Into battle for Tewkesbury (1471): August 1992 - March 1998
In contrast with the short sharp battle to preserve Blore Heath, the battle to preserve the battlefield at Tewkesbury, threatened with destruction by housing development, was a long drawn out struggle.
In 1992 delegates at the Battlefields Trust conference visited the battlefield at Tewkesbury.
In 1993, The Trust arranged for Dr Anthea Jones (author of a definitive history of Tewkesbury) to give a detailed presentation to the Trust's conference at York in 1993 on the historical sources for the location of the battlefield. During the conference, reporter Oliver Gillie visited the battlefield of Tewkesbury and wrote a long article on the history and historical sources of the battle in the Independent (October 26th 1993, page 9), which in turn generated a leader article on the same day on the importance of preserving battlefields.
In 1994 Kelvin van Hasselt was sent up by the Trust to investigate the heritage potential of the battlefield and to assess local interest in preserving the battlefield.As a result good relations were established with Tewkesbury Town Council and local historians who went on to form the Tewkesbury Battlefield Society. The Town Council became corporate members of the Trust.
It was clear however that the Town Council were powerless to preserve the battlefield or develop its heritage potential without the support of the local government tier above, Tewkesbury Borough Council; and the Borough Council seemed determined to encourage housing development to take place on the Gastons, the field regarded by the Trust and English Heritage as being at the centre of the fighting.
In August 1995 Peter Marren wrote a detailed report commissioned by the Trust on the battlefield, with detailed field by field data and a reconstruction of the battlefield today.
In 1996, Chris Scott, then Director of Education of the Tower of London was also commissioned by the Trust to give a lecture to brief members of the Tewkesbury Town Council on the history of the battle.
In January 1997, the Trust registered its objections to Tewkesbury Borough Council to the application by Bryant Homes Mercia Ltd to build 51 houses on the Gastons.
At the Battlefields Trust Conference in Swindon in April 1997, Robert Hardy CBE, a founding trustee of the Battlefields Trust, appealed to the Government to save the historic site for the nation in an interview with a team from the Times:
"A battlefield is a very rare commodity, in a way as important as cathedrals. They are charged with remembrances and electricity".
Robert Hardy CBE - Times April 7th 1997, page 4
The Public Inquiry took place in March 1998.
Michael Rayner assembled and co-ordinated the Trust's evidence on the planning issues involved, and was backed up by Peter Marren who gave detailed historical evidence. The Trust worked extremely closely with Dr Andrew Brown, the battlefields inspector for English Heritage.
Sir Jocelyn Stevens, then Chairman of English Heritage, identified the threat as an extremely serious and potentially fatal challenge to the English Heritage Battlefields Register. Just before the inquiry Sir Jocelyn visited Tewkesbury with General Sir Martin Farndale, Charman of the English Heritage Battlefields Panel together with other members of the panel to publicise the threat to Tewkesbury.
Crucial evidence on the international interest in the battlefield was given by the Tewkesbury Battlefield Society (led by Steve Goodchild) who had set up a web site which had received over 3000 hits at the time of the inquiry from all over the world and included messages of strong support for preserving the battlefield. This was the first time the internet had been used to put the case for preserving a battlefield in England.
On March 11th 1998, the decision by the Secretary of State for Environment, Transport & the Regions, John Prescott, was announced: the Secretary of State accepted the recommendation of the public inquiry inspector to refuse the application of Bryant Homes Mercia Ltd to build 51 homes on the Gastons.
The inspector's report was an important precedent in that the inspector gave considerable weight to the English Heritage Battlefields Register as a factor in his final recommendation.