Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Battle of Maldon

View across to Northey Island from the south bank of the Blackwater at low tide with the causeway uncovered (author's photograph, August 1991).

The Battle of Maldon took place on 10 August 991 near Maldon beside the River Blackwater in Essex, England, during the reign of Aethelred the Unready. Earl Byrhtnoth and his thegns led the English against a Viking invasion, which ended in defeat. After the battle Archbishop Sigeric of Canterbury and the aldermen of the south-western provinces advised King Aethelred to buy off the Vikings rather than continue the armed struggle. The result was a payment of 10,000 Roman pounds (3,300 kg) of silver, the first example of Danegeld in England.
An account of the battle, embellished with many speeches attributed to the warriors and with other details, is related in an Old English poem which is usually named The Battle of Maldon. A modern embroidery created for the millennium celebration in 1991 and, in part, depicting the battle can be seen at the Maeldune Centre in Maldon.
One manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle said a Norwegian, Olaf Tryggvason, led the Viking forces, estimated to have been between 2,000 and 4,000 fighting men. A source from the 12th century, Liber Eliensis, written by the monks at Ely, suggests that Byrhtnoth had only a few men to command: "he was neither shaken by the small number of his men, nor fearful of the multitude of the enemy". Not all sources indicate such a disparity in numbers

The poem The Battle of Maldon
'The Battle of Maldon' is the name conventionally given to an outstanding 325-line fragment of Old English poetry. Linguistic study has led to the conjecture that initially the complete poem was transmitted orally, then in a lost manuscript in the East Saxon dialect and now survives as a fragment in the West Saxon form, possibly that of a scribe active at the Monastery of Worcester late in the 11th century. [1] Fortuitously this was early attached to a very notable manuscript, Asser's Life of King Alfred, which undoubtedly assisted its survival. The manuscript, by now detached, was burned in the Cotton library fire at Ashburnham House in 1731. John Elphinstone had transcribed the 325 lines of the poem in 1724, but the front and back pages were already missing from the manuscript (possibly around 50 lines each): an earlier catalog described it as fragmentum capite et calce mutilatum ("mutilated at head and heel"). As a result, vital clues about the purpose of the poem and perhaps its date have been lost.
At the time of battle, English royal policy of responding to Viking incursions was split. Some favoured paying off the Viking invaders with land and wealth, while others favoured fighting to the last man. Recent scholarship suggests that Byrhtnoth held this latter attitude, hence his moving speeches of patriotism in the poem.
The Vikings sailed up the Blackwater (then called the Panta), and Byrhtnoth called out his levy. The poem begins with him ordering his men to stand and how to hold weapons. His men, except for his household guard, were peasants and householders from the area. He ordered them to "send steed away and stride forwards": they arrived on horses but fought on foot. The Vikings sailed up to a small island in the river. At ebb, the river leaves a land bridge from this island to the shore; the description seems to have matched the Northey Island causeway at that time. This would place the site of the battle about two miles southeast of Maldon. Olaf addressed the Saxons, promising to sail away if he was paid with gold and armour from the lord. Byrhtnoth refused.
Olaf's forces could not make headway against the troops guarding the small land bridge, and he asked Byrhtnoth to allow his warriors onto the shore. Byrhtnoth, for his ofermōde (line 89b), let all the Vikings cross to the mainland. The Vikings overcame the Saxons after losing many men, killing Byrhtnoth. A Englishman called Godrīc fled riding Byrhtnoth's horse. Godrīc's brothers Godwine and Godwīg followed him. Then many English fled, recognizing the horse and thinking that its rider was Byrhtnoth fleeing. After the battle Byrhtnoth's body was found with its head missing, but his gold-hilted sword was still with his body.
There is some discussion about the meaning of "ofermōd." Although literally meaning "over-heart" or "having too much heart", it could mean either "pride" or "excess of courage" (cf. Swedish övermod or German Übermut, which mean both "hubris" and "recklessness"). One argument is that the poem was written to celebrate Byrhtnoth's actions and goad others into heroic action, and Byrhtnoth's action stands proudly in a long tradition of heroic literature. Another viewpoint, most notably held by J.R.R. Tolkien, is that the poem is an elegy on a terrible loss and that the monastic author pinpoints the cause of the defeat in the commander's sin of pride, a viewpoint bolstered by the fact that ofermōd is, in every other attested instance, used to describe Satan's pride.[2] There is a memorial window, representing Byrhtnoth's dying prayer, in St Mary's church at Maldon.
Norse invaders and Norse raiders differed in purpose. The forces engaged by the English were raiding, or (in Old Norse) "í víking", to gather loot, rather than to occupy land for settlement. Therefore, if Byrhtnoth's forces had kept the Vikings off by guarding the causeway or by paying them off, Olaf would likely have sailed farther up the river or along the coast, and raided elsewhere. As a man with troops and weapons, it might be that Byrhtnoth had to allow the Vikings ashore to protect others. The poem may, therefore, represent the work of what has been termed the "monastic party" in Ethelred's court, which advocated a military response, rather than tribute, to all Norse attacks.

