The Northern Way

Part 3: A.D. 920 - 1014

Page 4

A.D. 981. In this year was St. Petroc's-stow plundered; and in the same year was much harm done everywhere by the sea-coast, both upon Devonshire and Wales. And in the same year died Elfstan, Bishop of Wiltshire; and his body lieth in the minster at Abingdon; and Wulfgar then succeeded to the bishopric. The same year died Womare, Abbot of Ghent.

((A.D. 981. This year came first the seven ships, and ravaged Southampton.))

A.D. 982. In this year came up in Dorsetshire three ships of the pirates, and plundered in Portland. The same year London was burned. In the same year also died two aldermen, Ethelmer in Hampshire, and Edwin in Sussex. Ethelmer's body lieth in Winchester, at New-minster, and Edwin's in the minster at Abingdon. The same year died two abbesses in Dorsetshire; Herelufa at Shaftsbury, and Wulfwina at Wareham. The same year went Otho, emperor of the Romans, into Greece; and there met he a great army of the Saracens, who came up from the sea, and would have proceeded forthwith to plunder the Christian folk; but the emperor fought with them. And there was much slaughter made on either side, but the emperor gained the field of battle. He was there, however, much harassed, ere he returned thence; and as he went homeward, his brother's son died, who was also called Otho; and he was the son of Leodulf Atheling. This Leodulf was the son of Otho the Elder and of the daughter of King Edward.

A.D. 983. This year died Alderman Alfere, and Alfric succeeded to the same eldership; and Pope Benedict also died.

A.D. 984. This year died the benevolent Bishop of Winchester, Athelwold, father of monks; and the consecration of the following bishop, Elfheah, who by another name was called Godwin, was on the fourteenth day before the calends of November; and he took his seat on the episcopal bench on the mass-day of the two apostles Simon and Jude, at Winchester.

A.D. 985. This year was Alderman Alfric driven out of the land; and in the same year was Edwin consecrated abbot of the minster at Abingdon.

A.D. 986. This year the king invaded the bishopric of Rochester; and this year came first the great murrain of cattle in England.

A.D. 987. This year was the port of Watchet plundered.

A.D. 988. This year was Goda, the thane of Devonshire, slain; and a great number with him: and Dunstan, the holy archbishop, departed this life, and sought a heavenly one. Bishop Ethelgar succeeded him in the archbishopric; but he lived only a little while after, namely, one year and three months.

A.D. 989. This year died Abbot Edwin, and Abbot Wulfgar succeeded to the abbacy. Siric was this year invested archbishop, and went afterwards to Rome after his pall.

A.D. 991. This year was Ipswich plundered; and very soon afterwards was Alderman Britnoth (47) slain at Maldon. In this same year it was resolved that tribute should be given, for the first time, to the Danes, for the great terror they occasioned by the sea-coast. That was first 10,000 pounds. The first who advised this measure was Archbishop Siric.

A.D. 992. This year the blessed Archbishop Oswald departed this life, and sought a heavenly one; and in the same year died Alderman Ethelwin. Then the king and all his council resolved, that all the ships that were of any account should be gathered together at London; and the king committed the lead of the land- force to Alderman Elfric, and Earl Thorod, and Bishop Elfstan, and Bishop Escwy; that they should try if they could anywhere without entrap the enemy. Then sent Alderman Elfric, and gave warning to the enemy; and on the night preceding the day of battle he sculked away from the army, to his great disgrace. The enemy then escaped; except the crew of one ship, who were slain on the spot. Then met the enemy the ships from East-Anglia, and from London; and there a great slaughter was made, and they took the ship in which was the alderman, all armed and rigged. Then, after the death of Archbishop Oswald, succeeded Aldulf, Abbot of Peterborough, to the sees of York and of Worcester; and Kenulf to the abbacy of Peterborough.

((A.D. 992. This year Oswald the blessed archbishop died, and Abbot Eadulf succeeded to York and to Worcester. And this year the king and all his witan decreed that all the ships which were worth anything should be gathered together at London, in order that they might try if they could anywhere betrap the army from without. But Aelfric the ealdorman, one of those in whom the king had most confidence, directed the army to be warned; and in the night, as they should on the morrow have joined battle, the selfsame Aelfric fled from the forces; and then the army escaped.))

A.D. 993. This year came Anlaf with three and ninety ships to Staines, which he plundered without, and went thence to Sandwich. Thence to Ipswich, which he laid waste; and so to Maidon, where Alderman Britnoth came against him with his force, and fought with him; and there they slew the alderman, and gained the field of battle; whereupon peace was made with him, and the king received him afterwards at episcopal hands by the advice of Siric, Bishop of Canterbury, and Elfeah of Winchester. This year was Bamborough destroyed, and much spoil was there taken. Afterwards came the army to the mouth of the Humber; and there did much evil both in Lindsey and in Northumbria. Then was collected a great force; but when the armies were to engage, then the generals first commenced a flight; namely, Frene and Godwin and Frithgist. In this same year the king ordered Elfgar, son of Alderman Elfric, to be punished with blindness.

