The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #73825   Message #2777878
Posted By: JeffB
01-Dec-09 - 04:45 PM
Thread Name: Folklore: Somerset Girt Dog of Langport
Subject: RE: Folklore: Somerset Girt Dog of Langport
Shep, it's interesting that you think the Battle of Edington might not have happened in Wiltshire. There is of course another Edington on the Poldens which could be a candidate.

Many years ago I got hold of an old book (which I no longer have) called (I think) the Wars of Wessex by someone called (I think) Albany Major, who put forward the theory that Alfred did not march 60 miles into Wiltshire to tackle Guthrum, but rather the vikings advanced into Somerset and were surprised by Alfred. In Major's scenario (as far as I can recall from memory), Guthrum moved to Glastonbury, and then along the Polden ridge searching for Alfred's base. However, Alfred had moved up from Athelney with his army and following in Guthrum's track caught up with his rearguard near Edington. Major thought that the fortress Guthrum retreated to was not Chippenham but the ring fort at the western end of the Poldens, which is now just on the other side of the M5.

On his surrender, Guthrum converted to Christianity and was taken around the seven churches in the neighbourhood, one of which was Aller. Major thought, and you have to agree with him, that it isn't likely that Alfred brought Guthrum and the surviving Vikings 60 miles from Wiltshire into Somerset for the ceremony. It would surely have been done in Chippenham, which after all had been Alfred's HQ only the year before.

There is nothing in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle which disproves this attractive theory, except for one very important point, which is that the ASC specifically says Alfred mustered his army near Chippenham. Major explained this by saying that the Chronicle was written many years later when the Anglo Saxon power base had moved east and detailed memory of the battle had been lost. However, everyone knew it had happened at a place called Edington, so the assumption was made that this was the one in Wiltshire and the Chronicle written to conform to this.

Does it particularly matter? you have to ask. Well, only for reasons of interest and sentiment, because a lot depended on the outcome of the Battle of Edington. If Alfred had disappeared from history at that point and Guthrum had established a ruling dynasty in Wessex, someone other than Harold Godwinson would have faced the Normans at Hastings 200 years later, and - who knows? - that could have meant a different result with profound consequences. Anyway, it would be nice to know for sure which Edington it was.