A statue of Byrhtnoth in Maldon
The main source of our knowledge of the Battle of Maldon is the independently preserved Old English heroic battle-poem, which appears to have been composed not long after the event. Its beginning and ending are lost, but the poem provides a detailed account of the battle from the English point of view. Its pace and vividness suggests that the poem might have been intended to accompany a tapestry depicting the deeds of Byrhtnoð. According to the twelfth-century Liber Eliensis, Byrhtnoð's wife, Ælflæd, bequeathed such a tapestry to Ely.
The poem as we have it begins with Byrhtnoð deploying his troops along the riverbank. Across the causeway the Viking herald then calls out the Danes' demands for tribute [ll.29-41]. The width of the river here is now beyond shouting distance, but geological research has shown that in 991 the river was narrower, with meadows along the banks where today there are salt-marshes (G.& S.Petty, "A Geological Reconstruction of the Site of the Battle of Maldon", The Battle of Maldon: Fiction and Fact, ed. J.Cooper [Hambledon 1993], pp.159-170).

Waving his ash-shafted spear, Byrhtnoð turns the herald's words around and hurls them back at him:

“Gehyrst þu sæliða, hwæt þis folc segeð?
“Hearest thou, seafarer, what this folk sayeth?
Hi willað eow to gafole garas syllan,
They will to you [a] tribute of spears give,
ættrynne ord, ond ealde swurd,
deadly points, & time-tested swords,
þa heregeatu þe eow æt hilde ne deah..."
such war-gear that you in battle [will] not profit from…." [ll.45-48].
Byrhtnoð's famous reply [ll.45-61] strikes what has come to be regarded as a characteristic note of English national defiance against foreign invaders, one that has sounded several times throughout our island history.
The battle would have begun then and there but by now the rising tide made it impossible for the combatants to engage [ll.62-64] except for those armed with bows [ll.70-71]. The poem refers to the effect of the intervening flood-tide between the two armies as lucon lagustreamas, 'locking tidal-streams' [l.66a]. This phrase provides a strikingly succinct description of the way that the waters still close over the causeway. The incoming tide of the Blackwater estuary is separated into two tidal streams by the north eastern edge of Northey Island, which then meet again on its south-western side exactly over the causeway.
When the tide ebbs enough to permit a crossing, the poem refers to the Vikings "yearning for battle" [ll.72-72]. Yet still they are frustrated, for they can only advance along the narrow causeway on which Byrhtnoð has stationed a "war-hardened warrior" named Wulfstan and two companions [ll. 74-83]. Like the Horatius on the bridge, Wulfstan stoutly blocks the causeway. The tactical stalemate is then resolved through negotiations, during which the Danes are said be guileful [l.86], which culminate in Byrhtnoð agreeing to allow the Vikings passage over the causeway for his ofermod, "because of his over-confidence" [l.89b]. Armchair generals have often been critical of Byrhtnoð's decision here, but they overlook his need to bring the dangerously mobile Danish fleet-army to battle while he had the chance, rather than allowing them to continue strike at will along the east coast.
Nevertheless, it was a fateful decision, emphasised in the poem by the dramatic advance of the Viking "slaughter-wolves" [l.96a] across the causeway as the hungry ravens wheel overhead [l.106]. Once the Danes are across, the battle begins. There is a blow-by-blow account of the fall of Byrhtnoð himself [ll.130-184], which precipitates the flight of some of the English army. The poem concludes by immortalising the heroic last stand of several named Englishmen who refuse to yield, even though all seems lost. Fighting over the body of their fallen lord, their supreme courage is realised through the words of Byrhtnoð's old comrade Byrhtwold:

"Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre,
"Thought shall be harder, heart keener,
mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað.... "
mood shall be more [resolved], as our main [strength] lessens! ..." [ll.312-313].
The poem concludes on so heroic a note that what is in fact a military defeat is turned into a kind of moral victory.
After the battle the Danes probably carried off Byrhtnoð's head as a battle-trophy, but his body was recovered by the monks of Ely and buried in their great abbey.
Byrhtnoð's last resting place in Bishop West's Chapel and the east end of Ely Cathedral
With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that the Battle of Maldon, the first major defeat of an English army for generations, was the beginning of the end for line of Alfred. Further defeats ensued, including the battles of Ringmere near Thetford. This phase of Anglo-Danish warfare eventually culminated in the kingdom-winning victory of Sweyn's son Cnut at the battle of Assandun in 1016.

Further Reading
Cooper, Janet (ed.), The Battle of Maldon: Fiction and Fact (Hambledon 1991)
Hart, Cyril, The Danelaw (Hambledon 1992), pp.533-551
Scragg, Donald (ed.), The Battle of Maldon AD991 (Blackwell 1991)
Other sources
The death of Byrhtnoth, an ealdorman of Essex, was recorded in four versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Its Cotton Tiberius manuscript says for the year 991:-

Her wæs Gypeswic gehergod, ⁊ æfter þæm swyðe raþe wæs Byrihtnoð ealdorman ofslagan æt Meldune. ⁊ on þam geare man gerædde þæt man geald ærest gafol Deniscum mannum for þam myclan brogan þe hi worhton be þam særiman, þæt wæs ærest .x. þusend punda. Þæne ræd gerædde ærest Syric arcebisceop.

