Observations on the ‘Historic Landscape Appraisal’ and ‘On line Pond Area Archaeological Evaluation’ reports
The Battlefields Trust have been provided with copies of and been given the opportunity to submit comments on the two reports listed above, submitted by MAP Archaeological Consultancy Ltd to York City Council in connection with the planning application for development of the Germany Beck site at Fulford.
The following is our response to those documents and our views on the implications as regards the determination of the planning application for the Germany Beck site. The content below, unless otherwise specified, relates to the Historic Landscape Appraisal, which is the one which contains most of MAP’s discussion of the battlefield issues.
Given the specific criticisms we have detailed below with regard to the authorship of the MAP reports, we considered it essential to provide the following statement of our competence to provide advice in the present context:
My name is Glenn Foard. I am Project Officer with the Battlefields Trust. I am a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a Member of the Institute of Field Archaeologists and a member of the English Heritage Battlefields Panel. I have a BA in Geography and an MA in Archaeology, both from the University of London, and am currently undertaking part time post graduate research in battlefield studies at the University of Leicester. I have almost 30 years experience as a professional archaeologist, most notably as a Sites and Monuments Officer, Principal Archaeologist and from 1995 to 2002 as a County Archaeologist. In addition to long experience as a planning archaeologist I have extensive experience in the research, analysis and publication in the fields of landscape archaeology, particularly of the Saxon, medieval and post medieval periods, and in aerial archaeology. I also have more than 10 years experience in battlefield archaeology and military history, having written and lectured widely on both subjects. I have spent most of the last two years researching and writing on battlefields from the 10th to 17th century across England for the Battlefields Trust. I have also recently undertaken a major assessment, on behalf of Leicestershire County Council, of the Bosworth battlefield and am currently designing for them a major interdisciplinary research project to investigate that medieval battlefield.
In my experience of planning archaeology, since PPG 16 was first published, I find it difficult to recall a submission by an archaeological contractor, delivered in response to a requirement made through the planning process for the provision of archaeological information on such a major site and project, which has failed so comprehensively to meet the necessary requirements.
Neither document bears a date or the name or names of the authors(s) or any statement as to their expertise or experience that might make them qualified to conduct such investigations or to make the assessments which are presented in the reports. Neither is any mention made of any specialists in battlefield archaeology, palaeo-environmental research or other relevant areas of expertise who were engaged to provide the necessary range of expertise. The absence of such expertise had been a specific criticism we made of their previous reports and the failure to address in the present reports must immediately raise a question as to the adequacy of those reports and the work they refer to.
It is clear from the Historic Landscape Appraisal report, particularly para 3.25, that the authors of the report had access to our detailed submission to the LPA dated 21st October 2003. Despite this they make no specific reference to that document or to the various other important works detailed in it. One must therefore assume they have failed to consult any of the various works on battlefield archaeology and on the battle of Fulford and its military context that are given there. Indeed we must also point out that there are many largely unsubstantiated and unreferenced statements in the report. Such shortcomings are remarkable in a report which is dealing with a battle which is of undoubted national importance, which claims to present ‘a reasoned and acceptable argument’ for discounting the application site as being part of the Fulford battlefield.
A statement defining a basic methodology for the interdisciplinary investigation of the battlefield was also given in our previous submission. Most of the points outlined there have been ignored by MAP even though they are essential components of current best practice in battlefield study.
We will not repeat all the points raised in our previous submission, although the vast majority of them still apply to the current reports by MAP, but we would expect anyone considering the adequacy of the MAP Historic Landscape Assessment to review it in the light of the methodological and other issues raised in our previous submission. There are however a number of specific matters which we do feel warrant special mention and these are detailed below, according to the three major headings under which battlefield investigations should be addressed.
We did not previously consider it necessary to list all the primary historical sources which have a bearing on the location and interpretation of the battle. However, as a result presumably of MAP not engaging a relevant specialist and of not reading the key secondary works on the battle that we listed, they have failed to identify the reference by Henry of Huntingdon to the Battle of Fulford. Greenway concludes that it is likely that Henry, who had completed his draft of his History by 1133, visited York. This will have been within living memory of the battle and Henry is thus reporting good local knowledge. Henry describes the site of the battle as, at that time, being still pointed out on the south side of the city. This provides crucial supporting evidence for Symeon of Durham’s 12th century identification of the battlefield as being at Fulford. It would be quite likely, with such a documented local tradition of pointing out the battlefield to visitors, that later in the 12th century, after living memory of the battle, the exact and accurate location of the battle would have been pointed out to Symeon.
