Battle of Hastings - 950th Anniversary Events in October

  • 01 of 04

    2016 - The Year of the Normans

    Enthusiasts Participate In The Annual Battle Of Hastings Re-enactment
    Matthew Lloyd / Getty Images

    2016 marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The date when William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, defeated the Anglo Saxon rulers of England is probably one of the most famous dates in history. 

    English Heritage, the organization responsible for maintaining the historic battlefield and the abbey built near the site on the orders of William himself, declared 2016 "The Year if the Normans" (watch their video). Throughout the year, events and exhibitions commemorating the anniversary have taken place at sites connected with William and the Norman Conquest.

    It all comes to a head in October (the actual battle took place on October 14, 1066) with re-enactments, exhibitions and events concentrated around Battle Abbey, on the edge of the town of Battle, about 65 miles southeast of London.

    More About the Norman Conquest Trail

    Next: William's Forces Prepare

    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04

    William's Forces Prepare for Battle

    Ship scene from the Bayeux Tapestry
    Nik Wheeler/Contributor/Corbis Historical via Getty Images

    Throughout the summer of 1066, William prepared his invasion force. He built a fleet of longboats and gathered men, supplies, arms and war horses in what is now the pleasant seaside resort of Dives Sur Mer.

    While there's no real agreement on the size of William's army, many sources claim that he set sail on September 27 with an army of 8,000 men and 2,500 to 3,000 horses in at least 1,000 longboats. 

    When they landed in Pevensey the following day, they reinforced the local castle and set up camp for just two days. Then they headed for Hastings to scout a battlefield and prepare.

    Meanwhile, scouts were sent out to spy on King Harold's army, on its way south. They probably outnumbered William's forces but they were exhausted after battles on September 20 and 25 with the King's brother Tostig and with the Norwegian king, Harald Hardrada - both of whom ( like William) claimed the throne of England.

    Find out more about visiting Pevensey Castle.

    Next: Exploring the Battlefield and Watching the Battle

     

     

    Continue to 3 of 4 below.
  • 03 of 04

    Exploring the Battlefield and Watching the Battle

    Norman infantry at re-enactment of battle of Hastings.
    Simon Greenwood / Getty Images

    The Battle of Hastings didn't take place in or near the fishing port of Hastings at all. Instead, William chose a battlefield about eight miles from the town in a place now appropriately named Battle.

    Fighting began at about 9 am on October 14, 1066 and lasted nine hours, until dusk. When it was over, the battlefield was strewn with the bodies of about 10,000 men from both sides. One of them was King Harold. Legend has it that he was shot with an arrow through his eye. That's the way it is portrayed on the famous Bayeux Tapestry.  No one really knows how Harold was killed but but his body was identified on the battlefield the next day.

    Today the Battle of Hasting Battlefield is considered one of the least altered historic battlefields in Europe. And every year, the battle is re-enacted by hundreds of costumed "warriors" and "camp followers".

    You can explore the battlefield at any time, following the battlefield sculpture trail. A battlefield audioguide is also available to help explain the story of the day. But if you arrive on October 15 or 16 of the anniversary year of 2016, the forces of William and Harold will take the field for the biggest re-enactment ever held. It's is set to involve more than 1066 "Anglo Saxon" and "Norman" participants. 

    There will also be Norman and Anglo Saxon encampments where you can enjoy displays, see falconry and meet members of the cavalry, take part in a kids battle or test your skill with a bow and arrow.

    Attending the Battle Re-enactment

    • Reservations are recommended for the anniversary re-enactments with tickets bookable online or by telephoning +44(0)370 333 1183.
    • Where: 1066 Battle of Hastings Abbey and Battlefield, High Street, Battle, East Sussex, TN33 0AD
    • When: Between 10 am and 5 pm October 15 and 16, 2016.

     

    Next: Plan a Visit to Battle Abbey and the Battlefield

     

    Continue to 4 of 4 below.
  • 04 of 04

    Plan a Visit to Battle Abbey and the Battlefield

    Spring Cleaning Takes Place At English Heritage Properties Around The UK
    Carl Court / Getty Images

    The actual location of the Battle of Hastings is occasionally in dispute because, despite the tremendous loss of life, no human remains, weapons or armor have ever been found on the battlefield.

    But English Heritage is convinced this is the spot because just a few years after the battle, in 1071, William commanded the building of an abbey here to atone for all the deaths. The high altar of William's Abbey is said to be the very spot where King Harold was killed and is marked with a plaque.

    The heritage preservation organization maintains that nothing has been found at the site because so much of the landscape was disturbed and rearranged when the Abbey was built. One possible artifact is the head of an Anglo Saxon ax, known as the Battle of Hastings Ax. It was found during roadworks near the site and is display at the Battle Museum of Local History.

    What to See at William's Abbey

    All that remains of the Abbey William commanded to be built in 1071 are some crumbling ruins. Some of it was rebuilt in the 13th and 14th century and, though the abbey was closed in the 16th century, several of those older buildings remain including:

    • the north front of the Great Gatehouse (14th c.) said to be one of the finest abbey entrances in England
    • vaulted, ground floor rooms on the east range of buildings
    • some remains of the abbey church and a first floor monastic dormitory.

    New for 2016

    For the first time, access to the gatehouse roof is possible, offering clear views of the landscape in which the battle took place. A special exhibition in the Abbey Gatehouse will run through the 2016 season.

    Plan Your Visit

    • Where: 1066 Battle of Hastings Abbey and Battlefield, High Street, Battle, East Sussex, TN33 0AD
    • Contact: Telephone +44(0)1424 775705  or +44(0)1424 776787, special helpline +44 (0) 370 333 1181

    • When: The site and abbey are open year round but hours are seasonal and their are limited opening times in the winter. Check the website for a complete list of opening times.

    • Admission: Adult, child and family tickets are available and there are concessionary prices for students and seniors over 60. The site is also included on the English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass.
    • Facilities: Visitors Center and Cafe
    • Getting There: Battle rail station is about a half mile from the entrance. Trains are operated by Southeastern (in 2016). Check National Rail Enquiries for times and fares. 

     

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