Battle of Stamford Bridge

25th September 1066

In London King Harold decided he could not ignore this Viking threat and marched north to deal with it, gathering reinforcements en route together with survivors from Fulford. He knew the risk he was taking as William, Duke of Normandy, was still threatening to invade somewhere on the south coast. Harold and his men reached York on 25th September and after learning about Stamford Bridge he deployed his troops there immediately.

The exact site of the early timber bridge relative to the modern bridge cannot be confirmed but it was nearby

The village is at the junction of four Roman roads where it was possible to cross the River Derwent, originally by two fords but now by a bridge. The village has grown to the southeast (top right) over much of the battlefield. The Vikings made a stand at the wooden bridge but were soon dislodged by Harold’s troops approaching from York. These Vikings may either have been withdrawing as Harold’s army approached or they may have been a piquet posted at the bridge.

Forward edge of 'Battle Flat' above the Derwent where it is believed the battle took place

The site of the main battle is considered to be on slightly higher ground immediately west of the village about 50 feet above the river. It is likely that this was the position adopted by the Vikings in preparation for the forthcoming battle with the approaching army. Their left straddled the line of the disused railway, and then curved northeast across Minster Way towards the woods south of Burton Hall. It seems that the English were able to cross the river quickly, probably using the fords and shallow parts, and caught the Vikings before their defence was fully prepared. It is thought that Hardrada, seeing the size of Harold’s army sent for reinforcements from his base at Riccall.

Looking north across Battle Flat from Minster Way

Afterword

 

References:

 

Burne, Alfred H (1996) The Battlefields of England, Greenhill Books.

 

Modern accounts for battlefields in Britain can be found at the websites of The Battlefield Trust, English Heritage and local battlefield interest groups. The photographs for this account were taken out of season in April 2013.