The Northern Way

Part 2: A.D. 750 - 919

Page 6

A.D. 897. In the summer of this year went the army, some into East-Anglia, and some into Northumbria; and those that were penniless got themselves ships, and went south over sea to the Seine. The enemy had not, thank God. entirely destroyed the English nation; but they were much more weakened in these three years by the disease of cattle, and most of all of men; so that many of the mightiest of the king's thanes. that were in the land, died within the three years. Of these. one was Swithulf Bishop of Rochester, Ceolmund alderman in Kent, Bertulf alderman in Essex, Wulfred alderman in Hampshire, Elhard Bishop of Dorchester, Eadulf a king's thane in Sussex, Bernuff governor of Winchester, and Egulf the king's horse-thane; and many also with them; though I have named only the men of the highest rank. This same year the plunderers in East-Anglia and Northumbria greatly harassed the land of the West-Saxons by piracies on the southern coast, but most of all by the esks which they built many years before. Then King Alfred gave orders for building long ships against the esks, which were full-nigh twice as long as the others. Some had sixty oars, some more; and they were both swifter and steadier, and also higher than the others. They were not shaped either after the Frisian or the Danish model, but so as he himself thought that they might be most serviceable. Then, at a certain turn of this same year, came six of their ships to the Isle of Wight; and going into Devonshire, they did much mischief both there and everywhere on the seacoast. Then commanded the king his men to go out against them with nine of the new ships, and prevent their escape by the mouth of the river to the outer sea. Then came they out against them with three ships, and three others were standing upwards above the mouth on dry land: for the men were gone off upon shore. Of the first three ships they took two at the mouth outwards, and slew the men; the third veered off, but all the men were slain except five; and they too were severely wounded. Then came onward those who manned the other ships, which were also very uneasily situated. Three were stationed on that side of the deep where the Danish ships were aground, whilst the others were all on the opposite side; so that none of them could join the rest; for the water had ebbed many furlongs from them. Then went the Danes from their three ships to those other three that were on their side, be-ebbed; and there they then fought. There were slain Lucomon, the king's reve, and Wulfheard, a Frieslander; Ebb, a Frieslander, and Ethelere, a Frieslander; and Ethelferth, the king's neat-herd; and of all the men, Frieslanders and English, sixty-two; of the Danes a hundred and twenty. The tide, however, reached the Danish ships ere the Christians could shove theirs out; whereupon they rowed them out; but they were so crippled, that they could not row them beyond the coast of Sussex: there two of them the sea drove ashore; and the crew were led to Winchester to the king, who ordered them to be hanged. The men who escaped in the single ship came to East-Anglia, severely wounded. This same year were lost no less than twenty ships, and the men withal, on the southern coast. Wulfric, the king's horse-thane, who was also viceroy of Wales, died the same year.

A.D. 898. This year died Ethelm, alderman of Wiltshire, nine nights before midsummer; and Heahstan, who was Bishop of London.

A.D. 901. This year died ALFRED, the son of Ethelwulf, six nights before the mass of All Saints. He was king over all the English nation, except that part that was under the power of the Danes. He held the government one year and a half less than thirty winters; and then Edward his son took to the government. Then Prince Ethelwald, the son of his paternal uncle, rode against the towns of Winburn and of Twineham, without leave of the king and his council. Then rode the king with his army; so that he encamped the same night at Badbury near Winburn; and Ethelwald remained within the town with the men that were under him, and had all the gates shut upon him, saying, that he would either there live or there die. But in the meantime he stole away in the night, and sought the army in Northumberland. The king gave orders to ride after him; but they were not able to overtake him. The Danes, however, received him as their king. They then rode after the wife that Ethelwald had taken without the king's leave, and against the command of the bishops; for she was formerly consecrated a nun. In this year also died Ethered, who was alderman of Devonshire, four weeks before King Alfred.

A.D. 902. This year was the great fight at the Holme (39) between the men of Kent and the Danes.

((A.D. 902. This year Elswitha died.))

