An epic re-enactment march to rival any Hollywood movie kicks off this weekend to mark the milestone 950th anniversary of the Norman Conquest and the Battle of Hastings.
A band of 1066 warriors, dressed in authentic costume, will travel down from York to Battle on foot and horseback, following a route similar to that taken by King Harold’s army after the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
They’ll arrive at Battle Abbey on the 14 October, the day that the famous Battle of Hastings was fought 950 years ago, ahead of the annual English Heritage re-enactment.
Here are 10 things you need to know:
1. The troop of 1066 warriors will travel for up to 20 miles a day
Starting at Clifford’s Tower in York on Sunday 25 September 2016, the warriors will spend the next three weeks travelling south, arriving at Battle Abbey in time for the 14 October.
For the first week, they will travel for up to seven hours a day. Some of the places they’ll cover on their journey include Lincoln, Peterborough, Waltham Abbey and Central London. You can follow the route day by day on twitter using #Battle1066 or see where they’ll be next on our interactive calendar. There will even be sections of the route where people can walk and ride alongside the re-enactors.
2. The horses are specifically trained for historical events
The majority of the horses will be supplied by Dominic Sewell of Historic Equitation. One particular horse, called Ochi, is a veteran of the event who has led the Norman Cavalry charges at Hastings on several occasions.
For the 1066 March, the horses will work in relays and will get regular days off – unlike their human companions!
3. All the re-enactors costumes are handmade
To get the highest level of authenticity, the costumes are handmade to a specific style and made from authentic wool and linen. Usually only vegetable tanned leather is used, rather than shiny modern leather.
4. The armour that will be used during the re-enactment is made of steel, rather than iron
Ironically this means it is slightly heavier than it would have been in 1066. Norman knights and foot-soldiers typically carried kite-shaped shields, whereas the Saxons either carried kite-shaped shields or heavier rounded wooden ones.
5. You can listen to our podcast following the March
If you can’t meet the troop in person, you can listen to our special three-part Battle 1066 podcast.
You’ll be able to hear the latest updates along the march as well as interviews with experts on Norman and Saxon history.
6. There will be 1,000 combatants at the Battle of Hastings re-enactment
In 1066 both armies are thought to have had around 7,000 – 8,000 men (although no-one knows for sure), and the bloody battle lasted for most of the day. This was unusually long for a medieval battle.
Today, Battle Abbey puts on a moving tribute to the Battle of Hastings every year. The aim this year is to have 1,000 combatants and approximately 30 Norman cavalry.
7. Re-enactors travel from all over Europe for the epic battle
Re-enactors travel from far and wide to take part in the annual battle re-enactment – these include some of the best French Norman re-enactment groups.
8. The 1066 re-enactment takes place on the actual site of the Battle of Hastings
The location for the re-enactment is part of what gives the event its extra special character. Visitors to Battle Abbey can even see a stone marker indicating where Harold was likely to have been killed. William insisted that the high altar of the abbey church should mark the place where Harold fell.
9. Experience camp life with living history tents
A key part of English Heritage’s annual events are the living history encampments. The 1066 March and the Battle of Hastings re-enactment are no different. This year, there will be two opportunities to find out more about life in army camp from 1066.
As the March reaches London, there will be a ‘pop-up’ event within Hyde Park on Saturday 8 October. More details will be released closer to the date.
Then on Sat 15 and Sun 16 October, the historical encampments will be open for visitors at Battle Abbey. There will be various skills and crafts on show, falconry demonstrations, kid’s activities, poetry readings and lots more. Get your tickets here.
10. It’s an atmosphere like no other
The events of 14 October 1066 changed England’s history forever. The annual re-enactment is an action packed and entertaining event for all the family, where you can learn about this momentous day – and get a feel for exactly why we still remember.
Seeing the glimpse of horses in the distance, with banners waving as the mist rises off the battlefield will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The sight of the Norman cavalry approaching, while the Saxons amass on the brow of the hill – banging their shields in unison, is quite something to behold the first time, and then every time you experience it.
Re-live the atmosphere and tension 950 years on, as Norman and Saxon soldiers clash in this special anniversary Battle of Hastings on 15 and 16 October, 2016.