Archaeologists have discovered the first material remains of the Battle of Worcester, the final battle in the English Civil War, in Powick. The 98 artifacts were discovered in a dig at the site of construction work for the Worcester Southern Link Road. Objects unearthed include belt buckles, horse fittings, weapons parts, musket and pistol balls.
On September 3rd, 1651, the Parliamentarian army of 28,000 defeated King Charles II’s Royalist army of 16,000 troops, most of them Scottish. It was a hard-fought battle despite the Royalist side being vastly outnumbered. Overseeing the action from high perches in church towers, Oliver Cromwell in Powick Parish Church, Charles II in Worcester cathedral, the opponents commanded their armies in person. After fierce fighting and shifts in advantage, the Royalists were beaten into retreat and Charles had to flee the city before Worcester fell to the Parliamentarians. Approximately 3,000 men died in the battle. Ten thousand were taken prisoner. Charles escaped to France where he lived for eight years until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.
That hostilities had been engaged at Powick on the outskirts of Worcester wasn’t unknown. Accounts record heavy fighting at Powick Old Bridge in the battle (one of the first battles in the Civil War was also fought there in 1642), and the tower of the Powick Parish Church still bears the scars of musket fire from the clash. Even so, physical artifacts had yet to be recovered.
The reason, as archaeologists discovered, is the site’s location on a flood plain. The objects had been washed down to the bottom of the Teme River valley and covered in thick layers of alluvial silt.
Derek Hurst, project archaeological consultant says: “For the first time we have been able to pinpoint the buried Civil War horizon within the flood silts built up across the flood plain – and the key to this has been special scientific investigation of the flood silts using optically stimulated luminescence.
The results from this have enabled us to focus our efforts quite precisely which has meant much time saving and so saving on costs, as well as getting a brilliant archaeological outcome.”
Richard Bradley, on-site lead archaeologist says: “It is fantastic to be able to finally locate and map physical remains of the battle and to relate this to the historical record. We are just outside the registered battlefield area but this is still a nationally significant site.
The construction work has given us the opportunity to investigate the floodplain across which thousands of infantry and cavalry engaged, and to get down to the level where artefacts were deposited. Many of the lead musket and pistol balls show evidence of firing or impact and these tangible signs of the conflict offer a poignant connection to the soldiers who fought and died here.”
The artifacts will now be studied and documented further, and their precise find sites will shed new light on the last battle of the Civil War. They’ve already proven that the battlefield was further to the south than previously realized. They can also help plot the movement of troops during the encounter. More pistol balls — used by the cavalry — were found in one spot, for example, whereas more musket balls — used by infantry — were unearthed in another.