Clash more than just curtain-raiser to Battle of Hastings say historians

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THE Battle of Fulford has often been dismissed as no more than a curtain-raiser to the most famous conflict on English soil.

But historians have emphasised the events of Wednesday, September 20, 1066, on the outskirts of York were to have a huge impact on the Battle of Hastings.

The Battle of Fulford placed the English forces under immense pressure and losses suffered in Yorkshire were to have a dramatic effect on resistance at Hastings.

After sailing up the River Ouse with about 10,000 men in 300 longships, Harald Hardrada and rebel English earl, Tostig, defeated the earls Edwin and Morcar.

King Harold scraped together a scratch force and raced 180 miles north in just four days to rout the Norwegian army outside York at Stamford Bridge on September 25.

Then on October 14, Harold was defeated as he tried to block the Norman advance at Hastings with an army of little more than 5,000 weary troops.

The debate over the exact location of the Battle of Fulford has since baffled and intrigued historians and archaeologists in equal measure.

And the bloody conflict has also inspired Yorkshire’s answer to the Bayeux Tapestry, a Lottery-funded project which has taken seven years to complete. The tapestry is nearly 20ft long and tells the story of the Norse invasion from the landing at Scarborough to the arrival of Harald Hardrada in York after triumphing over the English forces at Fulford.

Efforts to pinpoint the battlefield became more focused after plans were announced for the 657-home development at Germany Beck.

Archaeological investigations have unearthed hundreds of pieces of metal including arrowheads, shards of swords and axe heads which historians have claimed is evidence of the bloody conflict.

The Yorkshire Post revealed in 2009 that more than 1,000 pieces of metal had been found by members of the York Metal Detectorists Club, who helped to gather evidence during a study stretching more than a decade.

The archaeological digs have been co-ordinated by the Fulford Battlefield Society, which was established 11 years ago to investigate the site.

Discoveries included fragments of what could be 11th century axes and arrows. Other pieces of worked metal were also discovered, suggesting that Norse blacksmiths could have been operating there.

The iron finds support the theory that metal had been gathered and recycled in an area close to where the battle took place once the fighting had ceased. Archaeological experts believe the metal artefacts discovered at Fulford were being refined and recycled by the Norse victors when the Battle of Stamford took place on the border of North and East Yorkshire just five days later.

The Fulford site was abandoned by the Vikings as they switched their attention to Stamford Bridge, explaining why so much material had been left behind.