Edgehill Battle Archaeology

A compendium of archaeological finds from the Battle of Edgehill

The carnage must here have been great, as we see by the amount of relics that have lately been turned up in front of the hedgerow in a plantation, once called the Little Graveyard, just behind the spot that is still called the ‘Grave’.
Rev George Miller. (Illustrated Naval and Military Magazine). 1890.

Grant, 1979

By Captain J.G Grant.

In April 1979 Captain J.G Grant forwarded the findings of his metal detecting survey from the central battlefield to the county archaeologiest's office — now held by the Warwickshire Historic Environment Record (HER. No: 1198). While stationed at the Kineton MOD camp - which occupied the site - he recorded the locations of 52 musket balls and one cannon ball along with details of where he surveyed and the time he spent on each section. Significantly he managed to survey areas which would later be destroyed by a 1980s expansion of the camp, but his results already appeared to suggest a significant absence of evidence from the southern and western region of the battlefield and west of Radway village. His collection of finds intensified across the northern perimeter of Graveground Coppice and into the adjoining field to the east. More scattered results ran across the region north of Thistle Farm.

‘Two Men in a Trench’ II, 2002

By Tony Pollard & Neil Oliver / GUARD

Forming part of their BBC TV series, the Edgehill project featured work at four separate locations of the battlefield (by the Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division), with arguably the most notable results produced around the old ford at Kineton. Taking their series title literally, the old Radway church and King's Leys Barn were excavated, while a metal detecting survey in the central region of the battlefield and at the river Dene produced the familiar battle archaeology of musket balls and case shot.

Taking the lead from Grant's 1979 results a focused metal-detector survey across land east of and close to Graveground Coppice quickly produced musket-balls scattered quite densely in the field just to the east of the [DSDA Kineton perimeter] fence; some had retained their spherical form, while others were almost completely flattened. These wasted balls had found their targets, the hot metal spreading out as it hit armour or bone.

But there weren't just musket-balls. Pieces of grapeshot and caseshot showed that the artillery too had been active on this part of the field. There were buttons, several of them silver-plated and etched with ornate designs, which may have been attached to the clothes of well-to-do officers, while plainer buttons fastened the more modest attire of the rank and file. More and more battlefield relics came to light - pieces of horse harness, knife blades, buckles and even possible musket fittings, all demonstrating beyond doubt that this area had been the scene of heavy fighting.
Two Men in a Trench II. (Pollard & Oliver). 2002.

As the survey moved further away from the camp — towards Edgehill and following a quiet period of no results — they discovered a second area of musket-ball finds further east. With the benefit of the subsequent 2004/2007 battlefield base survey, it could be argued that their interpretation of both armies firing at each other — across open space as the battle entered its crucial stage — probably represents part of the fire fight towards the close of the battle as the Royalists fell back towards Radway brook.

Over at the old Kineton ford — within a grassed area 350m west of the 19th century bridge at Bridge Street — a survey and trench discovered over a dozen unfired led balls of pistol calibre, lumps of lead waste (spilled while liquid), domestic pewter spoons and some case shot which included one piece appearing to have been fashioned into a gaming piece. All of which strongly indicated the discovery of a Parliamentarian cavalry camp, with evidence for the production of cavalry pistol balls.

The 2004/2007 survey produced many more additional finds within this circular curve of the river Dene (east of Castle Hill) while also appearing to secure the location for much of the Parliamentarian baggage train and camp (in enclosures adjacent to and east of Little Kineton). With this additional subsequent data it becomes temping to speculate that the Parliamentarian camp largely spread from Castle Hill, south east (through terrain which has not been surveyed), through the modern sports fields and onto the Little Kineton enclosures.

Pollard & Oliver also found a light scatter of musket-balls around the site of Kings Ley's Barn along with a bronze prick spur from a horseman's boot. In the old Great Kineton field area their team of young volunteers also found a couple of musket-balls by sight, simply by fieldwalking a recently ploughed field.

Battlefields Trust, 2004/2007

Survey directed by Dr Glenn Foard.