Here Ipswich was raided. Very soon after that, ealdorman Byrhtnoth was killed at Maldon. And on that year it was decided to pay tax to Danes for the great terror which they made by the sea coast; that first [payment] was 10,000 pounds. Archbishop Sigerīc decided first on the matter. The Life of Oswald, written in Ramsey, England around the same time as the battle, portrays Byrhtnoth as a nearly supernatural, prophetic figure.

In 1170, the Book of Ely retold and embroidered the story and made the battle two fights, with the second being a fortnight long against overwhelming odds. These texts show, to some degree, the growth of a local hero cultus.
Manuscript sources
In the Cotton library, the "Battle of Maldon" text had been in Otho A xii. The Elphinstone transcription is in the British Library.

In modern fiction
The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son is the title of a work by J. R. R. Tolkien that was originally published in 1953 in volume 6 of the scholarly journal Essays and Studies by Members of the English Association. It is a work of historical fiction, inspired by the Old English Maldon fragment. It is written in the form of an alliterative poem, but is also a play, being mainly a dialogue between two characters in the aftermath of The Battle of Maldon. The work was accompanied by two essays, also by Tolkien, one before and one after the main work. K.V. Johansen's short story "Anno Domini Nine Hundred and Ninety-One", in the collection The Storyteller and Other Tales is a retelling of the Battle of Maldon. In one episode of the science fiction novel Perelandra by C. S. Lewis, the protagonist (a philologist from Cambridge transported to the planet Venus) recites "The Battle of Maldon" in order to keep up his courage while wandering dark tunnels deep under the alien planet's surface. The Swedish bestselling historical novel "The Long Ships" ("Red Orm") includes a long fictionalised account of the Battle of Maldon, described from the Scandinavian side. In David Drake's short story As Our Strength Lessens in Keith Laumer's Bolo series, a sentient tank named after the battle of Maldon discusses the battle with a human officer. They consider whether Byrhtnoth and his men acted nobly or failed in their mission to protect the land and people from the Viking invaders.
The United Kingdom black metal band Winterfylleth has two songs in their album The Ghost of Heritage (2008) that remembers Maldon Battle (track 2: The March to Maldon (03:46) and track 3: Brithnoth: The Battle of Maldon (991 AD)) The Norwegian / German symphonic metal band Leaves' Eyes have a song called The Battle of Maldon on their 2009 EP, My Destiny.

1. E.V.Gordon, The Battle of Maldon (London, 1968) p 38
2. Tolkien's Heroic Criticism: A Developing Application Of Anglo- Saxon Ofermod To The Monsters Of Modernity. 2003. Rorabeck, Robert. Thesis, Florida State University.
Anglo-Saxon poetry: an anthology of Old English poems tr. S. A. J. Bradley. London: Dent, 1982 (translation into English prose).

Thetford: Ancient Earthworks and Buried Treasure

Thetford was one of East Anglia's major towns in the later Anglo-Saxon period and became the seat of the region's bishops after their move from North Elmham in 1075 until Norwich Cathedral was built in the 1090's.

Today, the most prominent surviving feature of the old Thetford is the immense Norman motte of Castle Hill, which, at 81 feet high, is one of the largest man-made mounds in the country. It was probably built soon after 1066 and remained a baronial stronghold until it was confiscated by King Henry II in 1157, who had its defences dismantled after the war of 1173.
The great motte stands in the angle of a bailey with unusually large double ramparts surviving to the north and east. Excavations have suggested that it is unlikely that these continued round into the flood-plain to the south, where the Rivers Thet and Little Ouse run. Indeed, the bailey appears to have been formed from the earthworks of an Iron Age promontory-fortress which ran in a curve to the north of the rivers, with the latter forming its southern defences.

A view of Thetford Castle from the east showing the great Norman motte with the double rampart of the former Iron Age promontory fort incorporated into the defences of the bailey
This Iron Age fortress appears to have been built to control the fords which carry the ancient Icknield Way over the Little Ouse valley at this point. Indeed, these crossings appear to have given Thetford its name - from the Old English Theod-ford, 'people's ford'.
Before the Norman re-used these earthworks, they may have provided the defences of the winter base for the 'great army' of Danes which occupied Thetford in the autumn of 869, to which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle refers. Its shape would be similar to the ship-fortress they built beside the River Trent at Repton in 874. It was this great army of Danes, led by the Ragnarrssons, which, while based at Thetford, defeated and killed one of the last and most famous of the later Wuffing kings of East Anglia, St Edmund, on 20th November 869.

Thetford was also a target for later Danish invasions. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the town was attacked and burnt by Sweyn Forkbeard in 1004 as part of his campaign of retribution following the massacres of Danes on St Brice’s Day in November, 1002. As he was returning to his fleet at Norwich, Sweyn was met by the East Anglian Ealdorman Ulfcytel and his army on Wretham Heath to the north of the town. A hard battle followed and, although he could not prevent the Danes from getting back their ships, Ulfcytel earned the greatest respect from his opponents for his actions that day, as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us:

Swa hi sylfe sæðon, þæt hi næfre wyrsan hand plegan on Angelcynne ne gemitton þonne Ulfcytel him to brohte. As they themselves [the Danes] said, that they never met with worse hand-play [i.e. battle-skill] among the English than Ulfcytel brought to them.