The report (paras 3.9 – 3.10) is highly critical of the use of the Norse sagas in the interpretation of the battle. It is true that the sagas do indeed need to be treated with caution when used to interpret the battles of 1066, as Smurthwaite makes clear in his report for English Heritage on the Stamford Bridge battle, but, with this in mind, he goes on to make extensive use of them in his analysis of that battlefield. De Vries provides an even more detailed assessment of the value of the sagas for interpretation of the battles of 1066 and then provides a detailed discussion of the battle itself. It is most remarkable that the MAP report does not even reference this important work by de Vries, even though it was listed in the bibliography and used in the body of the text of our previous submission. The assessment of the evidence in the sagas needs also to be considered in the light of the evidence of the reconstruction of the historic terrain of the general location of the battlefield. When one does this with the Fulford battle, one finds that the very distinctive topographical elements identified in the saga are matched in broad terms by the historic terrain of the battlefield location, most notably with regard to the proximity of a marsh and a river sufficiently close to allow the possibility of an 11th century army forming a shieldwall between the two. It is not therefore a case of taking every fact in the sages literally, which is how the MAP report depicts our (?) use of the sagas in the case of Fulford (3.22), but of interrelating the different data sets of which the sagas are but one.
As in so much else, the MAP discussion (3.13 & 3.17) of the evidence for the location of the battlefield shows a lack of familiarity with the nature of the evidence for battlefields and the secondary literature of battlefield study. For example they discuss the naming of the battle but make no reference to the way in which other battles were named or the published work on such themes. When taken together in a careful combined analysis, taking account of the date and nature and reliability of the relevant sources, it can be seen that the naming of Fulford battlefield is not unusual and, as noted above, that the Symeon of Durham’s identification, especially when supported by the statement by Henry of Huntingdon, is likely to be highly reliable. The omission of the name from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is not surprising., for there is at least one other major source for the period which actually fails to record the battle of Hastings! The suggestion, on the basis of the distance between Hastings and Battle (8 miles) that the Fulford identification should only be taken as a general identification as to the location of the battle reinforces the view of a report compiled by someone lacking the necessary breadth of knowledge and expertise to be able to make an informed assessment of the evidence.
The current report does not adequately address most of the matters with regard to the methodology for the reconstruction of the historic terrain at Fulford in 1066 which we raised previously. This relates both to the specific detail regarding the application site itself and its immediate context, but it also relates to the wider campaign context of the battle.
As any specialist in battlefield studies would have realised, the campaign context can yield valuable information which helps to demonstrate and explain the choice of battlefield itself. In this case such a wider perspective would have enabled MAP to grasp the significance of the contemporary references to the battlefield lying on the north side of the river Ouse (3.18-2.21). MAP make great play of this statement by several of the primary sources. Their narrow perspective on the historic terrain makes them consider that the description does not accord with the Fulford site. If however one puts this into a medieval perspective and looks at the location of Riccal, where the Viking forces landed, the probable medieval major road approach from there to the city of York, and the location of the heart of the medieval city of York itself being on the north bank of the Ouse, then the description of the battlefield as being on the north side of the river is quite understandable. Only at the very small scale at which MAP are viewing the problem does this appear to conflict with the other evidence.
Figure 1: Hardrada's advance to Fulford on the north side of the Ouse
MAP have also failed to apply best practice in the reconstruction of the historic landscape, particularly with regard to battlefield studies, a clear statement of which has recently been published. A specialist in battlefield studies would have been aware of the expected standard and indeed we pointed out the basic principles that should be applied when we made our earlier submission.
The mapping MAP have presented in the Landscape report is wholly inadequate. None of the data derived from historic documents has been transcribed accurately to a modern OS map base (figures 4 – 7, which are specifically annotated as not being to scale). This means that none of that data can be accurately superimposed on the other data which one would expect to be presented here, or any of the other archaeological data presented in the previous reports. Such superimposition is essential for all parties to be able to address the issues in this case. It should be expected that any major piece of historic landscape reconstruction, such as that required at Fulford, that all mapping be conducted in GIS to enable all the data sets to be overlaid and compared to a high level of accuracy.
