Bosworth Links Dig 1 (2017)

Today, Market Bosworth is perhaps best recognised for giving its name to the Battle of Bosworth, fought nearby in 1485, where the last Yorkist king of England, Richard III, was slain. In recent years, this defining moment in history has framed the town’s narrative, drawing in thousands of visitors and tourists, especially following the discovery of Richard III’s remains by University of Leicester archaeologists beneath a car park in Leicester in 2012. The battle’s long association with the town was reaffirmed in 2015, when the king’s funeral cortège passed through Market Bosworth on its way to Leicester Cathedral for his reburial. Today, a memorial plaque in the Market Place commemorates this event.

Bosworth Links Dig 1

Bosworth LinksMarket Bosworth’s own history, however, is far from clear. Historical research, small-scale archaeological excavations, and the discovery of finds of Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and ‘Viking’ artefacts in the town show that it has rich archaeological potential but leave many unanswered questions particularly regarding the origins and early development of the settlement.

The Bosworth Links project aims to redress these questions by involving residents of Market Bosworth and its wider community in carrying out archaeological excavations (test-pits) in the spaces they currently inhabit in order to make new discoveries about the history of the places in which they live. It is hoped that this will inspire and stimulate wider interest in the history of the market town and contribute to ongoing academic research into the development of settlement, landscape, and demography in Britain.

Bosworth Links is a two-year community initiative set up in 2016 by the Market Bosworth Society in partnership with University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) and primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Parish Communities Initiative Fund (PCIF) and the Dixie Educational Foundation (DEF).

In total, 25 test-pits were excavated in July 2017 by homeowners, volunteers, and local school pupils. On average, test-pits were excavated to a depth of c.0.6m through topsoil and subsoil. Natural substratum was reached in 16 of the 25 test-pits. For the most part, it was clear that the ground at most sites was extensively reworked in the past, either through agricultural disturbance (i.e. ploughing), building work or gardening. However, two test-pits did contain archaeological features, a possible wall and pebble surface in one and a possible pebble surface in another. Altogether, 8,534 individual finds (76.43kg) were recovered. Archaeological material ranged in date from the early Bronze Age to the present day and could be broken down into the following categories for analysis: flint, pottery, clay tobacco pipe, glass, metalwork, coins, building material, industrial residues, bone and shell, and other finds.

Bosworth Links Dig 1Analysis of the data has potentially identified an extensive early Bronze Age landscape beneath the town. Flint debitage, cores, a concave scrapper and calcined bone focus in one area east of the market place, between Park Street and Rectory Lane, suggesting domestic and funerary activity was probably taking place nearby. A second activity site was identified west of the village, where one test-pit produced an assemblage of flint debitage and a piece of prehistoric pot. This new evidence, coupled with a known but currently undated ring-ditches and earth mound recorded around the town increasingly suggest that it is sited over an early Bronze Age barrow cemetery. No new Iron Age or Roman sites were identified beneath the town, with the few finds of these periods found in proximity to known Iron Age and Roman activity east of the market place, and next to a Roman villa to the north of the town. Significantly, however, one test-pit close to the villa also produced a piece of Anglo-Saxon pottery, as did two other test-pits on a neighbouring hill. This is the first recorded evidence of Anglo-Saxon activity in the parish and the three test-pits have potentially identified two new activity sites north of the town.

Evidence suggests that Market Bosworth did not develop in its present location until the 10th century. This early activity appears to concentrate along Park Street, south of St Peter’s parish church, and north of the market place. By the 12th century the town appears to be well established, the bulk of the activity again focused along the southern side of Park Street. During the 13th century, activity had spread westwards around the market place and northwards along Main Street but by the 15th century it had contracted back to the eastern side of the market place and along Park Street. This constituted a 44% drop in activity from the preceding centuries and can perhaps be taken as an indication of population decline following the Black Death in the mid-14th century. By the end of the 16th century, occupation across Market Bosworth appears to have re-occupied areas which had seemingly depopulated in the later medieval period, particularly around the market place and along Main Street and Park Street, but had not spread much beyond its for medieval limits, keeping a compact, nucleated plan. This remained the case until the latter 20th century when modern housing estates started to expand the town away from its historic core.

Below are the reports of the first season of fieldwork (2017):

 

 

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