Ulfcytel thus came to be nicknamed Snillingr [perhaps ‘Valiant’] in Scandinavian sources and East Anglia came to be known as ‘Ulfcytel’s Land’. Ulfcytel fought another great battle against the Danes near Thetford on 5thMay, 1010.

This was the famous Battle of Ringmere, which is described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and in Old Norse saga.
Norse sagas recorded a battle at Hringmaraheior; Old English Hringmere-hūō Ringmere heath. [1]
The sack of Thetford occurred in 1004. Sigvat records the victory of King Ethelred, allied with Saint Olaf,[2] over the Danes under Sweyn Forkbeard during the latters campaigns in England.
The Battle site was located in lands under the control of Ulfketel, Thane of East Anglia, near Wretham.[2] The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that Ulfketel/Ulfcytel and the "councillors in East Anglia" attempted to buy a truce with Swein, but that the Danes broke the truce and marched to Thetford where a part of the East Anglian fyrd engaged them. The Danes managed to escape.
The Battle of Ringmere was fought in 1010. John of Worcester records that the Danes defeated the Saxons. Over a three month period the Danes wasted East Anglia was burning Thetford and Cambridge.[1]

1. W. H. Stevenson; (Apr., 1896), Notes on Old-English Historical Geography, The English Historical Review, Vol. 11, No. 42 pp. 301-304
2. Sturlason, Snorre (2004). Heimskringla Or the Lives of the Norse Kings. Kessinger Publishing. p. 225. ISBN 0766186938. ; Edited with notes by Erling Monsen

This battle appears to have taken place to the south of the town, with the Danes advancing from Ipswich under the leadership of Sweyn’s ally, Thorkell the Tall. The site was probably at the former meeting place now called Rymer Point. Ulfcytel eventually fell fighting against his old enemies the Danes at the Battle of Assendun in 1016, probably Ashdon near Hadstock in north-west Essex.

Unknown to the English, the Danes, and the Normans, a treasure-hoard lay buried on Gallow's Hill to the north of the town near a Romano-Celtic altar site. It was here that in 1979 the Thetford Treasure was discovered by a free-lance metal detectorist.

This very rich hoard dates from the second half of the fourth century and includes gold and silver bracelets, necklaces, pendants, and rings, many of which are bejewelled with precious stones. Also found were 33 silver spoons, many of which bear inscriptions to the woodland fertility god Faunus.

Just to the north of the buried tresure, also on Gallow's Hill, was an important Late Iron Age Iceni religious site. The outline crop-markings of this great rectangular sanctuary were discovered by chance from the air by archaeologist Bob Carr in 1980. Excavations in 1981 showed that during the time of the famous Iceni queen Boudicca, it was enclosed by ditches, banks, and up to nine rows of closely spaced oak uprights, perhaps with branches still on them. This created what one archaeologist described as ‘an artificial oak grove’ (for more on this fascinating site, see Tony Gregory, Excavations in Thetford, 1980-1982, Fison Way, Vol.1, East Anglian Archaeology Report No.53 [Norfolk Museums Service 1991]).

Monday, 26 October 2009

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Bedfordshire:Place in Bernard Cornwell's SaxonvSeries ****

Bedfordshire (pronounced /ˈbɛdfərdʃər/ or /ˈbɛdfərdʃɪər/; abbreviated Beds.) is a ceremonial county of historic origin in England that forms part of the East of England region.It borders Cambridgeshire to the North East, Northamptonshire to the North, Buckinghamshire (and the Borough of Milton Keynes) to the West and Hertfordshire to the South East.The highest elevation point is 243 metres (797 ft) on Dunstable Downs in the Chilterns.

As part of a 2002 marketing campaign, the plant conservation charity Plantlife chose the Bee Orchid as the county flower.
The traditional nickname for people from Bedfordshire is "Bedfordshire Bulldogs" or "Clangers", this last deriving from a local dish comprising a suet crust dumpling filled with meat or jam or both.


1. Bedford 2. Central Bedfordshire 3. Luton

Bedfordshire is an English shire county which lies between approximately 25 miles and 55 miles (or approximately 40 and 90 kilometres) north of central London.

The first recorded use of the name was in 1011 as "Bedanfordscir", meaning the shire or county of Bedford, which itself means "Beda's ford" (river crossing).
Anglian Bedfordshire
The Angle invaders were naturally attracted to Bedfordshire by its abundant water supply and suitability for agriculture, but the remains of their settlements are few and scattered. With one exception, they all occur south of the River Ouse. Evidence of Anglian occupation has been found at a cemetery at Kempston, where both male and female graves dating from the fifth century.
The name in its old form is "kemestun" which includes the Brittonic word "cambio" meaning bent or curved. Therefore, the name meant when coined "the enclosed settlement on the bend". The bend was that of the River Great Ouse, noted for its sharp bends upstream of Bedford. It is, however, also possible that "cambita" (the curved one) was the name given to this stretch of the river by the Celtic-speaking population. In this case the name could have developed like that of the river Kembs in the French Department of Haut Rhin. Kempston is also a family name for many individuals from British Ancestry. Kempston was recorded as "camestone" in the Domesday Book and had a 6th-century Anglo Saxon burial site, now home to the Saxon Centretury have been discovered as well as a settlement near Biggleswade.

