LETTER:Our battlefields are our heritage

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The Independent Online
From Mr Michael Rayner

Sir: In response to David Rendel's article concerning the Newbury bypass (Another View, 7 July), I am keen to address his remarks about the insignificant nature of the destruction to the battlefield of the First Battle of Newbury (1843) from the new road, if built.

Mr Rendel appears to think that as parts of the battlefield have already been built over, there is no point in saving the rest of the site. But very few English battlefields exist in their original state at the time of the action. According to Mr Rendel's argument, there would be no point in preserving any of these sites. This is a terribly short-sighted and damaging view to take, as our battlefields provide us with an invaluable historical source that can be used to aid interpretation and understanding of a particular engagement.

In addition they provide excellent educational opportunities and, if presented sympathetically, a tourism resource. Moreover, these sites are the places where our history was decided and our ancestors fought and died. To think that such places of historic interest and importance can be built on or transected by roads, with no regard for their worth, is a disgrace. This country should take pride in its heritage, rather than exchange it for short-term gains and profit, especially when, as in the case of Newbury, other alternatives exist.

Only a month ago, English Heritage published the Battlefields Register, which includes the First Battle of Newbury. Sites were not included lightly, as it was realised that each battlefield's importance and boundaries would have to be absolutely clear, so that if the need arose they could be supported and argued in any public enquiry or court of law. Such a situation has now arrived at Newbury, and one can only hope that English Heritage will now add its voice to defend the site of the First Battle of Newbury from partial destruction.


Michael Rayner


The Battlefields Trust

Walkley, Sheffield

13 July