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Inner view of the Battle Abbey gatehouse in 1896.
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Battle of Hastings
14th October 1066

The battle of Hastings was fought on the morning of the 14th October 1066. The English army, led by King Harold, deployed on Senlac hill, where the Abbey and town of Battle now stand, but William's army had already marched north from Hastings and it is said that he engaged before Harold's troops were fully deployed.

Contemporary accounts suggest it was a close run thing. William attacked with cavalry as well as infantry, something the English rarely if ever did. In contrast, Harold's well trained troops all fought on foot in the traditional English manner. Formed up behind a shield wall in such a good defensive location, they proved formidable opponents for the Normans. It is claimed that the fighting continued for most of the day.

Finally, after reversals on both sides, William breached the shield wall. The collapse of the English defence may have been as a direct result of Harold himself being killed, for medieval armies so often lost their resolve once their leader was dead. Once their carefully organised formation was broken they were vulnerable, particularly to cavalry attack. Despite a possible attempt to hold the Norman pursuit at a site described as the 'Malfosse', the English forces were routed, fleeing northward towards the woods of the Weald.

Though other forces remained undefeated across the country, having lost their leader and most of the housecarls the English never again mounted a serious challenge. Victory at Hastings had given William one of the greatest prizes in Europe and saw the English people subjugated by an oppressive foreign aristocracy.

1066 is the best known date in English History. The battlefield also has, arguably, the most impressive of all battlefield monuments: Battle Abbey, which was built by the Conqueror in recognition of his victory and in memory of those who had fallen in battle. Despite the laying out of the Abbey and the town of Battle on Senlac hill, and various subsequent changes including the modern expansion of the town, much of the battlefield remains undeveloped. A visit can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience which has been improved by the opening of a new visitor centre and the provision of an excellent audio tour.

Name: Battle of Hastings

Type: Battle
Campaign: Hastings

War period: Norman Conquest
Outcome: Norman victory; death of King Harold
Country: England
County: Sussex
Place: Battle
Location: probably accurate

Terrain: possibly heathland with woodland beyond
Date: 14 October 1066
Start: morning
Duration: supposedly all day

Armies: English army commanded by King Harold; Norman and allied army under Duke William of Normandy, subsequently King William I
Numbers: English possibly 5000-7000; Norman: probably less than 8000

Losses: unknown

Grid Reference: TQ750157 (575000,115700)
OS Landranger map: 199
OS Explorer map: 124

Historic England Battlefields Register CLICK HERE

Historic England battlefield report for Battle of Hastings 1066



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