Daily Archives: February 17, 2015

Brunanburh, 937 AD (pt 11)

11 – The River Win
The most obvious place for the forces to assemble was somewhere in the North West of England, where an army copuld plunder & intimidate the local people without being a drain on the resources of the allies, & where there were eassy escape routes by land & sea
Paul Cavill
Picture 666
Picture 665
In yesterday’s post, I managed to place an Anglo-Saxon battlefield on a level heath between two antiquely remembered towns, Burnley to the south & Colne to the North, completely realising the topographical necessities of Egil’s Saga’s siting of the battle of Brunanburh. Coincidence it may be, but just as a credit-card transaction may place a murder suspect near the scene of the fatality, this ‘coincidence’ insists there should be further litological investigations into the Marsden Heights.
We begin with the village of Winewall, the penultimate village of the north-eastern arm of Pendle City, whose name seems to reflect the ‘Vin’ of Vinheath. In Anglo-saxon, according to the rules set down by Margaret gelling & Ann Cole, Winewall would translate something like ‘head-waters of the river Wine.’ Indeed, a number of streams roll off the moors just above Winewall & empty themselves into what is known as the ‘Colne Water.’ A couple of miles downstream it merges with the larger ‘Pendle Water’ & flows along the East Lancashire valley until it reaches the Calder, near Burnley.
Now then… a mile or so up the Pendle Water branch of the  Colne-Water/Pendle water confluence, one comes to the lovely village of Barrowford, one of the poshest parts of Pendle City. Last summer, a letter from the primary School’s headmistress, Rachel Tomilinson, to all her pupils, went viral, as in;
Barrowford letter
There is a local tradition in Barrowford that it is named after some ancient burial site – i.e a barrow, as in;
The name ” Barrowford ” suggests that such a barrow formerly existed near the stream crossing, but the site of the barrow remains in dispute, as all evidence of it has been lost by land cultivation. It has been suggested that the mound on the side of the road at Park Hill marks the spot. John Widdup
There is a large  mound, evidently artificial, close by the bridge at  Park Hill, which might mark the last resting place  of some chieftain, or person of importance. There  are many smaller mounds scattered all over the  country marking these burial places, and these are  called ” harrows.” It is sincerely hoped that when  the roadway here is widened — a process which  cannot long be delayed — and this mound has to be  cut into, that it will be carefully examined, as some  important articles of antiquarian interest might he  discoveredHenry Atkinson 
On the drive back from Gisburn the other day, I got Nicky to stop the car so I could take a few photos of the barrow, perched as it is by the old bridge where I presume the ford was in antiquity. Now then, barrows are in the main associated with the Bronze Age, but there was a period, the 7th-8th centuries, when the Anglo-Saxon kings used them, such as the famous ones down at Sutton Hoo.
The site of the old ford
The site of the old ford

