Using Barnet’s history to boost its future: Joseph’s ground-breaking research presented to civic leaders

Sixth-former Joseph Runchman has outlined how Barnet can make the most of its status as the location of one of the key battles in the Wars of the Roses.

In Commemorating the Battle of Barnet, a special report compiled in his own time over the course of more than a year, Joseph set out how Barnet could learn from the example of Leicester’s tourism bosses in capitalising on the discovery of Richard III’s body in the city.

To leverage support for his findings, he presented the report at a special event at Barnet Museum, where the guests included local MP Theresa Villiers, the Leader of Barnet Council, Cllr Richard Cornelius, other council representatives and representatives of the museum.

Afterwards, museum trustee and curator Michael Noronha, wrote to Headmaster Neil Enright: Joseph’s report was not only “excellent”, but “with the Heritage Lottery-funded Battle of Barnet Project underway [it was] a timely and important piece of work”.

""Mr Noronha added: “Three things in particular strike me about Joseph Runchman’ s work: first, he showed a high degree of creativity and imagination to think of the project and fit it into his subject interests of Economics and History; secondly, he showed a great deal of persistence and diligence in carrying out the task; and thirdly, the output was well argued and very well presented.”

In turn, the Headmaster has congratulated Joseph on the report: “This was a truly impressive piece of work. In producing it, Joseph showed both initiative and perseverance.  I know that our Head of History, Helen Macgregor, and her colleagues in the department are all justly proud of this contribution to the good of the borough.”

""Year 13 pupil Joseph, who plans to study History at university, first offered to become a volunteer at the museum after his interest was piqued when he attended a lecture on mediaeval history held in Hadley Wood.

Learning of the issues the museum faces, including its difficulties in securing funding, Joseph “decided to do something about it”. Consequently, he wrote the report to explore the ways that the museum, and the High Barnet area more widely, could secure funding and investment through making more of the 1471 Battle of Barnet and its place in the Wars of the Roses.

“I saw the investment in Leicester after ‘the king in the car park’ so made this the focus,” he said. During the next year, Joseph juggled research for the report with the demands of his School work, visiting a range of sites connected to the Wars of the Roses, including Leicester – where he spoke to the former Mayor – and nearby Bosworth (the location of the decisive battle where Henry Tudor defeated Richard III). He examined the impact of these sites’ historical connections on the local economy, including through tourism, and assessed what High Barnet could learn from them in order to boost awareness, visitor numbers and investment. He then produced a report summarising his findings, noting the challenges and opportunities the local area is facing.

""“Most of all, I would stress the importance of accreditations for investment and increased visitor numbers,” he said. “But you also need to be quick to respond and be ready to ride the crest of the wave, as they did in Leicester: they had built a brand new museum before the remains found in the car park were officially confirmed as belonging to Richard III, so they were ready to go on day one.”

In order to be in a similar position, it will be important for historians to nail down the oft-disputed precise location of the Battle of Barnet, Joseph believes. He has put his name down for a place on one of the forthcoming archaeological digs at Kitts End Farm to search for the battlefield site. “I am hoping that good finds will bring fresh impetus and another focal point.” Joseph’s report and these digs all contribute to the wider Battle of Barnet Project.

After the report presentation, Joseph said: “It was a really good experience presenting to people in those positions and it went very well – I think they were receptive.”