A major, broad and systematic survey of the battlefield: Utilising a team of volunteers and grant aided by the Local Heritage Initiative, this case study in surveying battlefields ultimately rewarded knowledge of the Edgehill battlefield with insights of weaponry usage and the revelation of the probable starting lines with an original and unforeseen deployment conjecture.

A total of 3250 artefacts were collected and retained during the Edgehill survey. Of these 1096 are early modern lead bullets of a wide range of calibre and type. Only a handful of the other non-ferrous items are almost certainly of military origin, by far the largest group being the 29 powder box caps and priming flask tops from musketeers bandoliers.
Foard, G., The investigation of early modern battlefields in England, in Schlachtfeldarchäeologie: Battlefield Archaeology, H. Meller, Editor. 2009, Lamdesmuseums für Vorgeschichte: Halle, Germany.
This study [of bullet scatters across Edgehill's battlefield] undertaken for the Battlefields Trust between 2004 and 2007, represents the most extensive systematic archaeological investigation of a 17th-century battlefield so far undertaken in England.
[…]
The bullets can be subdivided into three types: ball and slug for small arms and hailshot fired from artillery. The lead balls can be further subdivided into three main calibres, classified here as pistol <18g; carbine >=18g and <25g; musket >=25g, […]. Using this basic classification there are 497 ball of musket calibre, 155 of carbine and 295 of pistol; 34 slugs of carbine or pistol calibre; and 127 balls fired as hailshot from artillery.
[…]
Pistol calibre bullets are found throughout the battlefield. Several distinct groupings are apparent. The concentrations in the northern part of the battlefield are interpreted as the initial attack by the right-wing royalist cavalry and their pursuit of fleeing parliamentarian cavalry. At the western end of this scatter the density increases as it approaches Little Kineton; […], this may represent the royalist cavalry attack on the baggage train. Two other scatters of pistol bullets, albeit far less clearly defined, lie in the south-eastern part of the battlefield, in an area largely restricted to parliamentarian cavalry operation.
Foard, G., The Archaeology of English Battlefields - Conflict in the Pre-Industrial Landscape. G. Foard & R. Morris. 2012.
Only one certain weapon part of the period has been found [during the survey], a ramrod pipe from a pistol, although another item might be a pricker used to clear the touch hole of a musket. All other finds of the period which might be battle-related, such a[s] buckles and strap ends, are of types in common domestic use and so need not have any association with the battle.
Foard, 2012.
The survey recovered 29 items of lead from bandoliers carried by musketeers, comprising 27 powder box caps and two priming flask tops. These have a distinctive distribution, associated with or on the edge of musket calibre bullet scatters but in discrete areas away from the core infantry action.
Foard, 2012.
[…] the report by Wharton that on 'Munday morning the Lord Generall caused some peeces of Ordnance to be shot off and played about the Hills for some time to invite the enemy to a second onset' [on the day following the pitched battle]. This, rather than action during the battle itself, might explain the reports of finds of roundshot on the slopes of Edgehill on Bullet Hill, at the brickworks, nearby, and on the slopes near Westcote.
Foard, 2012.
With sixteenth and seventeenth-century silver coins there does appear, at first sight, to be a relationship to the battle. Coins of Elizabeth seem to concentrate on the royalist side of the battlefield and those of Charles I and James I on the parliamentarian side. The latter two types could be argued to relate to losses in the large scale rout of parliamentarian troops back across this area to Kineton. […] the distribution could […] have a more prosaic explanation, related to the character of the [localised] economy […] in the seventeenth century.
Foard, 2012.
Our failure to find a single gunflint at Edgehill survey is because fieldwalking did not comprise part of the methodology, as no other significant battle related item was likely to be recovered using that survey technique. […] The Edgehill survey has confirmed the rarity of non-ferrous weapon related artefacts, already noted from previous survey work at Naseby, Marston Moor and Cheriton. It must therefore be concluded that, while the discovery of such items may add interesting detail, they are unlikely to yield substantial new insight into a battle. One important exception has been identified here, particularly through the work at Edgehill.
Battlefield Archaeology of the English Civil War. Glenn Foard. 2012.

