September 20 – A Guided Tour of the Fulford Battlefield

Jorvik Viking Centre, York Inner City and evening talk by Chas Jones

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

As we were about to leave the cottage I saw a familiar face outside. Tina Greene, from Battle and creator of the Battle Tapestry, was there. She had come up from Leeds for two days while visiting her family so that she could join us for the Fulford celebrations. We walked over to the playing field only 100 metres from the cottage where Chas and two others that had been part of the Fulford archaeological dig and Mary were waiting. Chas then took us for a tour of where they have been digging searching for archaeological evidence of the Battle of Fulford. What they have found is an ancient Roman road crossing Germany Beck. This he believes is was where the Battle began. Tostig and Hardrada’s small army were on the south side and Morcar with the troops from Northumberland was on the other side. At the time the tides were high and the river was uncrossable until later in the morning, when the battle commenced. Later Hardrada and his best army came up the river meeting Edwin and more troops from Northumberland. Hardrada prevailed and pushed the men of Northumberland back. Chas found geological evidence of how the beck was formed during a glacial age too.

Further up the river, he found evidence of recycling plants where the Norwegians set up fires and anvils made on the spot to rework broken arrows and swords. Chas also spoke of the hardness of the area around the river crossing showing that it had been the ford and road for many centuries. While further up the river was an area of peat ground where he was hoping to find footprints preserved but did not. Below the ford, he did find an area of bones. It is not sure whether they are animal or human bones but if the story is true about the river being able to be crossed on the heads of the dead, it is possible that this is evidence of this. The bones have washed down the river, over the ford and got caught in in a corner. This was an exciting find as were the recycling areas. The walk and talk were very interesting. Across the beck is the building of the road which will lead to the subdivision. They are having to build a wall on the riverside of the road as it is very prone to flooding and the road has been built too low to allow for the flooding. Later in the day, Chas took us down the River Ouse a short way to see where he believes that Hardrada could have brought some of his huge fleet as the tides were so high, allowing them to arrive close to the chosen battle site. So this was a pitched battle rather than an ambush meaning that the battle site had been chosen in advance of the battle. He also showed us the house which is on the site of the manor house owned by Tostig, Earl of Northumbria, brother of King Harold II, another reason for the battle to be held here. Tostig would certainly have known the lay of the land.

After the four of us had lunch we drove into York and had a walk around the centre of York. We went first to the Jorvik  Viking Centre. I always imagined it was a museum but it is a new build over the top of an archaeological dig where they found the remains of a Viking village. We got into an amusement chair ride seating 6. This moved slowly over the village remains. Wonderful animatronics waxworks of people and animals populate the village with props of village life like food selling, preparation and eating, weaving, nalebinding, game playing, latrines, butchery and spirituality area. It is so well done!! Mike and I purchased a passport which gives us entry to this and four other places for a year so we will definitely be back. At the end is a museum area with artefacts found on the site. The staff are all dressed in period costume and move around talking to people. One was demonstrating money making and another showed us the nalebinding which is similar to knitting or crocheting but uses only a bone needle and wool thread to make a piece of work that will not undo if cut. She had examples of hats, socks and gloves but you can also make shawls. Tina bought a book about it and I am keen to have a go too. We found some Youtube videos demonstrating the skill.

We walked through the centre of York which is mostly a pedestrian precinct looking at all the boutique shops. There are so many beautiful shops both for their age but also for the level of window displays and stock shown. The Shop That Must Not Be Named – Harry Potter gift shop, was a particular favourite with everyone. The shop was full of people and often there is a queue just to go inside. It is jam-packed with merchandise and the staff are all dressed as characters like Cho Chang. I could not help thinking of Shannon back home, she would love it as do all the other Hary Potter fans. Another favourite shop was Kathe Wohlfahrt, a German Christmas themed Shop. It is a timber-framed 1434 building in Stonegate. The Shambles is an amazing street with a butchery shop which still has the hooks outside where the meat was hung. Also Duttons for Buttons which a brilliant haberdashery shop over three floors with tapestries, wools, cotton and 12,000 button designs. There was a particularly lovely cross stitch with all the Kings and Queens of England from William the Conqueror. I love these shops. The Red Devil, outside No. 33 Stonegate is a traditional symbol of a printer and indicates where the eccentric writer and publisher Thomas Gent had his premises in the eighteenth century. We also passed the Merchant Adventurer’s Hall, one of the finest Medieval Guild Halls.

In the evening Tina, Mike and I went out to dinner to The Plough Inn in Fulford while Chas went to organise the hall for his evening talk. It was a lovely meal and we were lucky to get a table as it is very popular and has a well-deserved good reputation.

After dinner, we went to the village hall where about 20 people had arrived for Chas’s interesting talk about his archaeological finds of the dig at Fulford. Chris Rock from Stamford Bridge was there. We met him last October in Hastings when we attended his talk and he came to see the Medieval Mosaic exhibition.

Just before 9 Mike and I drove Tina to the railway station for her train back to Leeds. We found the station without any problems and got back too without a single wrong turn. Tina caught her train so all good. A fantastic day jammed packed with history and discovery.