About King Harold Day

King Harold Day is a medieval festival held in the town of WalthamAbbey, Essex, to commemorate Harold, the last Saxon King of England.King Harold Day Logo

Harold Godwinson, originally Earl of Wessex, succeeded to the throne of England in 1066.   On 14 October 1066, following an invasion led by the Norman Duke William, a battle was fought at Senlac Hill near Hastings, during which Harold was killed.   Duke William defeated the Saxons, and was crowned William I of England, or William the Conqueror.

Harold’s body was eventually identified on the battlefield by his mistress, Edith Swan-Neck.   She took him back to Waltham for burial.   Harold was Lord of the Manor of Statue of King HaroldWaltham, and had founded a priory there which was his favourite.

King Harold Day was held for the first time in 2004.   Elaine Fletcher and Tricia Gurnett, who both used to work in the area, decided they would like to do something to promote the rich history of this ancient town.   They soon found that Isabelle Perrichon, owner of the historic tearooms in the town and a French national, had the same idea, and had spoken to the Rector at the Abbey Church, who had asked Dave and Sheila Giles to represent the Church on the group.   The sixth person who joined was Garth Gregory, a local amateur dramatics enthusiast.   This little group put together the first event, and four of them still run King Harold Day together with some excellent new committee members.

It was decided that King Harold Day would be on the nearest Saturday to 14 October each year, (the anniversary of Harold’s death), and the Abbey Church authorities and the Lee Valley Regional Park kindly allow the use of the Church, the Churchyard and the Abbey Gardens, which together provide a magnificent site for the festival.

In its first year the event attracted 3,000 people, and that figure has increased in each subsequent year and is now at nearly 7,000.   In 2010 King Harold Day won Best Event in the Essex Tourism Awards.   Now King Harold Day has become an established part of Waltham Abbey’s year.

Published on August 8, 2007 at 9:38 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. I remember Harold. He was a friend of mine and it was a sad day when he died. Those were terrible years which followed from that fateful day and yet our Norman brethren did bring a flowering of new culture too which has greatly expanded our national outlook. I look forward to making my way down to Waltham Abbey on Le Gringolet this year to see the celebrations and to witness how my friend is remembered.

    • We much appreciated hearing from you Sir Gawain, and learning of your travels. Although, as Saxons, we do not much care for Normans, with the benefit of hindsight we must admit that they integrated well, and that they brought us wonderful buildings, not least enlarging our Minster at Waltham to become a Great Abbey.

      If your travels bring you to Waltham next October we would be honoured to see you.


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