NLHG Newsletter Archive
The Battle of Hastings Commemorations: many events took place locally to mark the 950th anniversary of the battle. At our own meeting Brigadier Hugh Willing gave us a talk on the very topical subject of The Battle of Hastings. By coincidence, the date of our meeting fell on the precise 950th anniversary according to the Julian calendar, which was still in use in 1066, altering the date by one week.
With a long army career behind him Hugh approached the subject from the military point of view and tried to dispel some of the myths and controversies, pointing out that the only indisputable fact is that the battle took place and William was the victor. Using maps and illustration Hugh explained that there was an existing Norman influence in the Hastings peninsular by 1066 with established trade routes and much of the land
belonging to Fecamp Abbey. Several chronicles and accounts were written after the event and mostly by the winning side so might be of questionable accuracy. Losing sides are less likely to record their failure and here is no reliable evidence to show how Harold was killed.
Hugh described the weaponry and explained that the Norman army used crossbows for the first time in a battle scenario. Both Harold and William laid claim to the crown when Edward 1 left no direct heir and had fought together in previous conflicts so were aware of each other's tactics. It was particularly interesting to hear how the coastline was very different then with inlets encroaching far into the Pevensey Levels and surrounding area. The invading fleet must have landed at several sites along the this coast and some ships may have come ashore near Boreham Bridge. Records show that Ninfield was much poorer after the battle so was almost certainly robbed and pillaged by the invading army.
The group thanked Hugh for a fascinating talk and hope we will be able to welcome him
again in the near future to hear one of his other presentations (Jan W).
The talk by Peter Harrison, curator of the Pevensey Museum at St Nicholas in Pevensey bay was also very interesting. Rather than going into detail about the battle, Peter talked about the events that happened following William’s victory and about the family relationships he enjoyed with his wife (Matilda of Flanders) and his children and the changes to English life that occurred. We heard about the march on London and William’s coronation on Christmas Day 1066 in Westminster Abbey. The lands were divided up and distributed to his Norman followers and the administrative systems were strengthened, including the nationwide survey the Domesday Book which is possibly the most important document from this time. Apart from the talk we were able to sample English wines from the vineyard at Seddlescombe and eat possibly the most impressive buffet I have had for many years!
And finally, an eye witness account of events in Battle.
On the weekend of the 14th October Battle remembered and celebrated the historical Battle Of Hastings…….this was no ordinary memorial, as thousands of people made their way to Battle, hundreds of children took part in the Friday march through the town chanting as they went, some taking the part of Saxons and some Normans, and hundreds of others, children and adults, gathered to re-enact the battle – wearing costumes made from the kinds of materials that would have been used at the time.
On Friday the atmosphere was happy and expectant, visitors lined the high street as the Army marching band made its way from the Fire Station down to the Abbey, where they mustered with the children and led them up the high street, it was colourful, loud and above all happy – the children chanting against one another as the groups passed, back at the Abbey they began the more serious preparations for the re-enactment.
In the late afternoon a celebratory service was held at St Mary’s Church, afterwards the band played the last post on The Green outside the Abbey.
So why all this kerfuffle – well we would do well to remember that historically the Battle of Hastings was a pivotal period for the English, on October 14th, 1066, the English army, led by King Harold II, was defeated by Duke William and the Normans at the Battle of Hastings.
Most people will remember this famous story from their school days, particularly the gruesome image of King Harold with an arrow in the eye.
But Hastings was more than just a battle, it was the start of a new chapter in England’s history. The Norman Invasion may seem like a very distant event in our nation’s past, but it is one worth remembering……….
The English landscape changed – prior to 1066 there were no castles in the land, it was the Normans who brought the castle to England, building commenced within days of their arrival. The Normans also re-modelled many of England’s churches and cathedrals to create some of the Country’s most monumental and impressive structures.
The English language suffered, and changed, as a result of the Norman Invasion as French and Latin became the new languages of the government, Church and the nobility. English was now associated with the uncivilised and uneducated.
The Normans also brought their drinking habits with them; gone were the days of the famous Anglo-Saxon mead-hall, eclipsed by the new French fashion of wine-drinking, a social custom that has stood the test of time!
And finally – on this brief resume of the changes brought about by the great Invasion - one of the most enduring cultural changes was the adoption of French names, at the expense of the more traditional Anglo-Saxon ones. In an attempt to imitate their new conquerors, many English chose to abandon the traditional names like ‘Godwin’, ‘Harold’, or ‘Ethelred’, in favour of French names like ‘William’, ‘Henry’ or ‘Robert’. Even in the last decade, William still features in the top 10 baby names for boys in England and Wales.
So, dear reader, the next time somebody mentions the Battle of Hastings – here are the reasons it was such an important moment in our history (Jean Duckworth-Lloyd).
Forthcoming meetings: 7.30pm in the Methodist Hall unless stated otherwise
November 17th Quiz (talk on Lewes Prison has been cancelled due to injury)
December 15th Christmas Social
January 19th The Crystal Palace by Ian Gledhill
February 16th The Confederation of the Cinque Ports by Malcolm Pratt
March 16th Martello Towers (& William Pitt the Younger) by Geoff Hutchinson
April 20th AGM
Rod Ffoulkes (Chair) email@example.com Tel: 893635, Janice Wood (Secretary) & Martin Wood (Treasurer) firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 892895, Corinne Gibbons (Membership) email@example.com Tel: 892612, Jan Cooper (Archivist) firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 893381, Liz Darbyshire email@example.com Tel: 893575, Janet Savage firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 892749, John Cheshire (Newsletter) email@example.com Tel: 892248.