A medieval battle that took place in Barnet more than 500 years ago could hold the key to saving the economic prosperity of the modern borough.
Historians are hunting for the exact location of the Battle of Barnet, a significant clash during the War of the Roses that shaped the country, and the borough, as it is known today.
Its discovery, say trustees at the Barnet Museum, could put the area on the map in terms of historical interest and reinvigorate its dwindling high streets.
The project is being commissioned by War of the Roses experts at the University of Huddersfield but digging will not commence unless money can be provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Mike Noronha, a trustee at Barnet Museum, in Wood Street, High Barnet, is an expert on the War of the Roses and its local significance.
He said: “To the museum, finding the location would make a big difference as we would be the natural interpretive centre for the battle. We could develop our displays and bring in visitors from all over the country.
“People have previously found cannon balls and things in the area but not too much. We hope it will be a boost to the Barnet community and its high streets and stimulate interest in the area.”
Possible locations for the famous 1471 brawl include the Old Fold Manor Golf Course, in Monken Hadley, private land at Wrotham Park, in Potters Bar, and a field named ‘Dead Man’s Bottom’, also in Monken Hadley.
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The clash, between the houses of the Yorkists and the Lancastrians, had huge historic and political significance and is thought to be the first in Europe to have used artillery on a wide scale.
At the time of the battle, Barnet was the only major gateway to the developing capital and the two armies met on boggy grounds on a misty morning somewhere in the borough.
The Yorkists eventually defeated the Lancastrians, which had travelled from the north to invade London and instate their own monarchy.
Historians have unsuccessfully sought to pinpoint the location of the fight for many years and the latest attempt will depend on a decision by lottery financiers expected around December.
Mr Noronha said: “It was a major battle and, if found, would be the only battlefield in London – the only one you can reach by tube.
“We think it is something to be proud of in terms of our heritage. Had the battle gone the other way, the Tudors may never have come to the throne and there would have been no Henry VIII or Elizabeth I.”
A search for the remains of King Richard III in Leicester earlier this month gained widespread media attention and local historians are hopeful the hunt for Barnet’s history will bring similar benefits.
Its significance in terms of the borough today can be seen in Barnet’s crest, which contains a white and red rose depicting the colours of the two houses.
A major BBC series on the War of the Roses next year is expected to increase the profile of the medieval massacre and Mr Noronha is hoping Barnet can garner the interest and boost the borough.
He added: “There is a lot coming up and I think it will become quite a fashionable topic. This battle is part of a wider story of how we came to be what we are now – it is about knowing our history and it is an exciting time.”
Things you may not have known about the Battle of Barnet:
- Took place on April 14, 1471
- Part of the War of the Roses
- Thought to be first battle in Europe to use artillery on a wide scale
- Yorkists beat the Lancastrians, who were coming to invade London
- About a 20 per cent death rate of those involved
- A lot of Earls from the Lancastrians were killed, turned the war in favour of the Yorkists.
- Barnet’s coat of arms includes a white and red rose, depicting the colours of the two houses.