The Norman Period. Explore how the invasion stamped it's authority on Britain.

The Norman Period 1066 - 1154

Find out more about the Norman Period in Britain by using a combination of the timeline and synopsis below as well as our posts. Find new intriguing connections using our themed history pages. Explore the world of science, the arts, church, government or law. Discover more about the tumultuous period of Norman Britain.

1040Harthacnut of England made the treaty with Magnus I of Norway on the inheritance of each others throne.
1051Duke William of Normandy visits England where he claims King Edward pledged him the English throne upon his death.
1064Earl Harold Godwinson journeys to Normandy and swears to Duke William that he, William, would be king of England after the death of Edward.
1066On Jan 5th Edward the Confessor dies.When Edward the Confessor died he had no children and it was not obvious who should succeed him The dying Confessor had named Harold Godwinson, Earl of Essex as his successor and that choice was ratified by the great lords of England.
1066The very next day Jan 6th Harold Goodwinson is crowned King of EnglandHarold was crowned King in Westminster Abbey with the Archbishops of York and Canterbury officiating.
1066William Duke of Normandy is furious that Harold has gone back on his word and prepares to invadeThe Duchy had long standing links with England, the mother of the Confessor was a Norman princess. Ten years previously it seems that Edward had probably promised the crown to William, a move to separate him from the yoke of the Earls of Essex.
1066On Sep 12th William readies his fleet for an invasion on the southern shores of England.William collected an army from Normandy and from other parts of France, French knights hoping to make a fortune. He had the support of the Pope who issued an edict declaring Harold a usurper and that William was the rightful King of England.
1066King Harold caught looking two ways.King Harold and his army guarded the coast but the fleet of Harold Hardrada was preparing its own invasion and Harold has to turn his troops north as on Sep 20th, Harald Hardraada, king of Norway, accompanied by King Harold’s brother Tostig, invade the north of England; sailing up the Humber and setting up camp near York.
1066Battle of Fulford Gate 1066The Battle of Fulford The King's “Northern Earls”, Edwin and Morcar came out to meet them with a hurriedly assembled army made up mainly of their own personal troops. These two earls were defeated and killed at the Battle of Fulford just outside York. King Harold has to turn more troops towards this northern invasion. He gathers troops as he marches 180 miles in 4 days.
1066Battle of Stamford Bridge. Sep 25th The Norwegians are defeated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, near York. Harald Hardraada and Tostig, King Harold’s renegade brother, are killed.
1066King Harold's troops turn south.King Harold's troops then do an amazing thing. On Oct 1st barely recovered from their gruelling march and battle Harold hears William has landed in Sussex. He turns the troops around and marches to London.
1066On Oct 6th Harold and his troops arrive in London
1066King Harold and his army arrive at Battle (then called Senlac) in East Sussex on Oct 13th.Harold was struggling to bring a full army together, he did not have the reinforcements expected from Mercia and Northumberland and maybe much of Harolds army did not keep up with the vanguard.
1066Oct 14th Battle of Hastings.The battle takes place with Duke William being victorious over King Harold. The king together with his brothers, Leofwine and Gyrth are killed, Harold allegedly with an arrow through his eye.
1066William very quickly moves his troops up the country.William very quickly moves his troops up the country, quashing rebels and burning property. He begins building wooden fortifications as he goes. He divides up land between his French lords and empowers them to subdue the British.
1066William is crowned King.After Hastings William's main objective was to secure London. It was deemed sensible by the great English lords to quickly accept William as King and he was crowned King in Westminster Abbey on the 25th Dec.
1067Castle building begins. The castle was the primary instrument by which the Normans stamped their authority on England. From having almost no castles in the period before 1066, the country was quickly crowded with them. According to one conservative modern estimate, based on the number of surviving earthworks, at least 500, and possibly closer to 1,000, had been constructed by the end of the 11th century – barely two generations since the Normans’ initial landing.
1067Construction of a wooden castle was begun at Winchester.The first castles were wooden.
1067William the Conqueror granted Arundel Castle to Roger de Montgomery.William started to divide the spoils of the conquest amongst his French lords.
1068William the Conqueror ordered the building of Warwick Castle.
1068Castle at Nottingham. This would have been a wooden building. It was built on the high ground above the town using the step slope down to the river as a defence.
1068Harold's mother Gytha will not submit to William.Although William had defeated Harold at Hastings, Harold's mother Gytha and her forces still had not submitted to William's rule. They held out at Exeter until William broke the defences. William had to take heavy casualties in the confrontation.
1068Matilda of Flanders crowned Queen of England. William brought his wife Matilda of Flander to England to crown her Queen of England. Matilda's coronation took place at Westminster Abbey and the ceremony was performed by the archbishop of York.
