tanged arrow from Fulford

The Ford
 Recording the events of September 1066
yorks releif map
Previous archeology
Soil survey
The Ford
Landscape model
Adjusting dates
Tide predictions
Size of the armies
Weather and light on the day of the battle
Still to do



The Final Report

Finding Fulford cover

The Fulford Tapestry

Experts have their say

The Ford

This area has been scoured and eroded by the Beck as it adjusted its course to pass though the gap. The precise sequence of geological events which shaped the basin to the east of the moraine gap is not obvious. The modern cemetery, classified as sand/gravel, provides the eastern bank of the basin at the ford while it is the moraine material which forms the western flank of the basin. There was a stream between these two which has been buried in a duct since WWII as it is visible on early maps and air photographs. This duct now emerges near the Stone Bridge.


Figure 3.18 Outfalls for buried streams: The old fording area has two outfalls for the streams that used to run below. One emerges near Stone Bridge and the other near Landing Lane. The area has been in-filled to create a playing field for the local community. The underlying shape of the land surface prior to the dumping of building spoil was worked out by drilling a number of boreholes.


It seems likely that beneath the retreating ice sheet, various drumlins and small moraines were sculpted by melt-water channels which left the high ground along the line of the A19 that spanned the York and Escrick moraines. The ford was left as an amphitheatre-shaped feature to the south of the Beck and a smaller, steeper moraine bank to the north.

The location of a ford is suggested by extrapolating five lines

  1. The footpath that runs through Water Fulford
  2. The line of the beck deduced by modelling the basin east of the gap
  3. A perpendicular to Stone Bridge
  4. Bisecting the angle of the moraines at the surface
  5. The line of the road through modern Fulford

These lines suggest that the ford lies within a 15m circle of uncertainty based on the grid SE 61164871.

Near this point, no grey alluvium could be identified in the borehole that was drilled. But at this point a layer of pebbles and sand was identified above the boulder clay. Sixty metres either side of the putative fording place, a layer of the grey alluvium was identified so this was a muddy ford.

This is one of the key findings from all of the work that was undertaken. At the time of the battle there was a broad, fordable crossing of Germany Beck which is located just to the east of Stone Bridge. The ford had dense boulder clay at its base but the surrounding area was covered by grey alluvial mud which probably supported some limited marshy vegetation similar to the Ings.

The water from the beck and possibly two other channels entering the ford might have been canalised by the locals but it is equally possible that it flowed, shallow and wide, across the base clay. The latter pattern would have made it easy to provide stepping-stones or consolidated base at the crossing and this might be the layer of stone that was identified in one bore-hole.

Other streams joined the Beck flowing from the south so there could have been two or three separate crossings in the basin that formed the fording place but the impression gained from the core samples, and the surrounding land, is of a shallow bowl with hard clay at the base.

This was a broad, shallow ford so that the rising tide would make the ford broader rather than much deeper. This channel provided the eastern boundary of Water Fulford and is still visible in air photos from 1952, by which time both flows hade been canalised.


The playing fields have now covered the old ford. The bore-holes on the field revealed that there is 3.7m of mixed building debris and clay over the original surface. The theodolite survey work suggests that the ford was 4.72m AOD and the water level of a quiescent Ouse is about 2m AOD. With tides rising at least 4m above the low river level, there can be little doubt that the area of the ford would have been wide and wet when battle commenced and this is confirmed by the alluvium detected around the ford.

It is therefore possible that the water at the ford was too deep for an hour before and perhaps three hours after high tide, shortly after 09:00 on the day of the battle, to prevent the armies engaging. But there are too many assumptions about the surface level of the river in 1066 and the hydrodynamic behaviour of flood-water along the Beck to be able to define the depth and extent of the water level at the ford.

Last updated May 2012