A “very unusual” church service marking a king’s coronation will start a packed year of historical events this week.
Preparations are under way in Waltham Abbey, where the church will hold a ‘compline’ service on Wednesday (January 6), marking 950 years since the coronation of King Harold Godwinson.
The last Anglo-Saxon monarch, who died months into his reign at the Battle of Hastings, was a key figure in the town’s formation and is believed by many to be buried in the abbey gardens.
The compline service, running from 5pm, is the first of several events this year almost a millennium after the king’s death.
“It is a public service but it is particularly targeted at people with an interest in King Harold and the history of the town,” said organiser Tricia Gurnett.
“I think it should be interesting because it is very unusual for a compline service to be held in an Anglican church.”
The normally Roman Catholic service was the last of eight held every day, starting at 2am and running periodically until 6pm.
Ms Gurnett said: “It is something King Harold would have known very well, he would very much have recognised what kind of a service it is.
“The priest says a prayer and the members of the congregation reply.
“The monks, or canons, of Waltham Abbey would have been doing them every day at that time.”
Later in the year, the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings will also be marked and King Harold Day will be held in October.
The events form part of a busy year for history enthusiasts said Epping Forest District Museum manager Tony O’Connor, who will oversee the redeveloped attraction’s re-opening before April.
“We are all very keen to really commemorate the town’s links with Harold Godwinson this year.
“It is such a significant year, and it seemed like a wonderful way to begin the commemorations with a service on the day of the coronation, and in the church which Harold founded, redeveloped, and may well be buried in - all the evidence seems to be going in that direction.
“I think it will be a great event and I just hope that the public interest in the town’s history continues to grow.”