1069Danish invasionAn attack by a Danish invasion fleet led by Sweyn Estrithson of Denmark was fought off by a garrison stationed at a castle at Sandwich. Sandwich was an important port on the south coast.
1070William continues to advance.William subdues the north of England. He lays waste to the land, using fire to destroy property and land leading to widespread famine. In the same year, the Normans begin their push into Wales, securing their advance with a sequence of motte and bailey castles.
1072The last English Orthodox bishop, Ethelric of Durham, died in prison at Westminster.
1072The treaty 'Peace of Abernethy'.William leads an army into Scotland. It is possible that William the Conqueror was planning to attack King Malcolm to prevent him protecting Edgar the Aetheling and to stop him advancing into the north of England. The treaty 'Peace of Abernethy' brought a solution to the situation and Malcolm III paid homage to William and agreed to become William's vassal and to expel Edgar.
1073Edgar the Aetheling attempts to take the English throne
1075Construction of Windsor castle started by William the Conqueror.
1075Chepstow Castle passes to the crown. Roger Fitz Osbern joined an unsuccessful uprising against the king and lost. The castle then passed to the crown.
1077The Bayeux Tapestry.The Bayeux Tapestry is completed, depicting the Norman view of events surrounding the Battle of Hastings.
1078Tower of London.The Tower of London.Gundulf began work on the White Tower, the Tower of London.
1080Colchester CastleTo defend the estuaries of Essex against attacks from the Danes William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a new castle at Colchester.
1081William the Conqueror visited South Wales and St. David's. He met Rhys ap Tewdwr, the ruler of the area and allowed him to remain in control of the region for a yearly sum of money.
1083Shrewsbury Abbey (the Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul) is founded by the Norman Earl of Shrewsbury, Roger de Montgomery
1085Domesday BookWork commences on Domesday when William I is holding court in Gloucester and he decides to undertake a survey of England. Early returns were submitted by 1086, it was the most complete document of its type and time and remains a legally valid British document, surveying propery ownership throughout England, for the purpose of determining the extent of crown holdings, levying taxes, and holding an account for the settling of disputes.
1085Great Malvern Priory (Benedictine) is founded in Malvern, Worcestershire
1086The Domesday Book is completed. Landholders gather to swear fealty to William at Salisbury. William the Conqueror called a meeting at Old Sarum where he invited his most important vassals and tenants-in-chief in England to swear allegiance to him. The oath is now known as the Oath of Salisbury.
1087Death of King William I.William dies whilst in Rouen in Normandy. His disputes with his eldest son, Robert, who succeeded to the Duchy of Normandy clouded his final years. Tempted to disinherit Robert he eventually agreed to leave him the Duchy and give Rufus William the II his conquest of England. His third son was to receive wealth as opposed to lands and title. He was married to Mathilda of Flanders and had 9 children by her.
1087William II is crowned at Westminster Abbey He is Rufus, the second son he leaves his father’s side a day or two before he died. He had to move fast to secure the crown of England, to which he had not been specifically named as heir. Having arrived in England, he met with Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, who performed William’s coronation at Westminster Abbey.
1088Rebellion against William IIThe rebellion is raised by those who support his brother Robert Curthose Duke of Normandy’s claim to the join inheritance. This group included barons and William the Conqueror’s half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux. Robert sent troops to support the rising, but they were driven back by bad weather. William II showed deft political skill and overcame both this and a later Northumbrian rebellion.
1089Death of Lanfranc, Archbishop of CanterburyLanfranc was a close allie of William I since the 1040s he was a Lombard and made Archbishop after deposing the Anglo Saxon Stigans, he was central to revealing the plot of the Earls and deeply involved in the political and secular life of the state as well as ecclesiastical . On reflection he helped maintain the balance between Church and the Monarch.
1091Malcolm III, King of Scotland, invades England. He campaigns as far south as Durham, causing great devastation. King William II musters his troops, causing Malcolm to withdraw.
1092The first cathedral at Old Sarum is completedThe Normans were masters of great cathedral building.
1093Durham Cathedral is founded.
1093Death of Margaret, Queen of ScotlandShe died at Edinburgh Castle she was the daughter of Edward the Ætheling, an Anglo-Saxon claimant to the English throne in 1066.She was married to Malcolm III and had a very significant influence again on both secular and church matters. She was also later canonised as St Margaret.
1095Death of Wulfstan, Bishop of WorcesterHe was , the only English Bishop who maintained his office under William the Conqueror, after the Norman conquest
1096Oxford University is founded
1097Anselm leaves EnglandAnselm argues with King William II because he will not recognise Urban II as the true pope and this prevents Anselm fro receiving the Pope’s endorsement of his Archiepiscopate this was resolved but they fell out again and William confiscated the Archbishop’s revenues,
