How it all started
The Battlefields Trust was founded as a result of a resolution at an international conference entitled Ancient Battlefields as National Treasures at Leicester University, England in 1991 arranged by Kelvin van Hasselt.
The spur to set up the trust was the fact that the battlefield of Naseby, then a perfectly preserved site of the decisive battle of the English Civil War was to be bisected with a motorway link during 1992, the 350th anniversary year of the English Civil War. In any listing of the top 20 most important battlefields of the world, Naseby would appear. Never again would people be able to appreciate this battlefield in its entirety and follow the line of Prince Rupert's charge and his attack on the Parliamentary baggage train, an action which deprived King Charles of the bulk of his cavalry at the crucial moment of the battle - as his infantry were being surrounded.
Delegates at the conference resolved to set up an organisation to ensure such tragedies did not recur. In 1993 The Battlefields Trust was registered as a charity, with Tonie and Valmai Holt (founders of Major & Mrs Holt's Battlefield Tours) making a most generous donation which helped pay the legal costs.
The Battlefields Trust immediately enrolled 'founder members' including leading historians Dr David Chandler, Professor Richard Holmes, Mr John Kinross, Mr Martin Marix Evans, Dr Ian Roy, Mr William Seymour, Mr David Smurthwaite.
Kelvin van Hasselt became the Trust's first co-ordinator and Michael Rayner took on the roles of treasurer and membership secretary, later becoming co-ordinator in 1995.
The first trustees included Mr Robert Hardy CBE, MA ,Hon DLitt, FSA who has ever since taken an influential part in the affairs of the Trust. The first chairman of trustees was Sir John Stokes, a former Conservative MP and stalwart champion of Britain's heritage and history in the House of Commons. In 1997 Dr Ian Roy became acting chairman on the retirement of Sir John Stokes; and in 1998 Air Marshal Sir John Curtiss, air commander during the Falklands War, took over as chairman with David Buxton as treasurer.
In 2002, the Wessex Branch erected the Trust’s first information board at Roundway Down, unveiled by Phil Harding of Time Team.
2004 was a pivotal year for the Trust. Richard Holmes became our first President, Iain Dickie was elected Chairman and work began on several major projects involving our Project Officer Glenn Foard. Funded jointly by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Hartnett Trust, the UK Battlefields Resource Centre started as a database of English battlefields on our website and Historic Scotland funded a gazetteer of Scottish battlefields. The HLF also funded the 20-mile Edgcote – Edgehill Battlefields Trail project, which included a metal-detecting survey at Edgehill. Also in 2004, the London & South East Branch erected a memorial commemorating the 60th anniversary of the first V2 landing in Chiswick, and planned a project for Brentford and Turnham Green.
In 2005, David Buxton stood down after seven years as Treasurer and was succeeded by Jonathan Smith. As the English element of the Resource Centre neared completion, Scottish sites were added after completion of the gazetteer. The Mid Anglia Branch’s work on the Trail continued with information boards at Cropredy and Edgehill. In the Trust’s biggest project to date, Glenn Foard began work on establishing the site of the battle of Bosworth, funded by the HLF via Leicestershire County Council. On a more modest scale, the London & South East Branch helped revamp the battle display in Barnet Museum.
An information board was erected at Edgcote in 2006, followed by one at each end of the Trail. At Kineton, Richard Holmes opened both the Trail and a conference on Edgehill. HLF funding was agreed for the Brentford & Turnham Green Project and work began. Recalling the Trust’s genesis, an ambitious and long-planned project to interpret Naseby also began as did a resource assessment of English battlefields in association with the University of Leeds via Glenn Foard.
Richard Holmes opened one of three information boards on each of the battlefields at Brentford and Turnham Green in 2007. In recognition of its size, the Naseby Battlefield Project was established as an independent charity and continued to develop interpretation at the site.
After being an official of the Trust since its foundation, Michael Rayner stood down in 2008 and his responsibilities split between Peter Burley as Co-ordinator and Jonathan Smith as Membership Secretary.