SMHS meeting: "1066 and all that"

21 Sep 2016

This October 14th marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings and in September, SMHS member Richard Shenton gave his talk to our group entitled "1066 and all that."

Richard served in the Royal Navy for 22 years (1972-1994) and is now a member of The Battlefields Trust and a Blue Badge Tourist Guide for Southern England. His talk is one of a series which started with the 1264 Battle of Lewes and will be followed up with a guided walk of the 1066 battle sites next year.

1066 was a year of three kings and two invasions. Edward the Confessor died in January, nominating Harold Godwinson as his successor, Harold was duly crowned king. Harold Hardrada, then King of Norway and Denmark thought he had a claim to the throne as did William, Duke of Normandy, who claimed Harold Godwinson had promised to support William's claim when Edward died.

King Harold expected an invasion by William and amassed his army, both trained and conscripted men on the south coast over summer, the invasion didn't come but in September word did come that Harold Hardrada had landed in the north and King Harold marched to face his namesake at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on September 25th, which resulted in a victory for King Harold. Two days after that battle Harold received word that William had landed at Pevensey Bay - 700 ships containing 7000 men, horses and provisions, Harold marched south.

Harold's exhausted army, lacking its archers met William's invaders in the town of Battle, near Hastings, the exact site of the battle is unclear. Harold's army formed a shield wall on the hilltop while William, with infantry, archers and cavalry was forced to attack uphill.The first attack saw William's army repulsed, but the Normans were able to slay Harold's men who followed them down the hill in retreat. William sent in a cavalry attack and a rumour was spread that William had been killed. This ruse saw more Saxons follow the retreating Normans down the hill to perish. William was very much alive and his third attack saw the shield wall break. Plunging fire by William's archers and flanking attacks brought about the destruction of the Saxon army, Harold died at 6pm and the stragglers retreated to Caldbec Hill. William the Conqueror was crowned King on Christmas Day 1066, the Norman era had begun.

Our thanks are extended to Richard and also to Honorary Member Geoff Bridger who bravely stood his ground while Richard illustrated how to use various axes, swords and daggers to penetrate a shield wall, which proved both informative and highly entertaining.

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7.30pm for 8.00pm start
Function Room of the
Royal Oak Public House,
Station Street, Lewes,
East Sussex.

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