Possible Norman Landing places in 1066AD

Anglo Saxon
History
Map Position

This map shows the position of locations containing ', norman landing AD1066' centered on Hastings in East Sussex.

Map Logic

This map shows the Hastings area at the time of the Battle of Hastings.

The forest of Andredsweald is shown(based on the Domesday Book settlement information), which was impassable except where Roman Roads or rivers cut through it.

Roman roads are shown in black plotted from Ivan D Margary 'Roman Roads in Britain' published in 1955.

The red roads are taken from Ivan D Margary 'Roman ways in the Weald' published in 1948.

The Blue shaded areas show the paths of the rivers emerging into the Romney Marsh Area.


 
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Norman landing places in 1066AD and their merits


The ships land and the knights ride to Hastings - so not that close
please click the image to go to the bayeuxtapestry.org.uk for further details.



The feast after landing being prepared and eaten
please click the image to go to the bayeuxtapestry.org.uk for further details.


The first thing to note is that there were and still are cliffs to the west of Eastbourne and also between Hastings and present day Winchelsea. The cliffs are mentioned in the The Carmen de Triumpho Normannico(Carmen) - 'Nor the rocky coast looming perilous' and 'One Englishman kept hidden under the sea cliffs' from this we can deduce that some cliffs were overlooking the landing spot, but not which ones.

There are also references in the Carmen to 'Since leaving the sea behind when you seize a sheltered strand' also 'I rejoice as you and yours seize a peaceful arc of strand' and 'And so carried with him, returned to his seaside camp'. So this would imply a sheltered or protected not too hilly seaside landing place. If we also assume that there were about 500 Norman ships which when landing they would occupy about 6 metres per ship this would mean the landing site would need to be about 3000 metres wide, so about 2 miles from one end to the other (please click on the google map scale to change to miles).

There are also references to the location in the 'Gesta Normannorum Ducum(Gesta)' 'and crossing the sea he landed at Pevensey where he immediately built a castle with a strong rampart'. and 'He left this in charge of some troops, and with others he hurried to Hastings where he erected another similar fortress'

We also seem to have a reference to the ships sailing towards the East as a vessel appeared to overrun to New Romney where the Normans were killed, as William attacked New Romney on his way to Dover(This could only have been by sea as the marshes did not really support marching). This implies that the Normans weere sailing towards the east and passed Beachy Head on the way to their landing at Pevensey.


References to locations:-
Bayeux Tapestry - 'to Pevensey'
Bayeux Tapestry - 'Soldiers ride off towards Hastings and gather food.'
Gesta - 'crossing the sea he landed at Pevensey where he immediately built a castle with a strong rampart'
Gesta - 'with others he hurried to Hastings where he erected another similar fortress'
Carmen - 'Nor the rocky coast looming perilous'
Carmen - 'Since leaving the sea behind when you seize a sheltered strand'
Carmen - 'I rejoice as you and yours seize a peaceful arc of strand'
Carmen - 'You restore the forts that were long since destroyed'
Carmen - 'And raise palisades, that you may site the camp within'
Carmen - 'One Englishman kept hidden under the sea cliffs'
Carmen - 'He sees the countless ranks stream forth'
Carmen - 'Blazing flames devour homes'
Carmen - 'And so carried with him, returned to his seaside camp'



So to condense all requirements for the location we come to the following requirements:-
  1. Near to a rocky coastline
  2. In a sheltered landing place
  3. Create a moated fort(flat pack)
  4. Visible from a high hill or cliff
  5. Near to the wasted villages in the Domesday book
  6. Within horse riding distance of Hastings
  7. You restore forts long since destroyed



Starting from the West of the map(left)

1. The first possible place is Pevensey as its mentioned the Bayeux Tapestry 'William sails to Pevensey' and 'He lands at Pevensey. Soldiers ride off towards Hastings and gather food'. So Pevensey is possible.
However if we now add from the Carmen - 'He sees the countless ranks stream forth' and 'Blazing flames devour homes' and from our mapping of the wasted villages from AD1066 we can see that there are no 'wasted villages' anywhere near to Pevensey.

Also the Carmen says 'You restore the forts that were long since destroyed' and 'And raise palisades, that you may site the camp within'. If the Normans landed near Pevensey then they would probably have taken over the old Roman Shore Fort there, so there would have been no need for palisades or restoration as the walls still exist and are massive even today.