In the Fifth century AD, Saxon invaders settled here - the name Biggleswade is thought to be derived from Biceil, an Anglo-Saxon personal name and Waed, the Saxon word for ford.

Political History
Early reference to Bedfordshire's political history is scanty. In 571 Cuthwulf inflicted a severe defeat on the Britons at Bedford and took four towns. During the Heptarchy (The word heptarchy refers to the existence (as was thought) of seven kingdoms, which eventually merged to become the basis for the Kingdom of England; these were Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex. The period supposedly lasted until the seven kingdoms began to consolidate into larger units, but the actual events marking this transition are debatable. At various times within the conventional period, certain rulers of Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex (such as Penda of Mercia) claimed hegemony over larger areas of England; yet as late as the reigns of Eadwig and Edgar (955–75), it was still possible to speak of separate kingdoms within the English population). what is now the shire formed part of Mercia; by the Treaty of Wedmore it became Danish territory, but it was recovered by King Edward (919-921). The first actual mention of the county comes in 1016 when King Canute laid waste to the whole shire.

Model of Bedfordshire Castle

There was no organised resistance to William the Conqueror within Bedfordshire, though the Domesday survey reveals an almost complete substitution of Norman for English landholders. Bedfordshire suffered severely in the civil war of King Stephen's reign; the great Roll of the Exchequer of 1165 proves the shire receipts had depreciated in value to two-thirds of the assessment for the Danegeld. Again the county was thrown into the First Barons' War when Bedford Castle, seized from the Beauchamps by Falkes de Breauté one of the royal partisans, was the scene of three sieges before being demolished on the king's order in 1224 .

Corn Exchange Bedford

The Peasants Revolt (1377–1381) was marked by less violence in Bedfordshire than in neighboring counties; the Annals of Dunstable make brief mention of a rising in that town and the demand for and granting of a charter.In 1638 ship money was levied on Bedfordshire, (Ship money refers to a tax that Charles I of England tried to levy without the consent of Parliament. In medieval times, this tax, which was only applied to coastal towns during a time of war, was intended to offset the cost of defending that part of the coast, and could be paid in actual ships or the equivalent value) and in the English Civil War that followed, the county was one of the foremost in opposing the king. Clarendon observes that here Charles I had no visible party or fixed quarter. The earliest original parliamentary writ that has been discovered was issued in 1290 when two members were returned for the county. In 1295 in addition to the county members, writs are found for two members to represent Bedford borough. Subsequently until modern times two county and two borough members were returned regularly.

Towns and Cities of Bedfordshire

Before 1835 Bedfordshire was divided into nine hundreds, (A hundred is a geographic division formerly used in England, Wales, Denmark, South Australia, some parts of the United States, Germany (Southern Schleswig), Sweden, Finland and Norway, which historically was used to divide a larger region into smaller administrative divisions. Alternative names include wapentake, herred (Danish, Norwegian), härad (Swedish), Harde (German) and kihlakunta (Finnish).The name is derived from the number one hundred. It may once have referred to an area liable to provide a hundred men under arms, or containing roughly a hundred homesteads, or to a small parcel (thus loosely a hundredth) of a territory. It was a traditional Germanic system described as early as AD 98 by Tacitus (the centeni).)
Barford, Biggleswade, Clifton, Flitt, Manshead, Redbornestoke, Stodden, Willey and Wixamtree, and the liberty, half hundred or borough of Bedford. From the Domesday survey it appears that in the 11th century there were three additional half hundreds, viz. Stanburge, Buchelai and Weneslai, which had by the 14th century become parts of the hundreds of Manshead, Willey and Biggleswade respectively. Until 1574 one sheriff did duty for Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, the shire court of the former being held at Bedford. The jurisdiction of the hundred courts, excepting Flitt, remained in the king's possession. Flitt was parcel of the manor of Luton, and formed part of the marriage portion of Eleanor, sister of Henry III, and wife of William Marshall. The burgesses of Bedford and the prior of Dunstable claimed jurisdictional freedom in those two boroughs. The hundred Rolls and the Placita de quo warranto show that important jurisdiction had accrued to the great over-lordships, such as those of Beauchamp, Wahull and Caynho, and to several religious houses, the prior of St John of Jerusalem claiming rights in more than fifty places in the county.

Geology, landscape and ecology
The southern end of the county is part of the chalk ridge known as the Chiltern Hills. The remainder is part of the broad drainage basin of the River Great Ouse and its tributaries.
Most of Bedfordshire's rocks are clays and sandstones from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, with some limestone. Local clay has been used for brick-making of Fletton style bricks in the Marston Vale. Glacial erosion of chalk has left the hard flint nodules deposited as gravel – this has been commercially extracted in the past at pits which are now lakes, at Priory Country Park, Wyboston and Felmersham.The Greensand Ridge is an escarpment across the county from near Leighton Buzzard to near Gamlingay in Cambridgeshire.

