The Eagle Drive Cannon Ball [Courtesy of the Northampton Battlefield Society]

The Eagle Drive Cannon Shot [Courtesy of the Northampton Battlefield Society]

The news Dr Glenn Foard of Huddersfield University, has identified what may well be the oldest lead cannon shot and earliest proof of the use of field artillery in Britain is a triumph for the Northampton Battlefield Society.  It is also proof of the potential of our battlefields, registered or not, to produce new and evocative evidence of the past conflicts which shaped our history, but only as long as they are preserved and the archaeological evidence they provide is assessed professionally in the context of the whole battlefield space.

The identification of the cannon shot, which was actually found a number of years ago by the late Mr Stuart Allwork, but which has only recently been recognised for what it is, also offers a challenge to Northampton Borough Council which actually owns the land at Eagle Drive, Delapre, where the shot was found.  The site is currently leased to the Allworks riding stables, but as thePipeLine has reported previously, in spite of the site being part of the Registered Battlefield of Northampton, with a very high level of protection under the National Planning Policy Framework, Northampton Council has made concerted attempts to develop part of the Eagle Drive site into community football pitches with the associated infrastructure.  The find ensures the Council will now be under renewed pressure to rule out development at the Eagle Drive site and ensure the Battlefield with its surviving medieval ridge and furrow field system as well as regionally and nationally important landscape remains of other periods, is preserved for the future enjoyment of the people of Northampton and study by battlefield scholars.

 New painting of the battle showing the Yorkist gun line with Queen Eleanor’s Cross in the background by historical artist Matthew Ryan. (rights to use agreement, available on request). Please credit Matthew Ryan

The Yorkist Gun Line at the Battle of Northampton imagined by Mathew Ryan
[Mathew Ryan Historical Illustrator   –  used by permission]


There is a further archaeological challenge. Somewhere on the battlefield, or close to it, will be the grave pits which represent the last resting place of most of what could be as many as 12,000 casualties of the battle.  It is hoped that the find of the shot, and hopefully in future other evidence of the battle which might be uncovered as part of a comprehensive battlefield study, will shed even more light on how and where the various stages of the Battle of Northampton were fought and where the soldiers of both sides died.

As Mike Ingram, Medieval Historian, Author and Chair of Northampton Battlefield Society has said.

This is a find of national significance and confirms the battle as one of the earliest in England where cannons can be shown to have been used. It also shows that the Eagle Drive area of the registered battlefield is crucial to the understanding of the whole site.”
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