A.D. 903. This year died Alderman Ethelwulf, the brother of Elhswitha, mother of King Edward; and Virgilius abbot of the Scots; and Grimbald the mass-priest; on the eighth day of July. This same year was consecrated the new minster at Winchester, on St. Judoc's advent.

A.D. 904. This year came Ethelwald hither over sea with all the fleet that he could get, and he was submitted to in Essex. This year the moon was eclipsed.

A.D. 905. This year Ethelwald enticed the army in East-Anglia to rebellion; so that they overran all the land of Mercia, until they came to Cricklade, where they forded the Thames; and having seized, either in Bradon or thereabout, all that they could lay their hands upon, they went homeward again. King Edward went after, as soon as he could gather his army, and overran all their land between the foss and the Ouse quite to the fens northward. Then being desirous of returning thence, he issued an order through the whole army, that they should all go out at once. But the Kentish men remained behind, contrary to his order, though he had sent seven messengers to them. Whereupon the army surrounded them, and there they fought. There fell Aldermen Siwulf and Sigelm; Eadwold, the king's thane; Abbot Kenwulf; Sigebriht, the son of Siwulf; Eadwald, the son of Acca; and many also with them; though I have named the most considerable. On the Danish side were slain Eohric their king, and Prince Ethelwald, who had enticed them to the war. Byrtsige, the son of Prince Brihtnoth; Governor Ysop; Governor Oskytel; and very many also with them that we now cannot name. And there was on either hand much slaughter made; but of the Danes there were more slain, though they remained masters of the field. Ealswitha died this same year; and a comet appeared on the thirteenth day before the calends of November.

((A.D. 906. This year King Edward, from necessity, concluded a peace both with the army of East-Anglia and of North-humbria.))

A.D. 907. This year died Alfred, who was governor of Bath. The same year was concluded the peace at Hitchingford, as King Edward decreed, both with the Danes of East-Anglia, and those of Northumberland; and Chester was rebuilt.

A.D. 909. This year died Denulf, who was Bishop of Winchester; and the body of St. Oswald was translated from Bardney into Mercia.

A.D. 910. This year Frithestan took to the bishopric of Winchester; and Asser died soon after, who was Bishop o[ Sherborne. The same year King Edward sent an army both from Wessex and Mercia, which very much harassed the northern army by their attacks on men and property of every kind. They slew many of the Danes, and remained in the country five weeks. This year the Angles and the Danes fought at Tootenhall; and the Angles had the victory. The same year Ethelfleda built the fortress at Bramsbury.

((A.D. 910. This year the army of the Angles and of the Danes fought at Tootenhall. And Ethelred, ealdor of the Mercians, died; and King Edward took possession of London, and of Oxford, and of all the lands which owed obedience thereto. And a great fleet came hither from the south, from the Lidwiccas (Brittany), and greatly ravaged by the Severn; but they were, afterwards, almost all perished.))

A.D. 911. This year the army in Northumberland broke the truce, and despised every right that Edward and his son demanded of them; and plundered the land of the Mercians. The king had gathered together about a hundred ships, and was then in Kent while the ships were sailing along sea by the south-east to meet him. The army therefore supposed that the greatest part of his force was in the ships, and that they might go, without being attacked, where that ever they would. When the king learned on enquiry that they were gone out on plunder, he sent his army both from Wessex and Mercia; and they came up with the rear of the enemy as he was on his way homeward, and there fought with him and put him to flight, and slew many thousands of his men. There fell King Eowils, and King Healfden; Earls Ohter and Scurf; Governors Agmund, Othulf, and Benesing; Anlaf the Swarthy, and Governor Thunferth; Osferth the collector, and Governor Guthferth.

((A.D. 911. Then the next year after this died Ethelred, lord of the Mercians.))

A.D. 912. This year died Ethered, alderman of Mercia; and King Edward took to London, and to Oxford, and to all the lands that thereunto belonged. This year also came Ethelfleda, lady of the Mercians, on the holy eve called the invention of the holy cross, to Shergate, and built the fortress there, and the same year that at Bridgenorth.

