“Why I moved the battle from Bosworth to Atherstone.”
MICHAEL K JONES
In 2002 Michael Jones published his book “Bosworth 1485 - Psychology of a Battle” casting doubt on the site of the Battle of Bosworth and causing great excitement in Atherstone. From his research, in this country and in France, Michael Jones has placed the final battle of the Wars of the Roses much nearer Atherstone than the traditional site at Bosworth. Using evidence from many sources he has built up a case that challenges what we thought we knew about the sequence of events in which King Richard III lost his life.
The size of the battlefield
25,000 men were reported to have been at the battle. The site at Bosworth, ringed as it is with hills, could not have accommodated those numbers . . . but the fields round Atherstone and Witherley could.
The geography of the battlefield
Contemporary reports say that Henry manoeuvred his troops so they had the advantage of the sun behind them. This is not possible with the traditional Ambien Hill scenario but perfectly possible if the battle took place near Witherley and Richard was approaching from Leicester.
It is almost certain that Henry Tudor spent the night before the battle in the Atherstone area, as did the Stanleys. It is difficult to imagine how a huge army, mainly on foot, were able to travel to Bosworth in time to get the morning sun on their backs considering the amount of equipment that would need to be transported.
Atherstone and Sheepy are peppered with place names with royal or warlike connections. Oral history puts King Richard at Sheepy before the battle so we have ‘King Dick’s Hole’ and ‘Royal Meadow’ - there is also a ‘King’s Yard’ and a well reputed to have been used by Richard. Near to Atherstone might ‘Bloody Bank’ have been the burial place for some of the many thousands killed?
Grants in compensation paid by Henry Tudor
One of the most compelling pieces of evidence linking the battle with Atherstone is a document dated 1485 in which King Henry VII instructs that grants be paid to certain communities in recompense for damage caused in the war. £66 went to Merevale where Henry’s army had camped and £20 each was given to Atherstone, Witherley, Atterton, Fenny Drayton and Mancetter for damage to crops at “our late victorious field” - no grants were paid to anywhere further afield, certainly not to Bosworth.
The stained glass in Merevale Church
Henry’s connection with Merevale is witnessed
by 2 pieces of stained glass. Firstly a panel paid for by Henry
showing a little known saint, St. Armel, shown in full armour. St.
Armel was thought to have saved Henry from drowning at sea, but
is little known in England,
Written accounts of battles can never be accurate because without modern communications reporters were never able to see the overall picture. However, Michael Jones unearthed a letter written by a French mercenary on the day after the battle which confirmed the use of the pike tactic by his fellow Frenchmen also an estimate of the numbers involved which he put at more than 15,000 men.
In 2004 the staff at the Bosworth Battlefield Centre confirmed that wherever the battle was fought, they now accepted that it wasn’t on Ambien Hill. A Lottery grant is being used to update the Battlefield Visitors Centre and to look into re-siting the battle. In Atherstone we await the results of their investigations with interest.
For a more in-depth discussion of the connection
between Atherstone and the final battle between York and Lancaster
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