Time Team 1066 special - ‘New battlefield’ claim disputed

ENGLISH Heritage has disputed claims that a new location for the Battle of Hastings has been found.

1066 The Lost Battlefield - A Time Team Special, which aired on Channel 4 on Sunday (December 1), suggested that King Harold fell where the roundabout now stands at the junction with Lower and Upper Lake on the A2100 in Battle.

After carrying out an aerial laser (LIDAR) survey, the team of experts concluded that the hill would have been the most likely place for the two mighty armies to have clashed, rather than the ‘boggy’ terrain of the official 1066 battlefield.

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Time Team carried out archaeological digs on the battlefield and nearby at Caldbec Hill, an alternative battle site put forward by historian John Grehan, back in August this year.

No archeological evidence was found at either site to prove where the battle took place.

English Heritage, which is responsible for Battle Abbey and the 1066 battlefield, has disputed the claim that a new battlefield has been found, adding that the ‘new’ site is in fact just an extension of the official battlefield.

Roy Porter, English Heritage Property Curator for Battle Abbey said: “While we wouldn’t describe this as a new battlefield, Time Team’s survey of the landscape strengthens the argument that a particular part of the battlefield was an important focus of the initial action.

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“Crucially their survey also reinforces the importance of the location of Battle Abbey.

“The site of the abbey church overlooks the area that Time Team has suggested as the initial focus of the battle, just 200m away.

“Within living memory of the battle the abbey was described in the Anglo Saxon chronicle as being founded by William ‘on the very spot where God granted him the conquest of England.’

“Time Team’s investigations strengthen the claims by historical sources that the abbey was founded not only on the site of the battlefield but also on the spot where Harold raised his standard and perhaps even where he fell.”

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The survey picked up the suggestions of former streams in the ground to south of the Abbey, suggesting this area was marshy. English Heritage says the Bayeux Tapestry shows an episode of fighting within a marshy area and that scene may refer to this area of the battlefield.

Mr Porter said English Heritage plans to carry out further investigations into Time Team’s findings.

He told the Observer: “The ground opened up for the programme is probably less than one per cent of the battlefield, so it’s only just scratched the surface.

“It’s a tiny sample.

“There has to be further investigation and we need to look at the details of the survey.”

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He did not rule out further archeological digs on the site in the future.

No archaeological evidence has ever been found on the 1066 battlefield.

But Mr Porter acknowledged that as the battlefield expands beyond the Abbey walls and the Abbey itself was built on top of where the fighting took place, the chances of finding battle-related objects ‘is a pretty tall order’.

A statement from English Heritage concluded: “Time Team’s findings do not redraw or relocate the battlefield but they do strengthen the possible strategic importance of a specific area within it.

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“And the findings reinforce the centrality of Battle Abbey’s location to the fighting.

“Battle Abbey – built on the battlefield, probably on the spot where Harold raised his standard and perhaps even where he fell – is the best place to visit for those who want to understand the events and legacy of the Battle of Hastings.”

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