Fulford battlefied under threat

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The Fulford Tapestry

Critique of EH errors

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Comments sent to EH when some of the Designation Review Committee (DRC) papers from 2 May 2013 were seen. They were written 15 months before EH finally disclose one of the briefing documents which told the committee that EH was not intending to review the designation of the site around Germany Beck, York, as the site of the Battle of Fulford.

In December 2014 I also received the notes of the meeting which help to explain why what is said by EH is so mis-informed.

This is my critique of the justifications for their decision not to review the designation of Fulford battlefield.

 

Preface to my comments

·         Under an FOI request to EH, I received the minutes of the meeting of the DRC last week. I find that every point of opposition that the committee notes is either wrong, misinformed or irrelevant.

·         Furthermore, within these minutes, I cannot note a single reference to the arguments that I submitted as a part of my request for a review. Notwithstanding the comments by Prof Morris and Jane Grenville which I address below, there is no reference to suggest that any of my reasons for requesting a review have been considered. This was a non-review review.

·         This continues a trend by EH of ignoring the evidence provided. After a decade of research I published a hypothesis based on the evidence which I have provided, together with all of the numeric data, which confidently located the battlesite of Fulford. In addition, I published a range of tests that could be undertaken to test my hypothesis because, in key areas, I had been denied access to undertake these tests. At no point in this document, or the other public or internal designation documents I have seen, do I see the case for the battle discussed. In its place I note a series of speculations, feelings and opinions which are almost all wrong, misinformed or irrelevant. We have the right to expect better from English Heritage.

·         The numbers in the text below relate to the paragraphs in the minutes of the DRC where I have noted my comments and criticisms of what the Committee discussed.

 

Comments on the minutes

2.1 There are several errors of fact in the summary of the case, amounting to bias.

In noting my application to designate the battle, the minutes fail to recordthat the application was encouraged by English Heritage (EH) and gives the wrong date. The minutesfail to report that the site underwent a designation assessment in February 2012 by the Battlefields Panel who recommended approval.

The minutes also fail to note that the Panel made their positive recommendation in spite of a recommendation from EH that the site should not be designated because of the planning situation. These minutessuggest that the members of the DRC were unaware that EH officers had pre-determination the decision.

The summary of the case provided in the minutes also fails to shed any light on who, when or why the original decision was made not to designate the battlefield which was notified for the Panel in February or again in November when the Panel were encouraged to reverse their recommendation to designate.(The Panel did not reverse their view but recognised the EH decsison).

It was November, not December 2012, when EH wrote to me with the designation decisionand I submitted a request for a review based on the grounds listed in the minutes although I also questioned procedural errors which are not noted.

EH officers have failed to accurately and fully inform those who it is calling on to act as a review body for its decisions. This is not an open and is not a fair process.

 

2.2  The Committee “agreed that, ideally, the site would be left in order for archaeological analysis to take place but that this is not a proposal that it can make”. This is wrong as EH is a statutory consultee. Many requests have been submitted by me to require the relevant archaeology to be done. The DRC should have been told that EH had originally opposed the development of the site because of the failure of the developer to undertake relevant archaeology. EH have subsequently failed to take advantage of numerous opportunities to reinstate their opposition. I wrote to both the relevant planning officers and the Chief Executive of EH to point this out and documented how they had accepted false information to approve the planning application to justifyreversing their previous opposition. The minutes fail to report that I asked EH to suspend the designation decisions related to Fulford and require that the necessary archaeology should be done, as was their right.

So requiring the necessary archaeological analysis was a viable option and had been suggested by me several times to various people within EH but they had failed to do what the DRC says would be an ideal solution.

 

2.3  One member of the panel, Dr Jane Grenville, noted about Germany Beck that “was a strong likelihood that this is the site of the Battle of Fulford but noted that there are other candidate sites”. All of the alternative sites suggested in published literature were examined in Finding Fulford and The Battlefields Panel also dismissed the alternative sites. Part of the case for Germany Beck was that a proper analysis of alternatives had been undertaken and examined using peer review. Fulford is exceptional, and fortunate as there are no sensible, alternative sites.

Elizabeth Williamson rightly notes “the potential archaeological landscape of the site” but is wrong when she claims that I make this the basis for my claim for designation. Noting the site’s extraordinary potential is quite different from basing my claim on such potential. I have pointed out that this is possibly a unique archaeological resource and that it is outrageous that I was denied access to investigate these areas once their potential was revealed.

