The Battle of Gate Fulford and Stamford Bridge

  • Created by: TessBlyth
  • Created on: 27-05-19 15:31

Gate Fulford - 20 September 1066

In September 1066, Harald Hardrada and Tostig launched their attack. Hardrada's fleet had 200-300 warships, carryng perhaps 10,000 Vikings. Landing at the River Humber, they marched to York, but their way was blocked by an army led by Edwin and Morcar, the earls of Northumbria and Mercia at Gate Fulford. 

Gate Fulford was a crushing defeat for Edwin and Morcar for several reasons:

  • Edwin and Morcar may have been outnumbered, it is thought that they had 6000 troops against 9000.
  • Hardrada and his housecarls were battle hardened veterans and he used a clever strategy on his battle. He positioned Tostig's weaker troops on one wing and when the English rushed at them, Hardrada's stronger troops attacked them from the side.
  • Edwin and Morcar stationed their army with marshland at their backs which meant that their troops had nowehre to go when they were pushed back.

The English army broke and tried to run away into the marsh but got stuck in the swampy ground and were cut down.

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Harold's march north

Learning of the invasion, Harold took his housecarls north travelling 185 miles in 5 days. Leaving the southern coast was a terrible decision for Harold, however, at the time he must have been confident that it was too late for William to cross the channel. 

  • The first of the September storms had damaged some of Harold's fleet and possibly drove William back from an initial invasion attempt.
  • The wind was still blowing from the north when Harold set off, which he knew would prevent William from crossing the Channel.
  • Just as Harold had struggled to provide for his army, he knew William would have found it difficult to keep his army waiting through the Summer.

Harold's 5-day forced march was an outstanding military achievement as it was very difficult to gather thousands of men in such a short time.

After the battle of Gate Fulford, Hardrada and Tostig exchanged hostages with York, which had surrendered without a fight.They had demanded more from Yorkshire. They were informed that they would be handed hostages at Stamford Bridge and on 25 September, awaited them when Harold launched a surprise attack.

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Stamford Bridge - 25 September 1066

Harold had probably learned of the hostage deal as he travelled towards York and decided on his strategy. There was a small hill overlooking Stamford Bridge which meant that his army could approach undetected. The battle was a complete success for Harold as Harald and Tostig were both killed, for several reasons:

  • The Viking army had their weapons and shields with them, but left their armour on their ships as well as 1/3 of their men. 
  • Harold succeeded by taking them by surprise.
  • Hardrada's army had fought a battke 5 days before and were not prepared to fight another.
  • The Viking troops felt mislead: they had been informed that England hated its new king.
  • Harold's housecarls eventually broke the viking shield wall. 

Harold had triumphed and secured his kingdom against a very significant threat. However, news soon reached him that William had landed in the south coast on 28 September. Harold left to fight another battle.

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