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Archaeologists uncover evidence of the Battle of Worcester

Shot found at a site in Powick from the final battle of the English Civil War. Published Monday, 2nd September 2019

Artefacts from the Battle of Worcester, the final battle of the Civil war, have been discovered at an important construction site in Powick.

Musket balls, horse harness fittings and belt buckles have all been unearthed at the site of the battle of 1651.

Historians have always known the area was the site of the final battle of the Civil War, but no actual physical evidence had ever been discovered and recovered systematically, until this find.

Councillor Lucy Hodgson, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Communities says: “ Finding these fascinating artefacts allows us to connect with a significant moment in Worcestershire’s history.  I am also delighted to see the great team work and co-operation between the construction teams and the archaeologists, who have seamlessly incorporated the dig into this large scheme of construction work.

Preserving our history is vitally important to our county and this latest dig is a shining example of how archaeology can bring our past to life.”

The site at Powick is part of huge infrastructure project being delivered by Worcestershire County Council to dual between M5 and Powick roundabout.

Part of the scheme involves the building of a  flood compensation area and, as part of the programme of works, archaeologists from the County Council were given the opportunity to explore the land for any potential archaeological finds.

There is shot damage on the nearby church tower at Powick and Powick Bridge was reportedly the location of intense fighting, so archaeologists were hopeful that artefacts might be uncovered.

Working with the construction teams from contractor, Alun Griffiths, the archaeologists carefully examined the land using specialist methods. They soon began to find evidence of the battle.

The artefacts were buried deep at the bottom of a river valley, covered by flood deposits accumulated over hundreds of years since the battle.

What they unearthed provides direct evidence for the battle. Worcester was at the centre of the Civil War and riven by the deep divisions the country faced at that time.  

Derek Hurst, project archaeological consultant says: "For the first time we have been able to pinpoint the buried Civil War horizon within the flood silts built up across the flood plain - and the key to this has been special scientific investigation of the flood silts using optically stimulated luminescence.

The results from this have enabled us to focus our efforts quite precisely which has meant much time saving and so saving on costs, as well as getting a brilliant archaeological outcome."

Richard Bradley, on-site lead archaeologist says: "It is fantastic to be able to finally locate and map physical remains of the battle and to relate this to the historical record. We are just outside the registered battlefield area but this is still a nationally significant site.

The construction work has given us the opportunity to investigate the floodplain across which thousands of infantry and cavalry engaged, and to get down to the level where artefacts were deposited. Many of the lead musket and pistol balls show evidence of firing or impact and these tangible signs of the conflict offer a poignant connection to the soldiers who fought and died here."

The archaeology teams were supported in their work by the contractor, using their engineering equipment which was on site for or construction work.

The project team also ensured the timetable for completion integrated with the dig to ensure there was no disruption to plans.

The objects found will now be analysed and recorded. But experts say the find is a real breakthrough in our understanding of the final battle of the Civil War.

Richard Shaw, Chairman of the Battle of Worcester Society, said: “How exciting that 368 years after the Battle of Worcester these artefacts should be discovered.  We are sure that there was fighting at this location on 3rd September 1651. 

Parliamentary forces had crossed the river at Upton-upon-Severn and were driving the Royalists back towards Worcester. The discoveries really bring the events of that day to life.”