A.D. 913. This year, about Martinmas, King Edward had the northern fortress built at Hertford, betwixt the Memer, and the Benwic, and the Lea. After this, in the summer, betwixt gang- days and midsummer, went King Edward with some of his force into Essex, to Maldon; and encamped there the while that men built and fortified the town of Witham. And many of the people submitted to him, who were before under the power of the Danes. And some of his force, meanwhile, built the fortress at Hertford on the south side of the Lea. This year by the permission of God went Ethelfleda, lady of Mercia, with all the Mercians to Tamworth; and built the fort there in the fore-part of the summer; and before Lammas that at Stafford: in the next year that at Eddesbury, in the beginning of the summer; and the same year, late in the autumn, that at Warwick. Then in the following year was built, after mid-winter, that at Chirbury and that at Warburton; and the same year before mid-winter that at Runkorn.

((A.D. 915. This year was Warwick built.))

A.D. 916. This year was the innocent Abbot Egbert slain, before midsummer, on the sixteenth day before the calends of July. The same day was the feast of St. Ciricius the martyr, with his companions. And within three nights sent Ethelfleda an army into Wales, and stormed Brecknock; and there took the king's wife, with some four and thirty others.

A.D. 917. This year rode the army, after Easter, out of Northampton and Leicester; and having broken the truce they slew many men at Hookerton and thereabout. Then, very soon after this, as the others came home, they found other troops that were riding out against Leighton. But the inhabitants were aware of it; and having fought with them they put them into full flight; and arrested all that they had taken, and also of their horses and of their weapons a good deal.

A.D. 918. This year came a great naval armament over hither south from the Lidwiccians; (40) and two earls with it, Ohter and Rhoald. They went then west about, till they entered the mouth of the Severn; and plundered in North-Wales everywhere by the sea, where it then suited them; and took Camlac the bishop in Archenfield, and led him with them to their ships; whom King Edward afterwards released for forty pounds. After this went the army all up; and would proceed yet on plunder against Archenfield; but the men of Hertford met them, and of Glocester, and of the nighest towns; and fought with them, and put them to flight; and they slew the Earl Rhoald, and the brother of Ohter the other earl, and many of the army. And they drove them into a park; and beset them there without, until they gave them hostages, that they would depart from the realm of King Edward. And the king had contrived that a guard should be set against them on the south side of Severnmouth; west from Wales, eastward to the mouth of the Avon; so that they durst nowhere seek that land on that side. Nevertheless, they eluded them at night, by stealing up twice; at one time to the east of Watchet, and at another time at Porlock. There was a great slaughter each time; so that few of them came away, except those only who swam out to the ships. Then sat they outward on an island, called the Flat- holms; till they were very short of meat, and many men died of hunger, because they could not reach any meat. Thence went they to Dimmet, and then out to Ireland. This was in harvest. After this, in the same year, before Martinmas, went King Edward to Buckingham with his army, and sat there four weeks, during which he built the two forts on either side of the water, ere he departed thence. And Earl Thurkytel sought him for his lord; and all the captains, and almost all the first men that belonged to Bedford; and also many of those that belonged to Northampton. This year Ethelfleda, lady of the Mercians, with the help of God, before Laminas, conquered the town called Derby, with all that thereto belonged; and there were also slain four of her thanes, that were most dear to her, within the gates.

((A.D. 918. But very shortly after they had become so, she died at Tamworth, twelve days before midsummer, the eighth year of her having rule and right lordship over the Mercians; and her body lies at Gloucester, within the east porch of St. Peter's church.))

A.D. 919. This year King Edward went with his army to Bedford, before Martinmas, and conquered the town; and almost all the burgesses, who obeyed him before, returned to him; and he sat there four weeks, and ordered the town to be repaired on the south side of the water, ere he departed thence.

((A.D. 919. This year also the daughter of Ethelred, lord of the Mercians, was deprived of all dominion over the Mercians, and carried into Wessex, three weeks before mid-winter; she was called Elfwina.))

ENDNOTES:

(39) Or, in Holmsdale, Surry: hence the proverb -- "This is Holmsdale, Never conquer'd, never shall." Back

(40) The pirates of Armorica, now Bretagne; so called, because they abode day and night in their ships; from lid, a ship, and wiccian, to watch or abide day and night. Back

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