… it is at least tempting. A few blogs ago, I wrote: ‘Eþandune was NOT, alas, Edington in Somerset, in the Polden Hills not far from Athelney’, and then I thought ‘but supposing it was’.
I’ve found a very interesting map prepared by the River Parrett Drainage Board to show the areas on either side of the river that were liable to flooding (it shows, not unsurprisingly, a remarkable resemblance to the conjectural maps of AD 1000 and AD 390 before drainage began on the Levels, when the Parrett valley was dotted with a number of small islands amid water or swamp).
I have superimposed the Ordnance Survey map over it: the Drainage Board map wasn’t 100% accurate, so there isn’t perfect congruence. On this combined map I’ve shown the main routes to and from Ilchester (click on this to enlarge).
The Fosse Way goes from centre bottom to top rightish. The lower section of the A37 is the road from Dorchester, and a continuation passes through Somerton to the eastern end of the Poldens, near Street (Domesday Strate from Latin strata, the Roman road, or causeway across the River Brue, to Glastonbury). From Street, a Roman road passed along the ridge of the Poldens, through Edington and probably on to Pawlett where a ford crossed the river to the port of Combwich – about which, more later. The two other roads running roughly west-east lead to Kingston Deverill and Penselwood respectively.
The blue circles pinpoint Oakley (Æcglea?), Edington (Eþandune?), Aller (Alre) and, just off to the north, Wedmore (Weþmor). Too neat? From Oakley the fyrd marched up the Roman road to the Poldens and along to Edington?
Except, of, course, that that doesn’t quite work. If Guthrum had come from the direction of Chippenham, was he heading west along the Poldens and did Alfred chase after him? Or did he approach Edington from the north? And where was the stronghold where he was driven back and besieged for a fortnight?
Although an as-the-crow-flies straight line from Chippenham to Edington passes enticingly pretty much through Bath and Wells, it’s hard to see how Guthrum would have come to be in Edington. And even if they did do battle there, Asser said Alfred pursued Guthrum back to the ‘Viking stronghold’ (‘ante portas paganicae‘) and made camp outside the gates until Guthrum was forced to concede through lack of supplies. What stronghold? The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle just says ‘him æfter rad oþ þæt geweorc‘, ‘pursued him up to the fortification’. And Henry of Huntingdon, ‘eum persecutus est usque ad firmitatem suam‘. Having then been forced into making certain promises, Guthrum came three weeks later to the king in Aller where he was baptised. And thence to Wedmore. If, as is supposed, the stronghold, fortification, firmitas was Chippenham, then Edington in Wiltshire must be indicated. I cannot see a likely solution in Somerset Æcglea or no Æcglea, so I fear must give up.