Miscellaneous

Peter Young

In his 1967 Edgehill book, Young provides details concerning:

  • 3× musket balls found on the (ploughed) battlefield surface by Mr Hemming of Kineton. circa 1880s
  • 1 ¼oz leaden musket ball found with a metal detector during a search of the Gravesend Copse area in 1967
  • 2lb ball picked up at Moorlands Farm
  • Similar find - above - at Hornton village
  • 2× cannon balls recovered in 1941 from the Thistleton Farm area. (One weighed 23½lbs, and the other 12lbs)
  • Musket bullet discovered in the early 1960s while ditching around a quarter of a mile north west of the present Radway Church
  • 1× 19lb ball and 2× ½lb balls (in possession of Lord Leyster Hospital [sic], Warwick), found near Thistleton Farm
  • 6 or more cannon balls discovered, during construction work, in 1942 in the vicinity of the Graveyard [Graveground field?]. Ranged from 6 to 22 pounds
  • Cannon balls were discovered in a disused brick-kiln 300yrds east along the Arlescote road from the foot of Bullet Hill
  • Other small detritus items found with a metal detector at Great Grounds in 1967. ('Great Grave Ground' is a name sometimes used for the region around the primary grave pit)
  • A pikehead was found at Uplands Farm in 1950 (now with the Banbury museum).

Scott / Turton / Von Arni

Scott et al in their 2004 Edgehill book provide a list of battlefield finds (which include these additional listings):

  • About half a mile in front of that [Little Kineton] village: Light bullets and battle debris
  • Peter Young found several cannon balls of varying weight and size in the 1960s, between the Radway Brook and the pheasantry
  • Shown by local residents to Oliver & Pollard, during their field work (above): Several musket balls and cannon balls in private possession. (They also mention more battle detritus found around the region where Red road now ends - as it approaches the munitions bunkers from the south east.

Glenn Foard

In his study of Edgehill as part of 'Battlefield Archaeology of the English Civil War' (2012), Foard also mentions:

  • […] an unusual if small grouping of bullets has been recovered immediately to the east of Butlers Marston, which includes musket calibres as well as pistol and carbine and has one bullet which may have been fired as hail-shot from artillery
  • […] Captain Kingsmill, who was killed [in] Radway parish according to the 1756 map, was buried in Radway churchyard. This confirms that the slain were buried in the parish in which they fell. It therefore seems likely that Graves Furlong, recorded in Radway in 1756, is the site of a mass grave for those that fell in that parish. If correct then this could have implications for the numbers killed in the battle, as the vicar of Kineton's estimate [of 3300] might only relate to burial in his parish
  • In 2000 as part of Sabin's 'Edgehill Project', which was a study of the historic landscape based principally upon fieldwalking survey, some small scale metal detecting survey was undertaken. This work concentrated largely on ground on the top of Edgehill and on the slopes well away from the battlefield. A few bullets were recovered during the detecting, notably a small group of pistol calibre bullets, some of which retained their sprues. This he interpreted as evidence of bullet casting prior to the battle. Given that our survey did not encompass this peripheral area it is difficult to assess whether these finds are likely to have had an association with the battle
  • Other finds have been reported by farmers, but without supporting evidence. In 2004 the owner of the market garden [east of Little Kineton] stated that a metal detectorist had in recent years made finds on his land. In 2006 Mr Hepworth, landowner in part of Westcote closes, mentioned having found what he described as a 'pistol' about 20 years ago in a pipe trench in field 85 [south of the modern MOD munitions bunkers, adjacent to Red rd (approximately LAT/LONG 52.13135, -1.47648)], but the find decayed and had long since been discarded
  • The Redditch metal detecting club is also said, by the landowner of Brixfield Farm, to have carried out limited detecting outside the MoD land in the general area of Westcote closes at some time before 2005.

Various

Musket balls and an example of a carbine and pistol ball - found somewhere on the field - are still displayed in the Kineton Depot Officer's Mess. There are anecdotal stories of a neat pile of cannon balls once cemented into position as a decorative display outside one of the officer's buildings, but this has since long gone.