Bedfordshire is relatively dry being situated in the east of England. Average annual rainfall is 584.4mm at Bedford. Rain falls more frequently than every other day in autumn and winter but falls are normally light, conversely spring and summer generally sees more dry days but heavier individual falls of rain, of note were the 1998 Easter floods. In most years there is a spell lasting between 2 and 3 weeks in which no rain at all falls. Between November and April some snow can be expected from time to time but it is rarely heavy. Average temperatures in Bedford range from a minimum of 0.6C overnight in February to 21.5C during the day in July and August.

Bibliographic references
• History of Bedfordshire 1066-1888 by Joyce Godber
• A Bedfordshire Bibliography by L R Conisbe published in 1962 with a supplement in 1967
• Bedfordshire Historical Record Society by H O White (published annually).
• Guide to the Bedfordshire Record Office 1957 with supplements.
• Guide to the Russell Estate Collections Published in 1966.
• Elstow Moot Hall leaflets On John Bunyan and 17th Century Subjects
• A Bedfordshire Flora by John Dony
• Luton and the Hat Industry by John Dony
• Pillow Lace in the East Midlands by Charles Freeman
• Bedfordshire Magazine (Published Quarterley)

Dunstable / Dunastopol: Place in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Series ****

Dunstable (pronounced /ˈdʌnstəbəl/) is a market town in Bedfordshire, England. It lies on the eastward tail spurs of the Chiltern Hills, 30 miles north of London. These geographical features form several steep chalk escarpments most noticeable when approaching Dunstable from the north.

In Roman times its name was Durocobrivis. There was a general assumption that the nominative form of the name had been Durocobrivae, so that is what appears on the map of 1944 illustrated above. But current thinking is that the form Durocobrivis, which occurs in the Antonine Itinerary, is a fossilised locative that was used all the time and Ordnance Survey now uses this form.
There are several theories concerning its modern name:
• Legend tells that the lawlessness of the time was personified in a thief called Dun. Wishing to capture Dun, the King stapled his ring to a post daring the robber to steal it. It was, and was subsequently traced to the house of the widow Dun. Her son, the robber, was taken and hanged to the final satisfaction that the new community bore his name.

  • It comes from the Anglo-Saxon for "the boundary post of Duna".
Ancient history
Relics of Palæolithic man, such as flint implements and the bones of contemporary wild animals, suggest settlement is prehistoric. At Maidenbower just outside the town near Totternhoe to the north-west, there is an Iron Age hill fort and is clearly marked on the Ordnance survey maps. Maidenbower has some of the Ramparts showing through the edge of an old chalk quarry at Sewell where there are Bronze age remains of an older Fort. There are a lot of prehistoric sites in this area and details can be found with the Manshead Archaeological Society who are based in Winfield St. Dunstable.

Sewell Chalk Quarry

Roman settlement
There was already some form of settlement by the time that the ancient British Romans paved road (now known as Watling Street, and in the Great Britain road numbering scheme the A5) crossed another ancient and still-existing road, the Icknield Way. Traces of Neolithic activity are not in doubt but much of their mystery may be lost under the surrounding Chiltern Hills.

A map of Dunstable from 1944

The Romans built a posting station and named the settlement Durocobrivis, which survived until their departure from Britain. The area is most likely to have been swarmed by the Saxons, who overran this part of Bedfordshire in about 571.

Mediaeval times
Until the 11th century this area of the county is known to have been uncultivated tract covered by woodlands. In 1109 Henry I started the a period of activity by responding to this danger to travellers. He instructed areas to be cleared and encouraged settlers with offers of royal favour. In 1123 a royal residence was built at what is now called the Royal Palace Lodge Hotel on Church Street. The King used the residence as a base to hunt on the nearby lands.
The Dunstable Priory was founded in 1131 by the King and was later used for the divorce between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, which led to the establishment of the Church of England in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church. The same year the town granted a Town Charter to the power of the priors. In 1290 Dunstable was one of twelve sites to erect an Eleanor cross recognising Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I, whose coffin was laid close to the crossroads for the local people to mourn the dead Queen. The coffin was then guarded inside the Priory by the Canons overnight before continuing on to St Albans. The original wooden cross has long since perished but a modern memorial remains.

Market Cross Dunstable

17th century
Bedfordshire was one of the counties that largely supported the Roundheads during the English Civil War. Nearby St Albans in Hertfordshire was the head quarters of the Roundheads, and troops were occasionally stationed at Dunstable. The town was plundered by King Charles I's soldiers when passing through in June 1644, and Essex's men destroyed the Eleanor Cross. The town's prosperity, and the large number of Inns or public houses in the town, is partly because it is only one or two day's ride by horse from London (32 miles (51 km)), and therefore a place to rest overnight. Towns like Stevenage on the Great North Road benefitted from the same effect, and of course similar settlements all over the rest of the country. There are two pubs which still have coaching gates to the side: the Sugar Loaf in High Street North, and the Saracens Head in High Street South. The Saracens Head is a name often given to pubs frequented by Knights of The Crusades. It is considerably lower than the road to its front, witness to the fact that the road has been resurfaced a number of times during the lifetime of the pub.

19th century

Dunstable's Grove House

Dunstable's first railway opened in 1848. It was a branch joining the West Coast Main Line at Leighton Buzzard. A second line linking Dunstable with Hatfield via Luton opened in 1858. Passenger services to Dunstable were withdrawn in 1965, but the line between Dunstable and Luton remained open for freight traffic for many years. Dunstable was a significant market town, but its importance diminished as the neighbouring town of Luton grew.

