The Battle of Fulford is the first of three large pitched battles to have taken place in 1066. Harold Hardrada and Tostig had landed on the Yorkshire coast in September, 1066. They first attacked at Scarborough, then sailed up the River Humber, into the River Ouse and attacked the English at Fulford, outside of York. The Viking raiders were victorious, defeating the English force led by Earl Morcar. York surrendered and was occupied.
Harald Hardrada set sail from Norway in 300 ships. He was accompanied by Tostig and his rebels. Hardrada’s fleet initially landed near Scarborough. Here they lay waste to the land, possibly trying to lure the Saxon army out of York.
The bulk of the English army was stationed in in the South. King Harold II had expected the Norman fleet to land. This left Earl Morcar in command of a smaller army in the north.
Following the attacks around Scarborough the Viking fleet sailed south to the Humber. Here it used a favourable tide to sail inland. The fleet made shore outside of York, near the village of Ricall. The Vikings knew the area well. Until 30 years earlier York had been the capital of a Viking kingdom in Northumberland.
Earl Morcar was stationed in York. He moved his army to a location between the invaders and the city. Here, at Fulford, the land was favourable for a defense. The English could stand firm on well drained land, with the Viking attack having to start from marshy land and across a stream.
Morcar was aware that the Viking army was much larger than the Saxon one. He attacked first. Casualties were high on both sides. However, as more Viking forces made their way onto the battlefield the Saxons were simply overwhelmed.
The North of England had fallen to the invaders. York was defenceless and surrendered. It was occupied by Hardrada and Tostig’s men.
This caused the Saxons a huge problem. They could not ignore the threat from the North. However the Normans still had a fleet assembled. Matters were made worse as the army was low on supplies and the harvest was suffering due to men being with the fyrd rather than in the fields. Harold Godwinson opted for a decisive strike against Hardrada and the rebels led by his brother. He marched north to confront them, which he did at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
Battle of Fulford: Key Points
The Battle of Fulford took place on 20th September, 1066.
The Viking Army, including Tostig’s rebels, is estimated to have numbered 7000 men.
Earls Morcar and Edwin led a smaller force numbering 3000 men.
Losses on both sides are believed to have been high.
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