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Bosham Village seen from the North

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Harold attended mass at Bosham in 1064 prior to leaving Bosham and meeting William of Normandy. It was perhaps at this meeting that Harold told William Duke of Normandy (the Conqueror) that he would be claiming the throne of England. In fact he was probably supposed to be there proclaiming Edwards loyalty. This act combined with other factors led inevitably to the battle of Hastings in 1066.

(It is claimed by Norman sources that Edward sent Harold to Normandy to offer William the succession, but this is uncertain. Harold set off from Bosham and was driven by a storm onto the land of the Count of Ponthieu where he was captured. He was ransomed by William and then joined his campaign against the Bretons. Sources, including the Bayeux Tapestry, claim that Harold swore an oath to support William's claim to the throne of England. Edward died on 5th January 1066. Some claimed that on his death bed he promised the throne to Harold who had himself crowned at Westminster on January 6th with the consent of the English aristocracy.)

Harold was thus destined to become the last of the Saxon Kings of England. It is said that both his own and his Fathers body was brought back to Bosham after the Battle in 1066. On the 4th August 1865 the chancel arch at the church was excavated and two coffins were discovered. One contained the bones of an eight year old girl and the coffin itself was typical of those used during the reign of Canute. The larger coffin contained the bones of an older man who suffered from arthritis in one leg. It is known that Godwin had a limp.

No-one is certain where the body of King Harold lays. It may the one next to Canute's daughter, or yet another. Hastings and Waltham Abbey have their claims too! When heating was being installed in the church in the 1950s, another tomb was discovered next to the one containing Cnut's daughter. Those who opened it had a shock: the head, right leg and two-thirds of the left hand were missing.

According to the Bayeux Tapestry and an account by the bishop of Amiens, which he made a year after the Battle of Hastings, Harold suffered these terrible injuries before and after his death. As a result, some believe that the remains in this tomb are Harold's. This makes sense. William of Poitiers stated that Harold had been buried "by the seashore", and the sea is only a short distance from the church. In addition, Bosham became William the Conqueror's personal estate following the battle. Where better to bury his opponent to ensure that the grave did not become the focus of political discontent and of a martyr cult?
 
To another era; in 1664 the Great Plague was sweeping through the country. When it reached nearby Chichester the citizens shut the City gates and sealed themselves in, in an attempt to stop the plague from spreading to people outside the City. The fishermen of Bosham took it upon themselves to help as best they could and left food outside the city gates until the plague had passed. In recognition of this, the people of Bosham were allowed to sell their fish in the market without having to pay a fee. Sadly there is no longer much commercial fishing from the Harbour today, with only one trading fisherman remaining. Even he keeps his boat elsewhere (Emsworth) and lands his catch at the deeper water of Itchenor.

 
Bosham church bells have a curious legend. During the time of raids by the Norsemen, when Bosham was called Bosanhamm (meaning the water meadow of Bosa, circa AD.650) a band came pillaging up the creek. They seized one of the church bells and loaded it onto their ship. The Villagers were naturally upset at the loss of the Bell but the remaining bells were rung out in thanksgiving for the deliverance of the people.

A few hundred yards from the dock the stolen bell broke its ties and crashed through the deck of the ship, sinking beneath the waves into what is known as 'Bell Hole'. Such was thought by many to be the outworking of God's vindication and justice for those with thankful hearts! [How Bishop Wilfred converted Bosham to Christ

 

Bosham is located between Portsmouth and Chichester. From the north, take the A3(M) to exit 5, then go east on the A27(M). From the east or west, follow the A27(M) or M27 respectively. Then take the A259 coast road and follow the signposts. Map reference: SU 803039.



Bosham church as depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry

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