Bosworth at Peace

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in Ricardian Places

During our recent European holiday, we visited the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre.  And I have to agree with what they say on their website, it “is a unique day out for all the family”:  My husband, who does not share my interest in medieval history, also enjoyed the experience.

We left Hertford, where we had been staying for our first week, in the morning and travelled via Rugby, for a look at the school which gave its name to the game.  On the way we noticed – and were very impressed by – a Tesco storage facility, which is powered by its own wind turbine to lessen CO2  emissions.   I somehow doubt whether our Woolworths or Coles are as considerate of our environment.

If I have one whinge, it is about the sign posting to the Battlefield Centre.  For such an important attraction, the signage left a lot to be wished for.

We arrived around lunch time and therefore our first stop was the Tithe Barn Restaurant, where we had the pleasure having our sandwiches under the watchful eye of Richard in full armour.

Refreshed we went to have a look at the exhibition.  Though I might have liked some more in depth information, I would say that to visitors without too much previous knowledge it gave quite a good and relatively unbiased overview of the lead-up to the battle.   Some of the events were told by a variety of people involved with the battle, like a mercenaries wife or Lord Stanley (a very shady character!).  My personal favourite was the innkeeper’s daughter from Leicester.  We also did the more touristy things like trying on medieval armour (not particularly flattering!) and minting our own commemorative penny.  The BFI Gallery offered an interesting insight into the methods used by archaeologists.

The Sundial

And then – in warm sunshine (which is worth a special mention after this British summer!) – we walked the battlefield trail.  We admired the new sundial in the form of a medieval billhook, with Richard’s crown dangling from the end.  Near the sundial and white rose bushes are rather uncomfortable looking thrones for Richard and Henry Tudor as well as posts for other people who fought in the battle, like for instance John Howard, duke of Norfolk.   We also sat for a while on the bench donated by the Richard III Society in memory of Paul Murray Kendall.

The walk is well illustrated by informative plaques and exhibits.  While the actual battle site is not part of the trail – it is private property – it is possible to look out over it.  It was difficult to imagine that in this peaceful rural setting, with sheep grazing on lush green grass, such a bloody and decisive battle was fought, where King Richard III and so many others lost their lives.

On our way back to the gift shop, we spotted a lady of Hawkwise Falconry with one of their hawks on her hand, reminding us of the role these birds played in medieval times.

Maybe it reflects my personal bias, but to judge from what was on offer at the gift shop, I got the distinct impression that the battle of the gifts was a decisive win for Richard.  Ricardian themed souvenirs outnumbered those with a Tudor connection.  Needless to say that I was in shopping heaven!

St James, Sutton Cheney

We then went for some quiet reflection to the Church of St James at Sutton Cheney.  The church building dates mainly from the 13th and 14th century, though it may replace an earlier one.  According to local tradition, Richard heard mass here before the battle.  The Richard III Society holds each year on or near 22 August a commemorative service at this church.  During this service wreaths are laid at the memorial plaque, one of which is donated by the Australasian branches.  At the time of my visit (July), last year’s wreath had wilted and had been taken away, but the card which had been attached to it, was still in place.

Richard III Memorial in St James, Sutton Cheney

(The card from the Australasian and Canadian branches is on the shelf on the right hand side)

The connection to Richard at this church is very strong:  not only the memorial plaque, but there is a great number of needlepoint kneelers, which have been stitched by Society members.  Among the designs is the white boar; another shows the entry in the York Records, when they heard of Richard’s death; there is the York rose, but his faithful henchmen are not forgotten either (the cat, the rat and Lovell our dog).

After a day full of travel and lots of new impressions, the church was a quiet and comforting spot.  I hope that it felt the same for Richard, when he came here amid the bustle of the last minute preparations for his final battle.

Further Information:

Phil Stone, ‘Shine out fair sun – and tell us the time at Bosworth’, Ricardian Bulletin (September 2011), pp.10-11

Pewfinder, ‘Sutton Cheney Church – St James’, Leicestershire & Rutland Churches (19 October 2011).  URL:  http://www.leicestershirechurches.co.uk/sutton-cheney-church/  Date accessed:  7 Aug. 2012

All photographs are by the present author.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 8th, 2012 at 11:29 and is filed under Ricardian Places. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Trackbacks/Pings

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  2. Richard III Society of NSW » Blog Archive » Wet, Windy and Welcome!    Oct 23 2012 / 10am:

    […] original handwriting – compact and so legible – was an enormous thrill. The other visit was to Bosworth Battlefield Centre to visit the battlefield, the church, rest on the Paul Murray Kendall bench presented by the […]

  3. Richard III Society of NSW » Blog Archive » RIDING FOR KING RICHARD III    Apr 28 2013 / 3pm:

    […] Cheney, where Richard is said to have attended his last Mass, before dying in battle, and the battlefield itself.   Then riders will return to Leicester, where the ride finishes at the Guildhall, where the […]

  4. Richard III Society of NSW » Blog Archive » Richard III, the ‚Bösewicht‘    Oct 12 2013 / 7am:

    […] while I am on my rant, there is also a minor point.  In the beginning we see the sundial at the Bosworth Battlefield Centre and the voice over informs us that this is the spot where Richard was killed.  Well, not exactly, […]

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