October 14 – The 951st Anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.

Re-enactment at Battle Abbey and A visit to St. Mary's Church, Battle

Hi from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

We had quite an early start this morning as Chas, Tina and Peter all have to go down to the exhibition area at Battle Abbey to set up their tapestries and their stalls. We walked into Battle which was only about a ten-minute walk, stopping at St Mary’s church to see the permanent exhibition of the Battle tapestry. Tina Greene and a core group of embroiders have made it over the last two years. However, anyone was able to put some stitches into the tapestry for a small donation which went to Combat Stress. Rachael, Michael and I put our stitches in the pen of sheep last October. Michael and I also attended the opening of the Battle Tapestry on May 31, so you can look up that date on the blog too. The tapestry is bringing lots more visitors to the church.

We still got to Battle Abbey before the doors opened. We had purchased prepaid tickets for the reenactment but it still took quite a while to get in. In the exhibition area, they had a copy of ‘The History of Battle Abbey’ by the Duchess of Cleveland with her handwritten notes which were a very exciting find as this is a very important work.

We spent the day walking around the site visiting all the stalls and the Norman and the Saxon villages. Near the exhibition area was a couple who talked about the musical instruments and music of the Medieval period. After this, there was a play by the  ‘Time Will Tell’ theatre players. The three actors told the story of the whole of the 1066 period including the years before. It was very cleverly done mostly in rhyme with the lady playing devil’s advocate. Every so often she would jump forward and say ‘well it wasn’t really like that’. We really enjoyed the way they presented the themes and the way they used audience participation. They did this performance about four times on each day and I watched it twice.

We had lunch in the cafe and they had the routine well rehearsed. The food was fresh, with lots of variety, teas and coffee were quickly made and there were two people of the tills to keep the flow going. The tables were being continually cleared and cleaned so despite the numbers of people there was usually somewhere to sit.

At 3 pm the re-enactment by the Vikings started and this was excellent. It was a live show with commentators and several actors doing the speeches for Harold, William, Odo and others. There were four big groups of Saxons all on foot except Harold and his flagbearer. There were fewer Normans but there were about 30 horses which were quite amazing. The horses moved as groups into battle and were able to cope with close contact and weapons crashing etc. The battle was accurately played with the single combat of  Taillefer who thought he could take on the whole Saxon army single-handedly. The various charges, the feigned retreats, the cavalry attacks, the death of Harold, Odo praying before and after the battle because of cause they had the Pope’s blessing so God was obviously on their side – all well played. Before it began they told the backstory of Edward the Confessor, Battle of Fulford and the Battle of Stamford Bridge. After the performance, all the reenactors met in one group where they remembered past members of their group which was very moving too. I am so glad that we came as it was yet another highlight of our trip.

We walked back through the village and soon the others arrived back having had an excellent day with their exhibitions. Chas was showing his Fulford tapestry and Tina had been showing an excellent photo representation of the Battle Tapestry. Both had goods for sale and were happy with their day.

Tina and Peter had made a wild boar casserole which was lovely, followed by French cheeses and dessert.We spent the evening talking about many things including the prospect of joint exhibitions with their tapestries and our Medieval Mosaic. Tina and Peter were in Bayeux and St Valery last week and had two very promising meetings there.