Fulford battlefied under threat

July 2015 dig

The Fulford Tapestry


Summary of published report

Visiting the site

Timetable July 2014
Finding us
Media release
Summary from trial trench
2014 dig
2014 findings
Discussion paper


Images of flood on the day of the battle

12 panoramas of the battle site

YouTube videos

The Fulford Tapestry

All History Guide: Your guide to history on the Internet..

Finding Fulford cover

Kindle version

" .. this unusual, and yes, excellent history book.." 

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Archaeological Methodology

The nature of the investigation in each trench varies, requiring different approaches. To accommodate this, each trench will have its own archaeological director with Chas Jones as the overall site director.

Outline of the investigations planned in the trenches.

Trench 1

The aim is to understand more about the causeway and the stone surface to the east.  The trench is aligned on the south face of last year’s excavation to comply with rules of the Drainage Board. We hope to understand the structure and construction of the causeway and then extend it as far east as resources will permit in order to understand the stone surface of the ford where the evidence suggests the main action of the battle took place.

Before backfilling in 2014, a number of metal signals were detected at the east (upstream) side of the causeway and these might be investigated by driving a trench towards the north along the causeway edge. This trench should yield some more iron finds from the lower levels and we should be alert to any possible carbon material. The hope is that there will be enough datable material in the causeway to permit its construction to be dated.

The stratigraphy is complex, varying in 3D across the line of the trench. The layers are composed of alluvial inflow from the river, sand deposit from Germany Beck and soil disposition from the various stages of infill on the playing field. Although last year the finds of pottery were scarce, and most were badly worn, it is hoped to provide a better dating model for the rate of build up of the land surface. 

Trench 2

This will extend the 2014 trench towards the south. The plan is to use a digger to lift 1m of topsoil with excavation starting at context 4, the yellow/red sand interface that caps the red layer. The spoil from the top layer will be checked with metal detectors but this material produced no finds and the sample sieved for ceramic material in 2014 produced a very small number of modern fragments.

The aim is to recover more iron finds and investigate the formation of the red layer but alert for any ceramic or carbon material within it. Pieces of bird bone were recovered from a context which is dated to the 12th century, indicating that bone can survive.

The red-layer has some laminar structure which is evident when a lump of soil is broken. The aim will be to date the upper and lower boundaries of this layer and to better understand its internal structure. Following successful experiments with resin encapsulation, successive samples of the red layer will be encapsulated in-situ and then lifted for later investigation.  The aim will be to understand the source and formation of the iron layer.

Trench 3

This will be a long linear trench 3m south of the beck designed to provide an accurate dating model. This will also be the primary training trench for the young people’s programme since this will be conventional archaeology that is looking to identify dating and land-use evidence. Due to its proximity to trench 2, it will provide a relevant dating model for the rate of build-up in the area to the west (downstream) of the causeway. The length of this trench is designed to offset the meagre density of finds.

Augering in 2014 indicates that this will provide a good training trench as there are many, well defined soil contexts with an excellent colour contrast. The red layer starts about 1.1m deep with the natural surface at 1.6m. It is hoped that this trench, combined with trench 4, will provide an indication of the shape of the basin that formed the red layer. (The informal term ‘red layer’ is preferred here to the geological term ‘red bed’ since the reasons for the formation of the red layer has not yet been ascertained and the measured pH and date is not in the normal range for red beds.)

Trench 4

This trench is the eastern extension of trench 3. A transect through the discontinuity is designed to investigate the formation of this feature. It was originally believed to be a man-made pond but there is evidence to suggest it was either the result of the construction of the causeway, following the weakening of the clay base when the stones were removed to build the causeway. But this might be the course of a paleo channel which might itself have prompted the siting and construction of the causeway.

The aim is to extend the soil profile from trench 3 to the east making the trenches contiguous. This will be a difficult trench to interpret so it will not form part of the training programme and might be started before trench 3 if resources are available. Last year revealed a possible bio hazard in the form of sewage. This was capped so core samples from the area will be tested before work is commenced.

Additional work

·         Volunteers will sort through the existing, finds from the previous projects at Fulford. This will take place on site as one part of the training. The aim is to check on the condition. We will also re-sort the items in the light of the improved understanding of the post-battle recycling since it is 8 years since the material was last assessed.

·         As well as augering on site, there are a number of other locations on the Ings where it is hoped to take samples. This might lead to the digging of some test pits to the west of the A19 this year. This area formed one flank and previous work identified the natural surface which is accessible.

Archaeology Scheme of Work

The ford is the meeting point of alluvium from the river Ouse, and sands washed from the east.  In addition, there is some modern material that which was deposited to level the playing field in the 50s and 60s. The build-up of alluvium was tidal until the Naburn weir was constructed in 1757 and subsequently alluvium material has come from regular flood events.

Research during the Battle of Fulford Project (2000-2004) showed that the accumulation rate to the west of the moraine breach has remained historically constant on the Ings at about 1.5mm pa.[1] The aim in 2015 is to refine the model for the rate of deposition which might vary to the east and west of the causeway. This medieval land was undisturbed by occupation so there are a limited number of ceramic finds and many of the items recovered last year were worn, suggesting that they have been flushed into this location, reducing their value as accurate dating items. The focus of the archaeology is to expose and investigate the stone base and recover items on and within the surface layer to assist our understanding of the battle of Fulford.


The 2015 dig has many ambitions.

1.       To find material that can be used to model the date for the ford surface by careful documentation of ceramic and objects within the profile. Combining data from the trenches this should allow us to model the relative contributions from Ings alluvium and from sands noted further east. Refine the date for the finds layer and the iron-rich section of the red layer in trench 2.(Currently 1050-1080)

2.       To recover metal debris from the profile and ford surface. Based on two previous excavations, this is expected that finds will be concentrated on the natural base layer.

3.       To remove a section of the causeway to understand its construction and look for dating evidence. Plot the shape of the ford and the causeway.

4.       To document any evidence of the glacial action that we now believe formed Germany Beck. To extract and document samples of the stone and sand from the base of the beck for later geophysical and geological analysis.

5.       Take samples to develop a quantitative measure of iron pan formation over the ford surface and document the formation of the iron. This might help model why some items from the site were heavily concreted and others were not.

6.       To develop the resin-encapsulating technique for extracting fragmentary iron to allow them to be examined later.

The project has taught us to expect the unexpected so this list should not be taken as inflexible. It is very important that ideas are shared so that relevant techniques and research can be undertaken.  Fresh ideas and debate are welcome as they can put us on the pathway to discovery. And always remember that there is no such thing as over-recording of finds and observations.


[1] Finding Fulford p68-69


It is planned to undertake some geophysical investigations around the edge of the playing field as well as metal detecting in zones where the 1066 surface is detectable.


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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