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re-enacting the pilgrimage to Hastings Castle: one way of celebrating 1066.

Members of Hastings Local History Group re-enacting the pilgrimage to Hastings Castle: one way of celebrating 1066.

Grassroots 1066 events gather momentum

As the date of the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in mid October draws near, HOT is learning of more grassroots events to commemorate the occasion, as Nick Terdre reports.

Our interest in grassroots commemorations of Hastings’ famous contribution to England’s history was prompted by local historian Heather Grief’s booklet on the battle, which also offers a wide variety of ideas of how the anniversary could be celebrated in educative and enjoyable ways.

When reviewing the booklet I wrote that “the grassroots activities Heather was hoping to encourage appear to be rather thin on the ground.” That was perhaps too pessimistic – she has now informed us of more events which she says were at least partly prompted by her suggestions.

On Sunday 25 September a sponsored walk on behalf of St Michael’s Hospice will take place along the route taken by the Normans from Pevensey to Battle, with three distances on offer (four, nine and 17 miles).

On Sunday 16 October Hastings Lions, the force behind the Hastings Half-Marathon, is organising 1066 Way to Battle, a run from Pevensey Castle to Battle Abbey via Herstmonceux Castle.

Following the route of medieval pilgrimages clad in medieval clothes was another of Heather’s ideas. Keith Leech, a member of St Clement’s church council, had expressed interest in organising an ecumenical party to undertake the final day’s walk of the pilgrimage to Hastings Castle but now tells us the idea never really took off.

Heather researched the last day route, which was test-walked by a group of ‘re-enactors,’ colleagues from the Hastings Local History Group, as she recounts in her booklet Last Day of the Pilgrimage to St Mary-in-the-Castle. As the photos show, everyone dressed appropriately.

An artist's impression of the explanatory boards with a historical timeline which are to be placed at the start of the path leading to the castle from Castle Hill road (image: Suzan Aral).

An artist’s impression of the explanatory boards with a historical timeline which are to be placed at the start of the path leading to the castle from Castle Hill road (image: Suzan Aral).

Separately, under a council initiative, the final part of the route is to be marked with a series of explanatory boards designed by Suzan Aral of Aral Design. The first board will be placed prominently at the start of the path which runs up to the castle from Castle Hill Road, which visitors often miss due to poor signage, Suzan tells HOT. They should be in place by mid September.

The Hastings Local History Group has had several meetings on 1066-related themes this year, including a talk on Halley’s comet – which was visible for several nights in April 1066, prompting speculation about what it might mean – plus a comet-making workshop. Author David Clarke also spoke to the group about ‘Harold’s Way,’ the route taken by King Harold as he and his army rushed south to confront the Normans after defeating Norwegian King Harald Hardrada at Stamford Bridge near York.

This meeting was attended by members of Battle Ramblers who on 14 October – the day of the battle itself – will walk the final Bodiam to Battle stage. Members of the public are welcome to join in, as long as they pre-book (to allow for hired transport).

The re-enactors stop for refreshment on the pilgrims' road to the castle .

The re-enactors stop for refreshment on the pilgrims’ road to the castle .

The local history group has also held meetings on the pilgrimage and on ‘beating the Liberty bounds’ – Liberty being the area of Hastings whose inhabitants later enjoyed exemption from paying trade tolls throughout the country. This is another walk opportunity, though with more problems as it starts in Ecclesbourne Glen and ends near the Bo-Peep Inn, or possibly in Bulverhythe. Heather recently gave a talk on the Battle Abbey Chronicles and the research they have given rise to.

Other grassroots events include the Hastings 950 Tapestry organised by members of St Clement’s, for which volunteers are embroidering 950 panels representing the people of Hastings. The completed tapestry will be inaugurated as part of Hastings Week on Sunday 16 October in the church. This project is going really well, Keith Leech reports.

Some of the events in the ROOT 1066 festival are also open to public participation, such as the cycle ride along the Coastal Culture Trail from Bexhill to Hastings on Saturday 1 October and the Fun Palace at St Mary in the Castle on Saturday and Sunday 1 and 2 October.

And also as part of the festival, on Sunday and Monday 2 and 3 October, community groups Active Arts, Autism Sussex, Beeching Park, Conquest Day Centres, Culture Shift, Glyne Gap Faculty, Hastings Furniture Service, Horizons Community Learning, Little Gate Farm, Parchment Trust and Seaview will take part in an event titled Movement, making and decorating arrows and banners to communicate what they value most. These will then be mounted to create an installation in Stade Hall.


The Hastings Castle history timeline which appears on the explanatory boards mentioned in this article are also being published in brochure form, Suzan Aral tells us. The free brochures, the content of which was written and researched by Cathy Walling, curator at Hastings Museum & Art Gallery, will be available at the Tourist Information Centre in Aquila House, the museum and other outlets for council-sponsored publications in early September.

See also Celebrating 1066.

Are you taking part in, or know of, other grassroot events being organised as part of the 950th celebrations? We’d love to hear from you. You can contact us on

Posted 14:25 Tuesday, Aug 23, 2016 In: Home Ground

Also in: Home Ground

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