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Symeon of Durham
 Recording the events of September 1066
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AngloSaxon Chronicles
Naming the battle
Symeon of Durham
Geoffrey Gaimar
Henry of Huntingdon
John of Worcester
William of Malmesbury
Orderic Vitalis
The Life of King Edward
Sagas compared
Origin of sagas
Song of Maldon
Finding Fulford
Harald's army
Third Battle of 1066

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Symeon of Durham

Symeon, writing at the end of the 11th century, mentions the name Fulford. He is one of only two among the ancient chroniclers to name the battlesite as Fulford. For those unfamiliar with the geography of the region, Durham is the nearest Episcopal See north of York. So Symeon could be said to be a ‘local boy’. This could explain why he was able to add some details to the earlier accounts. This also supports the earlier suggestion that the chroniclers, and the subsequent historians of the 11th century events, have left us accounts which have a parochial bias. There is nothing to link him with the work in the southern monasteries.

“Earl Tosti with his fleet ….and with a quick voyage they entered the mouth of the river Humber and so sailing up the Ouse they landed at a place called Richale, and took York after a hard struggle. The Brother earls Edwin and Morkar with a large army, joined battle with the Norwegians at Fulford, near York, on the northern bank of the river Ouse and at the first onset of the fight they overthrew many; but after a long continuance of the contest, the Angles, unable to resist the force of the Norwegians, turned their backs not without some loss of their men and many more of them were drowned in the river than fell in the field. The Norwegians were masters of the field of slaughter…” [i] [ii]

The Latin the words ‘joined battle with the Norwegians at Fulford, near York, on the northern bank of the river Ouse’ is expressed like this:

‘in boreali ripa usae fluminis juxta Eboracum apud Fuleford cum Norreganis praelium…’

The word apud is translated as meaning ‘with, at or near’. However, it might be safer to say that apud expresses the idea of ‘nearness’ to Fulford. Juxta translates easily as ‘close to’ so Symeon was relating that the battle with the Norwegian took place close to York and near Fulford and on the north bank of the river Ouse.[iii]

While it is convenient to translate this sentence as the first record of Fulford as the place of the battle we know little about the settlement or place called Fulford before 1066. The area that Symeon identifies as the location of the battle is extensive, and covered an area significantly bigger than the city of York at that time. But there is no evidence that Fulford has 'moved' since the time he was writing his Historia, about 50 years after the battle. However Fulford's boundaries have shrunk, but it remains a large area and what we have come to see as the location of the battle site occupied less than .03% of the area of ancient Fulford. So the naming is interesting but contributes no more than we found in the AS Chronicles.   

[i] Symeon of Durham ‘Historia Regum’. II:180

[ii] Symeon of Durham quoted in 'Sources of York History to D 1100 Vol 1' by D W Rollason, published by York Archaeological Trust.

[iii] The Latin translation uses A Grammar of the Latin Language by C G ZUMPT 1856


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The author of the content is Charles Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com   Last updated April 2015

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