I am a medievalist in the process of completing a PhD (involving medieval medicine). I travel as much as possible at home (UK) and abroad. I'm always ready for new experiences!
Published August 30th 2015
Explore the site of a major turning point in English history
The discovery of the remains of Richard III, the King in the Car Park, by the University of Leicester (in collaboration with the Richard III Society) in 2013 was met with international excitement, along with a renewed interest in the historical events surrounding the last of the Plantagenet kings.
Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre
The Heritage Centre located in the grounds of the battlefield is an interactive museum which explains the complicated history during the reign and aftermath of Richard III.
As shown in the images below, the museum is a series of rooms exploring different aspects of the Wars of the Roses, the Middle Ages, medieval battlefield medicine, and the recent discovery of Richard III. Children will gain the most from the exhibitions through the interactive displays, dramatic reenactment videos, medieval dress-up area, and falconry exhibitions.
Richard III was king for only a short period (1483 - 1485) during a volatile time in English history when the throne was violently contested by various claimants in the Wars of the Roses. When his brother, Edward IV, died in 1483, Richard was named Protector for his nephew and the future king, Edward V. Richard housed the twelve-year old prince and his nine-year old brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, in the Tower of London. Shortly after, the young princes were declared illegitimate heirs and Richard, then Duke of Gloucester, was crowned Richard III. The Princes in the Tower were never seen in public again leading to the widespread assumption that they were murdered by their uncle.
Henry Tudor contested Richard's claim to the throne on 22 August 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth. Tudor's victory is often interpreted as a major turning point in English history. Richard III was the last of the Plantagenets, the last English king to die in battle, and effectively the last medieval king, as Henry's reign ushered in the new age of the Tudor Dynasty.
Memorial and Battlefield Park
The main attraction is the battlefield surrounding the Heritage Centre. Typically a visit to a battlefield requires a lot of imagination and a keen interest in history as it really is just a field, but the Heritage Centre has done an effective job of identifying and highlighting key aspects of the battle for visitors. The core part of the tour is a circular walk (1.25 miles / 2.2 km) around a portion of the battlefield with accompanying explanations and panoramic views. The walk takes about an hour. There are more comprehensive walks and guided tours offered by the Heritage Centre and the Battlefields Trust.
The walk around the battlefield commences at the Sundial Memorial on Ambion Hill (shown below). The Memorial is surrounded with the red roses of the House of Lancaster (Henry Tudor) and the white roses of the House of York (Richard III) along with the flags of the two houses.
The movements of the armies have been traced by historians; however, some events are difficult to pinpoint in the actual present day space and remain open to speculation until further archaeological work is performed. The records from the period indicate that the Duke of Norfolk, John Howard, was killed near a windmill, which is indicated on the tour.
Site of the death of the Duke of Norfolk. Photo by Erin Connelly
Prior to the creation of the Heritage Centre, the only indication of the battlefield was a medieval well. Local legend states that Richard III took a drink from the well in the final moments before his death. The well is now covered by a cairn placed there by Dr Samuel Parr in the nineteenth century.
The Heritage Centre also offers refreshments in the historic settings of the Tithe Barn restaurant. Selections include a Costa coffee franchise, sandwiches, pasties, homemade cakes, and other lunch specials.
Special events at the Heritage Centre include an annual Battle of Bosworth Anniversary reenactment, which is hugely popular. The most recent weekend (22-23 August 2015) saw nearly 5000 people visiting the battlefield. The Centre has a packed programme of events, including art exhibitions, children's activities, falconry days, ghost walks, and special guided walks.
While Richard III was interred under the altar at Greyfriars in Leicester, many of the fallen from the Battle of Bosworth were buried at nearby St James's Church. The thirteenth-century church lies south of the battlefield in the village green of Dadlington. Some historians believe that the battle occurred much closer to Dadlington due to the large number of fallen buried at the church and the discovery of battlefield artefacts, such as a silver boar badge, Richard III's emblem worn by his supporters.
The church has a wall of information providing details of its role in the historic events of the area. It is a small, unremarkable space in a village of only 300 people, but it is certainly worth visiting for its historic importance and lovely contemplative spirit.