The minutes note that the “Chair added that he felt EH’s decisions are right”. I would be good practice to have some argument or evidence or to hear how the chair answered the criticisms of the original decision which I had provided in my request for a review. ‘Feeling’ a decision is right carries no weight. Perhaps the Chair was privy to some data of which I am unaware. But this again reinforces my request to know who made the designation decision and upon what basis. EH have so far failed to identify or document who made the designation decisions. Good practice requires that reasons and evidence should be given rather than opinion which is what is recorded in these DRC minutes.

 

2.4 Prof Richard Morris misrepresents the designation criteria which do not require physical evidence. There is no physical, archaeological evidence for Hastings, Stamford Bridge or Maldon. The possible hearth recycling material at Fulford is a bonus. The Battlefields Panel’s decisions in February 2012, and the subsequent Consultation process in June 2012 was based entirely on the published designation criteria where the literature and landscape were the significant pieces of evidence for battles of this era. But I agree with Prof Morris, and have frequently suggested, that “what is needed is an intensive investigation”.

 

2.4.1 Addressing the detailed comments on the physical finds by Prof Morris, I have already discussed all the issues he raises within my report. The analysis that I have provided goes further in a critical appraisal of what is at present a unique set of finds from the battlesite. The report discusses the significance of morphology, possible iron-bloom making, local manufacture and other possible reasons for the assemblages I have reported. A balanced assessment must recognise all of these issues.Furthermore, the comments fail to report the confirmation of the compact nature of the recycling sites which I reported and which wasrecently confirmed by the geophysical data held by EH which covered several of the recycling sites which had not been shown to me. I know there is more to be discovered but that is no basis for ignoring what has already been found.

 

2.4.2  I disagree with the comments about the tide. The issues raised were all investigated and reported with, for example, core transects of the river and noting the studies of other authors (p 69-72,86,93,105,123-132,204,207,220,263). The tide provided a valuable way of testing the early interpretation of the literature and landscape in 2005 when the tide was calculated by the Navy. Once again, I recognise that there is always more to be discovered but the role of the tide and its relation to the battle that I have reported is secure. The former does not undermine the latter. 

 

2.4.3 The assessment of Fulford as a “post-battle settlement” that I reported was the judgement of the experts of York Archaeological Trust as is noted on the image produced in my report (p104). I was happy to report this assessment because subsequent archaeological work in Fulford had confirmed that the area north of the Beck was probably agricultural land in 1066. Account also needs to be taken of the extraordinary naming evidence of the area which I assess and this strongly supports the interpretation that the early settlement migrated from St Oswald’s road, the site of a 10th century church, to the high ground along the moraine. While this is an interesting debate, it is of marginal significance and in no way related to the designation criteria since there is no suggestion that this was an urban battle but one fought across a ditch on a flood plain.

 

2.4.4 The extensive area of the landscape, core-sampling research is well reported in Finding Fulford (Ch 2). But I accept the criticism “there appeared to be no master plan showing the cumulative extent and nature of such survey against the quality and distribution of data”. The graphics technology has advanced, and its cost fallen significantly, since the project was undertaken. It took a week to manually plot the data in three dimensions and the need for a computer generated landscape model in future is noted on page 234 of the list of work that still needs to be done: the data is ready and available. However, the relevant sections of the site are graphically realised and reported, which is what was required for assessing the location of the battle.

 

2.4.5 Prof Morris says the “Metal detecting methodology in work undertaken thus far was unclear”. He also notes that the ‘local detector users’ were not specialists but he should be aware that they are the same people that all of the local archaeologists employ. Prof Morris is commenting on the style of the report which, as I note in the introduction, is designed to be readable. This meant that the format adopted in many archaeological contractor’s reporting was not followed. I wanted to make the work at Fulford accessible and every chapter has a preface to explain to readers what follows, listing the parts that lay readers might want to skip. But the information on method is all there as I explain in the text and in maps how areas were selected and assessed, the way finds were plotted and recorded then how the finds were conserved and assessed. The design and specification of each field survey was the subject of meetings with our advisors and contractor, YAT, as is made clear within the text. I would also note that I had some input to various reports such as the one quoted by Prof Morris through my involvement with the Portable Antiquities Service (PAS) and through the IFA Ferrous Group. Sadly such guides, which I have studied, were all published after our work was complete but I am happy that the method we used was sound and that the methodology, including the methods used to enforce some quality control, is all to be found within the text.I have addressed knowledgeable audiences at the British Museum and The Royal Armouries on the subject of the collection methodology at Fulford.

