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Posted on Nov 18, 2005 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Battlefield Tour – Hastings

Armchair General



And so to the field of battle. English Heritage have very nicely provided a tourist path around the battlefield, and the first picture here shows a relief map with that path marked by a dotted red line. On this map, North is to the left where the buildings are. These are the Abbey structures sitting at the top of a ridgeline above a gentle Southerly slope. The ridge is known as Senlac Hill.

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Having ridden from York on hearing news of the Norman invasion, Harold arrived with his Army 7 miles from Hastings on October the 13th 1066 and set up camp. His forces had been boosted slightly with additional recruits picked up during the journey South, but Harold was missing one vital component in his Army, he had no Archers. This may be due to the fact that his Archers were not mounted on horses and that Harold had only been able to mobilise his horsemen in such a short space of time, and it has been speculated that Harold intended to wait for their arrival before engaging William in battle, but it was not to be. Hearing of Harold’s arrival, and keen to do battle, William resolved to attack him the next day and marched North to meet him.


On the morning of October 14th, 1066, Harold formed his men into a shield wall some 800 yards across and up to ten men deep along the ridgeline of Senlac Hill. These pictures, taken from Senlac Hill itself (the location of the Abbey buildings) show the view Harold’s men would have had. The Normans would likely have been positioned on the opposite ridge. Harold had a strong position, but it was purely a defensive one. He had no major means of attack, having no Archers and no Cavalry, and the day would be won or lost on whether or not his men held the line.

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The battle began at 09:00 with the sound of trumpets. William ordered his Archers to advance and fire at the English line on Senlac Hill. He then sent in his Infantry and his Cavalry to press home a general attack on the line but it was to no avail. His attack faltered on the English shield wall, which held firm. The English had an excellent defensive position on the top of the ridgeline and they managed to inflict heavy losses amongst the Norman soldiers with javelins and axes. As you can see from this angle, the Dormitory Building has a grandstand view of the battlefield.

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Some views from the Eastern end of the Abbey buildings looking South. I’m sorry about that guy in the right hand picture, he gets everywhere.

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The beginning of my trek around the battlefield took me through some soggy woodlands to the West. Not much to see so far…

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…except a football pitch. I’m not exactly athletic, but I imagine it must be rather cool to play football on the Battle of Hastings battlefield. And next to it, a view from the West looking back at the Abbey Terrace.

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Reaching the South-West corner of the battlefield, the trail turned a corner and I headed East.

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1 Comment

  1. Nice work, Andrew. I appreciate the photos of the battlefield. I am a public historian (M.A. plus public history training and work experience) and I would give anything to come over give tours of that special place. Thank you for the photo tour. I enjoyed it. Best, Jim