Anglo-Saxon England (410-855)

After some four hundred years, Britain was no longer part of the Roman Empire, as Romans returned to their homeland of Italy by 410AD.  Italy needed the might of their battle hardened Roman warriors to ward off hostile tribe’s attacking their homeland.

As the Romans departed, Britain became vulnerable to these Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians and Franks, who first arrived across the seas from Germany and Denmark to trade.  As the Romans left these traders saw an opportunity; a new life.

The Angles made their homes in East Anglia, Midlands and Northumbria.

The Saxons made their homes in the South of England, and formed Kingdoms:

Sussex        = South Saxons

Wessex      = West Saxons

Essex          = East Saxons

Middlesex = Middle Saxons

Jutes came from Jutland in Denmark and set up home in Kent, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

With the Roman gone, the Picts, Scots and Barbarians from the north crossed Hadrian’s Wall attacking the British Romans without mercy.

Vortigern a British leader hired Saxons to fend off invaders, and paid them in money and land.

Later invaders of this land, did not come to fight, they sought out land to farm.  They manoeuvred their narrow boats up river, deep and deeper inland.  History tells us these invaders drove Britons from their lands, and some were forced into a life of slavery by their new masters.

First these Britons were pushed west, and around 500AD they stood their ground, turned and fought, to protect their lands.  This stemmed the flow of the Anglo-Saxon migration.

Ambrosius Aurelianus, fought with his men at Mons Badonicus believed to have been the Bradbury Rings in Dorset, and won their battle.

Britain’s main leader is believed to have been a warrior named Arthur, later called King Arthur.

The next major battle between Briton’s and Anglo-Saxons took place at the “Battle of Dyrham” in AD577 led by Cealin, King of Wessex who went on to take Cirencester, Gloucester and Bath.

Wessex expansion ceased as Anglo-Saxon’s fought each other.  Cealin retreated; Ceol his nephew took his place and was killed the very next year.

Cirencester became an Anglo-Saxon Kingdom under Mercia rule rather than Wessex.

Saxon Settlements:

Saxon leaders found this new land fertile and shared this healthy land among their followers.

Some leaders became Kings of their province, and noble warriors were known as Thanes (Thane, a nobleman who held land for the King in return for services).  These Thanes received land from their King, and freemen farmers known as Churls, (Churls is a farm labourer), who would rent the land from his Thane.

Some farmers seized readily prepared farm lands from the Britons, whilst others started afresh, clearing the land, growing crops, creating pastures for cattle, sheep, pigs and horses.

Early settlements consisted of a few family farms, with houses constructed of wood with sloping thatched roofs.  The settlement would be protected by a fence, encircling the houses from wild animals or warring enemies.

As time progressed, settlements grew larger and became villages.  Each village had a Saxon Chief, often it was he who had led them to this land, and granted them the land they now farmed.

For what their Saxon Chief had given them, these churls these farmers worked and fought for their leader.

A Saxon home contained little in the way of furniture; table and benches made from the land.

Saxon cooking pots, were made by hand would hang from a chain, over the fire.  Buckets would be used to carry water from the river or lake.

Women would also be responsible for grinding the grain, preparing the bread and beer from barley crops.  Preparing food and watching over children and animals.

Women would use sheep’s wool and turn it into cloth, using plant dye’s to colour it for clothing.  Men often wore short tunics, trousers and leather shoes with straps.

The King’s and their Kingdom’s:

According to the writings of Bede, the first group of Saxon Kings, were chiefs who had led the invasion on Britain.

Hengist and Horsa in Kent, Aelle in Sussex, along with Cerdic and Cynric in Wessex.

By the year 560Ad, Kent had become the most important of all English Kingdoms and was ruled by Ethelbert until 616AD with Canterbury being its capital and lands extending north to the Humber River.  Upon Ethelbert’s death in 616AD, Raedwald of East Anglia rose to become the most powerful leader south of the Humber River.

Later, Northumbria became a powerful kingdom under King Edwin, and according to archaeological findings at Yeavering in Northumberland, a Saxon Palace or Hall had been discovered in the area, and believed to belong to Edwin.

Each King of his Kingdom, moved around his Kingdom feasting in these great halls with his followers, ensuring local support from them in battle.  In return he promised them land and riches.

According to Saxon law, a person’s life was worth a set amount of money.  If he was killed, his murderer had to pay that amount of money to his family.

Raewald provided military assistance to Deiran Edwin, in taking over the dynasties of Deira and Bernica in the Kingdom of Northumbria.  Upon Raewald’s death Edwin expanded the kingdom of Northumbria.

Anglo-Saxon Mercians under Penda were forced into battle against Edwin of Northumbria as his kingdom grew in size.

An alliance between Penda and Cadwallon of Gwynedd, the Welsh King was formed, and between them they killed Edwin of Northumbria at the “Battle of Hatfield Chase” in 633AD.

Oswald son of one of Northumbria’s Kings, defeated and killed Cadwallon at Heavenfield near Hexham.  Then in 642Ad Penda killed Oswald in battle.  Oswald’s brother, Oswiu killed Penda around 642AD.

Mercia spent the latter years of the 7th and 8th century fighting the Welsh Kingdom of Powys.  Offa constructed a 150 mile long, 25 feet high and 7 feet deep dyke across the boundary between England and Wales constructed of wooden poles and earth, designed to stop warring raids.

Beornwulf beat the Mercians in the “Battle of Ellendun” in 825AD by Egbert of Wessex.

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