 

2.4.6 Without examples, I cannot comment on Prof Morris’ assessment about “the similarity of accounts of Fulford to those of some other medieval battles” and the role of “orally-transmitted memory”. I am happy with the assessment I make of the literature in my report: This is what I say: “Nothing can be taken at face value in the early writing… We must accept that an element of uncertainly, and therefore alternative explanations, will remain if we rely on the literature alone”. It is the way the literature works so well with the landscape in describing the course of the battle; it is the location of the finds that fits with the literature and landscape; it is the way the tidal evidence fits what we read in the literature, and discover in the 1066 landscape; it is the way the separate English and Norse sources are consistent with the landscape; it is the way the history from Norway written with the perspective of the left flank matches the version from the centre provided by the Orkney version. As I have noted, it is a balanced assessment of all the evidence with must guide ones judgement rather than simply observing that there is some uncertainly about written sources.

 

2.4.7 I must refer Prof Morris to the detailed discussion, citing the work of other, about the size of the armies on page 202 of Finding Fulford. I reject the suggestion that “the size of the armies here will be based on the site identified”. My first assessments of size of the armies were presented and then published on the web in 2003, based on the same method adopted in the final report in 2011. The History Press published the ‘Forgotten battle of 1066’which was written in 2004, before the location along Germany Beck had been assessed and published – this was first done during 2005. The assessment of the armies and the location of the site were independent. But I also note that the size of armies is not a consideration of the designation criteria.

 

2.4.8  Professor Morris is reported as noting “the case put forward did not in his view meet the evidential tests that the Register required”. The test for registration is ‘with a fair degree of probability’ which Prof Morris seems to have accepted when heis reported earlier as noting that Germany Beck was a likely location.  Germany Beck is not an extensive area but a specific scar in the landscape.  So accepting that it is the likely location effectively passes ‘the fair degree of probability test’. The landscape of Germany Beck features in the whole narrative of the battle from its junction with the river Ouse until it becomes a number of modern drains and paleo-channels. Germany Beck and the battlesite of Fulford are synonymous. Without a list of the “other candidates” that Prof Morris feels merit consideration I am unable to comment except to repeat that all of the sites that have been suggested by others were assessed in chapter 6 of Finding Fulford. I will attach a copy of my recent assessment of the sites suggested in response of the Consultation process on behalf of the developers which was never shown to me for comment during the designation consideration in case these have also been a part of the DRC’s consideration.

 

2.5 Three pages (p105-107) are devoted in my report to discussing the name of Fulford. I am sorry that this is not reflected in the discussion where I conclude that the naming evidence has a rather marginal relevance since Fulford is such a large area, greater than the City of York (p131) but that Germany Beck is clearly placed within the area known as Fulford.

I would be happy to take Dr Grenville to visit Green Dyke’s Lane as it was exciting to trace its route down to the modern Millennium Bridge, passing the mediaeval cross that stands outside the modern Aldi store and continues after the area where the old tram station stood and I have even found a small, precious section where ancient yew trees still line this ancient lane.[1] This lane marked the boundary for city and the monastic grazing rights and the cross was the meeting place where stray cattle were exchanged and also fat cattle were driven to the river along the boundary path for transport according the much charter evidence. I could not resist including mention of this piece of local history in my report (p 108-110, figure 3.6) but, however fascinating, this is not relevant to locating the battle. The battle did not take place along this boundary and am surprised to see such a random suggestion reported in the minutes as if it was relevant evidence.

 

2.6  The statements made about Maldon fail to note that there is less literature available for Maldon compared with Fulford; there was minimal soil survey at one of the possible sitesat Maldon (undertaken after designation) unlike Fulford where the work covered the full extent of Fulford and beyond. So the assessment that “the evidence fitted together more coherently” for Maldon is open to challenge although I agree that the location of Maldon is sound not least because there are no other sensible locations. Fulford is not only much better located, as is noted during the EH internal discussions about designating Fulford, but Fulford can also provide physical evidence in the form of finds and better tide times/seasonality data to corroborate the strands of evidence recognised as relevant by the Designation criteria. (I have added some quotes from EH documents about Maldon’s designation below).

