Wales Urged to Make More of Its Historic but Forgotten Battle Sites; Campaign to Put Ancient Sites on a Par with Hastings and Bannockburn

Article excerpt

Byline: Sally Williams

CAMPAIGNERS are calling for Wales' ancient but largely forgotten battle sites to be preserved to protect the nation's heritage and boost tourism.

Historians and politicians believe Wales has been slower than other nations to preserve its historic battlefields.

In Scotland, the site of the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), in the war for independence, is promoted well and there is a visitor centre to mark The Glencoe Massacre (1692). And in England, which has a Battle Register, the Battle of Hastings (1066) is brought to life at an interactive visitor experience.

In Wales, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams is supporting calls to safeguard the 10-acre hillside scene of The Battle of Pilleth, a landmark victory in Owain Glyndw r's fight for Welsh independence. In June 1402, Glyndw r defeated a formidable force led by Edmund Mortimer, one of King Henry IV's Marcher barons at Bryn Glas, near Knighton.

"This site is an integral part of our history as a nation and the scant interest it has been given officially is in complete contrast to the Bannockburn site, which has been accorded national status in Scotland," Ms Williams said.

Locals would like to see a tourist information site at Pilleth, showing visitors who Glyndw r was, what happened and what the troops were wearing, rather than just drive by oblivious to the site or its significance.

Historian Martin Hackett wants the site of the Battle of Buttington near Welshpool, promoted as well.

Buttington is where the Danish Army was defeated by King Alfred the Great allied to the Welsh under King Merfyn of Powys in the Severn Valley in 893.

He said: "Historians often have difficulty identifying battle sites because of a lack of archaeological records and historical references.

"But for the Battle of Buttington, we have both these things which is very rare and the battle is mentioned in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle. It says the Danes had made their way up the Thames and the Severn rivers, probably by boat, and occupied an existing fort possibly on a mound where Buttington church is now.

"The Danes were then besieged by the English and Welsh armies for some weeks before being forced to fight their way out, in the hope of gaining their freedom.

"Around 400 skulls plus limbs were discovered that showed signs of battle scars and a horse's skull, which the soldiers would have eaten before the fight."

He said in France, Greece and especially Italy and the USA, much is made of history with a visitor centre, a tearoom and a souvenir shop bringing in tourism, employment and wealth.

"Welshpool is privileged sitting amidst battles that run from Roman times to the English Civil War - all of them significant.

"There is enough material in this area, which includes the site of the Battle of Montgomery - probably the biggest battle ever fought in Wales - for Welshpool to become an historical military mecca.

"Surely with the new Welshpool livestock market being built on the site of iron-age/Celtic remains and the new Tesco coming on the site of the old livestock market, commitment could be given to building a new visitor centre.

"Tourists could explore these local sites of national and in the case of the Battle of Buttington, international significance, that could attract Danish tourists in particular. …