Important elements of that other data is also itself missing. In particular there is no presentation of the surface geology from the 1:10,000 BGS mapping, nor is there presentation of detailed contour data, which should in such cases be derived from the NEXTmap Britain 10cm dtm. Even where soils data has been presented it is given at a small scale modern map base and not related to the historic map data referred to above.
On the basis of limited documentary evidence MAP make the naïve and sweeping claim that the Germany Beck was not a feature of the landscape in 1066 (3.11 & 4.21). This would appear to misrepresent the evidence contained in the source they quote. Given the wider topographical context, the reference is far more likely to refer to the existence of a dyke that improved a pre-existing drainage course, as is seen in many other cases in later periods, as for example at Marston Moor and at Sedgemoor. Moreover the report fails to explain how the Moor / mire will have drained if the Germany Beck did not exist in 1066 or indeed, in its absence, what feature will have given the two Fulfords (foul ford) their name.
MAP provide a ‘tentative’ reconstruction of the extent of the open field systems. However they do this without applying most of the essential techniques and data employed in the methodology developed by Hall, who is a national expert in such matters, which we referred to in our previous submission. Nor have they apparently examined the aerial photographic sources we specifically referred to, or even the data on ridge and furrow extent provided by the Vale of York project, a project which they do make reference to in another context. Nor do they make reference to any of the standard documentary sources for the reconstruction of medieval open field systems that one would expect to have been used in recovering the extent and layout of that field system at Fulford.
Where they have used detailed primary sources there are various specific concerns about that use. For example, no attempt has been made to define the extent of ancient enclosures recorded on the Enclosure map and no reference is made to the use of the Enclosure Award for Gate Fulford, even though this is an essential complement in interpreting Enclosure maps, particularly with regard to the identification of ancient enclosures and for the light that it can sometimes shed upon the alignment of pre enclosure roads and drainage ditches.
In para 3.22 a poorly explained and inadequately justified claim is made that ‘the natural topography of the area strongly suggests that the battle was located south of Germany Beck and along the higher ground’. In 3.25 they state that an equally plausible site can be made for the battlefield lying a mile to the south of the Germany Beck site. There is no reasoned argument or substantial evidence provided to support this bold statement and at no point is the inherent historic military probability of such a deployment discussed. Indeed there is no discussion whatsoever of the road system as a component of the historic terrain of the battle.
In their conclusion MAP make the sweeping statement that, given the absence of physical evidence related to the battle recovered in the field investigations undertaken on the site, ‘the battle did not take place on the area of land around Germany Beck’. They also suggest that the failure of past development in the area to provide any supporting evidence while it did produce Roman and prehistoric remains challenges the identification of Fulford at the site of the battle. This simply demonstrates their complete lack of knowledge of the nature of the physical evidence likely to exist on a battlefield and the ease with which it can be located. If this latter argument was followed then one would have to draw the conclusion that the battle of Hastings did not in fact take place at Battle!
In making their assessment of the lack of battle archaeology from the Germany Beck site and more generally from the Fulford area, MAP have failed completely to take into account the points raised in our earlier submission with regard to the problems in the investigation of battle archaeology of the early medieval period. We have already clearly explained that most of the techniques to which they refer and the particular methodology by which they were undertaken, and this appears also to be true of the new work in the On line Pond Area as well, are wholly unsuited to addressing questions regarding the archaeology of battle. The criticism of the methodology of their trial trenching made in our previous submission still holds true, and apply equally to the newly reported trenching of the On Line Pond Area. No attempt is made in their new reports to address these criticisms.
They make reference in their Assessment (3.25) to a metal detecting survey, but provide no statement as to the methodology and how this was defined in order to address the specific needs of the investigation of battle archaeology. They make no mention and include no references in their bibliography which would lead one to believe that they have examined any papers on the techniques of metal detecting survey on historic battlefields, even though key papers were listed in our previous submission, or to have applied the basic principles of battlefield metal detecting survey that we outlined. If they are referring to the metal detecting of topsoil mentioned but not explained in the Historic Landscape Appraisal document, or if it is to work that was reported in their previous reports, which were copied to the Battlefields Trust by the Planning Archaeologist and dealt with in our previous submission, then that work cannot be considered an adequate investigation to determine the battle archaeology potential of the Germany Beck site.
