Objectors fight to save site of Yorkist victory: An historic battlefield is under threat from gravel extraction. Oliver Gillie reports

THE LANCASTRIAN forces formed up behind a hedge on the top of a ridge overlooking Blore Heath, near Market Drayton in Staffordshire, where they could see the smaller Yorkist force across the valley. This same hedge, probably more than 1,000 years old, and other important landmarks of the bloody battle in 1459 will be destroyed if gravel extractors have their way.

Will Swynnerton, who has campaigned for the preservation of the site, climbed into a tree above the ancient elm hedge to point out the route taken by the Yorkist army as it feinted a retreat.

The inexperienced Lancastrian soldiers did not know there was a narrow gulley at the bottom of the valley as they pursued.

'As the Lancastrians clambered up the steep side of the gulley they were at the mercy of the Yorkists,' Mr Swynnerton said.

'The Yorkists had field artillery. It is believed to be the first time artillery was used in a large set piece battle in Britain. They fired stone cannon balls and grape shot which was probably the same gravel that the extractors are now selling for motorway construction. The ancient hedge is actually mentioned by the Burgundian chronicler, Jehan de Waurin, in a contemporary account. We are very fortunate that the medieval landscape has been preserved and we can see the exact positions of the forces.

'The medieval road to Market Drayton ran along the valley side of this hedge. Although there is no road here now, its position can be identified because the surface of the field on the valley side of the hedge is three feet lower than on the other side. And on the other side of the valley the exact spot is marked where Lord Audley, the 60-year-old leader of the Lancastrian forces, was cut down and killed.'

Mr Swynnerton, an antique car dealer, and his father, Brian, a school chaplin and parish councillor, are leading the campaign against gravel extraction at the site. An established gravel quarry at Almington, run by ARC Ltd, a subsidiary of Hanson plc, wants to extend so that it can extract material from the hill beneath the Lancastrian lines, drastically changing the topography and lowering the level of the ground by up to 40ft (12m).

Objectors oppose the extension because, apart from the destruction of local history, lorries from the quarry cause a major problem on the small country roads, the gravel tip is an eyesore, and the digging has diverted underground water so that springs and wells have dried up. They believe that the gravel is obtained at the expense of environmental devastation and is so cheap that much of it is being wasted as in- fill. A public inquiry into the future of the battlefield finished in March and its report is in preparation.

The Battlefield Trust, dedicated to the preservation of battlefields, is meeting at York University tomorrow to plan its campaign. Battlefields are not listed like old buildings and at present special pleading must be made for the preservation of each one. The trust has now persuaded English Heritage to register the battlefields of England and Wales and so far the list extends to some 42 sites.

The trust hopes to prevent the sort of destruction which occurred at the site of the battle of Naseby (1645), near Rugby, where a link between the M1 and A1, now nearing completion, passes across the centre of the Civil War site. Argument lasted for 20 years while objectors took the county council through two public inquiries, five court cases and two appeals to the European Environmental Commission.

Sir Charles Rowley, who lives nearby in Naseby Hall, said: 'It was all fruitless but we hope other battlefields may be preserved. The irony of it all is that the county council has now officially moved the site of the battlefield to a place one mile north of its true position.'

Leading article, page 19

(Photograph and map omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Managing Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Recruitment Genius: Advertisement Sales Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A publishing company based in F...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Affiliates & Partnerships

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This multi-award winning foreig...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Structural Engineer ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor