Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Norman longboats with dragon heads are depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry.

Site of Norman longboat located

An important step towards finding further evidence to back his theory that the Battle of Hastings took place in Crowhurst Valley has been taken by local historian, Nick Austin, who says he has located the site of a buried Norman longboat, which must have formed part of the invasion fleet, HOT’s Nick Terdre reports.

In 1935, the prow or stern of a wooden boat, including a dragon head typical of the Norman longboats of that period. It was unearthed in a ditch being dug up by a crew preparing the ground for the construction of the now defunct Hastings aerodrome in the marshy ground of Bulverhythe.

It was a discovery of massive importance, but inconvenient for the airport constructors. Rather than interrupt their work, the crew pushed the wooden structure back beneath the waters of the ditch. Fortunately the story has survived by word of mouth – Mr Austin says he has known of it from different sources for more than 25 years, and recently had it personally confirmed by the son of one of the construction crew.

By bringing together a plan of the land showing the location of the ditches, which was provided by a former owner of the field with a map of the aerodrome, recently delivered anonymously to his home, Mr Austin believes he has now identified the ditch in question.

He would like to start digging but first needs permission from the Environment Agency. And the ground is at present under a foot or so of water, so digging might have to wait until next spring.

Back in 1066, an inlet of the sea ran this far inland. Mr Austin believes that the Normans landed at the head of this inlet and then made their camp nearby at Wilting Manor.

If there is one boat to be found, there could well be more preserved in the peaty waters of the marsh – the Norman invasion fleet numbered upwards of 500 longboats of varying sizes. Historical sources suggest that the boats variously suffered three fates – being burnt, earthed up or dismantled.

As things stand, it will be the diggers of the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road which first get to work on the site, as it lies on the route of the road. Despite mounting indications that Crowhurst Valley was where the two armies camped and fought, construction of the link road is still due to begin in the New Year.

BBC South East’s programme on Nick Austin’s theory about the Battle of Hastings is now expected to be broadcast on the Inside Out series in January.

See also New battlesite theory collides with road plans.

More on the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road here and here.

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Posted 20:03 Tuesday, Dec 4, 2012 In: Home Ground

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