Historic England's Register of Historic Battlefields identifies 46 important English battlefields. Its purpose is to offer them protection through the planning system, and to promote a better understanding of their significance and public enjoyment.
Careful study of a battlefield, its topography, structures, history and archaeology can tell us much about the course of the battle, about the world in which it was fought and the people who took part.
What makes a battlefield significant?
If the site of a battle is to merit registration it has to have been an engagement of national significance, and to be capable of close definition on the ground.
The most important factor will be the battle's historic significance. Battlefields have frequently been the setting for crucial turning-points in English history. For example, the Battle of Hastings in 1066 led to the Norman Conquest, while the Civil Wars in the mid-17th century changed the roles of monarchy and parliament.
Battles must have been of clear historical significance, their sites securely established, and these sites to be still recognisable today, if they are to be added to the Register. We call this latter factor topographical integrity.
Other factors may add to the likelihood that a battlefield merits registration, or give particular parts of a battlefield enhanced significance, including:
- Archaeological potential
- Military innovations
- Biographic associations
- Topographic integrity
Registered sites are not necessarily open to the public: access, other than on public rights of way, will depend on local arrangements with owners.
The UK Battlefields Resource Centre created by the Battlefields Trust is an essential resource for anyone visiting a battlefield. Included are maps, images, air photos, walking and driving tours, resources for teachers, and much more.
The Battlefields Selection Guide explains our approach to designating battlefields.
When the Register was established in 1995, each Register entry was supported by a longer report which includes an assessment of contemporary accounts of the battle and a map of the battlefield area, showing the position of the armies and the features which were part of the original battleground. While some of these reports have now been superseded by later research, they can be found as sources in the relevant list entry on The National Heritage List for England.
You can search for registered Historic Battlefields on the National Heritage List for England known as The List.