Fulford battlefied under threat

July 2014 dig

The Fulford Tapestry

Size of the armies

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The Fulford Tapestry

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Size matters

Some basis for calculating the size of the armies

  • Carrying capacity of longships.

According to Frank McLynn in his book 1066, there are 4 types of longship 

Benches Oars Crew Notes
13 26 30  
15 30 32  
20 40 43 The most common
30 60 65  
In the calculations, the assumed ratio of these sizes is 2:2:5:1 or an average of 40 warriors (40.4) per longship
  • "The longship of the 11th century was an open craft, averaging about 80 feet in length and 17 in beam, with some 15 oars on each side. A complement of 60 to 70 men was customary on warlike operations. But even if we assume Harald’s 200 longships to have provided no more than 50 fighting men apiece, the total would still have amounted to 10,000. Some modern historians have estimated that the Norman army at Hastings did not amount to more than 7,000 men. If that was so, then the Norwegian invasion of Yorkshire may well have been considerably more the dangerous." (Third battle of 1066)
  • In the 10th Century, In Norway each area was responsible for raising a set number of ships and their crews which would produce a total of 238 ships. The number of men needed to man these ships was over 27,000. But Dave Cooke points out that by 1066 Hardrada could have mustered 500 vessels. But given the need to defend the home base and Hardrada previous behaviour an elite force of 7,000 Norwegians, reinforced to 10,000 by the Orkney contingent and Tostig's supporters.
  • "King Harald remained all winter at Nidaros (A.D. 1062) and had a vessel built out upon the strand, and it was a buss. The ship was built of the same size as the Long Serpent, and every part of her was finished with the greatest care. On the stem was a dragon-head, and on the stern a dragon-tail, and the sides of the bows of the ship were gilt. The vessel was of thirty-five rowers benches, and was large for that size, and was remarkably handsome; for the king had everything belonging to the ship's equipment of the best, both sails and rigging, anchors and cables" (Saga)
  •  The Northern Earls commanded 'an immense army' according to Snorri Saga.
  • "1066 - King Harald sailed with his ships he had about him to the south to meet his people, and a great fleet was collected; so that. according to the people's reckoning, King Harald had nearly 200 ships beside provision-ships and small craft." (Saga) (8,800 warriors plus logistics and support).
  • According to Geoffrey Gaimar the Northern army was mustered from seven shires. York had 1,500 households at the time of the battle.
  • Based on the face off between the Mercian and Northumbrian Earls and the Godwinson's a few years before, in which the former forced the latter to back down, Guy Schofield concludes that the northern army was substantial. The decision of Harold to rush north to oppose the Viking force might also indicate that the invading army was huge.
  • The Anglo Saxon Chroniclers agree on the numbers 'And he went to Scotland with twelve vessels; and Harald, the King of Norway, met him with three hundred ships'  (12,600)
  • According to John Speed in 1610 in a commentary on his map he noted a 'fleete of two hundred saile'

An estimate of 10,000 warriors and 2000 supporting personnel is sensible. This makes it bigger than the Norman forces at Hastings. 

As Riccall required a guard force, perhaps two thirds of the warriors were available for the battle at Fulford. Which gives a guestimate of 5-6 thousand Norse warriors on the battlefield.

 

There is a site devoted to saving the battlesite: The site has the story of the process that has allowed the site to be designated an access road to a Green Field, flood-plane housing estate. Visiting Fulford        Map York

And another website for the Fulford Tapestry that tells the story of the September 1066: This tells the story embroidered into the panels.

There is a blog covering these sites where you can leave questions and make comments.

The author of the content is Chas Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com

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