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The continuing examination of the metal finds from the site of the battle of Fulford now allows us to say with confidence that the site and course of this important battle of 1066 has been identified.


As a part of the annual Jorvik Festival in York during February, another batch of the iron finds from the Fulford site was sorted by experts and enthusiasts. A second metal smithing area was identified. It is close to the hearth identified two years ago. A Scandinavian archaeologist, Mari Wickerts, has tentatively identified as some weapon fragments among the finds near this hearth. The suggestion is that victors of the battle were in the process of reworking damaged weapons on these hearths.


Further metal working tools were also identified nearby in the area where a hoard of worked iron, known as billets, appears to have been abandoned. Charles Jones, who has been organising the work, has suggested the destruction of the Norse victors of Fulford just a few days after the battle when they were defeated at Stamford Bridge might explain why nobody returned to claim such a valuable collection of metal.


Some of the fragments have been positively identified. Following a suggestion from Dr Arthur MacGregor of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford that we had found arrowheads of Scandinavian origin, details of one item was sent to Dr Peter Lindbom, a leading expert on arrow points in Sweden. He is of the opinion that it was of Scandinavian origin but says that it appeared to be only part finished. “Norwegian arrows points are normally more elaborate.”


“This opens up the possibility that there are more hearths to be discovered as the arrow head was found on the Norse bank and near the left flank while the hearths we have so far located are 300 metres away on the right flank.” And metal recycling provides one explanation for why this apparently unfinished, tanged arrows was located on the Norse, rather than the English bank, noted Charles Jones who has led the community project which has had unstinting support from academic and heritage organisations plus generous financial backing from the Heritage Lottery fund.  More conservation and identification work is being planned.


“We always knew that it would be very difficult to locate the precise site of this ancient battle” said Charles. “Medieval battle were brief events and, compared with later conflict, were modest in size. There were probably between 10 and 15 thousand warriors at Fulford. What we are finding suggests that the victors systematically cleared the site of the items that would help modern searchers like us to identify this forgotten battle. We have been very fortunate at Fulford.  If, as I expect, it turns out that this recycling work was interrupted by the arrival of King Harold with another army then our hearth-finds might also explain why the site at Hastings has not yielded a single weapon fragment.”  King Harold’s army annihilated the invaders. The written sources suggest that only 1 in 10 returned to Norway. “So the metal workers had only done a few days recycling work before they were either killed or driven out of England.”


“These finds are particularly exciting because they confirm the work that we have done by drilling over 100 holes to plot the landscape of 1066. What we found when we reconstructed the surface on which the battle was fought in 1066 was that it not only fitted the one detailed account of the battle from the Nordic sources extremely well but actually allowed us to make better sense of the description of events in the saga than the modern landscape which has been changed by the regular flooding. These physical finds leave very little room for doubt that we have identified a missing piece of our history,  the site of the battle of Fulford.”


Two-thirds of the ferrous finds have now been sorted after they had been stabilised by slowly removing the moisture which allows them to be handled. “Much work remains to be done” added Charles. “Who know what other surprises we have still to find. It is vital that we are allowed to return to the place of these finds to confirm, and extend, the work. We are also optimistic that we will find more arrowheads when we are allowed to work on the English side of the bank which is where arrows would have fallen during the battle. Our work so far has been very restricted by the limited access we have been granted to the battle site.”


Access to the English bank, and the further work on the areas where the metal working and hoard of iron billets were found has been blocked by the house-builder, Persimmon, who are waiting to hear if they will be allowed to build about 700 homes on the site following a public inquiry last summer. Persimmon, who claim to be the country’s biggest builder of houses, have their national headquarters in Fulford, which is just 3 km south of York.


The battle of Fulford took place on Wednesday 20 September 1066. It was the first of the three great battles that culminated in the defeat of Anglo-Saxon England at Hastings on 14 October. Quite why a battle of the size and importance of Fulford should have been overlook in our national story is one of the questions raised by Charles Jones in his book ‘The Forgotten Battle of 1066, Fulford’ which was published last summer and quickly sold out. The paperback edition is due to be published by Tempus in July.


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

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