Compelling new evidence that Cuckney is the real Battle of Hatfield site

Paul Jameson, chairman of the Battle of Hatfield  Society ouside Cuckney church where hundreds of skeletons are believed to be buried.
Paul Jameson, chairman of the Battle of Hatfield Society ouside Cuckney church where hundreds of skeletons are believed to be buried.

A group of archaeologists have announced compelling evidence which could help prove an ancient battle took place near Warsop.

Hotspots found by ground penetrating radar have been published which could pinpoint the final resting place of an estimated 800 warriors killed in the Battle of Hatfield.

Volunteers from The Battle of Hatfield Investigation Society (BOHIS) hope their fieldwork could relocate the site of the death of Edwin - England’s first Christian king of Northumbria - from near Doncaster to Cuckney.

BOHIS Chairman, Paul Jameson said: “It is very exciting - what we have found has made a compelling case to apply for further permissions and funding to find out more.”

Experts using ground penetrating radar have discovered what may represent a large mass burial pit in the north east portion of St Mary’s grounds.

They have also identified five other sites of potential interest and pits dotted around the grounds, most thought to be reinterment sites.

Paul added: “Both inside and outside the church itself are areas which may be mass burial pits - undisturbed by the subsidence work of 1950/51.

“These may date from 632 AD still in situ after they were buried in mass graves following the battle.”

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.

Paul Jameson said: “It was reported at the time by the Rev. Lound and Maurice Barley that there were more than 200 reinterments .

“They were the remains of young men with perfect sets of teeth and with their feet were facing east.”

The battle is thought to have been a turf war over disputed territory pre-arranged between Edwin of Northumbria and Cadwallon of Gwynedd (who may have joined forces with Penda of Mercia).

It was a pivotal battle and the leaders controlled a sizeable portion of England, Scotland and Wales.

Paul added; “They probably decided to meet at a place on the periphery of Edwin’s kingdom – his capital was York.

“If you have prior intelligence you can set the terms where you meet them to do battle on disputed land.”

There are pits outside the church in the central North Eastern portion, also near to the oil tank and two shallow pits near the northern boundary.

In the 1950s the workmen reportedly uncovered 200 bodies and it was speculated by Stanley Revill (in his 1975 Thoroton Society article) that there could be more than 800 bodies in total.

Paul added: “If 800 died there may perhaps have been 3-4,000 taking part in the battle.

“Edwin’s side lost and he was killed along with his son Osfrith and possibly Godbold, King of the Orkneys.”

But what of Doncaster’s claim to be the site of the battle?

Paul explained, “Despite research, nothing has ever been uncovered to place the battle there but we remain open minded.”

He explained : “It may not have called the battle of Cuckney because the place may not have existed in 632AD - Hatfield has a very ‘vanilla’ name - it merely means heath field or unattended land.

“When we got the results we were absolutely delighted. It showed a lot of material which could be of interest to an invasive operation.”

BOHIS now want to carbon date a sample of the bones and perform strontium analysis of teeth to find out where the bodies may have originated.

This next phase will involve invasive work which will need further permissions from the Diocese of Southwell and the Welbeck Estates Company Ltd. plus applications for futher funding.

The group was recently awarded £15,600 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) support to explore and share the history of Cuckney Norton and Holbeck, part of which included a non invasive the battle investigation.

This non invasive project has now been completed, barring formal final sign off.

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

As part of the project they produced 200 editions of a commemorative book which it is hoped will preserve their work for future generations to see.

BOHIS is holding its next meeting next Friday May 13 at Cuckney Village Hall at 7.30pm. Admission is free.