A metal detector survey [prior to construction of a stable and store] just within the north-western corner of the Edgehill Registered Battlefield in August 2007 […] 24 objects dating from the 17th to the 20th centuries were collected, but a single musket ball was the only find probably relating to the battle.
Kineton: Diana Lodge Paddocks, Little Kineton (SP 3347 5025); Warwickshire Archaeology Fieldwork - Summery 2007.
Many relics from the battlefield, mostly lead bullets or small cannon-balls, are in the possession of local farmers. Most have been picked up during ploughing, except a few which have been discovered by a mine detector in the Oaks and Battleton Holt Wood.
Guide to the Battlefields of Britain & Ireland. (Lt Colonel Howard Green). 1974.

2005 Evaluation Kent's Farm, Little Kineton: Evaluation adjacent to Edgehill battlefield recovered no specific objects associated with the battle. (Site code: KF05. Warwickshire/Report No 0535. Finds Holder: Warwickshire County Museum).

2006 Metal Detecting Survey - The Glebe Field, King Johns Lane: A metal detector survey within the battlefield recovered a scatter of finds dating from the 17th to 20th century. A small buckle was the only object thought to be associated with the battle. (Warwickshire/Report No 0646. Full Report: Warwickshire Museum Field Services; Gethin B/2006. Finds Holder: Shakespeares Birthplace Trust).

2011 Metal Detecting Survey across land at, and around, Westcote House, Tysoe Road: Survey recovered no material associated with the battle. (Site Code: TSTR10. Warwickshire/Report No 2340. Archive Holder: Warwickshire County Museum).

A local historian and Kineton metal detectorist found around 12 carbine bullets in the 'Rupert's Headland' region (east of the road) in the period following the main Edgehill survey.

20th century

A collection of archaeological references recorded and mentioned in modern times.

There was heavy fighting around Battleton Holt, which did not exist in 1642 ('holt' means a wood) and trees may well have been planted to mark gravepits. Little Graveground contained 500 bodies; Great Graveground close on a thousand. There were other pits also, and there are parts of the field where the number of bullets and cannon-balls indicate the intensity of the fighting — and thus casualties. One of these areas is Lower Westcote Farm.

British Battlefields. (Philip Warner). 1972.

[…] a good many years ago, two Radway men, draining a field on the site of the battle, came on a row of skeletons, laid side by side. The men calmly cut them across and laid the pipes through them! Cannon balls, pieces of armour, etc., used sometimes to be turned up by the plough.

History of Radway. (Hunt, Dickens & Land). 1937.

At the foot of this hill [Bleadon], just within the parish, was fought the [battle], and a mound on the hillside still markes the common grave of some 500 dead.

'The Victorian History of the Counties of England - Warwick. Vol 5 - Kington Hundred'. 1949 ed.

19th century

A collection of archaeological references mentioned in antiquarian publications.

Near to the old Kineton ford - west of Bridge Street - the river Dene produced armour and several skeletons discovered by workmen constructing a sluice.

Wilmot […] was driven back, […] to the rising ground near to Lower Westcote. This and other disputed points have been elucidated of late years by the deep cultivation and deep draining of the land, which has brought to light bullets and other debris of the battle which had lain buried in the ground, so that the actual area of the real fighting can be shown with great clearness.

