By Nathen Amin
On 24 June 2014 the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre officially opened its exciting new exhibition, entitled ‘the Bosworth Battlefield Quest’, with special guest Philippa Gregory announcing the opening to a round of applause.
On a sweltering Leicestershire summer’s day a collection of eminent historians and personalities assembled to witness the unveiling of the new exhibition, notable guests including Philippa Langley, Michael K Jones, David Baldwin, John Ashdown-Hill, the Chairman of the Richard III Society Dr Phil Stone and Dr Richard Buckley of the University of Leicester.
The Heritage Centre has long delivered an incredible, and arguably unrivalled, visitor experience centred on an historic battle and the new exhibition is certain to continue that trend. The new exhibition is effectively divided into two distinct sections, the first concentrating on the discovery of the battle and the second on the two men who faced each other on that fateful August day in 1485 for the right to be called King of England.
The section regarding the finding of the battlefield, ‘Bosworth 1485, a Battlefield Lost and Found’ is introduced with a series of panels outlining the history of the incredible project initiated in 2005 with a Heritage Lottery Grant to finally find the true location of the Bosworth Battlefield. A team of experts, led by Glenn Foard of the Battlefields Trust, was commissioned by the County Council to undertake a five-year survey of the area. The Survey Team included landscape surveyors, soil specialists, place name experts, historians and archivists, metal detectorists, archaeologists and ballistics experts.
Utilising the collective knowledge of the assorted scientists and historians, by July 2010 the team was able to confidently place the battlefield to a location around Fenn Lane Farm. A collection of archaeological discoveries, including but not limited to a silver White Boar badge and a wide range of cannonballs, played a key role in supporting the claim of the team to have discovered the true location. This section of the exhibition recounts the work by the Survey Team as well as displaying the battlefield finds, a fascinating chance to view artefacts connected with this infamous battle.
The second section of the new exhibition is the chance to discover and learn about the two key personalities that were present at Bosworth in 1485 – King Richard III and Henry Tudor. The panels look at the two kings roles at Bosworth before taking a comparative look at their final moments and burial places, two widely contrasting elements in the lives of Richard and Henry. Displayed in a protective glass case is the small silver White Boar that was found on the battlefield by the Survey Team, an incredibly significant archaeological find that could potentially have belonged to King Richard or somebody in his retinue. Also displayed is a Half Groat of Henry VII which, although dating from after 1485, was intriguingly found on the battlefield. The reasons for this are unclear but the discovery does reveal that not every medieval find in the area is from the battle alone.
The Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre has commendably taken a neutral ground in the ‘Richard vs Henry’ debate, seeking to publicise the known facts and allowing the visitor to come to their own theory on the characters involved in the battle. The entire exhibition, and the Heritage Centre at large, does not seek to take sides and have been working diligently to ensure that visibility of both kings is equal; this has been achieved somewhat with the raising of Henry Tudor’s battle standard next to Richard’s already extant flag near the War Memorial and the new line of Henry merchandise in the shop. When visitors enter the exhibition they are presented with a small plastic coin and at the end of the exhibition they are asked to cast their vote to determine who they feel was the ‘better monarch’. The results are not as clear cut as one might imagine.
The tagline for the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre is ‘Two Kings, One Day’ and this is certainly a motto that they are living up to. The Battle of Bosworth is the story of two kings of England who met on 22 August 1485 and it’s a story that the Heritage Centre tells with a great mix of modern digitisation, informed research and a great location.
The exhibition has been unveiled in time for the Heritage Centre’s showpiece event ‘The Battle of Bosworth Anniversary Weekend’, which takes place on 16th and 17th August. Visitors will have the chance to see the battle’s re-enacted and have the chance to hear talks from Philippa Langley, Michael K Jones and Robert Woosnam-Savage.