Norman Conquest Timeline
NORMANS BUILD PRE-FABRICATED CASTLE
Pevensey, 29 September 1066
The Normans began consolidating their beachhead today with a wooden fortress built within the ruins of the old Roman fort at Pevensey. This castle had been brought in pieces from Normandy and assembled onshore.
When the work was completed, William of Normandy rewarded his men with food and wine and they enjoyed their first meal on English soil. The castle was quickly stockpiled with rations and equipment. William now has a secure base from which to expand his toehold in England. Two more prefabricated wooden strongholds are now under construction along the coast to the east of the town.
However, William feels that Pevensey has certain strategic disadvantages. There is not enough room to muster and manoeuvre his troops and the search is on for a more suitable base. William led twenty-five knights inland to reconnoitre the route to Hastings, but they had to dismount due to the rough terrain; William returned carrying the mail coats of two of his exhausted companions.
Meanwhile, news has just arrived of Harold's great victory at Stamford Bridge , eight miles east of York . After taking the city, the King of Norway Harald Hardrada and his ally the former Earl of Northumbria Tostig had withdrawn their army to Stamford Bridge where they camped on low flat ground near the River Derwent.
No one expected Harold's army to travel the 198 miles from London to York in just five days. Hardrada had left no garrison at York and Harold marched in unopposed. After a brief rest, he marched on to Stamford Bridge, arriving there on 25 September. The Norwegians were taken completely by surprise.
Their forces were divided by the River Derwent. Those on the north side had to fight with the backs to the river. Many were forced into it and drowned. There are reports that one huge Viking wielding a two-handed axe managed to hold the bridge for sometime, but he was eventually killed by an enterprising Englishman who floated a swill tub under the bridge and speared him from below.
Once across the river, Harold sent a detachment on horseback to offer terms to his renegade brother Tostig, who was fighting with the Vikings. Unable to extricate his men from the Norwegian position amid fierce fighting, Tostig is said to have asked what terms were on offer for his ally Hardrada. According to Norwegian sources the English reply was: "Seven feet of ground or more, as he is taller than other men. "With that, the peace overture foundered. Both Tostig and Hardrada were slaughtered in the battle. Reinforcements called in from the Norwegian fleet were also massacred.
Of the 300 ships that brought the Viking force to England, only 24 were need to take the survivors home. Harold has won a major victory which must make him confident that he can drive the Normans from English shores.
Article by Nigel Cawthorne