HS2 archaeologists find scars of early Civil War skirmish at Midlands site

Around 200 impact marks from pistol shots were discovered on a medieval gatehouse of Coleshill Manor in Warwickshire.

Musket ball impact marks on the outside wall of Coleshill gatehouse
Musket ball impact marks on the outside wall of Coleshill gatehouse

Evidence of what could be one of the first skirmishes of the English Civil War in the 17th century has been uncovered by HS2 archaeologists.

Around 200 impact marks from pistol shots were discovered on a heavily fortified medieval gatehouse of Coleshill Manor in Warwickshire.

More than 40 musket balls were also found in nearby soil, further suggesting a confrontation took place.

A musket ball impact on a wall and a musket ball shot found below
A musket ball impact on a wall and a musket ball shot found below (HS2 Ltd/PA)

The first recorded battle of the Civil War was the Battle of Curdworth Bridge in 1642, a short distance from Coleshill Manor.

Professor Alice Roberts, historian and presenter of BBC show Digging For Britain, which will feature HS2’s archaeology work, said: “The discovery of the medieval gatehouse at Coleshill was quite unexpected and I was amazed at just how much of the monumental stone building – with its two great octagonal towers – had survived below the ground.

“The front of the gatehouse was pockmarked and had clearly been shot at with muskets – perhaps for target practice – but there’s also an intriguing possibility that we’re looking at evidence of the earliest skirmish of the Civil War.”

Stuart Pierson, archaeologist at Wessex Archaeology, commissioned to carry out the excavations for HS2, described the discoveries as “extraordinary”.

He went on: “These findings – not recorded in historical records – would have been lost to time had it not been for the expertise and hard work of the team.”

Professor Alice Roberts sketching Coleshill Manor
Professor Alice Roberts said she was ‘amazed’ at the findings (HS2 Ltd/PA)

Coleshill Manor, next to a bridge over the River Cole, was in the hands of Royalist Simon Digby as the Civil War approached.

It would have been a strategic position that the Parliamentarians would have wanted to control, and experts believe they would have passed close to it on their way to Curdworth Bridge.

Records of the Civil War are confined to major battles, so many details of events are unknown.

More than 100 archaeological sites have been examined on the route of phase one of HS2’s high-speed railway which is being constructed between London and Birmingham.

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