David Flintham - Military Historian

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Under Siege - the ECW Archaeological Project

Whilst a skirmish or battle lasted just a few hours, a siege would last for days, weeks or even months. Thus an archaeological investigation of a siege site has the potential to offer more than an investigation of a battlefield site. Yet, such investigations are rare and many of the fortress and siege-sites that have been investigated have been because of a more general project rather than primarily focusing on the siege.

This was a key driver for the Under Siege - the ECW Archaeological Project. Whilst little more than an idea at the moment, should this proceed then the proposal would be for a long-term research, training, and education project based in the community which will combine historical and archaeological methods in the investigation of Civil War remains. 

Specific aims would include:

• Developing an understanding of the extent, character, and purpose of the militarisation of the location.

• Exploring the relationship between contemporary military theory and the reality of improvised militarisation within the constraints of landscape, resources, and human ingenuity in practice.

• Exploring the human experience of soldiers and civilians during the siege through historical documents, the excavation of defences, camps, and contemporary settlements, and the recovery and analysis of artefact and ecofact assemblages.

• Educating schoolchildren, students, local volunteers, and the wider public in the history and experience of the Civil War through hands-on archaeology and a range of print, online, exhibition, and public-presentation opportunities.

• Publishing results in the following forms: a) full professional archive reports on all fieldwork within a year of completion; b) regular summary interim reports in the county journal; c) eventual full monograph publication of the project as a whole; and d) regular popular publications in various formats accessible to a range of general audiences.

To date, several sites have been looked at (including Hawton, near Newark – see below), but currently the project is ‘on hold’. However, it is hoped to get things rolling again soon.

Hawton Redoubt 

Towards the end of November 1645, Colonel-General Sydenham Poyntz approached Newark from the south-west, capturing the village of Farndon (3 km from Newark). Hawton, 1.8 km south-east of Farndon was taken shortly afterwards by the Parliamentarians who quickly established a redoubt on the site of a mediaeval moated manor-house.

The redoubt was some 160 m across, and was protected by the River Devon to the south and west and by the diverted Middle Beck to the north. It was surrounded by a ditch, now 6 metres wide and a metre deep. Situated within artillery range of the Queen’s Sconce, Hawton formed a key part of Poyntz’s siege-lines throughout the winter of 1645-6 until superseded by further siege-lines closer to Newark, completed in the spring of 1646.

Parts of Hawton’s All Saint’s Church date from the early 14th century, although much of it dates from the later 15th century when it was re-built by Sir Thomas Molyneux, who also built the manor-house. According to local tradition, it was from the tower that Henry VII watched the Battle of Stoke Field on 16th June 1487. The commanding views from the tower over the surrounding countryside cannot have been ignored by the Parliamentarians in 1645-6. In 1925, it was reported that a musket ball had been discovered lodged in the west door of the church.