The Tewkesbury Battlefield Society is campaigning to protect The Gastons from development. The fields are part of the historic site of the Battle of Tewkesbury, one of the defining battles of the Wars of the Roses. More than 2000 men were killed including Prince Edward of Lancaster and many prominent Lancastrian nobles. King Henry VI was murdered in the Tower of London shortly after Lancaster’s defeat. The site is on the English Heritage Register of Historic Battlefields, which lists 43 historically important English battlefield sites.
The English Heritage Battlefield Report of Tewkesbury states that: “On 3 May 1471…Prince Edward entered into a field named ‘Gastum’ at Tewkesbury. Further, the monk, in listing the battle dead who were buried in the Abbey, refers to those ‘Nomina occisorum in bello Gastiensi prope Theokesbyri (….in the battle of ‘Gastum’ near Tewkesbury). Ever since, this identification has been taken to mean the Gaston field, agrazing area over 40 acres in size covering ground stretching approximately from Lincoln Green westwards to Bloody Meadow, eastwards to Gupshill Farm and northwards through the present cemetery to the Vineyards.”
The Gastons have now been put up for sale by the owners, Tewkesbury School’s governors. They will be sold to the highest bidder in a sealed bids auction, with a deadline of 3 February. Members of Tewkesbury Battlefield Society want to put a bid in to try to prevent the land, part of the 1471 battleground, being sold to developers.
Steve Goodchild from the society told BBC News: “The concern is that developers may want to buy the land and may want to pay much more than any going rate. The method of sale through sealed tenders makes it almost impossible for us to decide what is a sensible bid. If it goes to, say, £200,000, raising the money would be quite difficult.”
Goodchild told the Gloucestershire Echo: “The guide price for the land is between £120,000 and £150,000, far above the agricultural value of £70,000 to £80,000 – suggesting the estate agents think that developers might be interested.” Although it is doubtful planning permission would be granted, with a bid to build 77 houses on the site rejected in 1996, the society fears the developers may cut off public access to the fields. It is of course common for developers to buy land and wait long periods of time for for planning permission, usually allowing the land to become derelict. “It would be a terrible thing, I think, if it got into the hands of a speculator who made it private,” Goodchild added “It would become a horrible eyesore and would be of no value to anybody.”
The society’s vision for The Gastons, should they be successful, includes restoring the fields to good pasture land, reinstating and managing the hedges, restoring a derelict animal shelter and keeping the field available for appropriate public use. The society has called a public meeting, at 7.30pm on Monday in Tewkesbury’s Royal Hop Pole Hotel, to discuss what to do next.