September 20, 1066 The Battle of Fulford Gate

The Fulford Gate Tapestry

King Hadrada (Harald) was a Viking and a fierce and experienced warrior. The Vikings had a long history of marauding, pillaging and plundering. In 1066 they were well equipped with about 7000 men and 300 longships. In mid September, they landed on the eastern shores of England near Scarborough, which they burned, and then moved on to the city of York. Earl Tostig, (King) Harold Godwinson’s estranged brother, joined the Viking forces bringing more men. Tostig hoped to claim Northumbria as his own domain. Their combined forces were around 10,000 fighting men though the number varies depending on the source. The Saxon army was about half the size.

The weather that summer was hot and dry and lasted through September and into October.   What ensued on September 20 was the first battle of 1066, the Battle of Fulford Gate, which was won by the Vikings. It was a fierce encounter with heavy losses on both sides. There was a marsh on one side of the battle field and a river with an embankment on the other. A lot of men were lost in the marsh. King Hadrada is the lone figure on the right side (below) with his sword above his head. Their prize was the City of York which the Vikings agreed not to pillage or burn. The local Saxons also agreed to join the Vikings on their trek south to London where King Hadrada planned to claim the throne of England.

In the panel below, King Hadrada, with blond hair and beard, followed by Tostig, is shown entering the city of York.  Note the shape of Tostig’s head and his features.  He is obviously the brother of King Harold.

The names of the protagonists is confusing.  King Harald was the Viking leader whereas King Harold was the Saxon leader.

The embroidery, like the Bayeux Tapestry, is a continuous strip of linen fabric about 18 feet long. The upper and lower friezes contain scenes from everyday life and battle casualties.   It was designed by Charles Jones.  Embroiderers from the area of Fulford Gates and York dyed their wool threads using traditional methods. The continuous strip is divided into six sections for photography of which three are included here.

The Fulford Tapestry was completed about seven years ago but I do not know where it is stored or is on display.   I have read as much as I can find about the Battle of Fulford Gate and have condensed it to a few sentences which may, or may not, give you an accurate picture.

The final photo is of the ladies who stitched on the Fulford Gate Tapestry.  This is the first of the contemporary embroideries that add to our understanding of the eventful year of 1066 and fleshes out the story told in the Bayeux Tapestry.

Congratulations ladies.  It is a job well done.  I would love to meet you  but age and an ocean are in the way.