1097Birth of Stephen de BloisStephen son of the Count of Blois and Adela daughter of of William the Conqueror was born.
1097The First Crusade begins, with forces assembling in Constantinople.
1100Death of King William II He was killed in a riding incident in the New Forest Hampshire, purportedly a hunting accident but possibly an assassination although most believe it was an awful accident at the hands of his friend Walter Tyrel and he died of his wounds.
1100King Henry I crownedWilliam’s brother Henry has himself crowned King in almost indecent speed as Henry I in Westminster Abbey. Within days he had seized control of the royal treasury at Winchester.The coronation was performed by Maurice, Bishop of London, because the archbishop of Canterbury, Anselm, was out of the country as a result of a quarrel with William II.
1101Robert, Duke of Normandy, invaded EnglandRobert again sought to assert his right to the English throne against this time Henry I. The two brothers came to terms in the Treaty of Alton. Robert agreed to recognise Henry as king of England in return for Henry’s territories in Normandy and a large annuity. The arrangements would not last.
1101Ranulf Flambard, the first known prisoner at the Tower, makes a daring escape.
1102Council of LondonA Roman Catholic church council of the church in England convened by Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, to debate and pass decrees to reform the clergy
1105King Henry I invaded Normandy.
1106Battle of Titchenbray Henry I defeats his brother Robert, Duke of Normandy, at Battle of Titchenbray in France, Robert was kept in captivity until his death. bringing Normandy under the control of the English crown.
1107Henry I and Anselm Archbishop are reconciled and Anselm spent the last few years of his life in England.
1110King Henry I keeps court at Windsor
1110Arrangement of marriage of Princess Matilda Henry I arranges marriage of his daughter Matilda (aged 8) ,as empress of the Germans to the German emperor, Henry V. Her son would be Henry II.
1114Invasion of WalesHenry I invades Wales, forcing the capitualtion of Gwynedd and Powys.
1119Stephen married Queen Matilda of Boulogne
1119Muircheartach Ua Briain, King of Munster, dies and Henry I defeats Louis VI, King of France, at the Battle of Brémule
1120Matilda's elder brother William Audelin and heir to the English throne died in a ship wreck the ‘White Ship’ he was his only son and legitimate heir, creating a succession crisis
1120St. Albans Psalter is produced at St Albans Abbey, one of the most important examples of English Romanesque book production
1121Henry I married his second Queen, Adelaide of Louvain at Windsor.
1126Henry I settles the accession on Mathilda his daughter the German Empress. Just before Christmas in 1126, he required his nobles and the clergy, together with David, King of Scotland, to swear to accept his daughter Matilda as his heir.
1132Fountains Abbey (Cistercian) is founded two miles southwest of Ripon in North Yorkshire, England
1135Death of King Henry I dies on December 1King Henry I died on December 1 in Normandy
1135Stephen travels to LondonOn hearing of the death of King Henry I Stephen travelled to London and secured its support, he then wnet to Winchester to the treasurey and secured the support of Roger of Salisbury . Stephens brother was Bishop of Winchester Henry de Blois. All oaths made by the church to Matilda were considered void.
1136The civil war between Stephen and Matilda begins. The great supporter of Matilda was Robert Earl of Gloucester, who was an illegitimate son of Henry I and step-brother to Matilda
1139Matilda lands at Arundel, West Sussex, to claim the throne of England and raise forces against Stephen who is struggling to retain control. She is supported by Robert, Earl of Gloucester her half-brother.
1141Stephen captured at the Battle of Lincoln in February when Stephen laid siege to Lincoln Castle. He was then imprisoned
1141Matilda was claimed Queen of England - April
1141In June Matilda entered London for her coronation but had no support in London and was forced to flee the city.
1141The Rout of Winchester Sep 14th. Stephen's imprisonment was ended when he was exchanged for the Earl of Gloucester who had been captured by Stephen's supporters
1142Matilda continued plotting against Stephen with the aid of Geoffrey de Mandeville
1143Stephen arrested Geoffrey de Mandeville taking his lands and making him an outlaw and depriving Matilda of one of her most powerful allies
1145King Stephen captured the castle at Farringdon from Matilda
1147Matilda left England for Normandy and spent the rest of her life in a convent
1147The eldest son of Matilda, Henry, attempted to invade England but he failed
1149Henry again attempted to invade England but he was driven back to Normandy by Stephen
1152Eleanor of Aquitaine marries Henry of Anjou, allying Aquitaine with his lands of Anjou and Normandy.
1153Henry once again invaded England and Stephen was forced to agree a truce and that Henry, the son of Matilda, should be heir to the throne of England instead of his own son, Eustace
1153Eustace the son of Stephen was furious and continued the fight but he died suddenly on August 17
1154November 6 - The Treaty of Wallingford. The agreement of succession of Henry II after Stephen was witnessed by the English Knights Templar.
1154October 25, 1154. Stephen died in Dover, at Dover Priory, and was buried in Faversham Abbey
1154Henry of Anjou is crowned king. He also rules more than half of France.