((A.D. 993. In this year came Olave with ninety-three ships to Staines, and ravaged there about, and then went thence to Sandwich, and so thence to Ipswich, and that all overran; and so to Maldon. And there Britnoth the ealdorman came against them with his forces, and fought against them: and they there slew the ealdorman, and had possession of the place of carnage. And after that peace was made with them; and him (Anlaf) the king afterwards received at the bishop's hands, through the instruction of Siric, bishop of the Kentish-men, and of Aelphege of Winchester.))

A.D. 994. This year died Archbishop Siric: and Elfric, Bishop of Wiltshire, was chosen on Easter-day, at Amesbury, by King Ethelred and all his council. This year came Anlaf and Sweyne to London, on the Nativity of St. Mary, with four and ninety-ships. And they closely besieged the city, and would fain have set it on fire; but they sustained more harm and evil than they ever supposed that any citizens could inflict on them. The holy mother of God on that day in her mercy considered the citizens, and ridded them of their enemies. Thence they advanced, and wrought the greatest evil that ever any army could do, in burning and plundering and manslaughter, not only on the sea-coast in Essex, but in Kent and in Sussex and in Hampshire. Next they took horse, and rode as wide as they would, and committed unspeakable evil. Then resolved the king and his council to send to them, and offer them tribute and provision, on condition that they desisted from plunder. The terms they accepted; and the whole army came to Southampton, and there fixed their winter- quarters; where they were fed by all the subjects of the West- Saxon kingdom. And they gave them 16,000 pounds in money. Then sent the king; after King Anlaf Bishop Elfeah and Alderman Ethelwerd; (48) and, hostages being left with the ships, they led Anlaf with great pomp to the king at Andover. And King Ethelred received him at episcopal hands, and honoured him with royal presents. In return Anlaf promised, as he also performed, that he never again would come in a hostile manner to England.

A.D. 995. This year appeared the comet-star.

A.D. 996. This year was Elfric consecrated archbishop at Christ Church. (49)

A.D. 997. This year went the army about Devonshire into Severn- mouth, and equally plundered the people of Cornwall, North-Wales, (50) and Devon. Then went they up at Watchet, and there much evil wrought in burning and manslaughter. Afterwards they coasted back about Penwithstert on the south side, and, turning into the mouth of the Tamer, went up till they came to Liddyford, burning and slaying everything that they met. Moreover, Ordulf's minster at Tavistock they burned to the ground, and brought to their ships incalculable plunder. This year Archbishop Elfric went to Rome after his staff.

A.D. 998. This year coasted the army back eastward into the mouth of the Frome, and went up everywhere, as widely as they would, into Dorsetshire. Often was an army collected against them; but, as soon as they were about to come together, then were they ever through something or other put to flight, and their enemies always in the end had the victory. Another time they lay in the Isle of Wight, and fed themselves meanwhile from Hampshire and Sussex.

A.D. 999. This year came the army about again into the Thames, and went up thence along the Medway to Rochester; where the Kentish army came against them, and encountered them in a close engagement; but, alas! they too soon yielded and fled; because they had not the aid that they should have had. The Danes therefore occupied the field of battle, and, taking horse, they rode as wide as they would, spoiling and overrunning nearly all West-Kent. Then the king with his council determined to proceed against them with sea and land forces; but as soon as the ships were ready, then arose delay from day to day, which harassed the miserable crew that lay on board; so that, always, the forwarder it should have been, the later it was, from one time to another; -- they still suffered the army of their enemies to increase; -- the Danes continually retreated from the sea-coast;-- and they continually pursued them in vain. Thus in the end these expeditions both by sea and land served no other purpose but to vex the people, to waste their treasure, and to strengthen their enemies. "

A.D. 1000. This year the king went into Cumberland, and nearly laid waste the whole of it with his army, whilst his navy sailed about Chester with the design of co-operating with his land- forces; but, finding it impracticable, they ravaged Anglesey. The hostile fleet was this summer turned towards the kingdom of Richard.

