Relics of war that killed and maimed in the 17th century found near Watermead

Musket balls, most probably fired in the Battle of Aylesbury during the English Civil War in the 17th century have been found on a field at the entrance to Watermead.

With the battle ground just across the A413 on land in front of Buckingham Park it is almost certain the historic finds are relics from that time.

Pictured left to right, metal detectorists Peter Dudley and Allen Holden at site of battle of Aylesbury near Buckingham Park. The pair found what are believed to be musket balls at nearby Watermead field used during the 1642 battle during the English Civil War. They are pictured with the 32 musket balls they recovered.

Pictured left to right, metal detectorists Peter Dudley and Allen Holden at site of battle of Aylesbury near Buckingham Park. The pair found what are believed to be musket balls at nearby Watermead field used during the 1642 battle during the English Civil War. They are pictured with the 32 musket balls they recovered.

Peter Dudley, an enthusiastic metal detectorist for about 20 years said: “They are the most exciting things I have ever found, and to find 32 is amazing.”

Peter and his friend Allen Holden found the balls just before Christmas after a circus had visited and churned up the land.

Peter recalled: “I found 11 on my own and then Allen joined me a few days later and we found another 21. We just felt fantastic.”

Researching their find has been almost as exciting for the men. They sent the balls to the County Museum whilst at the same time doing their own research about the Battle of Aylesbury. The results led them to believe the musket balls were used in the battle. “Because the balls we found were in a different field to where the main battle took place we wonder if Prince Rupert of the Rhine’s men tried a pincer movement coming in from different directions,” said Peter.

Royalist Prince Rupert took Aylesbury by force in October 1642 and moved to open ground to prepare for battle when he learned Parliamentarian Colonel Balfour was on the way to relieve Aylesbury. The battle took place at Holman’s Bridge (near the Horse and Jockey). The Parliamentarian forces were victorious, despite being heavily outnumbered.

Peter said: “Some people say it was a battle, some say it was only a skirmish. However, in 1818 some men digging for gravel on the field next to Buckingham Park found 247 bodies, believed to have been the victims of the Battle of Aylesbury, being both Roundheads and Cavaliers buried together in a mass grave.”

The bodies were later reinterred near the church in Hardwick. Peter says John Hampden, who fought for the parliamentary cause and whose troops were involved in battles with Prince Rupert, was not involved in the Battle of Aylesbury as he was in mourning.

Peter said: “His eldest son had just been killed as a young man of 18 whilst defending Chenies from Royalist raiders. The other leader, Oliver Cromwell, was in Chalfont St Giles at the time of the battle, although at a later date he did visit Aylesbury and stayed at the Kings Head Hotel.”

Peter and Allen sent the musket balls to Bucks County Museum in Aylesbury. Brett Thorn, keeper of archeology, confirmed: “We took their data and the balls are all the right size to be 17th century, they are the type that were used at that time.”

But he could not confirm that they were fired in the Battle of Aylesbury.

However, given all the facts Peter and Allen are firmly of the opinion that they are indeed from that battle. Peter confirmed: “They are not really worth a lot, about £1 each, but their value to us is in what they mean, and to have found something so very old.”

In addition to enjoying their hobby, Peter and Allen, who both live in Aylesbury and work as HGV drivers, offer a free recovery service using their metal detectors for anyone who has lost a ring or article of sentimental value on open land where the approximate location is known. If you want to take up their offer call Peter on 07708 386487.

And they are working on a new venture: leading historical walking tours of Aylesbury.

They enjoy researching all their finds and are fascinated by history in general, which has led them to read in depth about the history of the town. Their intention is to offer walking tours later in the year, which will finish with a pint at the historic King’s Head Hotel in the Market Square.