Issues raised by John Grehan
pdf available here
1 John Grehan says that the Crowhurst site is far too extensive to have been securely held by 7,000 – 10,000 men and they would not have been packed tightly together as the sources indicate.
John makes many assumptions in his book that are made upon the basis of what he thinks are reasonable assumptions, with the benefit of a lot of research and hindsight. No-one knows how many men were present at Hastings and whilst the field is very much bigger than the old traditional site at Battle Abbey it is confined on both sides unlike Battle Abbey. This means that it is a maximum of 500yards wide at the widest point and most of it is a lot less, meaning the line could be created and held very efficiently, as shown by the fact the battle lasted all day. Further there is evidence that Harold enclosed the field and we have identified those ditches, making the defence even greater than that supposed without it.
2 Crowhurst was more than 30 minutes by foot from where the abbey was eventually built, therefore it is unrealistic to imagine that the monks could possibly have walked such a distance to build their abbey when more suitable sites exist much closer to Crowhurst.
The location of the new abbey at the traditional site was chosen because the Chronicle of Battle Abbey tells us it was a more suitable place . The distance from the original site of the battle was not a consideration. The assumption that it was built on the battlefield was a false assumption created by the monks to support their forged charter.
3 Although it was four years after the battle that the monks arrived to start their abbey project, they must have had some information concerning the site and some evidence of a battle having been fought in the area between Caldbec Hill and Battle Hill must have still been present. No one could have got the place so badly wrong.
There is no exact date in the Chronicle to date this event when the Monk called Smith came over. It is believed to be at least 4 years and might be seven. The correct site was at Herste low down on the west side of the ridge (as the Norman Monks reported it to the King in the Chronicle of Battle Abbey supporting their claim for free wine and taxes). The assumption that this was hidden from those who built the abbey is a modern assumption if you do not have the information from the document written at the time and given to the King. The correct understanding was written by the monks who wrote the Chronicle of Battle Abbey and they tell us exactly where the abbey was started and where the battlefield was and then where it was moved to . This information is specific, the reason given why it was moved and designed to inform the king exactly because if they had lied about this information people did know and it would have been found out. The statement which was examined by the King at the time removes completely the possibility of Caldbec Hill being a possible battlefield site. There is a clear logic that states if the site was moved then William had no objection to this and the creation of the paragraph stated ‘as tradition ’ that William ordered it to be moved back is now understood to be one of the forged paragraphs which is illogical and clearly identifies the fraud, since it cannot have been a tradition because the monk who wrote the document identifies the extract as a record of the events of the time and not 180 years later.
4 In the Chronicle of Battle Abbey you choose to note that the battlefield site is called Herste, yet elsewhere in the Chronicle Crowhurst is referred to entirely separately as Croherste. Herste cannot therefore also be Croherste.
This does not take into account the way the Chronicle of Battle Abbey was constructed or why. It has to be understood that the document was written in two parts and bound together as one in order to support the monks case for free wine and taxes. The first section up to the end of folio 14 detail the witness events to the invasion and battle in the Crowhurst valley.
The Chronicle of Battle Abbey names Herste as the site of the battlefield and this is clearly a reference that has been taken from an eye witness account of the events of that time and referring to the monk named Smith and his companions who move the abbey from the original site at Herste . It is authentic information that is from the original source.
The references latter in the text to Crowhurst from the end of folio 14 onwards details the lands within the leuga as taken from the Kings Book – the Domesday Book, written in 1085/86 and the names of the manors used in the Chronicle are taken from that book. It is therefore wholly logical that the monk who wrote this would have written down what he was told as a spoken reference in one instance (Herste) but to have copied the elements relating to the Kings Book (Croherste) later, because he would have had a copy of the Kings Book information that would have the names he used later. He would not have known that the two places were the same and indeed the name is identified with the Kings Book in the same paragraph as the entries for Croherste .
5 Your Domesday Book argument about Crowhurst being laid waste whereas Battle was not, fails to take into account that at Battle at the time of the Domesday Survey the great monastery was being built, encouraging a rapid development of the area.
