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

Chas Jones tells the story of the Battle of Fulford

It is said the one date every schoolchild knows is 1066  –  the Battle of Hastings.   But in fact there were three great battles in that year.   And the first was the Battle of Fulford on 20th September 1066.

At that conflict the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada joined forces with Earl Tostig, (estranged brother to King Harold II of England), against the English Northern Earls and their armies, led by Earl Morcar.   The result was a win for Harald Hardrada with the first round of the three battles going against the English.

Fulford is on the outskirts of the city of York and the battlefield remains much as it was nearly a thousand years ago albeit under threat for a number of years from the developers.

Fighting his own battle to preserve the historic battlefield is Chas Jones and here he uses a model to explain the course of the day and tells the story of Fulford 1066.   We show this video courtesy of Chas, who has himself re-enacted the journey that King Harold Godwinson made later from Yorkshire to Senlac Hill in Sussex stopping off on the way to visit us at Waltham.

Published in: on September 20, 2021 at 4:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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From Monasteries to Palaces – like Waltham

Waltham gets an honourable mention in the Freelance History Writer’s blog with a post by Richard Taylor about monasteries that became great houses for Henry VIII’s courtiers after the Dissolution.

Three monasteries/palaces are featured:- Leez Priory in Essex (Richard Rich who rose from protege of Thomas Cromwell to become Lord Chancellor himself); Netley Abbey in Hampshire (William Paulet); and Titchfield Abbey also in Hampshire (Thomas Wriothesley).

Waltham Abbey was in this category itself, of course, as it became the great house of the Denny family, also courtiers to the monarch. But it was different in that the three mentioned were all conversions of existing monastic buildings, whereas at Waltham, other than the nave which became the parish church, the monastic buildings were demolished. and the stone was re-used to build the new house. That too was eventually demolished, but thankfully we still have some remnants from the monastery in the Abbey Gateway and the Cloister Passage, and some walls from the Denny house.

It is a most interesting article and includes some old engravings of the converted monasteries. Here’s the link to the full story.

Engraving of Leez Priory in 1738 by the Buck Brothers. Leez is not too far from us, between Chelmsford and Felsted.

Saxon building reconstructed in Oxfordshire

An Anglo-Saxon building, the remains of which were found during an archaeological dig, has been reconstructed at Long Wittenham, Oxfordshire.    It has been named “The House of Wessex” and took two years to build using traditional materials.

The replica 7th century building cost £120,000 and received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund of nearly £100,000.  It is one metre from the original site to preserve any remaining archaeology, and is believed to have formed part of a settlement associated with a leading family of the West Saxons.   Timber from more than 80 trees from the Blenheim Estate was used, and the walls were plastered with daub made out of clay, straw, and cow dung.

The Wulfheodenas, an Anglo-Saxon living history society that runs educational courses for schoolchildren., will use the building as its headquarters.   Dr Gabriel Hemery, chief executive of the Sylva Foundation, said: “This reconstruction celebrates the birth of the kingdom of Wessex 1,300 years ago on this very spot.”

Here is the link to the story on the BBC’s website.

Anglo Saxon building in Oxfordshire constructed April 2021

Bayeux Tapestry too fragile to come to Britain

It looks like the proposal for the Bayeux Tapestry to come to the UK whilst its home in Bayeux is being redeveloped will be postponed, if not cancelled.

A recent inspection of the tapestry found that it is in such a fragile condition that it can only leave its home for repair work to take place. The French authorities are planning for those repairs to take place from 2024 onwards and the redevelopment of the museum will be complete by 2026 so there is little scope for the restored tapestry to visit us.

Here’s the link to the story.

Harold's Coronation (2)

Published in: on April 8, 2021 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment  

6th January – King Harold’s Coronation

On this day in 1066 Harold Godwinson was crowned King Harold II of England. It was the first Coronation to take place in the newly-built West Minster Church, (subsequently called Westminster Abbey), which was founded by Edward the Confessor.

On the 950th anniversary of the Coronation, in 2016, we in Waltham Abbey held a special service of Compline which was devised and led by the Rector, The Rev’d Peter Smith. It was a wonderful quiet, peaceful service.

The photographs show the part of the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Coronation and the Waltham Abbey Church on the day of the Compline mentioned above, with the Church’s King Harold banner prominently on show.

