The Battle of Hastings- The Norman Invasion of Saxon England
On the 14th October a battle was fought in England that changed the country completely. The king was killed, the aristocracy decimated, thousands died and a foreign duke became the new king. The year was 1066, a date remembered by every child as the year of the Battle of Hastings.
If you are heading to the south coast in the summer, or just looking for a day out with the children that they will remember and even learn something from, then a visit to the battlefield in Hastings could be your answer. The battle was not actually fought at Hastings but at Battle, a town 7 miles inland from the Norman landing point at Pevensey, previously called Senlac.
After his victory William built an Abbey on the spot where Harold was believed to have been killed. It overlooks the field (an area of 100acres) where the battle was fought and thousands died. You can take a guided walk around the battle ground armed with an audio tape, and imagine King Harold and his Saxon army arrayed on the high ground, shields locked, looking down on William, Duke of Normandy and his army of 7,000 men which included 2,00 knights mounted on horseback. The site has remained unspoiled thanks to another more modern battle fought by the Battlefields Trust.
As you listen to the audio tape you will hear various commentaries describing the scene with the accompanying sounds of battle in your ears. It is a very close walk with history and makes the whole story come alive in a way that reading it in a history book could never could, however imaginative you may be.
It was a battle that started at 9 a.m. with the sound of trumpets and roar of men preparing to fight. The Normans won because they outwitted the Saxons by feigning retreat which tempted some of the soldiers to break ranks, which meant that the defence of their shields was broken. Arrows aimed high dropped on the foot soldiers behind the shields and further weakened their defence. When one of the arrows pierced King Harold’s eye it marked the beginning of the end of the battle.
After your walk around the battlefield you may well need to visit the Cafe for some refreshments and home made cakes before moving on to view the ruins of the Abbey, or alternatively you may eat your sandwiches in the walled garden
In the Abbey you will find the Harold Stone, marking the position of the Abbey’s high altar and the spot where it was believed Harold was killed. His body was never found, he had been hacked to pieces and lay amid the carnage of thousands of others on the battlefield. It was an ignoble ending for the brave and last Anglo-Saxon king of England.
For England it meant a loss of land and property as well as pride. William was crowned King of England on Christmas day 1066. He declared himself owner of all the land, but he shared some of it with 200 barons,in exchange for their loyalty and the Feudal system which had worked for him in Normandy was introduced to England. 10,000 Normans arrived in England to enjoy the privileges that victory had brought.
The children will love the visitor centre where technology comes into play with computerised technology and interactive displays. Here the kids can feel the weight of the Norman armour and find out if their surname indicates whether they have descended from Normans or Saxons and learn about the life and times that surrounded this historic event.
There is so much to see and do at Battle, you can even watch an enactment of the whole thing, http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/battle-hastings-1066bh/ and http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/gallery/2010/oct/10/1 will give you further details. /
See also my article https://knoji.com/visit-the-new-forest-and-walk-freely-with-ponies-and-deer/