Having won the Battle of Fulford Gate, the Vikings took time off. They did not burn the City of York as they had Scarborough but, as victors, they collected tribute in the form of goods and hostages. For late September, the weather was unseasonably hot. The Vikings made camp on the western and the eastern sides of the River Derwent.
In this portion of one of fifteen panels, the Viking army is relaxing.
They are fishing, talking and sleeping. King Hadrada gave them permission to leave off their chain mail protection because of the heat.
Meanwhile, in southern England Earl Harold Godwinson (King Harold) had his army trained and ready to meet the expected invasion from Normandy. In Normandy, Duke William had his invasion army ready but the wind and tides had been unfavourable all summer. They waited, as did King Harold and his army in England.
King Harold heard about the Viking invasion in Scarborough. The Vikings had a poor reputation which made them unacceptable immigrants. King Harold gathered some/all of his army and marched them north to York. The distance between London and York is 215 miles (350 kms) which is about the distance between here, Guelph, and Ottawa. The roads were not as they are today. It is said that they did this march in four days but, this is so remarkable as to be unbelievable, that I can only think that they started out before the Battle of Fulford on September 20. This is surmise on my part.
Their arrival at Stamford Bridge and their attack on September 25 was unexpected. In the first panel, their arrival is indicated by the dust storm you can see in the upper right section of the first picture. The Vikings on the western (left, wrong end) of the narrow, wooden bridge were trapped.
The bridge (same bridge as above), was a bottle neck being defended by one elite Viking warrior known as a berserker. A berserker wore a bear fur collar (baer sarkr or bear shirt). They were fed psychedelic mushrooms before a battle, and killed anyone in front of them until they were killed, or ran out of enemies – hence our modern word berserk! (Thank you, Heather Cawte for this information). The beserker was finally felled by a Saxon who floated down the river and speared him from below. These figures are not yet completely stitched.
After that, the armies formed up on the east side of the river in the manner that was traditional for the time. A bloody battle was fought with huge losses on both sides. Both King Hadrada and Earl Tostig died. The section of the army left guarding the boats, led by King Hadrada’s son-in-law (who was also killed later in the battle), arrived in haste but the victory went to the Saxon army.
I was unable to locate a stitching that I was sure was of the battle. Instead, the photo below, taken in July 2017, shows visitors viewing the work-in-progress.
The lower photo also shows stitching in progress. Note the positions of the panel and the stitchers. They are working upside down which is necessary on an embroidery of this width.
The tapestry is stitched on linen twill fabric, a cotton backing and uses Appletons wool threads. The design is placed on the cotton backing, marked through the front linen with running stitch. It is then outlined with stem stitching and filled with Bayeux stitch. Chris Rock designed the tapestry, the volunteer stitchers are under the leadership of Shirley Smith. They are raising money for the cost of the fabric and threads by preparing and selling kits.
If you would like to stitch a small piece of the Stamford Bridge Battle for yourself or be a stitching volunteer go to [email protected]
These final stacked pictures are of the longboats returning to Norway and of meal preparation. Out of the 300/240 longboats that landed, only 24 were needed to take the survivors home. Two generations of men were in that invasion army. While researching I read that the Viking women fought alongside the men so their loss was enormous too. One of their leaders was allowed to return home with the survivors. This was a young boy who was possibly the grandson (supposition on my part) of King Hadrada. The Vikings promised to never, ever invade England again.
The days of Viking supremacy were over. They stayed home, recovered, and became Norwegians.
The latest news is that a book will be written about the design and stitching of this tapestry –
Tapestry Project Brought to Book (search this phrase for more information). Published by Laura Mary on Facebook.
Battle of Stamford Bridge Tapestry Project 1066 – 2016 Interesting videos.
Hippytstitch: Battle of Stamford Bridge Tapestry for more pictures and information.
Apologies for the long spaces – am still trying to figure out how to do this.
Tomorrow: The Bayeux story continues.