Malfosse

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I live near Battle, the town in East Sussex where the Battle of Hastings is said to have been fought on the afternoon of 14 October 1066. It was probably the most important event in English history.

There is a debate afoot about whether Battle Abbey, said to have been built by William the Conqueror on the site of the battle, is truly the place where thousands of English and Norman soldiers were killed, or whether the battle was fought elsewhere. A possible site is the village of Crowhurst, two or three miles away.

One of the identifying features of the site is thought to be a deep trench or ditch at the side of the battlefield, into which the English pushed Norman riders and their horses, where they were all crushed and killed. there is no such ditch obvious in the grounds of Battle Abbey, but there is a likely candidate at the side of a field in Crowhurst.

The ditch is referred to as the "Malfosse" in `Norman French accounts of the battle written in the 11th and 12th centuries. It clearly translates as "Evil/Bad ditch/trench", but there is no known indication of why it got that name. It is referred to in the writings as though it were a well-known feature generally rather than just a name given in this instance.

Its etymology is obvious; it will be derived from the Latin "Mala Fossa", which has the same meaning, although I do not know if the term was ever used in Latin.

My question is whether anybody knows of any other use of the word "Malfosse" in any form of medieval French, either before or after 1066. I am interested because a wider use may reveal other features about such ditches, apart from being a trench in which so many men died.
 
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