Keeping Crime Team out of picture at Towton

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IT HAS been described as the bloodiest and largest battle ever fought on British soil – and its legacy remains more than 500 years on.

The Battle of Towton took place in North Yorkshire on March 29, 1461, during the Wars of the Roses and led to as many as 30,000 casualties.

But the site has been placed on the Heritage at Risk register owing to years of illegal metal detecting and high agricultural use.

A concerted effort has, however, been launched to ensure that the site is saved for future generations.

A summit meeting was held two years ago between landowners, North Yorkshire Police and Towton Battlefield Society as well as the UK Border Agency, Selby District Council and the Royal Armouries.

The Battlefields Trust, Towton Archaeological Project and members of the metal detecting community were also involved in the discussions.

A strategy was devised to prevent the increasing intrusions of nighthawks, while also recognising that responsible and controlled metal detecting has a vital role to play in uncovering the secrets of the battlefield.

A carefully controlled process of access is being introduced so that accredited metal detectorists can operate on the battlefield.

English Heritage confirmed that enforcement agencies will now deal any incidents of trespass as a priority.

A spokeswoman said: “This process has been accepted and welcomed by the responsible metal detecting community as it will allow their valued contribution to continue as they work alongside the national and local agencies but will eradicate the menace of trespass, damage and theft from the land.”

The Friends of the Battlefield have also recognised that the moves will allow greater protection of the site.

The Battle of Towton was fought between the Houses of York and Lancaster for control of the English throne.

An estimated 50,000 to 80,000 soldiers were involved in the conflict, which took place between the villages of Towton and Saxton about 12 miles south west of York in a snowstorm on Palm Sunday.

The outcome was such a decisive victory for the Yorkists that it left the Lancastrian army effectively finished as a fighting force.

An astonishing one per cent of the English population died in the battle and the equivalent today would be 600,000 people.

As a result, the course of British history was changed and Edward IV was later crowned king of England.

While metal detectorists have been searching for relics from the actual battle, the area has also thrown up hugely important finds from earlier eras.

Two bracelets discovered by legitimate treasure hunters in a stream near Towton have been declared the first Iron Age gold jewellery ever found in the North of England.

They have given the clearest indication yet that there was serious wealth in the area before the Romans arrived, a theory which until the find was only the subject of speculation.