The taphonomy of the battlefield has not been considered, even though this was specifically referred to in our previous submission. The fundamental principles of such an assessment have been defined by Janaway & Tilbrook in connection with much later battlefields. In the absence of such an assessment the conclusions drawn by MAP as regards the lack of battle archaeology from previous investigations of this site cannot be accepted. Without a detailed understanding of taphonomy it cannot be established whether the lack of artefacts is simply a result of unsuitable conditions for the survival particularly of ferrous items.
Indeed, given the weight that MAP attribute to the failure to locate any evidence of battle archaeology, it is remarkable to note that nowhere in their discussion do they actually define what the archaeology of a battle of the 11th century might be expected to comprise, in what density and distribution, let alone whether the nature of the ground conditions and current and past land use would enable it to have survived. As they have not defined any of these things, then one wonders how they manage to assess the suitability of their methodology of trenching, fieldwalking, metal detecting and geophysical survey to locate such evidence.
The lack of relevant expertise and experience of the author(s) of the MAP report in regard to the battle archaeology is summed up in the report’s final paragraph. There it is claimed that a further programme of excavation and watching briefs on all groundworks will ‘ensure that no evidence will be lost’. As they have not demonstrated that they understand the nature of the archaeology to be expected from an 11th century battle or the appropriate techniques to recover that evidence it is difficult to see how they can make this sweeping claim.
The Battlefields Register
The MAP comments with regard to the suitability for the Fulford site for Registration fail to take proper account of the criteria for registration and the authors make no reference to any documentation within which the criteria are defined. The battle of Fulford would appear to the Trust to meet all the criteria of significance. Where it has in the past fallen down is in the adequacy of the information as to the exact location and extent of the battlefield. As English Heritage have made clear (P.Stamper, pers. com.), the Register was compiled on the basis of existing data and they have not subsequently commissioned any new work to investigate battlefields which meet the criteria of significance but where investigation is required to establish more accurate information on location and extent. The omission from Fulford from the Register therefore centres around the adequacy of investigation as to its location and extent. The work conducted by MAP, for the reasons listed above, has not been adequate to enable any re-assessment of the suitability of the site.
The conclusions of the MAP report discusses the value of the landscape today and attempts to assess it in terms of its visual value as a battlefield (7.3-7-4). However, in so doing they do not present any criteria, and certainly nothing from the Register of Historic Battlefields, for such an assessment. They state ‘One naturally needs an area of open, undeveloped land to provide a visual impression of a battlefield, but unfortunately the entire locale of Fulford has been the subject of wholesale remodelling since 1066.’ The authors clearly do not have the necessary knowledge of battlefields generally to be qualified to make such an assessment as they obviously do not know the other battlefields which are within the Register. If they did then they would be aware that there are a number of battlefields where landscape change has been far more substantial than at Fulford yet where English Heritage considered the site worthy of registration. Examples include Neville’s Cross, Newburn Ford and Adwalton Moor.
In para 3.25 MAP state that ‘There must come a point when the complete lack of physical evidence begins to outweigh both the written sources (which can be all things to all men), as well as the apparent logic of the principle of ‘Inherent Military Probability’…’ In reality that point would come when suitably qualified specialists have effectively applied to the particular area of land an adequate methodology of investigation specifically designed to address the potentials and problems of the archaeology of battle of the period in question. Not one of the series of documents submitted by MAP on behalf of the applicant in this case have come even close to demonstrating that we have reached that point.
As a result of this catalogue of failures by MAP, listed in our previous submission in connection with the earlier reports and now reinforced in our present discussion of the new reports, it can be seen that MAP have not provided adequate information as regards the impact of the current planning application’s impact on the Fulford battlefield.
We would therefore recommend to the Local Planning Authority that they either refuse the current application on the grounds that the applicant did not provide adequate archaeological information, or that they require the applicant to conduct further investigation and analysis that does meet the necessary standards.
Glenn Foard FSA MIFA
The Battlefields Trust
10th February 2004