View of undulating downland under a stormy sky
Site of the Battle of Roundway Down 1643, Wiltshire. Photo contributed to Enrich the List by Julian Humphrys View the list entry for Roundway Down
Site of the Battle of Roundway Down 1643, Wiltshire. Photo contributed to Enrich the List by Julian Humphrys View the list entry for Roundway Down

What Are Registered Battlefields?

Our Register of Historic Battlefields helps promote a better understanding of the significance of 47 important English battlefields, ensuring their legacy for generations to come.

The record of each registered battlefield is hosted on the National Heritage List for England (known as the NHLE, or the List). The NHLE is a publicly available, searchable database that contains information on England’s protected heritage. There are other forms of protection and recognition for heritage included on the NHLE, including scheduled monuments and registered parks and gardens. 

What is registration? 

Battlefields are a fragile and finite resource: both the field and the remains that often lie beneath its surface can easily be damaged beyond repair or lost forever. Whether in rural or urban areas, battlefields can be an important, distinctive, and much-cherished part of our national narrative.  To identify those sites which are of particular historic significance, Historic England has compiled the 'Register of Historic Battlefields'.  

The main purpose of this Register is to identify historic battlefields of note and encourage appropriate protection. It is hoped that, by drawing attention to sites in this way, we will increase awareness of their value and encourage those who own them, or who otherwise have a role in their protection and their future, to treat these special places with due care 

The Register of Historic Battlefields was established in 1995 and is administered by Historic England. A registered battlefield is not protected by a separate consent regime, however, where planning permission is sought for development affecting a registered battlefield, the Local Planning Authority will consider the impact of the proposals on the site’s special character and give great weight to its conservation.  The National Planning Policy Framework defines registered battlefields as designated heritage assets and therefore substantial harm or total loss of a registered battlefield should be wholly exceptional. 

We often use the word ‘listing’ as shorthand for other forms of designation including the register of battlefields – for instance whilst our online application form is called the ‘Listing Application Form’ it is the same form used to apply for registration.

Gallery

Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

What are the criteria for the registration of battlefields?

The most important factor in registration will be the battle's historic significance. Battlefields have frequently been the setting for crucial turning-points in English history. For example, the Battle of Hastings in 1066 led to the Norman Conquest, while the Civil Wars in the mid-17th century changed the roles of monarchy and parliament. 

As well as the clear historical significance of the battle, the site on which it took place must be clearly identified and the site must still be recognisable today (we call this topographic integrity).

Other factors may add to the likelihood that a battlefield is suitable for registration include:

  • Archaeological potential
  • Documentation
  • Military innovations
  • Biographic associations
  • Commemoration

Please note that registered sites are not necessarily open to the public: access, other than on public rights of way, will depend on local arrangements with owners.

Our Battlefields Selection Guide explains our approach to designating battlefields in more detail.

How many registered battlefields are there? 

There are 47 battlefields on the Register, which is hosted on the National Heritage List for England (the NHLE). 

Did you know?

  • The Register does not include all sites of conflict. Sites of skirmishes (less organised engagements between military forces) and some smaller battles are typically excluded unless they form part of the course of a larger battle.
  • Battlefields are at risk not only from development, but also from illicit metal detecting (called nighthawking). We work closely with police forces across the country to try and combat this and other forms of heritage crime.
  • The Battle of Shrewsbury, which took place in 1403, is immortalised in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I. The Battle of Tewskesbury (1471), which took place during the Wars of the Roses, is also described in a Shakespeare play: Henry VI Part III.
  • Place names such as ‘Slash Hollow’ at Winceby (Lincolnshire, 1643) are a way in which particular episodes in a battle may have come to be remembered.
  • The last time an English King was killed in battle was at Bosworth Field in 1485. That King was Richard III, who was hastily buried in the choir of Greyfriars Church in nearby Leicester. Archaeological evidence of the Church and Friary site, along with the King’s remains, were famously unearthed below a car park in 2012.
  • The Battle of Sedgemoor in Somerset was the site of the most recent battle on the register - even though it took place in 1685, over 300 years ago! The battle between the Royal Army and rebel forces led by the Duke of Monmouth was the last pitched battle (meaning pre-planned in timing and location) on English soil.
  • In 991, a major Viking expedition pillaged Folkestone, Sandwich and Ipswich before being confronted by a force of East Saxons at Maldon, Essex. The Vikings were victorious but suffered so many casualties it was said that they struggled to crew their boats. The battle is described in an Old English poem, which inspired a sequel penned by J.R.R Tolkien, famed author and Anglo-Saxon expert.

Further reading

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