Norman Period

The magnificent church of All Saints East Meon Hampshire.

A lasting legacy of the Normans is their architecture

England has majestic Norman churches, abbeys and castles that provided a footprint for much of the early English architecture that was to follow. It is impossible not to be awed by the magnificence of  Norman Architecture. They built their churches like castles. They brought stone across the Channel from quarries around Caen, white stone that when new, shone and glistened and could be seen for miles. A great example of a Norman Cathedral is at Ely in Camridgeshire. Like a wedding cake, layers and layers of decoration as if the stone masons were in competition with each  other. The Normans brought their own stone masons with them from France and so in style, French Norman churches and English Norman churches look similar. A study of Hampshire Norman architecture shows how the style developed in Britain over time.

Norman period

The striking Norman architecture of St Cross Winchester.

The impact of the Normans in Britain

After 1066, English landowners were dispossessed and replaced by Frenchmen. An estimated 8,000 Normans came to Britain, many of these were landowners. William kept about 17% of the land, Domesday shows that the church kept it's lands more or less intact after the invasion and William carved up the rest to reward his French nobles. Most of the upheaval seems to have taken place in the countryside, the towns had French enclaves but largely seem to have been left British. The English and the French cultures mixed, many of the Norman land owning Frenchmen returned to France and ruled their estates from there. Others who had no land other than in England, stayed. Interestingly those that stayed learnt English and by the end of the Norman period a new English identity evolved. The Normans gave England the Domesday book, the most incredible early census that gives us a clear vision of society at this time. It showed the shift from Anglo Saxon land ownership to Norman and the importance of the minster church and all the attendant services around it, the extra mills and woodland.

Royal government expanded greatly under Norman kings. Money and justice was handed out from the court exchequer and law courts and in this time the Common Law of England was established.

Norman Period

King William I Penny