 

The Committee’s recommendations

In framing its recommendations, I am unclear what the Committee meant by Germany Beck as “the correct district”. Germany Beck is not a district – It is a glacial drain, cut through the moraine. There are no other ditches or marshes in the ‘district’ we know as Fulford because it was built on the hard, elevated moraine material. So the location has to be Germany Beck which is the only breach in the moraine in the district of Fulford and fits the literature, landscape and physical finds evidence.

I am equally uncertain what the Committee mean when they say they “expect to see” “ the need for further investigation at the appropriate standards” “during the planning process”. The planning process has finished. EH has missed its chance to require relevant archaeology. This harsh reality was noted by the Battlefields Panel. The planning situation features prominently in the Designation Decision where they chose to avoid confronting the errors of fact and judgement by EH during the planning process of which they have been made aware. It is not clear that the Committee were fully briefed or well informed on the planning matters related to Germany Beck. I would be happy to supply them with the papers so that they can review their recommendations.

 

My Concluding Comments

·         Uncertainly does not undermine the justification for designating a site which passes the tests ‘with a fair degree of probability’, as Maldon illustrates. Designation is designed to provide sites with some degree of protection. Designation ensures that the proper investigation is carried out before any permission is granted to alter the landscape of the presumed battle site. This is precisely what the Review Committee has failed to appreciate in their confused conclusion.

·         I remain surprised that nobody has availed themselves of my oft-repeated invitation to visit the site since it would have addressed several of the errors noted above.[2]

·         The decision given out was that the original designation decision was sound. But I do not read any debate about the grounds that I cited to justify a review. This was not a review of case that I had presented.

·         The Committee has failed to address the criticism or evidence that I submitted just as those who determined the designation decisions failed to look at the evidence that was presented. Haphazard observations, feelings and opinions are no substitute for proper analysis.

 

 

 

 

Chas Jones

October 2013

Footnotes were added in April 2014
 

 

A footnote about the designation of the Battle of Malden:

In para 2.6 “Members expressed concern that elements of the Battle of Maldon were similar to Fulford in terms of historical timescale. Nick Bridgland responded that the designation of the Battle of Maldon was based on better evidence: a well-regarded account of the Battle and the tidal information relating to the area. The evidence fitted together more coherently”.

 

Nick Bridgland misrepresents the truth here – there is no ‘better evidence’ for Maldon as the quotes below illustrate.

For example, the minutes of Battlefield Panel meeting on 20 June 2012 says:

“5.5: EH had been engaged in discussions with a local historian in Maldon who felt that Heybridge, rather than Northey Island should have been registered as the site of the battle of Maldon. EH had always acknowledged that absolute proof did not exist but that Northey Island was accepted as the strongest candidate and no convincing evidence had yet been put forward to contradict this.”

And the report dated 14 June 2012(for Panel meeting on 20 June) says:

“3.4 Maldon – EH has been engaged in discussions with a local historian in Maldon who has criticised EH for identifying Northey Island as the registered site. We have been clear in accepting that firm proof does not exist but that Northey Island is generally accepted as the strongest candidate. The local historian’s preferred site of Heybridge was considered and rejected in 1995 and no new evidence has come forward since then. This has been the subject of reports in the media which may continue.”

As Prof Morris notes in his recent book The archaeology of English Battlefields, “So unless or until archeologically evidence for the battle is recovered, the exact site of the battle of Maldon remains in doubt” (p48)

 

 


 

[1] I have subsequently met Dr Grenville to talk about this and plan a walk of the ancient lane in the future.

[2] Prof Morris toured the site with me in October 2013 and has subsequently been instrumental in forcing the planners to require an independently survey of the battlesite archaeology.

 

Related sites Facebook  Twitter (@ helpsavefulford)        Visiting Fulford        Map York

There is a site devoted to saving the battlesite: The site has the story of the process that has allowed the site to be designated an access road to a Green Belt, floodplain housing estate.

And another website for the Fulford Tapestry that tells the story of the September 1066: This tells the story embroidered into the panels.

The author of the content is Chas Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com  last updated June 2015

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