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Published in: on January 6, 2021 at 4:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Archers at King Harold Day 2008

Bowmen - 1 from The Feudal Archers, 2 from the Company of Saint Joseph

Published in: on November 23, 2020 at 12:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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King Harold’s death cannot be marked in Waltham Abbey this year

We very much regret that we have decided we cannot have any kind of commemoration event in Waltham Abbey for King Harold II this year.

We had hoped at least to be able to have a simple flower placing on the King Harold Memorial tomorrow, 14th October, in conjunction with Waltham Abbey Historical Society.

After very careful consideration we believe it is not possible. We are a very small group and would not be able to ensure social distancing in the Churchyard around the Memorial. We do not have resources for barriers or ground markings, or marshals, and have no idea how many people might turn up.

We hope next year our lives will have returned to something more like normality and we will again be able to mark the anniversary of the death of the last crowned Anglo Saxon King.

This, of course, does not stop any individual person from putting flowers on the Memorial provided Covid 19 restrictions are observed.

We can’t have KHD, but this is a nostalgic look back to King Harold Day 2018

Today might have been King Harold Day, or it might have been next Saturday, or maybe next Wednesday.   But a force which none of us expected and which none of us can control thought otherwise.

So here, just to induce a little nostalgia, some good memories, and some hope for the future is the report of the King Harold Commemoration 2018.


“How lucky we were with the weather yesterday for the King Harold Commemoration – thank goodness it wasn’t today. The sun shone and it was amazingly warm for October. Only problem was the wind making some of the tents pretty precarious and the Anglo Saxon flag on our HQ tent flapping round and round the pole.

“For the second year running, because of site problems, we ran a rather smaller event, but the Abbey and its Churchyard proved an ideal venue.

“Phil and I arrived at 07.30 and began by unloading my car. We had several sack barrows and a splendid large trolley which Phil had borrowed, but even so with the up and down between the car and our spot at the rear of the Abbey, over and over again, I felt I had done a full day before we even started.

“Because of that strong wind, getting our tent up was a bit of a problem, and as others began to arrive they were in some difficulty too. But we were all ready to go just before 11.00 as I welcomed all the visitors and introduced the first item, the performance of the specially-written play, “The Falcon’s Flight”, about King Harold’s daughter, Gytha.

“It is an ambulatory play, meaning the various scenes are set in about 12 different places around the Abbey and outside near the Cornmill Stream, and the audience moves round with the actors. 

“Next we began the actual Commemoration and were pleased to welcome the Chairman of Epping Forest District Council, Cllr Richard Bassett, and his wife Sue, and the Mayor of Waltham Abbey, Cllr Jeane Lea, together with three members of the Abbey clergy: Rector The Rev’d Peter Smith, The Rev’d Canon Joyce Smith, and The Rev’d Alexandra Guest. Geoffrey Littlejohn of the English Companions recited the Anglo Saxon lament “The Wanderer” in Old English; and I read “Waltham Whispers”, written two years ago by Keely Mills when she was Poet in Residence at the Museum.

“The flower placing ceremony was lovely. For the second year we used single red roses placed by representatives of those organizations taking part.  And, of course, our Junior King Harold, Matthew, was there to place a rose, having now reached the grand old age of nine. The Rector then spoke and blessed one and all, bringing the first part of the event to a close.

“The various stalls had been open since 11.00 and continued to be well patronized.

“At 13.00 Chingford Morris Men danced for a large audience near the Great South Door of the Abbey.

“Within the Church there was a lunch-time Music Recital, two guided tours of the Abbey and the Tower was open in the afternoon for those adventurous enough and with enough energy to climb to the top and enjoy views over the town and out to Epping Forest.

“Then it was back to ground level for the second performance of the play for a new audience.

“At 15.30 the sack barrows appeared again to transport all that equipment back to the cars, and eventually we all got home, exhausted but pleased with an excellent day.

“Thank you to all our visitors for coming to see us. Thank you to the various groups who had stalls or who took part in the day.  Thank you to the Abbey Church for both its great support of the event and for allowing us the use of the Churchyard.  Thank you to Waltham Abbey Town Council for all its help with promotion, the use of the Tourist Information Office, and particularly to Keith and his team for cutting all the grass and removing brambles, nettles, etc.

“Finally, my thanks to Isabelle Perrichon, Phil Chadburn, Pat Brooks and Tony O’Connor. We couldn’t ask for a better Committee. The way they all worked and toiled yesterday was quite amazing.

“Another 14 October has come and gone, and we in Waltham Abbey have marked the tragic death of our Lord of the Manor, King Harold II, the last Anglo Saxon King of England.

“We will mark this occasion in our town, which was his town, every year.”