'Rambles Round The Edge Hills'. (George Miller). 1896.
Just below the steepest part of the hillside there is a low green hill known by the name of Bullet Hill, and here many relics of the fight are stated to have been discovered. […]
Far in the distance towards Kineton, in a small bush dotted field, those slain by Rupert in his cavalry charge and pursuit were buried.
Battles And Battlefields In England. (Charles Raymond Booth Barrett). 1896.
Proceeding on our way [to Kineton from Chadshunt Church] in three-quarters of a mile, we pass on the right a keeper's lodge, next to which is a field called Water Furrow, across which some 200 yards from the road runs the ridge or furrow known as "Rupert's Headland," being the point at which Prince Rupert wheeled his cavalry at the termination of his furious charge against the Parliamentarian Horse at the Battle of Edge Hill. Numbers of bullets have from time to time been ploughed up in the field.
[…] the brook, which runs in a picturesque dell, on the left bank of which in the year 1853 two skeletons were discovered lying one across the other, which were supposed to be those of soldiers killed in defending the ford from an attack by Prince Rupert's troopers.
[…] In the fields round these farms [Battle & Thistle], and especially in one on Battle Farm called Lower Bladon [Bleadon], sloping towards Kineton, large numbers of bullets have been discovered.
[…] below the present figure of the Red Horse [south of Sun Rising Hill], where a skeleton was found a few years ago with the point of a sword sticking in the breast bone.
[…] The [former] hamlet of Westcote seems to have been destroyed in the course of the engagement, as cannon balls […] have been found on the site.
[…] The house is rich in relics of the Edge Hill fight, amongst them being Lord Lindsey's sword, bearing his escutcheon, "a fisse chicque of two argent and azure"; four other swords, and a fragment of a blade found sticking into the breastbone of a skeleton, which was discovered when some drains were being laid just below the house; an oval silver sleeve link engraved with "God save the King"; army ration weights of half a pound and one pound, of dumpy conical form, with a bell-metal steel yard, and a set of cannon balls varying in weight from five ounces to eight pounds nine ounces, and in gauge from one and three eighths of an inch to four inches, which are of the highest possible interest, as they conclusively establish the character of the ordnance used by the Parliamentarian Army at the battle, and show that it was divided into three categories. […] Among the other relics are a considerable quantity of slugs and bullets up to one ounce in weight, which were fired from "hand guns," aid a beautiful piece of tapestry work said to be a portion of the hangings of the bed on which Lord Lindsey lay when wounded.
[…] Two cannon balls of 23lbs, each preserved at Thistle Farm seem to have been fired from some foreign ordnance, as they do not fit any known form of English cannon of the period. A 15lb, shot kept at the Leycester [sic] Hospital, at Warwick, appears to have been fired from a "demi-cannon."
'Shakespeare's Land'. (C.J. Ribton-Turner). 1893.

The dead were buried on the field of battle in two graves, […] the other [being the officer's grave] one field from the brook on the Kineton side [west of Radway brook], and one field from the old turnpike gate [the second field north of Red road]

Illustrated Naval & Military Magazine. (George Miller). 1890.

Tradition says, as I have remarked, that there was only one hedgerow between Radway and Kineton, and that hedgerow, which still exists, is on the spot occupied by Essex's centre [claimed by Miller to be a hedge which ran between Battle and Thistle Farms]. The ditches too which are mentioned, must have been on the lower ground, somewhat to the rear of Essex's army, where some natural watercourses are still to be found. Willmot, therefore, in the first instance seems to have driven back the enemy, but was afterwards checked in his advance. Some authorities following Colonel Fiennes and others, state that he was driven back to the hills, while others say that he lost but little ground. This and other disputed points have lately been elucidated by the deep draining and deep cultivation of the land. The actual area on which the battle was contested, can now be shown with considerable clearness. I have carefully traced out the area on which bullets, cannon balls, and other relics of the fight have been found by this deep cultivation, so that I can point out to within a hundred yards or so, the area on which the combatants contended. That Wilmot was driven back to the village of Radway can now be clearly disputed, as no remnant of the fight in the shape of bullets, skeletons, or cannon balls have been found beyond this the immediate confines of the two parishes, and no bullet marks are to be seen on the wall of the old house.


Notwithstanding this, at the outset, he [the King] seems to have driven back the enemy's centre, and advanced through the bush and furze till he came to the before-mentioned hedgerow, in front of which the fighting must have been excessively severe. Here the largest amount of the debris of the fight are found; here was the grave in which the common soldiers were buried.

Just at this time, the attack of Wilmot, on the king's left, began to fail, and he was driven back some little distance. […] The discovery of bullets in this direction shows that there was heavy fighting on that spot, to which I assert he was driven back. The enemy was, therefore, able to attack the king's centre in an oblique direction with his cavalry. Rapin states that the attack of the king's centre by Balfour and the cavalry was from Essex's left wing on the side left exposed by Rupert. This view Major Ross endorses, and the number of bullets, skeletons, &c., found in this direction, leads much to the same conclusion.


The number of bullets that have in the last few years been ploughed up or found in digging the new drain, is, after the lapse of so many years, very large.


[…] barely any traces of the battle have been found on the Radway side of the [Radway] brook, or where the brook turns up towards the hill beyond a straight line drawn in the direction the brook has hitherto run.


