The Battle of Fulford

The Battle of Fulford

For 10 years Tostig had been earl of Northumbria with a home in York, but he was not popular and while he was away hunting Earl Morcar had invaded and taken over York. He and his brother Edwin then met with the king, Edward the Confessor, demanding that Morcar should be made earl of Northumbria. Edward agreed and supported by Harold, Tostig’s brother, sent Tostig into exile. A few weeks later Edward died and Harold became king of England.

Tostig, dispossessed and disgruntled, soon found a willing ally in Harald of Norway and at the beginning of September 1066 Harald and his fleet of 300 ships joined Tostig in Scotland. They sailed up the Humber and Ouse and landed in Riccall. At the same time England was under threat from the Normans in the south. To meet the threat in the north, king Harold had positioned his armies, with the Northumbrian army, under earl Morcar in York and another under earl Edwin, Morcar’s elder brother, at Tadcaster. The Norse army, numbering at least 6000 warriors, set up their base at Riccall between these two English armies and quickly moved towards York where earl Morcar’s army blocked their way at Germany Beck.

On his right was the river Ouse and on the left marshy land so he had a very strong position. They made a shield wall and fought well pushing the Norsemen back. The battle went well for the defenders at first but they were eventually defeated when the king Harald ‘Hardrada’ of Norway forced back the small contingent that Earl Edwin had been able to bring to the aid of his brother. Tostig tricked Morcar into thinking that they were retreating. Morcar came down off the higher ground to follow them and the Norsemen were able to get behind the English army and surround them. Many of the English were trapped in the mud at the place that was later called Fulford (meaning muddy river crossing place). So, the Norse army won the battle of Fulford.

But this was the last Norse victory on English soil. Five days later Harold arrived with his army and both Harald and Tostig were slain at Stamford Bridge.

Had this battle been a victory for the English, the whole course of British history might have been changed.