In 1066, Duke William of Normandy defeated Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings….. to be honest, these words are ingrained in my memory. One of my childhood memories revolves around this battle; my sister must have had a history test coming up, and my mum was helping her revise for it. They were sitting in the porch of the little house we grew up in; my sister lying on the floor walking her feet up and down the walls, and my mum beside her in the old white armchair. Mum reads the passage ‘In 1066, Duke William of Normandy defeated Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings’ and my sister replies ‘I didn’t get that mummy – read it again!’ So on it went…….. needless to say my sister didn’t turn out to be a history buff!
I’m not going to attempt to write a history of the Battle of Hastings here, but you can find out the background to the battle here.
Suffice to say that while Harold was defeating Harold Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on 25th September 1066, William was preparing to land his forces at Pevensey Bay in Sussex. The two forces met at Senlac Hill on Saturday 14th October 1066.
Each year the battle is re-enacted in the present-day town of Battle, East Sussex, in the grounds of Battle Abbey. I’ve been fortunate to attend this for several years now; it’s like an end of season event for the re-enactors before winter sets in. It’s a great event to attend with participants from the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe.
The site is laid out with both Norman and Saxons encampments, and the battle follows the script of the actual battle. Most years the weather is beautiful; but in 2012 it was quite simply a mud bath, apart from the battlefield.
The Saxons line out at the top of the hill, in front of the abbey walls………
with the Normans approaching from the foot of the hill.
A key part of Williams army was his cavalry. Personally I always envy the guys and girls that get to do the cavalry fighting as I have always loved horse-riding.
They are very skilled and quite adept at getting their mounts to engage with warriors on foot – this takes quite a lot of training and practice, both for the riders and the horses!
Another key feature of the re-enactment are the archers.
The battle script tells how the Normans attack up the hill and eventually the Saxons break ranks to follow them, allowing the Normans to take advantage and win the battle. Harold is killed by an arrow to the eye, and William becomes William I of England. We would come to know him as William the Conqueror.
I’ve included a few more photos; hopefully they demonstrate the level of skill and fighting that these re-enactors display.
Unfortunately plans for a battle in 2013 had to be put on hold to let the grounds recover; we’ll be back in 2014!