The battle of Edgcote was one of the bloodiest clashes of the wars. Now its site could be threatened by the high speed rail link
High-speed rail may have met its most formidable opponent yet – the ghosts of a Welsh army slaughtered fighting for an English king more than 500 years ago.
As many as 5,000 soldiers from Wales, including more than 180 knights and noblemen, lie buried somewhere in farmland north of Banbury, Oxfordshire. In the centuries after they were cut down, at the battle of Edgcote in 1469, one of the bloodiest clashes of the Wars of the Roses, the precise location was forgotten.
But historians and heritage campaigners fear that the proposed HS2 line could pierce its heart and, potentially, plough through mass graves.
Uncertainty about the site of the battle raises questions about assurances from High Speed Two, the company set up by the government to oversee the £35bn scheme, that the line avoids the battlefield. It is not a protected site, and has never been investigated by archaeologists.
English Heritage, the government agency, has revealed to the Observer that “a large number” of unprotected historic sites and buildings, all along the proposed HS2 route, have yet to be assessed by High Speed Two – a key requirement of the formal environmental impact statement which must be completed, in detail, by the company.
The first phase of the HS2 scheme, London to Birmingham, passes through or alongside several historic sites. Dozens of ancient buildings, listed and unlisted, are also at risk. Last month the line’s second phase was announced, with routes north from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.