Excavations at Coleshill Manor, a large medieval manor house in Warwickshire, have revealed evidence of a possible previously unknown Civil War skirmish.
Archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology, working in advance of HS2 construction, have been excavating the site for the past three years. They have already uncovered the remains of the manor’s Elizabethan gardens (see CA 373), which were added after the earlier medieval manor was rebuilt in the late 16th century by Sir Robert Digby.
The most-recent excavations unearthed the foundations of the gatehouse. Previously, not much had been known about this building other than a passing mention of its existence in 17th-century records, but the work by Wessex revealed that it was a large defensive feature and probably once contained a drawbridge, which would have been the sole entry point to the manor, as it was surrounded by a large moat. They found that the gatehouse had two heavily fortified angular towers, made of fine ashlar masonry and expertly carved stone blocks, as well as a large stone building at the back, measuring 10m by 10m. Interestingly, it appears that it was originally constructed in the 13th or 14th century, but did not go out of use until the late 1650s, decades after Robert Digby had already rebuilt the rest of the manor, perhaps suggesting that he felt the defensive feature was still necessary.
Attesting to this apparent need for protection, the team from Wessex Archaeology have identified at least 200 impact-marks made by pistol shot and musketballs on the outer walls of the gatehouse, while more than 40 musketballs have been removed from the surrounding soil (pictured above), which would have been part of the moat at the time of the apparent skirmish. Although no battle has been recorded at Coleshill, the Battle of Curdworth Bridge – one of the first engagements of the Civil War – is known to have occurred just a short distance away in August 1642. The owner of Coleshill at that time, Simon Digby, was a known Royalist, and as the Parliamentarians would have had to pass by the manor on their way to Curdworth Bridge, it is possible a skirmish may have broken out there.