Fulford battlefied under threat

July 2015 dig

The Fulford Tapestry


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The Fulford Tapestry

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The top layer was rich in organic material and a dark, sandy soil. The second layer was a coarse sand and had some root penetration while the third layer was a fine round sand and stone. There is a distinct textural boundary between the two lower layers which is not obvious from a visual inspection. In the samples washed, sieved and inspected with a hand lens, no organic material other than root penetration was found. This absence of organic material is consistent with the process that has produced the iron-pan. It is hoped to provide a quantitative assessment of these layers in future. (Images 7 & 8) At the base of the trench there was a layer of stones which have the appearances of a natural glacial deposit. One section of the stones, 20cm by 30 cm, was lifted to expose the dark boulder clay layer that was previously identified as underlying much of this zone.

Several deep auger samples extracted by Leeds University within the ford area had revealed the layer of stone above the clay is extensive. Significant deposits of iron were cemented to the surface of several stones at the base of the trench. (Images 6 & 10) After removal, several stones that were originally cemented together with iron, fell apart revealing iron items.

These pieces of iron were removed for further study. In addition to these fragments, two other pieces of iron were found on surface of the stones. Since no metal was expected , detecting equipment was not available so the remaining base was not searched for iron nor was the spoil checked.

Given the amount and extent of the iron-pan is it not clear that metal detecting equipment will work but this will be tested when the work is extended. With so much iron-pan present, the dating model that prompted this exploration would not work and another area will be selected for examination in order to test the dating hypothesis that was the original motive for this work.


Several stones had a planar-convex shape, with the flat surface on the underlying clay. The groves on the base of the stone very strongly suggest both the glacial origin of the stones and that they are in their natural location.

The breach in the moraine at Fulford might have been carved by a mini glacier, rather than by water as had originally been supposed. We will record the striations on the base of the stones for geological analysis when the work is extended. Between, but above the larger stones, were smaller, sharp stones. These smaller stones were also represented within the soil above. Several samples were taken from just above the stone surface. These were sieved and revealed rounded stones that would not pass through a 3mm mesh.

During the Fulford battlefield project, the base of Germany Beck was surveyed and many zones where the beck had a stone base were identified. These were assumed to be man-made crossing points since they often aligned with field or natural boundaries. However, this assumption might be wrong and it is equally possible that the track and field boundaries noted on maps conformed to the natural deposits of stone left by the retreating ice sheet.

However, it was also noted that the stone surface the beck in the area we were working has been removed or eroded, possibly by the recent years of heavy rain and the widening of the beck upstream when the water-vole habitats were destroyed several times between 2009 and 2012 . The base of the beck in the area of the trench is now very soft and subject to alarming erosion now that the stabilising stones have been removed.

(Images 3 & 4)The base is now so soft that it is extremely dangerous to walk in the beck in this area.


Iron is common in the soil and iron compounds are largely responsible for the colour of our soil. Bacteria exist within soil that are able to extract the oxygen they need from the hydrated iron oxides (‘rust’). This reduction is most notable in anaerobic conditions whenever organic material is also present within the mineral soil matrix. The bacteria decompose the organic matter and ‘breath’ oxygen that they extract from iron compounds.

Once the oxygen is removed from the iron compound, the molecular iron is able to sink through the mineral matrix until it encounters a barrier, such as the stones we found at the base of the ford.

The pH of the layers was tested and while the upper layers was normal (7.0) while the lower layer was slightly acidic (6.4). The literature suggests that a much lower pH is normal where iron pan forming bacteria are active. The reason for this high pH will be investigated.


Related sites Facebook  Twitter (@ helpsavefulford)        Visiting Fulford        Map York

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 Belt, floodplain housing estate.

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

The author of the content is Chas Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com  last updated June 2015

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