Today, Market Bosworth is best recognised for giving its name to the Battle of Bosworth, fought nearby in 1485, where the last Yorkist king of England, Richard III, was slain. In recent years, this defining moment has framed the town’s narrative, drawing in thousands of visitors and tourists, especially following the discovery of Richard III’s remains by University of Leicester archaeologists beneath a car park in Leicester in 2012. The battle’s long association with the town was reaffirmed in 2015, when the king’s funeral cortège passed through Market Bosworth on its way to Leicester Cathedral for his reburial. Today, a memorial plaque in the Market Place commemorates the event.
The town’s own history, however, is far from clear. Historical research, small-scale archaeological excavations, and the discovery of finds of Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and ‘Viking’ artefacts in Market Bosworth show that it has rich archaeological potential but leave many unanswered questions particularly regarding the origins and early development of the settlement.
What is Bosworth Links?
Bosworth Links aimed to involve residents of Market Bosworth and its wider community in carrying out archaeological excavations (test-pits) in the spaces they inhabit in order to make new discoveries about the history of the places in which they live.
It was hoped that this would inspire and stimulate wider interest in the history of the market town and contribute to ongoing academic research into the development of settlement, landscape, and demography in Britain.
Bosworth Links was a two-year community initiative set up in 2016 by the Market Bosworth Society in partnership with University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS). It was primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council’s Parish Communities Initiative Fund (PCIF) and the Dixie Educational Foundation (DEF).
In total, 60 test-pits were excavated across Market Bosworth between 2017 and 2019. Over 300 homeowners, volunteers and students from local schools took part in the project.
Eight test-pits contained archaeological features, including pebble surfaces, pits and post-holes, and possible stone wall footings of medieval to modern date. Other test-pits were extensively reworked in the past, either through agricultural disturbances, building work or gardening. Altogether, 22,702 individual finds (198kg) were recovered ranging in date from the Neolithic (over 4,500 years ago) to the present day.
Key discoveries included:
- Strong evidence for an extensive late Neolithic / early Bronze Age landscape beneath the town, including a probably barrow cemetery.
- Widespread Roman activity, probably associated with a known villa site immediately north of the town.
- Early Anglo-Saxon activity at the villa site and the adjacent Silk Hill.
- Market Bosworth probably formed in its present location in the 10th century, particularly along Park Street to the south of St Peter’s Church, then spread westwards around the market place in the later 13th century.
- In the late 14th / 15th century there was possibly a 41% drop in the pottery-using population, perhaps a consequence of the Black Death.
- Re-settlement of the depopulated areas did not take place until the mid-16th century.
Watch two short films about the project, produced by filmmaker Bill Newsinger.
Download the full report here (including the reports for Test-Pits 1-53):
Morris, M. 2018 Bosworth Links: A community archaeological test-pit excavation at Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, 2017-18. ULAS Report 2018-186