The other issue with Pevensey is finding a good route across the marshes to get to Hastings, a few soldiers could have been carried across the marshes by ship, but they are shown riding in the Bayeux Tapestry.

  1. Near to a rocky coastline - Near to Eastbourne
  2. In a sheltered landing place
  3. Create a moated fort(flat pack) - unnecessary
  4. Visible from a high hill or cliff - Overlooked by Beachy Head
  5. Near to the wasted villages in the Domesday book - Long way away
  6. Within horse riding distance of Hastings - Route is very difficult
  7. You restore forts long since destroyed - no evidence

If this was the location then William would have left the area via Lewes as that was the easiest route to get out of the area due to the Roman Road layout and would never have gotten to Hastings.

So to my mind a landing at Pevensey is difficult to match with all the documentation.


2. The next place is the Hooe Peninisular as its protected by Beachy Head, again this is possible but is not really overlooked by the Cliffs at Eastbourne, and again the damage to the villages seems to be less intense as those locations further east.

  1. Near to a rocky coastline - Near to Eastbourne
  2. In a sheltered landing place
  3. Create a moated fort(flat pack) - no evidence
  4. Visible from a high hill or cliff - Overlooked by Beachy Head
  5. Near to the wasted villages in the Domesday book
  6. Within horse riding distance of Hastings
  7. You restore forts long since destroyed - no evidence

If this was the location then William would have left the area via current day Ninfield to join the old ridgeway at the modern day A271/B2096 junction as that would be the easiest route to get out of the area due to the Roman Road layout and from here could ride to Hastings.

Again due to the distance away from the wasted villages and no evidence of forts, it would seem that this site is also difficult to match with all the documentation.


3. The next place to the East is Normans Bay(there is no knowing when this was named) this is a possibility as its overlooked by the cliffs at Eastbourne, but the wasted villages all seem to be further East, but this may be due to limited local population.

In the local area is a moated location which could have been built in this time as its known it was in use in the 13th century, only a few years after the landing, and is likely that the local de Codlinge family just took over the 'flat pack' fort after the invasion.

Also after plotting in detail the 5 metre contour line it would seem that there was land protecting this estuary from the worst of the Channel weather, so was a protected harbour.

  1. Near to a rocky coastline - Near to Eastbourne
  2. In a sheltered landing place
  3. Create a moated fort(flat pack) - small fort at Cooden
  4. Visible from a high hill or cliff - Overlooked by Beachy Head
  5. Near to the wasted villages in the Domesday book
  6. Within horse riding distance of Hastings
  7. You restore forts long since destroyed - no evidence

If this was the location then William would have left the area via current day Ninfield to join the old ridgeway at the modern day A271/B2096 junction as that would be the easiest route to get out of the area due to the Roman Road layout and from here could ride to Hastings.

This location is probably the most likely.


4. Further to the East is Bexhill this is possible that this is the landing point as its overlooked by the cliffs at Eastbourne and Hastings, with the wasted villages in the vicinity.
The Carmen mentions 'You restore the forts that were long since destroyed' and 'And raise palisades, that you may site the camp within'. It would seem a likely place as the beaches in the area are shallow and deep enough to set up a camp with palisades, however there dont seem to be forts in the area, but this would be difficult to acertain today due to the building work that has been done in the area. The down side is that the landing point wouldn't have been 'a sheltered strand'.

  1. Near to a rocky coastline - Near to Eastbourne
  2. In a sheltered landing place
  3. Create a moated fort(flat pack) - no evidence
  4. Visible from a high hill or cliff - Overlooked by Beachy Head
  5. Near to the wasted villages in the Domesday book
  6. Within horse riding distance of Hastings
  7. You restore forts long since destroyed - no evidence

If this was the location then William would have left the area via current day Ninfield to join the old ridgeway at the modern day A271/B2096 junction as that would be the easiest route to get out of the area due to the Roman Road layout and from here could ride to Hastings.

This location is possible but its not sheltered, and no evidence of a fort.


