Battle of Stamford Bridge: Yorkshire's 'Bayeux Tapestry' tells story of battle which changed the course of history

Comapred to its rival in France, Yorkshire’s answer to the Bayeux Tapestry may be small in size - but it tells of a hugely important battle which changed the course of history.
The tapesty celebrating the Battle of Stamford BridgeThe tapesty celebrating the Battle of Stamford Bridge
The tapesty celebrating the Battle of Stamford Bridge

People will know that King Harold was defeated at the Battle of Hastings – but not so many why, or of the remarkable victory he won in Stamford Bridge, near York, just a few days earlier.

Earlier this year, a group of volunteers put the final stitches to what will hopefully become a national heirloom, commemorating the largely forgotten Battle of Stamford Bridge.

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In Horrible Histories-style, it educates and entertains children and adults alike, in a lively, embroidery design stitched in wool, on linen.

Lilian Muir is pictured looking at the tapestry.Lilian Muir is pictured looking at the tapestry.
Lilian Muir is pictured looking at the tapestry.

Humorous touches include a Viking flat on his back after over-indulging, a soldier using a mobile phone and a little dog keeps popping up on panels.

A particular favourite is a panel depicting a brave “beserker” Viking holding back the English on the bridge – until he is “brogged” from under the bridge by a wily Englishman.

“Nothing was written down – it was storytelling,” said Lilian Muir, the group’s treasurer. “We don’t know whether the brogging incident was true, but the kids love it.”

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The tapestry, which can be seen at its home at the Old Station Club during a village fair on Sunday, was the brainchild of Tom Wyles and graphic designer Chris Rock, both passionate re-enactors.

Mr Wyles “was a fantastic guy, he started virtually every club in the village”, recalls Mrs Muir, but he died of a heart attack in February 2016 just a few months after volunteers began on the tapestry.

Fulford has a tapestry marking the battle in which the Vikings took York, said Mrs Muir, adding: “Tom felt we should tell our side as well.”

The battle between King Harold Godwinson’s English army and invading Vikings led by King Harald Hardrada and the English king’s brother Tostig took place on September 25, 1066.

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The English army caught the enemy by surprise, many of whom had left their armour behind in their ships. Hardrada and Tostig were killed, and the invading army were all but annihilated.

Only 24 ships from the original fleet of 300 were needed to carry the survivors back to Norway. Just three days later, William the Conqueror landed on England’s south coast.

Mrs Muir said: “Harold was exhausted. He fought at Stamford Bridge and went all the way back. At Hastings he got shot in the eye, that’s when our history changed.”

Stitcher Heather Cawte said villagers had been very supportive and many are expected to attend the tapestry’s unveiling on Sunday between 11am and 4pm.

She said: “It’s not very British to blow your own trumpet, but we are very proud of what we have done.”