Archaeologists investigating Anglo-Viking Battle of Fulford find ancient road and route of English retreat

By Ben Miller | 06 August 2015

Road heading south found at Battle of Fulford site of Anglo-Viking clash

A photo of a stick in an archaeological trench at the site of the 1066 Battle of Fulford near York
The Battle of Fulford was part of the 11th century Campaign for the North© Chas Jones
Archaeologists investigating the site of the Battle of Fulford, where a Viking army defeated the Saxon troops of Mercia and Northumbria in September 1066, have discovered the ancient road through the ford which gave the village near York its name.

A section of clay meeting a peat-filled ditch has revealed more precise points of the conflict and the route the English army retreated along when they were outflanked, according to experts from the Battle of Fulford project which aims to tell the full story of a place which has been at the centre of much debate among historians.

A photo of archaeologists working at the site of the 1066 Battle of Fulford near York
Professional archaeologists taught volunteers tips and tricks at the much-debated site© Chas Jones
“This is clearly the main road heading south from York,” says Chas Jones, the leader of the project.
 
“The alignment suggests that this was the originals A19 linking Main St in Fulford to the route south through Deighton and Lincroft Farm.

A photo of the 11th century King of Norway, Harald Sigurdsson, at Lerwick Town Hall in Shetland
Norse leader Harald Sigurdsson led his troops to victory© Colin Smith / Wikimedia Commons
“It will take a few months to analyse all of the material but there can be no doubt that this road was the axis for the battle fought at the ford in 1066.

“It illustrates just how much can be achieved by volunteers and professionals working together. We ran a short training course for adults and children during the dig to ensure that the work was done to a professional standard.

A photo of a hall in the village of Fulford, near York, where the Battle of Fulford took place
The view towards Fulford Hall in the village on the outskirts of York© Paul Glazzard / geograph.org.uk
“Many pieces of iron and bits of bone have also been recovered during the dig.”

The excavation was funded by private donors and the Mick Aston Memorial Fund.

The battle

  • Viking leader Harold Hardrada – his name means “hard ruler” – led his army towards York on September 20 1066

  • Tostig Godwinson, the Earl of Northumbria for ten years from 1055, supported Harold with his rebels

  • Edwin and Morcar, of Mercia and Northumbria, led their troops south to meet their enemies

  • The English army is said to have taken up a resolutely defensive position at a ford to the south of the village of Gate Fulford

  • The battle resulted in substantial losses for the English. But it also badly weakened the Viking army

  • A modern impression of the battlegrounds at Hastings and Fulford suggests the Yorkshire site could have been the larger of the two

  • Fulford is often overshadowed in historical accounts by the nearby Battle of Stamford Bridge – a bloody encounter which the Saxons won just five days later


What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Three places to discover more of the story in

, Sussex
Re-live the atmosphere and tension as more than 400 soldiers clash in a re-enactment of the 1066 Battle of Hastings. October 10-11 2015.

, Brighton
In penance of killing so many in the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, William the Conqueror built Battle Abbey on the site where the Battle of Hastings took place. Find out mrore with a talk about the Battle Abbey Archive. December 8 2015.

Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery
Norwich Castle has one of the best collections of Anglo-Saxon material in the country. Designated by the government as being of outstanding quality, the collection contains a huge variety of objects of beauty and historic significance. More than 900 of these treasures are on display in the Anglo-Saxon and Viking Gallery gallery.
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Are there any location/trench plans for this work, that show how this road and ditch relate/orientate to the modern features? Also question whether clay constitutes a road surface? Are there any pictures of a section through this road?
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