Picture 551   Picture 554   Picture 553   Picture 552

Assembling the evidence, then, we are looking for something like…
(i) The death of an Anglo-Saxon King, 600-800 AD
(ii) By a River called Wine or perhaps Win
(iii) At a ford of said river.
In Anglo-Saxon, the word ford is waed (as in wade), & lo & behold there was a battle of Winwaed fought in 655 AD. A rather important affair, it halted the Welsh resurgance & ended the pagan worship of the English. Its location is unknown, but when we learn that an Anglo-Saxon king called Penda died at the battle, & Barrowford lies a couple of miles from Pendle Hill , then we’re definitely onto something. Most folk believe that the ‘d’ in pendle was a late entry into the name, for its first record was as Pen Hul, which actually means ‘hill hill.’ Yet, if we see that spelling merely a branch from the original Penda’s Hill, then everything fits together sweetly. We must remember that in the days before mass communication, names changed willy nilly, with only a handful of variants surviving posterity. It is up to the Chispologist to recognize this, by the way, & deal with the matter accordingly. In this case EVERYTHING points to Winwaed being fought near Barrowford.   The battle itself was a civil action, fought between two Anglo-Saxon kings; Penda of Mercia (the Midlands) & Oswiu of Northumbria. There is a little confusion as to the exact events – here are the accounts;
A.D. 655. This year Penda was slain at Winwidfelda, and thirty royal personages with him, some of whom were kings. One of them was Ethelhere, brother of Anna, king of the East-Angles. The Mercians after this became Christians. ASC
Oswy, son of Ethelfrid, reigned twenty-eight years and six months. During his reign, there was a dreadful mortality among his subjects, when Catgualart (Cadwallader) was king among the Britons, succeeding his father, and he himself died amongst the rest. He slew Penda in the field of Gai, and now took place the slaughter of Gai Campi, and the kings of the Britons, who went out with Penda on the expedition as far as the city of Judeu, were slain. Historia Brittonum
At this point we can assume that a battle was fought in which Penda died, known as both Gai Campi (field of Gai) & Winwidfelda. However, the Annales Cambraie seems to separate Penda’s death from the battle,  somewhat confusing the issue.
655 The slaughter of Campus Gaius (Strages Gai Campi)
656 Penda killed (Pantha occisio)
The solution, I believe, is the battle of Campus Gai was fought in the year before Winwidfelda. According to the Historia Brittonum, the Campus Gaius battle was fought near the  city of Judeu, which places it near the Firth of Forth (its a long story).  For me, this would be somewhere near the Kay Stone, at Fairmilehead, south of Edinburgh, where battlefield remains have indeed been found. With this in mind, let us now look at the venerable Bede, who gives us the fullest account of Winwidfelda;
At this period King Oswy was subjected to savage and intolerable attacks by Penda, the above-mentioned King of the Mercians who had slain his brother. At length dire need compelled him to offer Penda an incalculable quantity of regalia and presents as the price of peace, on condition that he returned home and ceased his ruinous devastation of the provinces of his kingdom. But the treacherous king refused to consider his offer, and declared his intention of wiping out the entire nation from the highest to the humblest in the land. Accordingly Oswy turned for help to the mercy of God, who alone could save the land from its barbarous and godless enemy; and he bound himself an oath, saying: ‘If the heathen refuses to accept our gifts, let us offer them to the Lord our God.’ So he vowed that, if he were victorious, he would offer his daughter to God as a consecrated virgin and give twelve estates to build monasteries. This done, he gave battle with an insignificant force to the pagan armies, which are said to have been thirty times greater than his own and comprised thirty battle-hardened legions under famous commanders. Oswy and his son Alchfrid, trusting in Christ as their leader, met them, as I have said, with very small forces. His other son Egfrid was at the time held hostage at the court of Queen Cynwise in the province of the Mercians. But Oswald’s son Ethelwald, who should have helped them, had gone over to the enemy and had acted as guide to Penda’s army against his own kin and country, although during the actual battle he withdrew and awaited the outcome in a place of safety. When battle had been joined, the pagans suffered defeat. Almost all the thirty commanders who had come to Penda’s aid were killed. Among them Ethelhere, brother and successor of King Anna of the East Angles, who had been responsible for the war, fell with all his men. This battle was fought close by the River Winwaed, which at the time was swollen by heavy rains and had flooded the surrounding country: as a result, many more were drowned while attempting to escape than perished by the sword…. This battle was won by King Oswy in the region of Loidis on the fifteenth of November in the thirteenth year of his reign, to the great benefit of both nations. For not only did he deliver his own people from the hostile attacks of the heathen, but after cutting off their infidel head he converted the Mercians and their neighbours to the Christian Faith.
Where Bede tells us the battle was fought, ‘near the river Uinued, which had broken its banks after heavy rain, so that far more were drowned as they tried to run away than died by sword in combat,’ this fits in perfectly well with Barrowford, which is prone to serious flooding. I mean just have a butchers at this, from the 1960s; ‘
Jesse Blakey adds,  ‘Perhaps one of the biggest floods within living  memory took place on the evening of July 6th, 1881.  It is believed that a cloud burst on Pendle, and the rushing torrent tore along carrying everything within reach away with it. The river overflowed its  banks at the tannery, and formed another river in Gisburn Road… The mill Holme formed one vast sheet of water with that in the river and Gisburn Road. Huge pieces of timber were deposited in the streets, and the Newbridge district was one vast turbulent sheet of water…. In the diary by William Corhridge there is the following entry :
” Greatest flood ever known. Fearful night. Six  hours of thunder and lightning. The flood was at  its height about 11 o’clock on Tuesday. Swept all  the bridges down from Barley to Barrowford.”
Barnard Faraday lived at Newbridge at this time.  He says:—” Great beams from the bridges further  up the stream rushed across Berry’s field and meadow below the present police-station, smashed down the wall, and stationed themselves about Lee Street. Fortunately no human lives were lost, but much damage was done to roads and property, and a lot of timber was carried along by the rolling tide.
There is one more nugget of information from Bede, who says the battle was fought in the ‘region of Loidis.’ For me, he isreferring to nearby Lothersdale & not Leeds, of which to the latter there is no real evidence, only a phonetic match. The matter needs further investigation, perhaps centred about the golden Merovingian coin (dated: 590-670) found at nearby Skipton, which could be the ‘ township in the country called Loidis,’ mentioned as being built by King Edwin. Or then again, it could be even closer….
Barrowford, however, is not the site of the actual battle of Winwaed, only it is there that many warriors drowned, & probably entombed in the barrow I showed earlier. Indeed, it is rather reminiscent of that of the Athenian warriors at Marathon.
There are two places near Barrowford that could be the site of Winwidfelda. The idea is that the Celtic ‘Win’ became translated by the Anglo-Saxons as white (which is possible).  Andrew Breeze writes, ‘What does philology tell us about Bede’s Uinued? There is no problem with the first element, which represents Brittonic ‘white’, as in Welsh Gwyn ‘white’.’ Thus Winwidfelda could have been either Whitefield, a couple of miles downstream, or more likey Whitemoor, a couple of miles to the north of Barrowford in the direction of Northumbria. It makes sense that after that the defeated Mercians would retreat south towards safety. In support, at Whitemoor one can find menhir known as the Lark Stone, which may have been a memento of the battle.
Lark Stone Location
Lark Stone Location
Whitemoor (bottome left) in relation to Lothersdale (Loidis Dale)
Whitemoor (bottome left) in relation to Lothersdale (Loidis Dale)
Some photos from todays’s walk – from Burnley to Nelson along the canal, then up along the back-roads to Padiham, looking at the general sweep of the battlefield, crossing the River Calder… until Nick’s house back in Burnley
Burnley Library
Burnley Library
Picture 642
Pendle from Nelson
Pendle from Nelson
In the field (February is still cold)
In the field (February is still cold) – notice the cadburys cream egg yolk in my beard

Picture 662   Picture 663   Picture 629

Burnley is the town in the background - the dip in the hills in the far middle right is the valley into Yorkshire - Calderdale
Burnley is the town in the background – the dip in the hills in the far middle right is the valley into Yorkshire – Calderdale



Breeze, Andrew – The Battle of the UINUED & the River Went, Yorkshire – Northern History (September 2004)
Gelling, Margaret / Cole, Ann – The landscape of placenames – 2000
Atkinson, Henry
Blakey, Jesse
Widdup, John-  Annals & Stories of Barrowford (1929)