Barnet Battlefield Survey
The Barnet Battlefield Survey is an archaeological investigation into the site of the Battle of Barnet, which began in 2015. Metal detecting, test-pitting (small trenches), geophysics, landscape archaeology and finds processing (cleaning and cataloguing the finds) have all taken place. The finds have been analysed by experts and are now back at Barnet Museum.
With battlefield archaeology, there are usually no remains of buildings to discover, but there are lots of metal objects, so metal detecting is the most effective way of finding relevant objects over a wide area. At Barnet, the ultimate goal is to find balls of shot from handguns or artillery, but there are many other metal battlefield-related objects that they might find, such as spurs or pieces of metal from horse harnesses. Unfortunately much of what’s found is modern rubbish. Other archaeological techniques used have been test-pitting (small trenches), geophysics and landscape archaeology. The finds have been cleaned and catalogued at Barnet Museum.
The archaeological survey is being overseen by Glenn Foard of Huddersfield University who recently discovered the site of the Battle of Bosworth, where Richard III was killed. The 2015-2017 fieldwork was led by battlefield archaeologist Sam Wilson. Many local volunteers have also taken part, including Hendon and District Archaeological Society (HADAS), local metal detectorists and people from Barnet Museum and the Battle of Barnet project. The main part of the archaeology has been completed, although Glenn Foard is still exploring options for further fieldwork.
In December 2016 the archaeological survey was featured on BBC4’s ‘Digging for Britain’ programme.
The battle site is not yet definitely found, although it is unlikely to be Hadley Green as previously thought. We know broadly where the Battle took place, and the archaeology is seeking to better pinpoint the actual area of intense fighting. Finding Battle sites is always very difficult, especially medieval ones where finds from the period are usually limited. Glenn Foard says: “Medieval battlefield archaeology is an extremely time-consuming and painstaking process… and you don’t always find what you want, or if you do, it’s often not in the place you expect. Regardless of the outcome of the fieldwork, I hope that the project will help put Barnet firmly on the map. The project has brought many people from the community together and I hope that the reinvigorated awareness of Barnet’s heritage is something that continues in the future.’
The metal detecting has found around 50 medieval artefacts, including a strap end with a detailed design which can be seen on both sides. There is also a variety of coins, buckles, badges and spurs covering a wide chronological sweep, which have greatly enhanced Barnet Museum’s collection, and our ability to understand, explain and recreate Barnet's past. Some of the most interesting finds include a halfpenny of Henry V and a lead cap from one of the powder boxes on a musketeer’s bandolier, from the late 16th or 17th century (possibly from the Civil War).