Anglo Saxon History

saxonhistory.co.uk
Map Position

This map shows the position of locations containing 'AD1066, anderida' centered on Battle in Sussex.

Map Logic

This map shows the area around Battle and Hastings in 1066.

Roman roads are shown as black lines, red lines show old Roman Ridge trackways and purple lines show theoretical Roman roads implied by village and road names.

The thickness of the road implies the width of the Roman metalled surface.

The sea level is shown raised by 5 metres to accomodate the high tide level changes since 1066 see our Sea Level page.

The green shaded area shows what we believe is the area of the impassible Forest of Andredsweald.


 
Icon Key:
Roman Major Fort
Ships
Norman Fort
Earthworks

Evidence for the Malfosse

The Malfosse(Evil Ditch), did it exist and what details do we have of it?

 

Evidence for the Malfosse
The Malfosse(Evil Ditch), did it exist and what details do we have of it?

From the documentation it would seem that there could have been two malfosse's, one during the battle and a second while chasing the retreating Saxons.

Henry of Huntingdon and Master Wace both talk about a ditch during the battle, with Master Wace claiming that this was a Saxon made defence (and they had moreover made a fosse, which went across the field), this is a possibility if the Normans broke through the Shield Wall and hence into the Saxon lines, but were then pushed back into the ditch(fosse) great losses would have occurred.

The Chronicles of Battle Abbey also appear to record that the Malfosse was in the Battlefield, however it could be read as after the battle. (here lay between the hostile armies a certain dreadful precipice, caused either by a natural chasm of the earth, or by some convulsion of the elements. It was of considerable extent, and being overgrown with bushes or brambles was not very easily seen, and great numbers of men principally Normans in pursuit of the English were suffocated in it.

Orderic Vitalis records that the malfosse was after the battle and that (The Normans, finding the English completely routed, pursued them vigorously all Sunday night, but not without suffering a great loss ; for, galloping onward in hot pursuit, they fell unawares, horses and armour, into an ancient trench, overgrown and concealed by rank grass, and men in their armour and horses rolling over each other, were crushed and smothered.)

So the ancient ramparts noted during the rout would have to be relatively near to the Battlefield, and on a main route in and out of area, only one site which is an ancient earthwork can be found at Castle Farm near Mountfield, which is on the old ridgeway that goes through to Rye, or via Bodiam to London.

This page shows the documentary evidence from translated original documents


Anglo Saxon Chronicles

No reference to this subject in this document.

Battle Abbey Chronicles

There lay between the hostile armies a certain dreadful precipice, caused either by a natural chasm of the earth, or by some convulsion of the elements. It was of considerable extent, and being overgrown with bushes or brambles was not very easily seen, and great numbers of men principally Normans in pursuit of the English were suffocated in it. Eor, ignorant of the danger, as they were running in a dis-orderly manner, they fell into the chasm and were fearfully dashed to pieces and slain. And the pit from this deplorable accident is still called Malfosse.

Bayeux_Tapestry

No reference to this subject in this document.

Carmen de Triumpho Normannico

No reference to this subject in this document.

Florence of Worcester

No reference to this subject in this document.

Henry of Huntingdon

Duke William, therefore, commanded his troops to make a feigned retreat. In their flight they happened unawares on a deep trench, which was treacherously covered, into which numbers fell and perished.

While the English were engaged in pursuit the main body of the Normans broke the centre of the enemy's line, which being perceived by those in pursuit over the concealed trench, when they were consequently recalled most of them fell there.

Master Wace

Harold knew that the Normans would come and attack him hand to hand : so he had early enclosed the field in which he placed his men.

The English stood in close ranks, ready and eager for the fight; and they had moreover made a fosse, which went across the field, guarding one side of their army.

In the plain was a fosse, which the Normans had now behind them, having passed it in the fight without regarding it. But the English charged and drove the Normans before them, till they made them fall back upon this fosse, overthrowing into it horses and men. Many were to be seen falling therein, rolling one over the other, with their faces to the earth, and unable to rise. Many of the English also, whom the Normans drew down along with them, died there. At no time during the day's battle did so many Normans die, as perished in that fosse. So those said who saw the dead.

William of Jumièges/Orderic Vitalis(Gesta)

Various were the fortunes which attended their retreat ; some recovering their horses, some on foot, attempted to escape by the highways ; more sought to save themselves by striking across the country.
The Normans, finding the English completely routed, pursued them vigorously all Sunday night, but not without suffering a great loss ; for, galloping onward in hot pursuit, they fell unawares, horses and armour, into an ancient trench, overgrown and concealed by rank grass, and men in their armour and horses rolling over each other, were crushed and smothered. This accident restored confidence to the routed English, for, perceiving the advantage given them by the mouldering rampart and a succession of ditches, they rallied in a body, and, making a sudden stand, caused the Normans severe loss. At this place Eugenulf, lord of Laigle, and many others fell, the number of the Normans who perished being, as reported by some who were present, nearly fifteen thousand.

Thus did Almighty God, on the eve of the ides [14th] of October, punish in various ways the innumerable sinners in both armies. For, on this Saturday, the Normans butchered with remorseless cruelty thousands of the English, who long before had murdered the innocent prince Alfred and his attendants ; and, on the Saturday before the present battle, had massacred without pity King Harold and Earl Tostig, with multitudes of Norwegians. The righteous Judge avenged the English on Sunday night, when the furious Normans were precipitated into the concealed trench ; for they had broken the divine law by their boundless covetous- ness ; and, as the Psalmist says : 'Their feet were swift to shed blood,' whereupon, ' sorrow and unhappiness was in their ways.

William of Malmesbury

No reference to this subject in this document.

Quedam Exceptiones de Historia Normannorum et Anglorum

No reference to this subject in this document.



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)
The Spears of Andred
Find British Archaelogical Sites
Wealden Iron Research Group

 

Copyright saxonhistory.co.uk 2013 - 2019
Contact me
Author: Simon M - Last Updated: 08/04/2019 14:01
All pages on our site
Data is derived from a number or sources including the Ordnance Survey Gazetter data overlayed onto Google Maps