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What is a Historic Battlefield (AKA Registered Battlefield)?

The UK has many Historic Battlefield sites, some of which have legal protection through heritage protection legislation (as Scheduled Monuments, Listed Buildings, gardens and designed landscapes or as Conservation Areas) whilst others are protected through landscape legislation (such as National Parks, National Scenic Areas and areas designated for local landscape value).

In England, the Register of Historic Battlefields lists the sites of 43 of the most important military battles on English soil. It is maintained by English Heritage.

Historic Scotland is responsible for the Inventory of Historic Battlefields. There are currently 17 battlefields on the Inventory.

In Wales, the Welsh Ministers proposed in March 2011 that Cadw also compiles a non-statutory register of historic battlefields.

Although there are many historic battlefields in England only a few are considered to be important enough to be included in the register. The current criteria for designation are:

  • Historic significance – the battle must have had a significant impact on English history.
  • It must have involved recognised military units and the area on which the forces formed up and fought must be capable of definition on the ground.
  • Surviving topographical and built features which played a part in the battle are important as is the potential for battlefield archaeology, i.e. the survival of features and items from the battle such as graves and weapons.
  • Documents and memorials that help with the understanding of the battle through eye-witness accounts or subsequent investigation will also raise the site’s significance.

In Scotland, the criteria are similar but with the additional requirement that the it must be possible to define the site on a modern map with a reasonable degree of accuracy. English Heritage is currently reviewing the criteria in the light of recent battlefield studies and developments in battlefield archaeology.

Unlike listed buildings, Registered battlefields in England are not graded according to their relative significance.

There is currently no historic battlefield register or statutory protection for such sites in Northern Ireland.

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