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News from 1066


The 20th September marks the 945 anniversary of the first of the three great battles of 1066 which ended the rule of the Anglo-Saxon kings in England.


What marks this battle as special is that, for the first time, it has been possible to identify the site using a range of archaeological techniques (see attached images) and the report on a decade of work was published recently.


The Norse invasion force attacked towards York but was blocked by an army at Fulford, where the old ‘muddy ford’ has been identified. We can now understand how the Viking invaders were able to exploit the tide and use the landscape to outflank the army of the northern earls.


The resulting battle matched the size and ferocity of the clash at Hastings, according to both the English and Norse chroniclers but the English were forced to retreat, leaving the way open to York. 


Meanwhile, King Harold II was heading north. He had been keeping his army ready to repel the invasion that was expected from Normandy. But on the 25th September, King Harold and his cavalry arrived from the south and caught King Harald ‘Hardrada’ from Norway and Harold’s treacherous brother, Earl Tostig, near Stamford Bridge. The records suggest that the formerly victorious Vikings, were almost wiped out. This massacre might account for the battle debris that has emerged during the hunt for the battlefield.


“What we have found is extensive evidence of metal working along the line of a deep, glacial ditch which we had identified as the most likely location for the battle” said Charles Jones, who has been leading the project.


The items gathered from the metal reprocessing sites are termed ‘billets’, the first stage in the weapon manufacturing process. Some of the iron was clearly destined to become a battle axe or an arrowhead. An unusual number of tools have also been recovered suggesting that their owners abandoned the site in haste, possibly running for their lives after their base and their leaders had been destroyed.


The site of the battle has recently been recognised with road signs where the A19 passes through the battlefield. Fulford certainly deserves to be recognised because it was the first, and arguably the largest, of the battles of 1066. Unlike Hastings or Stamford Bridge, there is now a substantial amount of physical evidence to identify the precise site of this neglected piece of our heritage.



·        Some captioned images are attached for information.

·        The full report on the work was published in March but much information can be found on the website www.battleoffulford.org.uk

·        Details of the finds are also due to be published as a conference paper by the Royal Armouries.

The work has been supported by a substantial Lottery grant and undertaken by many universities and supported by The Battlefield Trust and English Heritage with members of the community doing much of the ‘dirty’ work.


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

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