Battle of Hastings revisited: hundreds re-enact conflict of 1066


At an annual event staged by English Heritage, hundreds of people dressed as Saxons and Normans gather on Senlac Ridge in Sussex to mark the anniversary of the 1066 Battle of Hastings. Participants tell the photojournalist Jonny Weeks why they enjoy playing dress-up in a field


Sean Moxom-Wylde

Pub landlord, 30


‘I’m brand new to this hobby. On my stag do, a group of us went to a medieval event and watched people re-enacting a fight. Immediately, my brother, who was my best man, said: ‘We need to do this.’ So we found a group that wasn’t too far from where we live and that was it: we were in. You can so easily get engrossed by it, it’s so addictive.

‘Being away from modern technology and not having a mobile phone for the weekend is actually quite glorious. It’s bare bones. You don’t need your phone, you don’t need your money and all the luxuries. You look around here, there’s nothing in sight that’s modern and we enjoy it.’




Natalie Thompson

Business support officer, 29


‘The kids who come to watch the re-enactment are mostly into the weaponry, but they’re shocked when they come to the living history camps and see so many foods they recognise.

‘Usually I cook a stew or a pottage, which is a bit like porridge but with barley instead of oats; sometimes we do meat on the spit, flatbreads or oatcakes. It’s very different to a normal kitchen: you can’t control the temperature and you can’t just walk away. Luckily I have a lot of guys around who can chop the wood for me.’



Autumn McKimm

Schoolgirl, 10


‘It’s amazing and fun and interesting. We learn a lot about the different kinds of swords and weapons they had back then. We do archery on top of a hill and sword fighting.’

Autumn’s parents, Lorna and Stuart, add: “This is probably our 10th year coming here. Autumn started as a baby in a basket so it’s kinda strange to see her now, running around like a loon. She used to have an authentic rag doll she’d carry around, because you can’t have modern toys when you’re re-enacting.”


Raffi Thomas



‘Today I’m going under the name Ljot Ketil Bjǿrnson. It’s a real name from the period. Ljot means ugly. I chose the name before I knew what it meant. Ketil Bjǿrnson means son of the helmet bear, so actually it’s quite appropriate because I studied history at the University of York and ended up writing my dissertation on Anglo Saxon helmets in poetry.

‘Back in 1066, people didn’t really write directly about warfare, they tended to write poetry that told you more how it felt. When you read Anglo Saxon poems, you find their sense of humour and the things they enjoy are very similar to ours today. It’s a window into what life might have been like.

‘The Bayeux Tapestry is also a wonderful resource because it shows you what people were wearing at the battle. We think it was stitched by English nuns about 20 years after the battle. It depicts the events leading up to it, and the battle itself, but it very abruptly finishes and we can never really know why. Maybe the money for the tapestry ran out. For a long time, it was just left sitting in a church in a box because people didn’t realise its significance.’



David McNichol

Security guard, 43


‘I chose to be a slave for the battle. Normally I’m a warrior, but everybody is a warrior or the wife of a warrior, even the craftsmen are all middle class or upper class. So I did a bit of research in the Domesday Book and found out that anywhere up to 10% of the population were slaves – actual human cattle.

‘The guys here are the closest friends I’ve got, though we don’t meet up often enough. For some events we get expenses paid, but that’s all. The vast majority of us are here simply for the love of it.’


Jane Richardson

Disability learning support practitioner, 55


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