World War ll Museum Luton

20th century and after
The 19th century saw the straw hat making industry come to Luton and a subsequent decline in Dunstable, to be replaced in the early 20th century by the printing and motor vehicle industries with companies such as Waterlows and Vauxhall Motors respectively.

Vauxhall Motors Griffith House

But with the closure of the main factories and the decline of manufacturing in the area, this distinctiveness has been lost. Shops were concentrated along the main High Street (Watling Street) until in 1966. The Quadrant Shopping Centre opened, becoming the main retail centre of Dunstable. Additionally in 1985 the Eleanor's Cross retail area was developed to cater mainly for smaller independent shops.With the rise of out-of-town retail parks, as with many other market towns the town centre has suffered a decline in trade. Few original independent shops remain. Of the oldest Moore's Of Dunstable (opened in 1908) closed in 2008, leaving The Cottage Garden Flower Shop of Chiltern Road, established in 1898, as the oldest independent retail business still trading.

Before the Local Government Act 1972 coming into force in 1974, Dunstable was a municipal borough. It is now a civil parish in the Central Bedfordshire district.For council elections the town is divided into wards. Since 2002 these have been called Chiltern, Dunstable Central, Icknield, Manshead, Northfields and Watling.


Dunstable Downs

The oldest part of the town is along the Icknield Way and Watling Street where they cross. These roads split the rest of the town into four quadrants which have each been developed in stages.

Icknied Way

The north-west quadrant started to be developed in the nineteenth century when the British Land Company laid out the roads around Victoria Street. The development of the Beecroft area began with the houses around Worthington Road; after World War II the borough council extended the estate up to Westfield Road with its shops, and then up to Aldbanks. The war-time site of the Meteorological Office, where the road Weatherby is now, was redeveloped by George Wimpey and others. At the north of the town there is an estate originally marketed as French's Gate Estate, and at the west of the town there is an area of houses on Lancot Hill. The south-west quadrant has largely been developed since World War II. There are three main estates. In the Lake District Estate all the streets are named after places in the Lake District and Cumbria; the estate includes a parade of shops on Langdale Road. It was originally called the Croft Golf Course Estate and was built by Laing Homes. Oldhill Down Estate around the Lowther Road shops was developed by William Old Ltd, and the Stipers Hill Estate around Seamons Close was initially created by the Land Settlement Association. In the south-east quadrant, the area around Great Northern Road was developed at the end of the nineteenth century as Englands Close Estate and Borough Farm Estate. The Downside Estate including the shops on Mayfield Road was planned by the borough council in 1951. The north-east quadrant is a mainly commercial and civic area, the result of redevelopment in the early 1960s. But the site of the Waterlow and Sons printing works around Printers Way is now occupied by houses built in the 1990s. The Northfields Estate at the north of the town was completed by the borough council in 1935. Further east, near the border with Luton, there is another area that has largely been developed since World War II. To the south of Luton Road, Jeansway was completed after the war; to the north, Poynters Estate and Hadrian Estate were built on either side of Katherine Drive, where there is a parade of shops. The area also includes the Woodside Estate which contains most of the factories and warehouses that still exist in Dunstable.

Leighton Buzzard Market Square

The town lies in the parliamentary constituency of South West Bedfordshire. Since June 2001 Leighton Buzzard based lawyer Andrew Selous has won election to representation on behalf of the Conservative party. For many years previous David Madel was MP for the district.

Since its opening in April 2007 the Grove Theatre has replaced the Queensway Hall as the town's premier arts centre, located within the council owned Grove Gardens. National and local productions take place regularly at this cornerstone of Dunstable's cultural exploits. Additional facilities include units fit for six bars or restaurants along with a 1,000 seated auditorium. (Currently a Wetherspoons entitled The Gary Cooper, an Italian, and a Dim Sum restaurant have opened.)One of the town's little gems is that of the Little Theatre, home of the Dunstable Rep Theatre Group that also hosts dramatic performances throughout the year. The auditorium, once part of the Chews Trust was fully opened in 1964 by Bernard Bresslaw. It sits next to the historic Chews House on High Street South. The town also has numerous amateur dramatics societies that perform several shows a year. These include 'The Square Drama Circle' and 'Dunstable Amateur Operatics Society'


The new Grove Theatre development

Within the town, there is the modern Grove Theatre, newly refurbished Priory House Heritage Centre (free to the public), and the Priory Church where Henry VIII formalised his divorce from Catherine of Aragon.

There is shopping in the heart of the town at the Quadrant Shopping Centre; across High Street North there is a secondary area called Eleanor's Cross Shopping Precinct with a modern statue commemorating the original cross.

Nearby Luton has the Waulud's Bank prehistoric henge and Luton Museum & Art Gallery. Dunstable Downs, a chalky escarpment outside the town, is a popular site for kite flying, paragliding, and hang gliding, while the London Gliding Club provides a base for conventional gliding and other air activities at the bottom of the Downs.

