Historic battlefields all over the world are under threat. There is a constant stream of plans and applications from developers to nibble away at the edges of even our most famous military clashes. These are a few that I’ve seen since starting this blog, and the status of their fight against the developers.
|Culloden (1746, Scotland)||Lost||The end of Jacobite dreams came at Culloden when the 5,250-strong army of Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) met the 7,800 soldiers of the Government army (loyalists) under the command of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. In 60 minutes the Jacobites were routed and 2,000 of them killed.Less than 300 Government troops suffered the same fate.
In 2018, after a 2-year series of planning application appeals, property developers were granted permission to build 16 new homes on the edge of the famous battlefield site.
|Bosworth (1485, England)||Lost||The Battle of Bosworth was the deciding clash of the Wars of the Roses, when the resulting death of England’s last Plantagenet king, Richard III of York, led to the start of the Tudor dynasty under the victor, Henry Tudor.
In 2018 the Japanese-owned automotive company Horiba Mira Ltd won a planning application to build a track to test autonomous vehicle technology on an area on the western edge of the site from which Henry Tudor had advanced into battle.
|Killicrankie (1689, Scotland)||Ongoing but losing||The battle took place during the First Jacobite Rising between Scots & Irish supporters of James VII of Scotland (Jacobites), and those of William & Mary of Orange, who had just deposed him in England & Ireland in the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 (Government). The smaller Jacobite army (2,400 foot, 40 cavalry) defeated the government forces (3,500–5,000 foot, 100 cavalry), leaving 800 dead.
In 2015, Transport Scotland announced plans to turn the A9 road through the Killiecrankie Pass into a dual-carriageway. The expanded road would cut right through the battle site. In 2018 the plans were redesigned but campaigners say the changes do not protect the historic features of the site.
|Princeton (1777, New Jersey, USA)||Mostly won||George Washington led American troops into battle against the British at the Battle of Princeton and secured an American victory.
The land is owned by the Institute for Advanced Study, which disputes the specific location of the battle, and has had plans to build on for years. In 2016, the Civil War Trust, a preservation group dedicated to protecting American battlefields and historic sites, reached a deal with the institute to buy 15 acres for $4 million, securing the key parcel of land, but not all of it. The plan now is to restore the land to its war-time state before transferring ownership to the state so in can be incorporated into the neighboring Princeton Battlefield State Park.
|Agincourt (1415, France)||Probably already lost||One of the most famous battles in English history. Henry V’s weary band of 6-9,000 men, mostly archers, seemed destined for annihilation when they faced between 12-36,000 French soldiers, mostly knights, at Agincourt. The rest, as they say, is history.
Despite protests, developers were already building access roads and sub-stations in 2018 for a set of wind turbines around Agincourt and neighbouring villages.
|Neville’s Cross (1346, England)||Just started||In the Battle of Neville’s Cross, which took place on the outskirts of Durham city, a Scottish army of 12,000 men led by King David II was heavily defeated by an English army of up to 7,000 men led by Lord Ralph Neville.
In early 2019, Durham County Council announced plans for a bypass to run close to the battlefield, raising concerns about disturbing buried bodies at the edges of the site.
If you have any updates or news of other battlefield sites in trouble, let me know.
Image: John Tenniel’s illustration of the poem ‘The field of battle’ by Thomas Penrose, 1771. Maria finds the body of her husband Edgar dead of his wounds on the battlefield. Published as an etching in 1861. Courtesy of the Wellcome Collection.