Brunanburh, 937 AD (final part)

18 – Conclusions

I’m convinced that somewhere lies the answer, whether in an as yet undiscovered charter, or perhaps a field name that has escaped the attention of an undiscerning eye. Maybe a document that lies collecting dust in an old archive- possibly in another country ? Or perhaps if we are really fortunate, one day, whilst out in the fields on a miserable windswept cold and rainy day, someone with a metal detector decides to try his/her luck on that weed strewn inhospitable stretch of land
Mick Deakin
St Andrew's Square
St Andrew’s Square

After posting part 17 this morning from Victor Pope’s pad, I meandered into Edinburgh in pleasant sunshine – Spring has finally arrived & all is warm with the prospects of Mother Nature’s coming bounty. A little bit of banking later & I am in the National Library, ready to close my case. That is, of course, the association of Burnley with the battle of Brunanburh, the cardinal points of my argument being;

1 – There are what appear to be the remains of an Anglo-Saxon burh at Castle Hill, Towneley

2 – The Brun element of Brunanburh can be found in the earliest names for Burnley – Brunley

3 – The plains of Othlyn are connected to the legend of Saint Etheldra (Othl) & a magical ash tree (ynn), which occurred somewhere between Altham & Bradford.

4 – The Vinheath/Winaheath of Egil’s Saga is today’s Marsden Heights :  a perfect fit for the Saga’s geography, & where the village of Winewall retains the name. Military detritus from the field is recorded as being found in the 1800s.

5 – Burnley’s location coincides sweetly with the flight of Alfgeir : south across a border (i.e. the Mersey-Humber line between Northumbria & Southumbria), then west to Earl’s Ness, whose name remains in the Ness & Neston of the Wirral peninsular.

6 – Burnley’s location matches the day-long retreat to the sea as given in the ASC . It is likely that the Viking contigent boarded their ships at Walton-le-Dale in Preston.

7 – Both Colne & Pendle water seem to have once been known as the River Win/Vin. Indeed I write I am in the national library, looking through a different translation of Egil’s Saga by Christine Fell (1975)., which has the following poem by Egil himself

Flame-hearted Thorolf, fear’s
foe, Earl-killer, who so
dared danger in Odin’s
dark wars is dead at last.
here, by Vina’s bank,
my brother lies under earth

The Western Trench at Castle Hill
The Western Trench at Castle Hill


Penda's Grave?
Penda’s Grave?


During the course of my dig, I have identified two places which warrant archeological investigation. This is where I must hand the case over the to those mucky pups in the field, for the litologist digs only through the paper-trails of history. I believe that within the barrow at Barrowford there rests the bodily remains of the casualties of the battle of Winwaed. Perhaps even King Penda himself is sleeping in the mound. Back in Burnley, a thorough excavation of Castle Hill & its surrounding area should yield some relics of Brunanburh fort. As for the battlefield of Brunanurh, it should be placed upon one of the ‘plains’ of Burnley, with the Daneshouse area being a natural choice.

Pendle to the left, Turf moor middle bottom, Vinheath the raised tree-topped land to the right of the picture, round which
Pendle to the left, Turf Moor middle bottom, Vinheath the raised tree-topped land to the right of the picture

No longer should the Brunanburh debate be centered upon a search for the battlefied’s location – instead, the Burnley site should be seen as a secure launch-pad from which to investigate the history of these islands.  So far I have upturned the true sites of Etheldreda’s Ash & the Battle of Winwaed, along with scratching away the top-soil of the local Wendish historical layer. It is in the names of places, & the history stored within these names, that future litologists shall find so much succor when investigating the past. To them, I leave this little nugget I observed while reading SW Partington’s ‘Danes in Lancashire.’

An eloquent modern writer has declared, with a good reason, that even if all other records had perished, “anyone with skill to analyse the language, might re-create for himself the history of the people speaking that language, and might come to appreciate the divers elements out of which that people was composed, in what proportion they were mingled, and in what succession they followed one upon the other.” From a careful analysis of the names of the more prominent features of the land; of its divisions, its towns and villages, and even its streets, as well as the nomenclature of its legal, civil, and political institutions, its implements of agriculture, its weapons of war, and its articles of food and clothing, — all these will yield a vast fund of history.







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