.

Gaston Field will be an important test for Register of Historic Fields, published by English Heritage in 1995. Although it has no statutory backing, the register stresses the importance of preserving sites such as Tewkesbury.

The Yorkists went on to rule England for 14 years. Queen Margaret was imprisoned and her husband, Henry VI, executed. But hopefully the public inquiry will not be as grisly as the battle. According to one chronicler, the retreating Duke of Somerset denounced another commander, Lord Wenlock, as a traitor, took up his axe and "strake y braynes out of his hedde".