Follow every lead …

… even if just for a bit of innocent amusement:

When Alfred left Athelney in May 878, he gerade with his company to Selwood Forest in Wiltshire to rally his army which assembled at Ecgbryhtesstane. They camped one night there and then moved on to Aecglea/Iglea where they camped a further night. The next day they marched to Eþandune where the Vikings were defeated in a decisive battle.

It is not certain exactly where Ecgbryhtesstane was (perhaps not Penselwood, perhaps not Kingston Deverill); nor Aecglea/Iglea (perhaps Iley Oak, west of Sutton Veny); nor Eþandune (presumed to be Edington on the ridge above the chalkland of Salisbury Plain). Eþandune was NOT, alas, Edington in Somerset, in the Polden Hills not far from Athelney.

But, supposing it was. Here’s another argument:

The derivation of Aecg-lea suggests Ockley/Oakley. There is no Ockley in Wiltshire, though ‘Iley Oak’ was the meeting place of the Hundreds of Heytesbury and Warminster, south of Edington in Wiltshire …

Achelai Alwy tenuit T[empore] R[egis] E[dwardi] - Domesday

Achelai Alwy tenuit T[empore] R[egis] E[dwardi] – Domesday

But returning to Edington in Somerset, there is indeed a small area which bears the name ‘Oakley’ (Oakley Brook, Oakley Farm) which is recorded in the Domesday Book as Achelai: not a large place since the tax paid was ‘0’ and the number of households  ‘0’. It was to the south of Ilchester, near the A37, as the crow flies 14 miles from the Somerset Edington.

The remaining vestiges of Achelai: not much in Domesday, not much now

The remaining vestiges of Achelai: not much in Domesday, not much now

So, here’s the hypothetical reconstruction: Alfred rode to Selwood Forest to rally the Hampshire and Wiltshire fyrds at Ecgbryhtesstane but then, then, he backtracked to Somerset once more, pitched camp at Oakley (not Iley Oak), and next morning marched through Ilchester and Somerton to Edington in the Poldens where Guthrum was decisively defeated and subsequently baptised a Christian, along with 30 of the best men of his army.

Oakley, Aller, Athelney and Edington in Somerset

Oakley, Aller, Athelney and Edington in Somerset

And where were they baptised? Well, at Aller, just six miles south of Edington and a mere 3-4miles east of Athelney. And after eight days the baptismal robes were removed at Wedmore (where by some traditions Guthrum signed a  treaty)  – and where is Wedmore? Just six miles to the north of Edington.

Oakley, Edington, Aller, Wedmore.  The locations of Aecglea and Eþandune are still doubtful. But Aller and Wedmore are as certain as may be – Asser §56:

Nam post hebdomadas Godrum, paganorum rex, cum triginta electissimis de exercitu suo viris, ad Aelfred regem prope Aethelingaeg in loco, qui dicitur Alre [Aller], prevenit. Quem Aelfred rex in filium adoptionis sibi suscipiens, de fonte sacro baptismatis elevavit. Cuius chrismatis solutio octavo die in villa regia, quae dicitur Waedmor [Wedmore], fuit. Qui, postquam baptizatus fuit, duodecim noctibus cum rege mansit. Cui rex cum suis omnibus multa et optima beneficia largiter dedit.

And why would Alfred ride all the way over to Selwood Forest and then come back again to fight a battle in the Poldens? Well, one might equally ask why he would fight a battle in Wiltshire and then bring the defeated Guthrum back to Aller, 36 miles away, to be baptised? Why not at Chippenham, twelve miles away, a royal vill? Or Trowbridge? Warminster? Even Winchester which was almost the same distance away? Why Aller, unless the two protagonists were conveniently nearby?

These are deep waters, Watson …

[To be continued]


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