Detecting Metal: Big History in the Hamlet of Upton, Leicestershire

by on

Market Bosworth photographed by Steve Malpass

Area near Market Bosworth, a town and civil parish in Leicestershire, England. The Battle of Bosworth occurred south of the town in 1485. Image by Steve Malpass

Farmer Alf Oliver was very surprised. A part of his fields played a pivotal role in the the latter half of the 15th century of English history. After a five-year search, archaeologists marked the spot where Richard III, the last king of the House of York, was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field. This was one of the series of dynastic civil wars culminating into the Wars of the Roses.

With every view of the fields spanning Fen Lane in the hamlet of Upton, Leicestershire, Oliver can envision the scene of August 22, 1485. On that day the Battle of Bosworth Field was won by Henry Tudor, of the House of Tudor, who became Henry VII. Using metal detectors, archaeologists recently covered hundreds of acres and discovered objects connected to both Richard III and Henry Tudor: sword mounts, coins and cannonballs. In her article for The Guardian, Maev Kennedy reports a couple of important findings:

“One of the crucial finds, the largest of the [lead] cannonballs nicknamed Ëœthe holy grapefruit’ by the archaeologists, was found just behind one of Oliver’s barns. Another key discovery was a silver boar no bigger than a thumbnail, battered but still snarling in rage after 500 years. It was found on the edge of a field still called Fen Hole, which in medieval times was a marsh that played a crucial role in the battle, protecting the flank of Henry Tudor’s much smaller army.

Thanks to the persistence of archaeologists, and their trusty metal detectors, Oliver is no longer oblivious to the course of English history that made its then-elusive footprint more than 500 years ago.

A related story reported in early February highlighted metal detectors as key players. Having and using one requires registration with the Culture Ministry of Bulgaria. This has provoked the Bulgarian National Federation of Metal-Detecting and the two groups are now sparring over the archaeological use of metal detectors. One opinion that may be shared by both groups is the passion for history of place. Such passion helps educate everyone, like Farmer Oliver.

Nate Burgos

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.