Monthly Archives: August 2014

Potential House Building – Clifton Battle Site

There is a planning application to Eden Council for the building of houses very close to the so called “Rebel Tree” and  on part of the battle site at Clifton in Cumbria.


The planning application number is 14/0656 and comments etc must be submitted by 1 Sept so I apologise to those of you who might like to personally do so.

The 1745 association has submitted comments under the auspices of the Chair.

Dear Mr Hutchinson

On behalf of The 1745 Association, I wish to express concern about the proposal to build houses on the site of the Battle of Clifton, 1746. The developers and those commissioned by them acknowledge the importance of this historical site, which we argue should be protected on the following grounds:-

​1. Conservation of the erroneously named “hanging tree”. This is more accurately described as the “rebel tree”, where Jacobite soldiers are believed to have been buried. It is therefore a memorial site for the fallen.

2. The tree is also mentioned in the Tree Survey, which states,” It is understood to have historical/heritage status.”

3. Wardell Armstrong archaeologists report that the proposed building site will infringe upon the battle site, where soldiers from both armies are likely to have been buried.

Based on these facts and the availability of more appropriate sites beyond the area of the battlefield, we oppose this planning application in the interests of protecting a site of significant importance in the history of our nation.

I would be most grateful if you could acknowledge receipt of this letter and register this as an objection to the planning application for development at the site of the “rebel tree”.



This was supplemented by the following:-

The 1745 Association is a long standing organisation that studies the Jacobite period, records and preserves the memory of those who participated in the Jacobite Rising of 1745/6 and endeavours to mark the appropriate historical sites.

As such we regard the proposal to build houses on an important historical battlefield site as a matter of concern and should not be approved until further archaeological investigations are carried out to establish whether the site includes the graves of the fallen at the Battle of Clifton and / or battlefield artefacts that merit permanent conservation in situ. If this does prove to be the case, then the site should be conserved as a site of historic importance.There is plenty of undeveloped land in Cumbria which is one of the least populated counties in the country so to build on a battle site is simply not necessary.

The developers and those commissioned by them have appreciated that the area is of historical importance:-

​1. In the design and access statement mention is made of the tree. They have its name wrong but at least they take notice of it and protect its space. “It is proposed to retain and create a focal landscaped feature of the ‘Hanging Tree’ to the north of the site, which will extend to approximately 50 metres in diameter, encompassing the root protection area of the tree.”

​ On a point of accuracy the tree is not the “hanging tree”. No one was hanged at Clifton. The tree is the “rebel tree” after the soldiers of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s (Bonnie Prince Charlie’s) army who are buried there.

2. The tree is also mentioned in the Tree Survey. “T1 (oak) is a very old tree (probably to be considered ancient or veteran) with a large approximately 150cm diameter at breast height. There are numerous dead and fallen branches, rot holes, crown dieback and ivy around the base. Note that its root protection area has been calculated to be 18m radius from the tree stem. It is understood to have historical/ heritage status.”

3. The statement from Wardell Armstrong archaeology makes it quite clear that the proposed building site will cover part of the battle site and also states that there is a strong possibility that men from both sides of the conflict are buried there. (see Section 3,2.22 ofWardell’s statement to be found in the pdf marked “information” at the left hand side of the middle line of the attachments “View Plans and Documents”) ​

Extract from “The ’45” by Christopher Duffy

(for info regarding C. Duffy’s credentials please see


” One sergeant and twelve men of the MacPhersons lost their lives, and the five dead who are buried at the southern end of the village by the “Rebel Tree” are almost certainly of that clan. A Whig volunteer describes them as being discovered by “some frolicsome” soldiers who “dug a deep hole in the ground, and put one of them into it with his feet downwards, and so filled the earth about his body that nothing but his head and shoulders were above the earth and in that position they left him.”* Many years later “Old Rachael of Perth”( who died in 1823 at the age of eighty-nine) identified the spot to Lord Broughham, and told him that she had seen them all laid side by side in one grave, under a tree.”**

* Lord Egmont, 13 January 1746, HMC, Manuscripts of the Earl of Egmont, III, 312,


** Ferguson, W.C., 1889, 212

The key point of our objection is the loss of an important area of the last combat ever fought in England. The emphasis on the Hanging Tree is misleading, as nobody was hanged there, all the dozen or so Jacobite fatalities were through combat, and there is no firm attribution of the burial site. The archaeological report emphases ‘structures,’ whereas the requirement is for a thorough bullet sweep by trained and responsible detectorists. (Duffy)

We regret the limited time available for comment, in view of the August holiday season. This has prevented any intervention by the English Battlefields Trust, whom we believe share our concerns.

The 1745 Association is of the opinion that much could be made of the site in terms of education and tourism if the full potential of the site and its place in the history of The UK was realised. We recognise that in the past Lowther Estates has a record of responsible stewardship, and point out that the 1745 Association is in a position to

lend positive help to any initiative to exploit the tourist potential of this historic site.

At the very least the developers ought to have the site fully investigated for human remains and historical artefacts. If then the council still decides to approve the plan for building either in full or in part the developers might be persuaded to provide money under Section 106 of The Town & Country Planning Act 1990. Such money could contribute towards the development of this site as a useful historical public amenity.The 1745 Association would be happy to help provide information and guidance in this matter

In the light of the above, the 1745 Association objects to the plans detailed in this planning application as they currently appear