Battle of the Beanfield
The Battle of the Beanfield took place over several hours on the afternoon of Saturday June 1, 1985 when Wiltshire Police prevented a vehicle convoy of several hundred new age travellers, known as the Peace Convoy, from setting up the fourteenth Stonehenge free festival at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England after English Heritage, the custodians of the site, persuaded a High Court Judge to grant an exclusion zone of some four miles around the Stones. The incident became notorious for accusations of a police riot that were reported to have taken place.
Those in the Convoy insist that, after a stand-off of several hours, police attacked their procession of vehicles by entering the field where they were being contained, methodically smashing windows, beating people on the head with truncheons, and using sledgehammers to damage the interiors of their coaches, an account supported by all the independent witnesses and upheld by the subsequent court verdicts. The Beanfield was the next field down from where the vehicles were; and when a large number of police entered the first field, many of the Convoy vehicles tried to escape by going through the Beanfield, where they were pursued and arrested by police.
At the time, the police alleged that they responded after they had earlier come under attack, being pelted with lumps of wood, stones and even petrol bombs, though they did not repeat these allegations in any of the subsequent court cases and no proof for any of them has ever come to light. Whilst the full account of events remains in dispute, a court judgement six years later found the police guilty of wrongful arrest, assault and criminal damage.
 The events
After gathering for the previous night in Savernake Forest, the convoy set off on the morning of June 1. There were between 80 and 120 vehicles, most of them buses and vans that had been converted into living spaces by their owners. In total there were several hundred people in the Convoy, including a number of families.
An exclusion zone had been declared four miles (6.4 km) around Stonehenge and the convoy hoped to breach this, and spend the solstice in sight of the henge. The police set up a roadblock about seven miles (11 km) from Stonehenge, by tipping three lorry loads of gravel across the road. When the Convoy halted at this blockage, the police allegedly moved down along the line of vehicles, smashing windscreens and arresting the occupants. As a result, the majority of the Convoy attempted to flee by driving through a hedgerow into a nearby grass field. Some Convoy vehicles rammed police vans.
The Convoy found themselves trapped in the field, unable to continue their journey towards Stonehenge, and the police refused to allow them to return to Savernake with their vehicles. There were attempts by Convoy members to negotiate with the police, over several hours. The Chief Constable of Wiltshire, Donald Smith ordered the arrest of all the members of the Convoy, stating that he was convinced that they were intent on breaking the exclusion zone that had been imposed around Stonehenge by English Heritage.
There were outbreaks of violence in which several members of the Convoy received head injuries. An ambulance was allowed through to take them to hospital. 
Eventually the police, many in riot gear, entered the field on foot. This gave the Convoy a couple of minutes notice that an attack was imminent, and many tried to escape in their vehicles, crossing over into the adjacent Beanfield: but travelling over rough field terrain their vehicles were so slow that they were all quickly overtaken by policemen on foot. As a result, almost all of the members of the Convoy were arrested.
Convoy member Phil Shakesby later gave his account of the day:
There were many similar reports from the travellers, which were denied by the police. Most independent eyewitness accounts did, however, relate that the police had used violent tactics against men, women and children, including pregnant women; and purposefully damaged the vehicles used by the Convoy.
Official figures said eight police officers and sixteen travellers were taken to hospital with minor injuries. One traveller suffered from a fractured skull.
The UK miners' strike of 1984-1985 ended earlier in the same year, and comparison was made with the tactics that were used by the police during the strikes. The news section of the Police Review of June 8 1985 reported "The Police operation had been planned for several months and lessons in rapid deployment learned from the miners' strike were implemented."
There were insufficient holding cells in local jails to hold all those arrested. Convoy members were transported throughout the Midlands and even to northern England.  Not all children and parents ended up in the same region. The Convoy vehicles were all towed to a single site where they could be claimed after their owners were released from custody.
Those who had attended the Stonehenge festivals to celebrate the Summer Solstice were not only not deterred by this incident; if anything, the number of pagan pilgrims grew in numbers in the years following. A pilgrimage along the ancient road known as the Ridgeway, that links several ancient sites including Avebury took place the following year.
 Media coverage
Photographic evidence of the actual police action is extremely scant. Freelance photographer Ben Gibson, engaged by The Observer that day, was arrested on charges of obstruction. Although he was later acquitted, the arrest removed him from the scene. The Observer later lost the negatives during an office move. 
Another freelance photographer, Tim Malyon, was chased from the field by police.
ITN reporter Kim Sabido, recorded an emotional piece-to-camera:
When broadcast that evening, the voice-over was removed, as was footage of the more contentious police acts. According to Sabido:
Some of the missing footage has since been rediscovered, and was incorporated into the Operation Solstice documentary shown on Channel Four in 1991.
Nick Davies reported for The Observer:
 Legal action
After nearly six years, a verdict was given in the court case taken out by twenty-four of the travellers, who had sued Wiltshire Police for wrongful arrest, assault and criminal damage as a result of the damage to themselves and their property.
In the main, they were only able to take action against the police force - it proved difficult to pursue charges against individual police officers as none of the riot police involved had been wearing identifying numbers. Despite this, one police sergeant was convicted of an assault occasioning actual bodily harm on a member of the Convoy.
The police radio had been recorded, and was used in evidence against Wiltshire Police. It was to prove inconclusive as there were gaps in the recording at vital points.
The travellers had left from Savernake Forest, land managed by the Earl of Cardigan (David Brudenell-Bruce, Earl of Cardigan) on behalf of his father, the Marquess of Ailesbury. Lord Cardigan decided to follow the convoy on motorbike, together with his friend John Moore.
Lord Cardigan witnessed the events, and later testified in court against Wiltshire Police, saying that he had seen a heavily-pregnant woman being "clubbed with a truncheon." He was criticised as an unreliable witness by several national newspapers. On Monday June 3 1985, the editorial in The Times even went as far as to state that being "barking mad was probably hereditary", probably a reference to a previous Lord Cardigan's involvement with the Charge of the Light Brigade. Lord Cardigan started legal action against The Times, The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror for their attacks on him, and received written apologies and damages from each.
Lord Cardigan also described how he was approached by the police the following day, who wanted permission to remove travellers who were still at Savernake:
After four months of hearings, twenty-one of the travellers were successful in their case and were awarded £24,000 in damages. However, the Judge refused to award them their legal costs, thereby significantly reducing the amount received.
Their barrister, Lord Gifford QC (Anthony Maurice Gifford, 6th Baron Gifford), stated "It left a very sour taste in the mouth."
 Popular culture
- UK The Levellers wrote a song about the Battle. "The Battle of the Beanfield" is found on their 1991 album, Levelling the Land.
- UK Roy Harper also wrote a song about the events of the day. "Back to the Stones" is found on his 1993 album, Unhinged.
- British progressive-rock band Solstice wrote a song which comments on the Battle. "Circles" is found on their 1997 album of the same name, and includes what sounds like reporting from the battle, with Kim Sabido's voice-over.
- The incident is mentioned in the comic book series Hellblazer in issue number 14 when John Constantine happens upon a band of people previously associated with the Peace Convoy.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Andy Worthington, editor (2005). The Battle of the Beanfield, Enabler Publications. Google Books entry
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Hippies clash with police at Stonehenge. On This Day, BBC News archive. BBC News.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 What happened next?. The Observer.
- ↑ "Police damage to vehicles" BBC article
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 The Battle of the Beanfield, In A Criminal Culture? by Jim Carey, Accessed 22 January 2008.