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Arrows flew and swords clanged as thousands re-enacted the Battle of Hastings on its 950th anniversary on Saturday at a sold-out event marking a bloody day that changed the course of English history.

The victory in 1066 by Duke William of Normandy, known as William the Conqueror, over Anglo-Saxon King Harold was the start of the Norman conquest which transformed England's language, laws, customs and architecture.

A re-enactment takes place annually at the site of the clash, in a small town called Battle near the port of Hastings, but interest in this anniversary year has been exceptionally high, according to English Heritage, which runs the site.

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