NOSTALGIA: Descendants of invaders trace roots back to 1066 and all that

Detail from the Bayeux Tapestry: Does this depict King Harold being mortally wounded by an arrow in his eye at the Battle of Hastings?
Detail from the Bayeux Tapestry: Does this depict King Harold being mortally wounded by an arrow in his eye at the Battle of Hastings?

It’s October 13 1066. The ploughman is tilling the field, pigs are snuffling for windfall apples in the orchard and potatoes have yet to be discovered.

So it’s something with parsnips for dinner tonight. Just like every night.

Little did the average Anglo-Saxon know at the time that, barely 24 hours later, their lives would be transformed - if not cut brutally short - by a band of ‘shaven-headed foreigners with an unseemly love of horses’.

The Norsemen of the Apocalypse had arrived. Today however, some 950 years later, the descendants of the Norman conquerors are living amongst us and the subject of a fascinating project to document their place in the community.

I Am A Norman is an ongoing search for contemporary Normans.

As part of the Hastings Borough Council-led Root 1066 International Festival inspired by the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, photographers Nigel Green and Andrew Moran are trying to trace people who live in 1066 Country with a surname derived from the original army of Norman knights and their retinues.

Already, local residents have come forward to have their portraits taken in a location of their choice. Sue Warren, a descendant of Guillaume de Warenne, from Ore chose Hasting’s Stade.

Originally from London’s East End, Alan Venour has reconnected with his Norman roots by moving to Hastings.

Alan’s ancestor Robert De Venoix, was William the Conqueror’s viscount or seneschal at the time of the battle.

Afterwards, he became known as De Hastings, as he became the first Port-Reeve of the town. Venus and Veness are relatively common surnames in the Battle area, both derivations of the original, Venoix.

Other modern variations of the Norman combatants’ names still found in East Sussex are Beaumont, Devereaux, Gifford, Jenner and Mowbray. If you know, or think you are of Norman extraction, Nigel and Andrew would love to talk to you and photograph you in the setting of your choice.

Andrew said, “We wanted to create an exhibition that went beyond the confines of an institution such as an art gallery or museum, so we decided to place the photos in the community. We’re setting our Normans in the context of where they are now, as members of our society. Not as outsiders or invaders but as people like us.”

After the closing date of Sunday July 31, the images of the new Normans will be displayed in a rather unique and creative manner – in bus shelters.

The I Am A Norman exhibition will run throughout the whole of September 2016. If you would like your photos to feature in it, please contact Andrew Moran via www.iamanorman.wordpress.com

For more information about the project and to see photographs of some of the people who have already come forward, visit www.iamanorman.wordpress.com

Root 1066 International Festival aims to put the national spotlight back on Hastings and 1066 Country through high quality arts and culture. The festival also seeks to have a longer term impact on the area through culture-led regeneration.

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