Knights on horseback were given a special blessing as they recreated the route taken on the way to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Organised by English Heritage as part of its programme marking the anniversary of the Norman Conquest, re-enactors on foot and horseback visited Peterborough Cathedral as they travelled south from York to Battle over three weeks, before arriving at the East Sussex battlefield on Friday 14 October, the exact date in 1066 when the forces of Harold and Duke William of Normandy met in arguably the most famous and important battle in English history.
A large crowd gathered at the historic cathedral to great the re-enactors - even though they were running an hour later than originally planned.
A spokeswoman for Peterborough Cathedral said the group of soldiers and horses had received a Benedictine blessing before setting off to complete their ride - as soldiers would have done in 1066.
Emily Sewell, Head of Events for English Heritage, said; “Throughout 2016 English Heritage has been marking the anniversary of 1066 – one of the most famous battles and most transformative years in English history – at sites and events across the country. This march and our re-enactment weekend are the culmination of this year of activity and a great opportunity for people to find out more about these dramatic events.
Nigel Amos, who is leading the 1066 march on behalf of English Heritage, said; “I have been involved in re-enactment for many years and for me this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We do as much as we can to research the details of the history we re-enact, but there’s nothing like a personal experience like this to understand what it was like and offer an even more authentic window on that world to inspire and inform others.
“The legacy of the Norman Conquest is all around us and for me, this march is a great way of highlighting the enormity of what the people involved in the campaigns of 1066 undertook, as well as appreciating the richness of our country’s heritage, from magnificent churches and castles to Roman roads and Saxon villages hiding in plain sight.”
The annual Battle of Hastings battle re-enactment will this year take place on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 October. More than 1,066 Norman and Saxon soldiers will clash in a spectacular display reliving the drama of that historic day.
For more information about the 1066 March, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/1066
The Battle of Hastings:
On 25 September 1066, King Harold defeated a Viking army led by Norwegian king Harald Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Returning to York to recover and bury the dead, which included his brother Tostig, he discovered that the Norman army led by Duke William had landed at Pevensey in East Sussex.
Racing back to the South of England, Harold would have most likely taken the most direct route, following former Roman roads through the city of Lincoln and the Fens. He spent several days gathering troops in London, very likely visiting the newly built Westminster Abbey, before embarking on what would be his final journey to confront the invading force.
The two forces met on a battlefield a short way from Hastings, a place that would become the site of Battle Abbey. Built as penance for the bloodshed in the battle, the building would give its name to the town of Battle that grew up around it. On that day, the 14 October 1066, the future of England was redrawn with the victory of Norman forces, and the death (possibly from an arrow in the eye, or maybe be other means) of King Harold.