Further into the countryside are the open-range Whipsnade Zoo,

a garden laid out in the form of a cathedral at Whipsnade Tree Cathedral,

and the Totternhoe Knolls motte-and-bailey castle.

Prehistory: Matthews, C. L. (1989). Ancient Dunstable (2nd ed.). Manshead Archaeological Society. ISBN ISBN 0-9515160-0-0.
Historical town-centre locations: Benson, Nigel, (1986). Dunstable in Detail: An Illustrated Guide to the Town of Dunstable. Dunstable: Book Castle. ISBN 0-9509773-2-2.
Street names: Walden, R. (1999). Streets Ahead: An Illustrated Guide to the Street Names of Dunstable. Dunstable: Book Castle. 0-871199-59-X. ISBN 0-871199-54-9.
Second World War: Dunstable and District at War from Eyewitness Accounts. Dunstable: Book Castle. 2006. ISBN 1-903747-79-1.

Watchet/ Waeced: Place in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Series ****

Watchet is a harbour town and civil parish in the English county of Somerset, with an approximate population of 4,400. It is situated 15 miles (24 km) west of Bridgwater, 15 miles (24 km) north-west of Taunton, and 9 miles (14 km) east of Minehead. The parish includes the hamlet of Beggearn Huish. The town lies at the mouth of the Washford River on Bridgwater Bay, part of the Bristol Channel, and on the edge of Exmoor National Park.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was written whilst travelling through Watchet and the surrounding area.

Watchet is believed to be the place where Saint Decuman was killed and the 15th century, Grade I listed, Church of St Decuman is dedicated to him.The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the early port at Watchet being plundered by Danes led by Ohtor and Rhoald in 987 and 997. It is known that it was in frequent use by small boats in 1564 possibly for the import of salt and wine from France.

During the English Civil War Royalist reinforcements for the siege of Dunster Castle was sent by sea, but the tide was on the ebb and a troop of Roundheads rode into the shallows and forced the ship to surrender, so a ship at sea was taken by a troop of horse.The primitive jetty was damaged in a storm of 1659 and a larger, stronger pier was built in the early 18th century supported by local wool merchants, although by 1797 the largest export was kelp made by burning seaweed for use in glass making.

Dunster Castle

Watchet Railway Station

In the 19th century trade increased with the export of iron ore from the Brendon Hills, paper, flour and gypsum. Harbour trade was aided by the coming of the railway. In the mid-1860s two independent railways terminated at Watchet. The West Somerset Mineral Railway ran down from the iron mines on the Brendon Hills, and the West Somerset Railway came up from the Bristol & Exeter Railway at Norton Fitzwarren. Both lines made extensive use of the harbour at Watchet from where iron ore was shipped across the Bristol Channel for smelting at Ebbw Vale in South Wales.The mines and West Somerset Mineral Railway closed in 1898. The West Somerset Railway, extended from Watchet to Minehead in 1874, survived as part of British Rail until 1971. Reopened as a heritage railway, it still operates today. In 1900 and 1903 a series of gales breached the breakwater and East Pier with the loss of several vessels each time and subsequent repairs.

The civil parish of Watchet is governed by a town council. Administratively, the civil parish falls within the West Somerset local government district and the Somerset shire county. Administrative tasks are shared between county, district and town councils. In 2002, the parish was estimated to have a population of 4,401. Watchet forms part of the Bridgwater county constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election. Following its review of parliamentary representation in Somerset, the Boundary Commission for England has finalised the proposals which expands the existing Bridgwater seat into a new Bridgwater and West Somerset division. The current MP is Ian Liddell-Grainger, a member of the Conservatives. Residents of Watchet also form part of the electorate for the South West England constituency for elections to the European Parliament.

A statue of the Ancient Mariner at Watchet Harbour, unveiled in September 2003 as a tribute to Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks

Had I from old and young !

Instead of the cross, the Albatross

About my neck was hung.

The principal landmark in Watchet is the town's harbour and the surrounding quaysides and narrow streets. In commercial use until 2000, the harbour has now been converted into a marina.

There are several museums in the town, including the Market House Museum, which explores the history of the town and its harbour,

and the Watchet Boat Museum, which displays the unusual local flatner boats and associated artefacts. Adjacent to the harbour is Watchet station. This is now an intermediate stop on the West Somerset Railway, a largely steam-operated heritage railway that links Bishops Lydeard, near Taunton, with Minehead. The trackbed of the old West Somerset Mineral Railway now forms a path, which can be followed from the harbour at Watchet to Washford station, also on the West Somerset Railway.

Warren Bay, Watchet

The foreshore at Watchet is rocky, with a high 6 metres (20 ft) tidal range. The cliffs between Watchet and Blue Anchor show a distinct pale, greenish blue colour, resulting from the coloured alabaster found there. The name "Watchet" or "Watchet Blue" was used in the 16th century to denote this colour.
Daw's Castle, about 0.5 miles (0.80 km) west of Watchet, is a hill fort situated on a sea cliff about 80 metres (260 ft) above the sea. The fort may be of Iron Age origin, but was (re)built and fortified as a burh by King Alfred, as part of his defence against Viking raids from the Bristol Channel around 878 AD.

Cleeve Abbey, one of the best preserved medieval monasteries in England, lies about 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Watchet, in the village of Washford.