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Medieval ruins at Crowhurst Manor.

Battlesite decision under review

English Heritage is reviewing its decision not to relocate the site of the Battle of Hastings in 1066 to Crowhurst, while also considering two other applications concerning important historical claims for the Upper Wilting site. Nick Terdre reports.

In March English Heritage rejected an application arguing for a new location of the famous battle. The application was made by retired teacher Michael Bernard of Bexhill, based on the claims put forward by amateur historian Nick Austin of St Leonards.

In a statement EH says, “On 5 April 2013 the original applicant wrote to English Heritage and asked us to review our decision. We are now conducting a review of our recent assessment.”

The outcome of the review will be determined by persons who were not involved in the original decision, EH says, adding that its battlefield panel and the Designation Review Committee, which consists of independent experts, will be consulted.

In fact it took some legal muscle on the part of Mr Bernard, who corresponded with the heritage body via his lawyer, to get EH to reconsider its earlier decision. He challenged their original assessment on five grounds, among them that it was based on errors of fact and failed to take a fair and balanced approach. In accepting his application, EH did not say that they had accepted any of these criticisms.

Mr Bernard also supplied new evidence in the form of the results of a resistivity survey of Crowhurst Manor. This identified several anomalies below the surface which may indicate the walls or foundations of former buildings. According to Mr Austin, the findings are consistent with his theory that this is where the original abbey was partially built and therefore also marks the site of the battle. Taking a proper look at these structures by excavating them would seem to be the next logical step.

However, excavation is not part of EH’s review, nor even taking a trip to view the site – a spokesman confirmed to HOT that it did not visit the site as part of its earlier assessment and would not be doing so for the current review.

Three-fold claim to fame

The two other applications which EH is now mulling concern claims relating to the site of Caesar’s landing in Britain and the site of a Saxon burghal fort, both at Upper Wilting. The claims for the burghal fort have been made by Martin White, who coincidentally is also the owner and occupant of Crowhurst Manor, which is now known as Court Lodge. Upper Wilting is also where Mr Austin claims the Normans landed and made their camp.

So Upper Wilting’s claim to fame is three-fold, as a key point in our Roman, Saxon and Norman past. For this reason Mr Bernard is puzzled that EH is not considering the three sets of claims together.

“Why is it that English Heritage’s statement to the press with regard to my 1066 application and its review, which directly and explicitly concerns Upper Wilting, omits any mention of the two further claims before it for the Upper Wilting site, an omission preventing consideration of how the three claims might be mutually supportive and reinforcing?” he says.

See also our earlier coverage Hastings burgh is missing link

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Posted 20:08 Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013 In: Home Ground

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