5. Now to the old inlet at Bulverhythe there is a very high probability that this is the landing point as its overlooked by the cliffs at Eastbourne and Hastings, with the wasted villages in the vicinity.
The inlet would have been protected and have a sandy shore The Carmen mentions 'You restore the forts that were long since destroyed' and 'And raise palisades, that you may site the camp within'. It would seem a likely place as the land on the Bexhill side is shallow and deep enough to set up a camp with palisades. The Burghal Hideage(early 900AD) mentions that there was a fort of 500 hides at Hastings(based on 16 hides per acre this would have been about 31.5 acres = 152460sq yds - aprox a square of 390 yds) If we assume that this area was the old port of Hastings pre the 1267AD Storm, then the Hideage fort could have been on the hill at modern day Harley Chute Road, if the fort was not there then it would have had to be on the top of the hill at Baldslow as it has full views all around, or the high point at North's Seat in Ore.

  1. Near to a rocky coastline - Near to Hastings Cliffs
  2. In a sheltered landing place
  3. Create a moated fort(flat pack) - no evidence of a fort
  4. Visible from a high hill or cliff - overlooked by the Ridge at Hastings
  5. Near to the wasted villages in the Domesday book
  6. Within horse riding distance of Hastings
  7. You restore forts long since destroyed - no evidence

If this was the location then William would have left the area via current day Telham to join the old ridgeway and from here could ride to Hastings.

This location is probably the second most likely landing point as it seems to fit all the descriptions with the exception of the flat pack fort.

Nick Austin believes this as to the landing point in his Secrets of the Norman invasion a really good reference if you buy the book.


6. Finally to a proposed location in the Brede Valley.
There are some problems with this area, the first and most major one is that there is very little damage to the villages around the area. Rye was a major port and there was no damage there, in fact the Rye peninsular seems to have gotten off lightly.

This location was overlooked by high ground at Cadborough Cliffs near to Rye on the Udimore peninsular, and a moated area can be found at Lower Snailham.
The port of Rye would probably also have been in this estuary, and if William landed here then it is likely that more than one of his ships would have overrun to New Romney.
  1. Near to a rocky coastline - Near to Hastings Cliffs
  2. In a sheltered landing place
  3. Create a moated fort(flat pack) - There is a moated site at Lower Snailham
  4. Visible from a high hill or cliff
  5. Near to the wasted villages in the Domesday book - long way away
  6. Within horse riding distance of Hastings
  7. You restore forts long since destroyed - no evidence

If this was the location then William would have left the area most likely to join the old ridgeway at Ore as that would be the easiest route to get out of the area due to the Roman Road layout and from here could ride to Hastings.
However he could also have gotten out of the area via current day Udimore along the Rye ridgeway.


This location is a possibility and has been included as it has been proposed as a landing site(Many thanks to Jonathan Starkey for providing additional evidence), but this is a long way from Pevensey unless Pevensey has been misinterpreted in the current documentation.


So in conculsion, to me it would seem likely that William landed at modern day Cooden(Normans Bay so the name may have originated due to the invasion), this would mean that his main route for a large number of troops out of the area would have been via Ninfield and Catsfield, which gives us a direction of travel to the Battle by the Normans.


Total Population of the 116 Domesday Villages in 1086AD shown is 1368
This would equate to a Fyrd(national service) of approximately 339 soldiers.


Please Note that the estimate for the Fyrd is based on 25% of the
population(excluding Priests and Slaves) being eligible for military duties.



External References in no particular order :-
Original Manuscripts of the Anglo Saxon Chronicles
Online Anglo Saxon dictionary
Online Etymology dictionary
Open Domesday Book - The first free online copy of the Domesday Book
The Ermine Street Guard Roman re-enactment and research Society
The "Kent A" cadastre - page 5 - Peterson 2002
Archaeologia Cantiana Online
Romney Marsh Research Trust
Romney Marsh the Fifth Continent
VillageNet the reference guide to villages in Kent & Sussex
Global warming Flood Maps
The Anglo Saxon Chronicles
Google Maps - the core of the system
GeoPlaner - Useful site for plotting map data
Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars 55BC(Books 4 & 5)
Wikipedia - Caesar's invasions of Britain
Wikipedia - Portus Istus
The Geography of Claudius Ptolemy (Bill Thayers)
Roman Britain.org
Runetree Beowulf
Bayeux Tapestry Online
The Secrets of the Norman Invasion
Chronicles of John of Worcester
Battle Historic Society
Binsted village website(Mearcredesburnan Steðe)

 

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Author: Simon M       Document Created: 2017-10-13
Data is derived from a number or sources including the Ordnance Survey Gazetter data overlayed onto Google Maps