Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Fyfield: Place in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Series ****

Fyfield is a village in the English county of Wiltshire, near the towns of Marlborough, Swindon and Devizes and the village of Wroughton
Fyfield is mentioned in Bernard Cornwell's The Lords of the North part of the Saxon Series.

Village of Lockeridge near Fyfield

Fyfield is a small hamlet about 1 mile east of Pewsey, Wiltshire, England.
It is to be distinguished from the larger village of Fyfield, 3 miles west of Marlborough, also in Wiltshire. The two places are only about 6 miles apart. It should also be distinguished from the hamlet of Fifield, Wiltshire, which is in the parish of Enford about 6 miles south of Pewsey.
Fyfield is a tithing of the parish of Milton Lilbourne. It is typical of the strip tithings on the northern edge of Salisbury Plain: it extends from the greensand on the valley floor to the chalk downland of Fyfield Hill (confusingly also known as Fyfield Down, but to be distingushed from Fyfield Down on the Marlborough Downs, near the other Fyfield).
Fyfield Manor includes parts which date back to the 15th century. It was the home of Sir Anthony Eden in the 1960s.

Fyfield Down (grid reference SU136709) is part of the Marlborough Downs, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north of the village of Fyfield, Wiltshire.
The down has the best assemblage of sarsen stones in England. The stones are known here as the Grey Wethers, for their likeness to sheep when seen from a distance. They support a nationally important lichen flora.
The down is a 325.3 hectare biological and geological Site of Special Scientific Interest, notified in 1951.
The site is to be distinguished from another Fyfield Down also in Wiltshire, on the edge of Salisbury Plain, near another place called Fyfield. The two places are only about 9 miles (14 km) apart.

Ellandun was the site of the Battle of Ellandun between Egbert of Wessex and Beornwulf of Mercia in 825. Sir Frank Stenton described it as "One of the most decisive battle of English history". Egbert emerged victorious and became the eighth Bretwalda and the first Anglo-Saxon king to be styled "ruler over all England".

Accounts of the Battle
King Egbert of Wessex was building military power to reinforce his rule and expand his territory. Having campaigned in Cornwall, he returned home to his kingdom aware that Mercia was threatening his northern border. Beornwulf, although the aggressor in this battle, hadn't attempted to attack in Egberts absence. There may be two reasons for this. Firstly, that Beornwulf was aware of the superior military strength of Wessex and was unwilling to attack even in Egberts absence. Secondly, that Beornwulf was waiting for reinforcements before he committed his forces to battle.
The details of the battle are not well known. Henry of Huntingdon mentions it and says the river ran red with blood. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions the great slaughter that took place. The most detailed description however is in a work entitled Annales de Wintonia
The battle took place in summer, and the weather was very hot indeed. "More soldiers suffocated with sweat than blood". The southward advance of the Mercian force was blocked by Egberts soldiers and it's thought both sides deployed in lines on ridges opposite each other. Clearly the Mercians outnumbered Wessex considerably, although the ten-to-one ratio suggested by the Annales is probably an exaggeration.
At any rate, Egbert held a council to decide whether the battle should go ahead or simply give in to Beornwulfs demands for territory at their expense. Egbert favoured this course of action, but his thanes wanted to fight, and the decision was made to defend their border. They did so by attacking the Mercian lines. The battle took some time and was the fighting was fierce.
Eventually Beornwulf's morale broke. The Winchester Scribe writes that "He sought for flight himself and would not have wished to lose his spurs for three halfpence."
This victory at great odds secured Wessex against hostility from Mercia.

Ellandun is identified with two sites in close proximity. The first is Wroughton in Wiltshire put forward by Charles Oman, based on geographical information and contemporary boundaries. The second is Lydiard Tregoze in Swindon, Wiltshire, identified by A. H. Burne based on period tales of fighting on Windmill Hill nearby.

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