A.D. 1001. This year there was great commotion in England in consequence of an invasion by the Danes, who spread terror and devastation wheresoever they went, plundering and burning and desolating the country with such rapidity, that they advanced in one march as far as the town of Alton; where the people of Hampshire came against them, and fought with them. There was slain Ethelwerd, high-steward of the king, and Leofric of Whitchurch, and Leofwin, high-steward of the king, and Wulfhere, a bishop's thane, and Godwin of Worthy, son of Bishop Elfsy; and of all the men who were engaged with them eighty-one. Of the Danes there was slain a much greater number, though they remained in possession of the field of battle. Thence they proceeded westward, until they came into Devonshire; where Paley came to meet them with the ships which he was able to collect; for he had shaken off his allegiance to King Ethelred, against all the vows of truth and fidelity which he had given him, as well as the presents which the king had bestowed on him in houses and gold and silver. And they burned Teignton, and also many other goodly towns that we cannot name; and then peace was there concluded with them. And they proceeded thence towards Exmouth, so that they marched at once till they came to Pin-hoo; where Cole, high- steward of the king, and Edsy, reve of the king, came against them with the army that they could collect. But they were there put to flight, and there were many slain, and the Danes had possession of the field of battle. And the next morning they burned the village of Pin-hoo, and of Clist, and also many goodly towns that we cannot name. Then they returned eastward again, till they came to the Isle of Wight. The next morning they burned the town of Waltham, and many other small towns; soon after which the people treated with them, and they made peace.

((A.D. 1001. This year the army came to Exmouth, and then went up to the town, and there continued fighting stoutly; but they were very strenuously resisted. Then went they through the land, and did all as was their wont; destroyed and burnt. Then was collected a vast force of the people of Devon and of the people of Somerset, and they then came together at Pen. And so soon as they joined battle, then the people gave way: and there they made great slaughter, and then they rode over the land, and their last incursion was ever worse than the one before: and then they brought much booty with them to their ships. And thence they went into the Isle of Wight, and there they roved about, even as they themselves would, and nothing withstood them: nor any fleet by sea durst meet them; nor land force either, went they ever so far up. Then was it in every wise a heavy time, because they never ceased from their evil doings.))

A.D. 1002. This year the king and his council agreed that tribute should be given to the fleet, and peace made with them, with the provision that they should desist from their mischief. Then sent the king to the fleet Alderman Leofsy, who at the king's word and his council made peace with them, on condition that they received food and tribute; which they accepted, and a tribute was paid of 24,000 pounds. In the meantime Alderman Leofsy slew Eafy, high-steward of the king; and the king banished him from the land. Then, in the same Lent, came the Lady Elfgive Emma, Richard's daughter, to this land. And in the same summer died Archbishop Eadulf; and also, in the same year the king gave an order to slay all the Danes that were in England. This was accordingly done on the mass-day of St. Brice; because it was told the king, that they would beshrew him of his life, and afterwards all his council, and then have his kingdom without any resistance.

A.D. 1003. This year was Exeter demolished, through the French churl Hugh, whom the lady had appointed her steward there. And the army destroyed the town withal, and took there much spoil. In the same year came the army up into Wiltshire. Then was collected a very great force, from Wiltshire and from Hampshire; which was soon ready on their march against the enemy: and Alderman Elfric should have led them on; but he brought forth his old tricks, and as soon as they were so near, that either army looked on the other, then he pretended sickness, and began to retch, saying he was sick; and so betrayed the people that he should have led: as it is said, "When the leader is sick the whole army is hindered." When Sweyne saw that they were not ready, and that they all retreated, then led he his army into Wilton; and they plundered and burned the town. Then went he to Sarum; and thence back to the sea, where he knew his ships were.

A.D. 1004. This year came Sweyne with his fleet to Norwich, plundering and burning the whole town. Then Ulfkytel agreed with the council in East-Anglia, that it were better to purchase peace with the enemy, ere they did too much harm on the land; for that they had come unawares, and he had not had time to gather his force. Then, under the truce that should have been between them, stole the army up from their ships, and bent their course to Thetford. When Ulfkytel understood that, then sent he an order to hew the ships in pieces; but they frustrated his design. Then he gathered his forces, as secretly as he could. The enemy came to Thetford within three weeks after they had plundered Norwich; and, remaining there one night, they spoiled and burned the town; but, in the morning, as they were proceeding to their ships, came Ulfkytel with his army, and said that they must there come to close quarters. And, accordingly, the two armies met together; and much slaughter was made on both sides. There were many of the veterans of the East-Angles slain; but, if the main army had been there, the enemy had never returned to their ships. As they said themselves, that they never met with worse hand-play in England than Ulfkytel brought them.

A.D. 1005. This year died Archbishop Elfric; and Bishop Elfeah succeeded him in the archbishopric. This year was the great famine in England so severe that no man ere remembered such. The fleet this year went from this land to Denmark, and took but a short respite, before they came again.

ENDNOTES:

(47) Vid. "Hist. Eliens." ii. 6. He was a great benefactor to the church of Ely. Back

(48) This was probably the veteran historian of that name, who was killed in the severe encounter with the Danes at Alton (Aethelingadene) in the year 1001. Back

(49) i.e. at Canterbury. He was chosen or nominated before, by King Ethelred and his council, at Amesbury: vid. an. 994. This notice of his consecration, which is confirmed by Florence of Worcester, is now first admitted into the text on the authority of three MSS. Back

(50) Not the present district so-called, but all that north of the Sea of Severn, as opposed to West-Wales, another name for Cornwall. Back

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