They certainly got around

One thing worth considering is the distances covered by the Viking forces. Asser says that in 875 Guthrum’s army was in Cambridge, where they spent the winter. In 876 they left Cambridge and travelled to Wareham (Wareham!!), near Poole, Dorset; and from there they went to Exeter, where again they wintered. From there they went to Mercia (Gloucester?); and early in 878 they launched a raid on Chippenham, from where King Alfred was forced to flee.

This is when he spent some time wandering with his depleted band of followers in the marshes of Somerset.

So, having put the king to flight, did Guthrum stay put in Chippenham until Alfred returned some 4 months later to do battle in Edendone/Edington, about 12 miles to the south? Or did he push on into Somerset, avoiding the marshes by staying up on the Poldens ridge (this was the route followed by the Saxons in the 7th century)? Did Alfred, having made his dash over to Selwood to reassemble his army, return to do battle at Eduuinetone/Edington, Somerset, 40 miles from Chippenham? There is a snag to the last hypothesis (of which more anon), leaving aside that the form of the name, Edendone, does look more like Eþandun than Eduuintone.  However …

Saxon drinking bucket found at Burrow Clump, Wilts. This was a Bronze Age, and later Saxon, burial site.

Saxon drinking bucket found at Burrow Clump, Wilts. This was a Bronze Age, and later Saxon, burial site.

Here I proposed a picture of Saxon archaeological remains in Chippenham, but it seems there aren’t any to speak of. So here is a picture of a rare Saxon drinking bucket (I think it’s not a lot bigger than an ordinary mug) found on the edge of Salisbury Plain – about 15 miles as the crow flies from that Edington. There were also Saxon weapons in the burial site there.

I seem to have spent too much time stressing the distances the Viking host covered, which only begins to touch on the examination of whether Edington in the Poldens could therefore possibly have been Eþandun(e). And whether Æcg-lea might have been, not Iley Oak in Wiltshire, but Ach-elai/Oakley in Somerset. So I will crack on with that next time.

[To be continued]

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