The Domesday evidence is specific and unchallengeable because it is hard data that cannot be changed. It recorded the values of all manors before the battle, at the battle and after the battle. The recovery rate for Battle is higher because at the time of the battle it did not lose all its value because it was not wasted. The assumption that it must have regained its value because it was built after that does not reflect the evidence that virtually no wastage took place there and is an unsustainable thesis. As a military historian must know when a battle takes place nothing is left at the time of the battle. The unsustainable element of the thesis is the assumption that those manors that were wasted were less likely to be the site of the battle than those that were totally wasted, whether Crowhurst or any other manor.
The value of Battle had a pre-invasion value of £48 and a value at the time of the battle of £30. No other manors in the Hastings Rape had a value higher than this at that time 90% were less. It is therefore unsustainable to claim the battle was held in the manor of Battle – called The Battle in the Domesday Book as part of the Monks deception. The data can support no other conclusion.
6 Pye’s Farm (where the English were drawn up) is simply too close to Wilting (Norman encampment) – only two miles – and William would never have waited passively a couple of miles away whilst Harold assembled a large army. Nor would Harold have contemplated such an operation.
Battles are not fought by logic as things happen that cannot be predicted. What is clear from my perspective, having read all the documents and looked at the site in question is that the story we have been passed by the Normans is not the whole story. This should be expected as the Normans would have sought to discredit the loser. Elements are alluded to in texts that the new battlefield support. Namely that Harold did not do what was expected of him.
The popular supposition is that Harold was rash by rushing down from Stamford Bridge to engage at the field at battle and consequently lost because he rushed.
The evidence as I see it shows that Harold rushed to Crowhurst because the manor was known to him personally and Edith Swanneck is certainly believed to have come from Crowhurst. He therefore knew that if he built a defence across the field at Pyes farm he had the Normans trapped. It was unique in that respect of the area around Hastings and an opportunity he would not let slip. We are told that the man who comes to Stamford Bridge reports to Harold ‘His Lord’ a feudal relationship with his lord of the manor and not his king.
People say well surely William would not have allowed himself to fall into such a trap. However William had a good view of the London road from his camp and he had men on horse able to attack any army that materialised before it could form.
Harold knew this and he arrived at dusk and immediately started the negotiation process. His arrival was a surprise. William even asks ‘where is the King’ and the negotiator answers – ‘You can see his standards’ . Wace also confirms the line of sight observations when the negotiations take place
It is clear to me having read Wace’s account and the comments of the various chroniclers that allude to Harold being of dubious honour that Harold used the negotiation time to buy the necessary time for his men to enclose the field in three place and put stakes across the field. Harold never intended to agree a deal and so he used to time to build his defence. That response was not expected by William and so they were forced to engage at light the next morning and the Norman cavalry were impotent against men standing with a wall in front of them and stakes as well as a three ditches. Harold had fought with William in France and knew exactly what to do.
Harold was smarter than they made out – all this detail will emerge when the correct battlefield is identified because the texts appear to confirm it. Pyes Farm is two miles from Wilting, but the track was probably only wide enough for a cart. It took three hours to move to the battlefield plain, because that is how long it takes to move 5,000 men with their armaments along a narrow track. Pyes Farm was the final defence and only accessed at the end of the battle. The main action was clearly fighting up a hill that rises 120meters and was defended well.
Lastly Johns claim that the battle must have been fought at Caldbec, because it is the only suitable hill in the area is unsustainable on two counts:
Firstly by far the biggest hill is the field at Crowhurst that rises 120meters dwarfing Caldbec by comparison and I have to agree the steep hill is one of the major defining factors because the battle could not be at Caldbec so it must be at Crowhurst.
Secondly the roads at the time confirm that once you have arrived at the Telham crossroads by Appletree field the Normans could have turned left to Lewis or right to Rye. Historians who have sought to claim the head of the peninsular was where Battle Abbey was located have not done their due diligence, because the old Roman Road to Beauport Park was in existence 600 years before and the network of smaller tracks exited the peninsular further south than Battle. If the battle was at Caldbec William could exit at two places because the main road forked to Rye and Lewis at a second point making the concept of confinement impossible. Consequently all of John Grehan’s points in his book, whilst logical are in my view thoroughly undermined by these issues when the matter is looked at in the context of the topography of this site. There are to my knowledge no documents written at the time that support Caldbec, whereas all those that we know of support the Crowhurst