14 October 1066 – Battle of Senlac Hill

We remember today our great King and Lord of the Manor of Waltham, Harold II Godwinson, the last Anglo Saxon King of England, on this the anniversary of his death.

Edith identifies Harold's body

Published in: on October 14, 2022 at 7:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

King Harold Day 2022

A5 Poster 2022

The Guided Tour of the Abbey Church will be at 2.30pm.

Published in: on October 3, 2022 at 8:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

What was it like to be a student in early medieval England?

Interesting article about education and learning in Anglo Saxon England. It deals with the need to produce books to replace those lost when Christianity in England was destroyed by Viking invasions, and also shows how some of the new books were full of intriguing riddles.

Medieval manuscripts

Becky Lawton has written a thoughtful paper which dispels any idea that the Anglo Saxons were without culture and learning.

Here’s the link to the article

Published in: on October 3, 2022 at 7:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Replica of Duke William’s ship to be built

This is interesting – a French proposal to construct a replica of the Mora, the lead ship of those that brought Duke William of Normandy and his army to England ready for the invasion and the Battle of Senlac Hill, usually called Hastings, in 1066.

The Mora was ordered to be built by William’s wife as a gift, and was the ship in which he sailed.

The project is long term, with an end date of 2030. Click below to see the French report.


Were beacons used to signal the 1066 invasions?

There is a very interesting post on Facebook today about how the news of the Battles of Fulford, Stamford Bridge and Hastings might have been broadcast by signals to summon King Harold’s army.

Facebook will not allow me to share the post, so I will copy and paste it. Many thanks to its author Marie Hilder for the information.

“So how did King Harold and his army respond so quickly to invasion in 1066 – first in the north, and then in the south?

“In July 2016, an experimental archaeology team climbed a scarp in the Chilterns to test the efficiency of an Anglo-Saxon early warning system.

“The keywords in identifying suitable sites are Old English ‘weard’ and ‘tot(e)’ which denote watchman or look out places, especially in the south (think of Totnes in Devon, the various Toothills and Chipping Warden in the Cotswolds).

“We would expect these beacons to be placed along major routes used by the enemy, such as long distance roads, rivers and along the coast.

How beacons could have been used in 1066

Experiment with beacon in 2016

“The two sites under investigation in the 2016 study were Totternhoe in Bedfordshire and Ivinghoe in Buckinghamshire.

“Both high points have commanding views and between them, they watch the junction of two of the most important routes in Anglo-Saxon England: Watling Street (passing within 2 miles of the beacon at Totternhoe) and the Icknield Way (which actually goes over Ivinghoe and links with the Ridgeway, another prehistoric trail).

“The 2016 team lit a flare on Totternhoe, which is called ‘Totenehou’ in Domesday Book, deriving from Old English tot-ærn-hoh, meaning ‘hillspur with a lookout house’.

This flare could be seen on Ivinghoe Beacon about 5 miles distant – and vice versa – even on a hazy summer day.

“In 1066, these two beacons would be part of a larger early warning system.

“This explains how the English king and his army could arrive outside York just 5 days after the battle at Fulford. In this scenario, a forewarned Harold was on the move as soon as the Norwegian fleet was sighted off the Yorkshire coast and didn’t have to wait for news of the defeat at Fulford.

“Likewise, the English king could have heard of the Norman invasion of the south coast within 24 hours of them landing, and levies in the south start mobilising without waiting for a direct summons.

“Hills don’t move – and most of these Anglo-Saxon ‘beacon hills’ were still operational at the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588.”

Graham Owen commented

“Drove through Stamford Bridge yesterday and it is truly astonishing to think of what it would mean to march an army from there to the South Coast on foot and in such a short time – what an achievement!”

Marie Hilder  to  Graham Owen  “The housecarls would do the journey in full, but probably on horseback. And the rest of the army would be picked up en route as the king passed through the midland shires and then sent home after Stamford Bridge. A second, southern army fought at Hastings. It’s still epic stuff though.

“But there must have been some pre-agreed signal to start mobilising, and – at a guess – it involved the beacons again.”

Published in: on September 24, 2022 at 6:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

The Matilda and Stephen Song

Yes, I know it’s not about King Harold, but my other love is the Empress Maud, or Matilda, the daughter and heir of King Henry I who was usurped by Stephen of Blois claiming the throne as King Stephen. After warfare between the two sides with Matilda ascendant at one time, and then under siege by Stephen’s forces, it was finally settled that Stephen remained as King, but on his death, childless, Matilda’s son would become King Henry II. So there is my other link, as it was Henry II who built the Great Abbey at Waltham as part of his penance for the murder of Thomas Becket.

I hadn’t heard this song before, but it’s certainly a great way of getting the story over.

Published in: on February 20, 2022 at 11:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

On this day in 1066 Harold II was crowned

On 6th January 1066 Earl Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex and former Earl of Essex and East Anglia, was crowned as King Harold II of England in the West Minster Church.   The first King to be crowned there.   (You really must not believe all those who think England’s history began with the Norman Duke William the Bastard and say that he was the first to be crowned in the new church as William I.)

No doubt the villagers and canons of Waltham, where Harold had been Lord of the Manor, rejoiced at his coronation.   And in 2016, on the 950th anniversary of that coronation, we in today’s Waltham Abbey marked the occasion by a Service of Compline in the Abbey Church.

Our Rector, the Rev’d Peter Smith, devised a special litany for the service after much research into what might be suitable.   And the Abbey Church’s Founder’s Banner was brought into a prominent place.

It was a wonderful, peaceful and inspiring service in the quiet of the evening, and one we will all remember.   Photograph courtesy of Richard Walters.

Australia King Harold 314 (RW)

Lego, Meccano – forget it; Just build your own castle

This film came up on Facebook today, although it is actually older having been a television programme on BBC2.

Amazing what has been achieved using only tools and methods from medieval times.  The before and after pictures of the site show how much work has been done.   It’s not finished yet, hopefully in 2023, maybe?

For 20 Years The French Have Been Building A Medieval Castle Using Medieval Techniques, And The Result Is Incredible

Published in: on January 4, 2022 at 8:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Waltham Abbey to mark anniversary of King Harold’s death with Ceremony at Memorial

14th October is the anniversary of the death of King Harold II 1G6A0872on the battlefield of Senlac Hill in 1066, generally known as the Battle of Hastings.

An important date for us in Waltham Abbey as King Harold had been Lord of the Manor of Waltham before he ascended the throne of England, had married a local girl and raised a family here, and had founded a splendid Minster Church in thanksgiving for having been cured of paralysis when he prayed at the miraculous Holy Cross of Waltham

So on this coming Thursday, 14th October, we shall be commemorating Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo Saxon King of England, at a ceremony in the Abbey Churchyard at 10.30am when flowers will be placed on the King Harold Memorial.

The ceremony will be led by Waltham Abbey Historical Society.

Those who would  like to mark the life and death of King Harold are very welcome to attend the ceremony, or to place flowers on the Memorial at another time.

Please though keep social distancing around the Memorial, and wear a face covering if you wish to do so.

Stamford Bridge – the second great battle of 1066

Today, 25th September, is the anniversary of the second great battle of 1066. Following the Battle of Fulford, where the northern Earls lost to the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada, word reached King Harold II who raised his army and marched at speed to York. The Vikings, together with the former Earl Tostig, King Harold’s estranged brother, had camped at nearby Stamford Bridge. King Harold’s army surprised them there and a fierce battle took place., with this time the English being the winners.

BBC's picture of Battle of Stamford Bridge