Lottery grant allows search for historic battle site near Saffron Walden

Heritage Lottery Fund

Heritage Lottery Fund - Credit: Archant

They know where the bodies are buried.

Or they think they do. The skeletons of men who fought and died in a battle a thousand years go could be discovered in a new investigation.

The Hadstock Society has received a Heritage Lottery grant of £7,300 to find the burial site of the 1016 Battle of Assandun between King Cnut and the Saxons.

From Monday, October 19 to Friday October 23, a geophysical survey using radar (as seen on television’s Time Team) will be used by Magnitude Surveys of Bradford to see where the ground has been disturbed. There will be a chance to see the preliminary results on the last day of the survey at a meeting in the village hall .

King Cnut and his Danish army defeated Edmund and his Saxons somewhere between Hadstock and Linton. The defeat was decisive in uniting the whole of England for the first time.

Cnut and Edmund met after the battle and agreed that Cnut should inherit the crown after Edmund’s death. Edmund died a few months later.

Meanwhile, Cnut buried the dead who had fought on both sides. The site is Red Field and a large number of skeletons were found there in the 1860s when a cutting was dug through the field for the Cambridge-Haverhill railway. At that time dating the remains was purely guesswork.

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However, Patricia Croxton-Smith from the society said several hundreds of men fell in the battle so it would have been unlikely that the bodies would all have been buried in the space taken up by the railway track.

The Hadstock Society is hoping the investigation will also help link the Saxon St Botolph’s Church to what is known as the Minister of Stone and Lime built by Cnut in memory of the dead of both sides.

Miss Croxton-Smith said: “The village is very keen on his history and we can’t wait to get started on another instalment of our researches. We are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for giving us this opportunity.”

Robyn Llewellyn, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for the East of England said: “Sharing heritage is a wonderful opportunity for communities to delve into the local heritage and we are delighted to offer this grant so that the Hadstock Society’s project to find the burial site of the Battle of Assandun can embark on a real journey of discovery. Heritage means such different things to different people and the funding offers the chance for groups to explore and celebrate what is important to them in their area.”