Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Commemorating the Battle of Ashdown

The Battle of Ashdown between the West Saxon army and the Danes, took place on 8th January 871 AD. It happened a couple of months before Alfred became King of Wessex. I've blogged about the site of the battle previously and the work local historian Peter Knott did to locate it at Ashbury.  You can read the post here. Today on the anniversary of the battle I'd like to quote from Asser's description of what happened:

"In 871 the Viking army came to Reading. On the third day two of their earls rode out for plunder. Aethelwulf, ealdorman of Berkshire, confronted them at Englefield. The Christians won the victory.

Four days after these things happened, King Aethelred and Alfred assembled an army and went to Reading. They reached the gate of the stronghold. The Vikings burst out. Both sides fought fiercely but the Christians eventually turned their backs and the Vikings won the victory. Aethelwulf fell there. The Vikings, after a short rest, started to advance westwards from Reading.

The Christians, four days later, advanced against the Viking army at Ashdown. The Vikings, splitting into two divisions, organised shield walls. The Christians too split up into two divisions. But Alfred and his men reached the battlefield sooner (than King Ethelred who) was still hearing Mass.

Since the king was lingering still longer in prayer, and the Vikings had reached the battlefield more quickly, Alfred could not oppose the enemy battle-lines any longer without either retreating or attacking, and he moved his army against the enemy.

But the Vikings had taken the higher position, and the Christians were deploying from a lower position. A rather small and solitary thorn tree grew there, around which the opposing armies clashed violently. The Vikings took to ignominious flight and many thousands were slain over the whole broad expanse of Ashdown."

We will never know for certain the exact location of the Battle of Ashdown unless some incontrovertible proof comes to light, which seems unlikely. Here on the Ashdown House blog we are celebrating Alfred's victory and feel Ashbury has as strong an historical claim to be the location as any other site. It's also a wonderful opportunity to post up some of our gorgeous landscape photographs of the surrounding countryside!





8 comments:

Minerva Black the shoppe keeping cat said...

Amazing to think of all of this history, just out in those beautiful peaceful fields! Minerva x

Keira Soleore said...

I loved this post, Nicola, as you knew I would. :)

Nicola Cornick said...

Thanks for the comment, Minerva. Yes, it's extraordinary, especially considering the bloodshed at the battle site. I think the landscape around Ashdown has witnessed much of historical fascination.

Nicola Cornick said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Keira. Thank you! (And yes, I hoped you would...)!

whitehorsepilgrim said...

How wonderful that the wilder downlands are a reliquary for the memory of King Alfred and his deeds. On these windswept hills and in these dry valleys a good man's courage changed the history of England and therefore of the world.

Nicola Cornick said...

Thank you. That is a very moving way of thinking of Alfred and his broader influence as well as a beautiful description of the local landscape.

Diane said...

Just found your blog and enjoyed it very much. Just letting you know I featured Ashdown House as House of the Week on my blog. Diane

Nicola Cornick said...

Thank you, Diane! I am so pleased you like the blog and really thrilled that you have featured Ashdown on your own blog. It really is a beautiful house that deserves to be more widely known and appreciated! Thanks for spreading the word!