William sails from Normandy 1066AD

Anglo Saxon
History
Map Position

This map shows the position of locations containing '' centered on Omonville in Seine-Maritime.

Map Logic

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

The black line shows a logical route for the Norman fleet to sail to 'Hastings/Pevensey'.

The estuaries at that time are shown in pale blue with the borders in dark blue so you can see where the current land differs from that at 1066AD.


 
 

William Sails from Normandy in 1066AD


The big ships are loaded with fighting troops and the smaller ones carry provisions, horses etc
please click the image to go to the bayeuxtapestry.org.uk for further details.



The armarda sails towards modern Pevensey(Pevenesæ)
please click the image to go to the bayeuxtapestry.org.uk for further details.





References to locations:-

Bayeux Tapestry - 'to Pevensey'

The Carmen de Triumpho Normannico – Bishop Guy d’Amiens -
And the sun shone forth brighter than usual
When Michaelmas was celebrated around the world(27th Sept 1066)
While sailors take up their oars and knights their arms
Hitherto confined, the ships spread along the coast evenly
And form themselves into a tidy fleet
The day is already short the setting sun now inclines(after midday)
When your flagship sets the course(sunrise 05:56 ->sunset 17:51 in Oct 1066)
When the dark night’s gloomy shadows overspread the sky(no moon)
On the open sea you moor offshore
You caution to take in the sails awaiting the morning to come
The third hour of the day overspread the earth(9-10am)
Since leaving the sea behind when you seize a sheltered strand


Master Wace - Roman de Rou -
When the ships were ready, they were moored in the Somme at St. Valeri, and there delivered to the barons. Many were the ships and boats in the river there, which is called the Somme, and separates Ponthieu and Vimou. Vimou extends as far as On, which separates Normandy from Vimou, a country under different government. Ou is a river, and Ou is also a fair castle situated upon that river.
I remember it well, although I was but a lad—that there were seven hundred ships, less four , when they sailed from St. Valeri; and that there were besides these ships, boats and skiffs for the purpose of carrying the arms and harness.
I have found it written (but I know not whether it be true) that there were in all three thousand vessels bearing sails and masts. Any one will know that there must have been a great many men to have furnished out so many vessels.
They waited long at St. Valeri for a fair wind, and the barons were greatly wearied. Then they prayed the convent to bring out the shrine of St.Valeri, and set it on a carpet in the plain; and all came praying the holy reliques, that they might be allowed to pass over sea. They offered so much money, that the reliques were buried beneath it ; and from that day forth, they had good weather and a fair wind.
The duke placed a lantern on the mast of his ship, that the other ships might see it, and hold their course after it. The ships steered to one port; all arrived and reached the shore together ; together cast anchor, and ran on dry land ; and together they discharged themselves. They arrived near Hastings, and there each ship ranged by the other's side.


Anglo Saxon Chronicles – A,B,C,D,E and H -
A.D. 1066.(Version D)
Meantime Earl William came up from Normandy into Pevensey on the eve of St. Michael's mass; and soon after his landing was effected, they constructed a castle at the port of Hastings.


Chronicles of Battle Abbey -
The duke, therefore, with a prodigious army, and attended by the divine favour, arrived safely near the castle called Pevensey. The soldiers leaped joyfully upon English ground at intervals along the shore



As you can see from the documents, the Carmen seems to give the most detail of the journey, so lets see if this makes sense.

The calculations we have made are based on a Norman longship travelling at an average of 7 mph with the wind, but including adjustments made for tides in the Channel.

So the important information from the documents is that they:-
  • left St Valerie after midday
  • sailed until the light has gone
  • anchor offshore
  • before sunrise they set sail again
  • arrive at Pevensey/Hastings between 9 and 10


To see how they could sail across channel we need firstly to look at the tides that flow through the Channel, these maps have been extracted from pages provided by VisitMyHarbour.com. The red dot shows the invasion starting point at St Valerie sur Sommme, the blue dot shows the approximate landing point at Hastings.
6 hours before High Tide Dover 5 hours before High Tide Dover 4 hours before High Tide Dover 3 hours before High Tide Dover
2 hours before High Tide Dover 1 hour before High Tide Dover High Tide Dover 1 hour after High Tide Dover
2 hours after High Tide Dover 3 hours after High Tide Dover 4 hours after High Tide Dover 5 hours after High Tide Dover
6 hours after High Tide Dover

From the charts above there is only one logical route which matches the Carmen description and the seafloor and the tides.

The calculation to the left is based on a Norman longship travelling at about 7mph plus the effect of the tides.

Ships would have left St Valerie at about 2pm(The day is already short the setting sun now inclines)
Then would have had to sail about 6 hours which is to about sunset (17:51) and a little further until the light fails then anchor off the coast near modern Cap Griz Nez - this is about 52 miles from St Valerie with the sea depth of only about 10-20 metres so anchoring is possible.(On the open sea you moor offshore)

Sunrises at about 05:56 so the fleet could have dropped anchor at about 5 to take advantage of the current turn from NE round to a slack period of about 2 hours mid channel, then as the current turns to the South East they would have been along the coast passing by Hastings Cliffs and landing about 9 oclock (The third hour of the day overspread the earth since leaving the sea behind when you seize a sheltered strand).

We need is to look at is the bedrock of the English Channel to see where it was possible for the fleet to anchor, a very nice map from the University of Sussex is displayed below, please click on the image to go to a pop up window of their page.

As you can see based on the depth of water is that the fleet would have to sail from St Valery northwards along the coast if they were to 'moor offshore'.



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: 2017-11-29
Data is derived from a number or sources including the Ordnance Survey Gazetter data overlayed onto Google Maps