The dead, which amounted to about 1,200, were buried on the field of battle, in a field just in front of the oft [sic] mentioned hedgerow [between Battle & Thistle Farms], in the parish of Kineton, by Mr. Fisher, the vicar. The officers were buried by themselves, about 200 yards distant, in a north easterly direction.

Archaeological Journal (Vol 46). (George Miller). 1889.

Cannon balls and other remains of the fight found on the hill slopes at Lower Westcote near the Sun Rising are evidence of this attack

'Edge Hill: the Battle and Battlefield'. (Edwin Alfred Walford). 1886.

Five hundred bodies were thrown into a contiguous pit, the site of which is marked by a clump of firs [Graveground Coppice]. Human bones and fragments of weapons are often turned up on the scene of the battle.

'Blacks's Guide to Warwickshire'. 1881 (and other editions).

Long after the battle memorials were ploughed up; and to this day bullets are sometimes found in the field in which we now are [sat, in "Grave field"]. Adjoining the field is a small wood [Graveground Coppice, to the west], which at that time was hollow; and there, for the most part, were buried the bodies of those who fell. The locality abounds with memorials of the fight, which has rendered it famous for ever.

'Pleasant Spots & famous Places'. (John Alfred Langford). Writing in 1855.
The memorable battle of Edgehill took place near this town [Kineton], and within half a mile of it, a great quantity of bullets was dug up in 1800: about a mile farther, on the road to Edgehill [Red rd] is a place called Battle Farm, where several of the slain were interred; and in a field about a mile to the west of the town is a tumulus covering several hundred of them: a gold ring was found in the neighbourhood, and the skeletons of human bodies are frequently discovered [sic].
'A topographical dictionary of England'. (Ed, Samuel Lewis). 1848.

Tradition points out the ascent of the present turnpike road from Kineton towards the brow of Edgehill […] and the number of balls found there, and the name "Bullet Hill" which is given to this part at the steepest ascent […].

On the brow of the hill above (where cannon balls have been frequently found), […] Possibly the hamlet of Westcot was destroyed at the battle of Edgehill.

'The History of Banbury'. (Alfred Beesley). 1841.

[…] one place called Bullet-hill from the vast quantity of bullets which have been taken out of it

'Howitt’s visits to remarkable places'. (William Howitt). 1839.

About five hundred of the victims were thrown into a contiguous pit; and a few fir trees yet direct the examiner to this spot of sordid military sepulture. Human bones and fragments of weapons, are often found in the vicinage [sic].

'A New & Compendious History, of the County of Warwick' (William Smith). 1830.

A pit in the neighbourhood (the place of which is marked out by some fir trees being planted there as a memorial of the memorable event) […] Human bones and fragment so weapons have often been found in this place and the neighbourhood where this battle took place.

'The history, topography and directory of Warwickshire' (William West). 1830.

Vestiges of the battle are often turned up by the plough, as pieces of armour, spear-heads, buckles, and human bones.

'A short View of the Late Troubles in England' (believed to be by William Dugdale), in 'Warwickshire Delineated', 2nd ed, 1821.

[…] victims were promiscuously thrown into a pit: and another small plantation [S.Miller's clump?] distinguishes the site of a cottage ['The King's Barn/King's Leys Barn' ?], in which the two young prices, afterwards Charles II. and James II. remained during the battle.

'New guide: An historical and descriptive account of Leamington and Warwick'. (H. Sharpe). 1816.

Human bones, and fragments of weapons, are often found in the vicinage [of Graveground Coppice]

'Beauties of England & Wales (Warwickshire)'. (Britton). 1814.

18th century

Archaeological references from the 18th century.

I went […] through the field of battle of Edgehill, which was in the grounds under the hill, where they find many bullets, and came to Mr Miller's house at Radway.

'The Travels through England of Dr Richard Pococke…'. (Dr Richard Pococke [became Bishop of Ossory in 1756.]). 1756. Ed J.J. Cartwright Vol.II. 1888-89.

The first battlefield finds from Edgehill, comprising just a few lead bullets, were published as early as 1746 although no location was given.

Glenn Foard (2012) referring to 'Gentleman's Magazine', Dec 1746.