Battle of Hastings 1066
Battle of Hastings
Background In the 800's and 900's AD, the vikings attacked the English and French coasts, and eventually were allowed to settle in East Anglia by King Alfred the Great, and also in Northern France by the French King. The area they were given in France was named Normandy(The land of the North Men) "NormanDuring 1051, Duke William of Normandy aged 24 at the time, was recieved into the court of Edward the Confessor as a guest. He was a distant blood relative, and during the visit it is widely believed that Edward named William as his sucessor. This Norman influence was opposed by the Saxon nobility, especially Godwin of Wessex, who forced Edward to remove most of his Norman Councillors.

The Godwin's influence increased throughout Edwards reign, and the king married Earl Godwin's daughter Edith. Earl Godwin died in 1053, and his son Harold inherited the title, and became the kings chief advisor.

In 1066 Edward the Confessor died, and the Saxon nobility had managed to manouver Edward into naming Harold as his successor.

Events in 1066 Early April 1066 saw Halleys Comet return, and the Saxons saw this as a dark portent of things to come.

Harold's brother Tostig wanted the throne, and he allied himself with King Harold Hardrada of Norway. Now King Harold had a problem at both ends of his kingdom. In the North an invasion by the Scandinavians, and in the South by William. The Normans were a greater threat than the Norwegians so along the South coast of England were set up watching posts.

By the middle of August 1066 , William had amassed his forces, had his mission blessed by the Pope, and was waiting favourable winds to blow his troops towards England.

The winds continued to blow from the East and North East, and Tostig and Harold Hardrada took advantage of this and landed on the Humber Estuary in early September. They defeated a Saxon force at Gate Fulford, and marched on York. King Harold took his troops north, and surprised and defeated the Norwegians at Stamford Bridge on September 25th 1066.

However the winds had now changed direction, and William was able to sail across the channel, starting from St Valery in the evening of 27th September , and landing in the morning of the 28th September near to Pevensey possibly towards North Eye and Hooe or perhaps into the sheltered valley at Bulverhythe . The area now known as Normans Bay would have been underwater at the time. The Normans camped where they landed, and it is believed that they built a small wooden pre-fabricated fort for protection. News of the landing sped its way to Harold, who ordered his forces to march the 197 miles to London by October 6th. He only paused to let his troops rest, and then continued to march the further 50 miles towards Hastings to try to surprise the Normans.

The Battle By the evening of October 13th the Saxons made their camp at Caldbec Hill which is where the Windmill is located in Battle .

The Norman scouts had seen the Saxon's arrive, so Harold's plans to surprise the Normans had failed.

Saturday 14th October dawned, and the Normans had already marched from their base originally thought to be Hastings, but it is possible that it could have been at Bulverhythe to the west, or even as far as Hooe . The Hooe option is possible, as legend has it that Standard Hill at Ninfield was the place where William's Standard was located, and this would have been unlikely if the Norman's were based at Hastings .

Harold deployed his troops along the top of Senlac Ridge, about 10 men deep for about 1/2 mile in a shield wall. It is believed that about 7000 Saxons were involved, but these troops may have been weary from their forced march from Yorkshire making them less effective. The Normans were about the same in number, but they had a few advantages. They used chain mail covered mounted cavalry, whereas the Saxons knights dismounted before battle. They also had time to rest before the battle, and as many were mercenaries were very keen to win.

At about 9.00am William attacked the shield wall up the hill, and the battle raged for a number of hours, with no apparent effect on the wall. The Breton mounted knights on the left flank of William's forces had been unable to have any effect, and demoralised, they ran, leaving the Norman centre exposed. At the same time rumours of Williams death went through the French lines. The Saxon part time soldiers, the fyrdsmen to the right of Harolds force ignored orders and chased the retreating cavalry. William who was still alive, took off his helmet and rode up and down his Battle line. This rallied the Bretons who turned on their pursuers and slaughtered them.

William decided that this was a good tactical manouver, and arranged for his troops to attack and feign retreat. This worked and more of the less disciplined Saxons fell to his plans. This now left the House Carls and Theins, the Saxon regular soldiers as Harolds defenders. The Normans attacked again and this time Harold was hit in the eye with an arrow, causing a very serious wound. The Saxons continued to defend Harold but were eventually cut down.

The remaining Saxons retreated into the surrounding woodland, but were pursued until it became dark. During this time many of the Norman knights chasing the Saxons fell into a deep ravine (known by the French as the Malfosse - evil ditch) and were slaughtered. It is likely that this is part of the Ashbourne valley close to current Ashburnham , Netherfield and Penhurst near an old hill fort in Creep Wood, or perhaps further inland at Ticehurst .

There is an excellent reference site with a lot of background research that shows that the Normans could have landed at the present Bulverhythe Secrets of the Norman Invasion the author is Nick Austin.
Villages Mentioned
Ticehurst (Anne Boleyn and Pashley Manor)
Netherfield (Village at the top of the Hill)
Battle (William the Conqueror prevails)
Ashburnham (Last Iron Furnace in Sussex)
Hooe (The Haunt of Smugglers)
Ninfield (Last of the Iron Stocks)
Normans Bay (Last Invasion in 1066)
Penhurst (Beautiful yet Remote)
Pevensey (Ancient Roman Fortification)
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Local Interest
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Roman, Saxon and Norman History of the South East
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