A medieval gatehouse dating from the 13th century has been discovered by archaeologists in central England. The gate was part of a manor house and was attacked during the English Civil War.
When HS2 was excavating Coleshill Manor in Warwickshire as part of the high-speed rail project, the team made an unexpected discovery. They were delighted to make the discovery because the ruins were more important than they appeared, and could provide new insights into the history of the English civil war.
The size of the gatehouse was unknown, as the only documentary evidence for its existence was a mention in 17th century records. The gatehouse was a defensive feature of the manor. It also emphasized the importance of the owner.
Excavations at the site are led by Wessex Archaeology. The gateway to the manor presumably opened onto a drawbridge over the moat. Behind it was a large stone building, about 10m+10m in size, with a fine ashlar wall and a well-reinforced two-cornered tower built of skillfully carved stone blocks. In the late 17th century it fell into disuse.
Stuart Pierson from Wessex Archaeology said he was really surprised by the find, “People always say that in archaeology we want to find gold, but I think for most of us finding that tower will always be better than finding gold. I think finding it is the highlight of our career and I don’t think we’ll ever find anything like it again.”
Archaeologists also found nearly 200 holes in the sandstone walls on the outside from pistol shots and musket balls, confirming that the gate had come under fire. More than 40 musket balls were also recovered from a mound of earth near the entrance to the mansion, evidence that a battle had taken place.
The team believes this damage can be linked to the first battle of the English Civil War. Known as the Battle of Curdworth Bridge, it took place a short distance from Coleshill Manor in 1642. King Charles I was king of the kingdoms of Scotland, England and Ireland from 1625 until his execution in 1649. The Battle of Curdworth Bridge was a civil war between the king’s loyalist forces and parliamentary soldiers who wanted to overthrow him.
HS2’s Head of Heritage, Helen Wass, “HS2’s extensive archaeology programme, which has involved hundreds of people, has provided unparalleled insights into the history of Britain and the discoveries at Coleshill Manor are a major part of that. Whilst we may never have all the details of the battle that took place in Coleshill, our investigations help historians weave together the complex pieces of information to increase our understanding of events. Although fieldwork between London and the West Midlands is largely complete, detailed post excavation study will begin shortly and we will continue to share the incredible pieces of our past discovered during this once in a lifetime dig.” said.