(1042 -1154)

Part Twenty-four
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles are in fact a number of chronicles compiled progressively into what is known colloquially as The Anglo Saxon Chronicle. They are sufficiently similar to each other to be considered versions of the same source. However they vary sufficiently from one to the other for each to warrant individual study.

The Chronicles that I have looked at are called the Abingdon, Worcester and Peterborough Chronicles. Since the Abingdon Chronicle ends before the Norman Invasion I have not taken it into account. The other two compress into less than a paragraph their version of events concerning the Norman Invasion. Taken in isolation there appears nothing to add that is not known. However taken with the evidence of the Bayeux Tapestry they provide further evidence that the Invasion took place at Hastings.

The Worcester Chronicle dated as the year 1066 states very little other than:

"The Count William came from Normandy to Pevensey on Michaelmas Eve, and as soon as they were able to move on they built a castle at Hastings"

The first impression would appear to endorse Pevensey as a landing site but this I believe is misleading. The Chronicle uses the expression "came from Normandy" in relation to making towards Pevensey "to Pevensey". It clearly does not say they landed at Pevensey and here a valuable distinction is made in the text. If the Chronicler had meant to say "The Normans landed at Pevensey" the structure of the description would have been completely different. The text confirms the Normans built a fortification at Hastings and almost by way of an excuse, as well as inference, says that they did not stay at Pevensey, if at all.

The important factor about the Worcester Chronicle is the confirmation that they came from Normandy on the eve of Michaelmas. Michaelmas was on Friday 29th September, confirming the Bayeux Tapestry evidence that the Normans departed from St Valery on the evening of Thursday 28th September 1066. Sailing over night they arrived at the English coast, upon the rising tide, between 9am and 12am the following morning.

Further confirmation is obtained from the Peterborough Chronicle which states "Meanwhile Count William landed at Hastings on Michaelmas Day" giving the same set of events from a different perspective. In this version Hastings is directly named as the arrival point and the landing date is named as Michaelmas Day the 29th September.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle is considered by many to be the most reliable of documents because more than one version exists and all are written from the point of view of the local inhabitants, rather than the invaders. Taken with the other highly credible version of events, portrayed in visual format by the Bayeux Tapestry, there can be no room for doubt that Hastings, and in particular the Port of Hastings, was the actual landing site. The evidence is highly suggestive that Pevensey may have been intended to be the landing site, but more than this does not stand up to close scrutiny, when cross referenced with other contemporary documents.

Florence of Worcester, a monk of the twelfth century, using the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles as a source refers to the same event writing "It was reported that they had landed at Pevensey". Here a clear distinction has been made between this and the original Worcester text, inserting the reference to it being "reported". This could be interpreted as meaning that the original reference was a report rather than a confirmed fact. Thus amending and clarifying the earlier text without undermining its supposed authenticity

If the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles are to be believed, and I have no reason to doubt their authenticity, along with the Bayeux Tapestry, the Normans landed at Hastings on the morning of Michaelmas (Friday September 29th 1066). One Chronicle confirms this whilst the other is more ambiguous and has to date been misinterpreted. In consequence it was not possible, because of the tide, for the Normans to have landed at Pevensey and sailed on to Hastings in the same day. The tide was not only against them but more importantly the wind was also. This had been described as favourable for the crossing and therefore from the South East. The suggestion that Pevensey could be the landing site is an historical fallacy used to try to support one line of text by William of Poitiers, whose source is unclear. Apart from this one item in Poitiers and the totally unreliable Jumieges text suggesting Pevensey as the landing site there are no other contradictions.

It is my belief that the evidence of spoken word, as opposed to the written word, is what has taken the Pevensey argument to that which it has attained to this day. Poitiers copied what he heard, stating that "they all reached Pevensey, and there without opposition they freely disembarked". If Pevensey was the stated destination there was no reason to believe that this was not what actually happened. The text goes on to state "Rejoicing greatly at having secured a safe landing, the Normans seized and fortified first Pevensey and then Hastings" It is my understanding that this sentence is one of the most misunderstood statements in English History. It has been taken by historians to endorse the earlier statement of Pevensey as the landing site, yet this is not what Poitiers claims. Firstly he states that they secured a safe landing place (omitting to say that this is in fact Hastings). After this he states that they fortified Pevensey and then Hastings. Taken with Wace's description this is almost certainly correct. The morning after the Invasion was the day upon which Pevensey was attacked according to Wace.

At that time Hastings was not consolidated and in consequence the order of events given by Poitiers is completely correct without undermining any other version we have discussed. The paragraph in question relates to the act of fortifying the area. This was concluded at Pevensey first because the castle at Pevensey was already in existence. At Hastings the consolidation process took some two weeks prior to the Battle. It is therefore not valid to support Poitiers over Wace or Wace over the Carmen. Each has a valid statement to make based upon what they believed to be true. If there is any element of doubt it is in Poitiers for being out of step with all the others, making an ambiguous report.

The further we are removed from the events of the time the more difficult it is to prove one way or the other and hence the importance of correcting past misinterpretation. It is my belief that the written manuscript evidence studied provides the only correct basis upon which to base a hypothesis. If that hypothesis is true it will be borne out by the archaeological and geographic evidence. It simply is not satisfactory for critics and so called experts, who should know better, to rely upon the statement that no evidence of this nature exists, because a thousand years has elapsed. The Invasion took place in 1066 and as every schoolboy knows man leaves traces where ever he goes and under all circumstances. Any thesis based upon the reliance of theory without practical, material evidence is not worth the paper upon which it is written and I rest my case for the manuscript evidence, with that over riding proviso.