Battlefield bones quest starts at Cuckney

A group of archaeologists are a step nearer discovering whether 200 buried skeletons will prove an ancient battle took place near Warsop.

The Battle of Hatfield Society with their banner outside Cuckney St Mary's Church.
The Battle of Hatfield Society with their banner outside Cuckney St Mary's Church.

Three shadowy hotspots found by ground penetrating radar could finally have pinpointed the location of the remains which could completely rewrite the history of the Battle of Hatfield.

Volunteers from The Battle of Hatfield Investigation Society (BOHIS) are taking part in the first fieldwork they hope could relocate the site of the death of Edwin - England’s first Christian king - from Doncaster to Cuckney.

A whole community including around 100 schoolchildren from Meden and Cuckney Schools are taking part in the eight day project which will examine 1,400 years of the area’s history.

OHIS was recently awarded £15,600 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) support to explore and share the history of Cuckney Norton and Holbeck.

It is hoped the work will help to finally discover whether 200 buried skeletons at St Mary’s Church, Cuckney, will prove the Anglo Saxon battle of Hatfield took place near Warsop in 632 AD.

The group has spent three years trying to resolve the mystery of the skeletons discovered in mass burial pits by subsidence contractors at St. Mary’s Church, Cuckney in 1950/51.

BOHIS chairman Paul Jameson said: “ This is the non-invasive stage which is the precurser of what we hope will be some of the bones.

“We started non-invasive work and the Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) has now been completed.

“This has revealed a few “hot spots” which will now be analysed and interpreted off site. The bones have been re-interred so we are looking for ts. The aim is to get an overall understanding of the area where the graves were and possibly the battle.”

Part of the project is fieldwork – which includes training for volunteers in non-invasive archaeological techniques including ground penetrating radar (GPR), magnetometry and topographic surveys.

Andy Gaunt of Mercian Archaeological Services, was taking measurements with a magnetometer which measures the Earth’s Magnetic Field. He is hoping to use the device to locate the burials as well as a wider survey of the area where the 12th century Mott and Bailey castle is thought to have stood.

He said: “We’re undertaking a series of surveys - a topographic survey of the landscape and geophysical surveys to look under the ground.

“Another company has done a radar survey under the church . Hopefully they’ve found certainly anomalies which may well be the burials which were discovered in 1951. We are also looking at the wider landscape looking for the potential castle site and we are looking at the ditches associated with the castle supposedly at the west side of the graveyard.”

The word, “Hatfield” has long been associated with the area and so far the society have traced it back to the Domesday book (1086), where it is referred to as, “Cukeney upon Hattefeild”. Additionally, Edwinstowe (meaning Edwin’s Holy or resting place) is only about three miles to the east.

Joseph Waterfall, honorary president of BOHIS believes this also identifies the battle site.

He said: “Two armies opposed Edwin, Cadwallon from Wales and Pender from Mercia.

If we’re right in what we believe strongly the most important thing is the river. “This may have been the final resting site of some of the soldiers who came her from the top of Cuckney Hill. We think they were trapped here unable to cross the River Poulter behind the church and massacred before they were buried on the first suitable piece of ground.”

The results of all the work will be available for the final two community days to be held at the Oaklands Centre, Warsop 10am-4pm, November 28-29.

The group also expects to have some preliminary results available for its Annual General Meeting to be held at 7.30pm on Friday November 20 at Cuckney Village Hall.