Danish raids (2) – the River Parrett

Just a few years after the raid(s) æt Carre in c.833-843, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded for 845 (probably 848) a raid æt Pedridan muþan – the mouth of the River Parrett (no doubt about that location!). A place that attracts attention here is the village of Combwich – or ‘Cummidge’ – on the west bank of the river. It had a small harbour and was a port from Roman times. It’s on a  ‘pill’, or tidal inlet; there was  another Roman port slightly up-river at Crandon Bridge, and a Roman settlement near Pawlett.

Map showing the inlet where the harbour at Combwich would have been, the locations of the ford and Cannington Park. The red squares show the possible route of the herapath

Map showing the inlet where the harbour at Combwich would have been, the locations of the ford and Cannington Park. The red squares show the possible route of the herepath

A ford across the river at Combwich marked the start of a Saxon herepath – or military road – which led west across the Quantocks. Herepaths were wide routes which allowed the marching armies to move swiftly.

For what it’s worth (possibly not much), this herepath left Combwich and passed south of Cannington camp (“In the Saxon period, however, the herepath, the military road, ran from Combwich over the Quantocks between the estate centres at Cannington and Williton” Somerset Urban Archaeological surveys: Nether Stowey, Clare Gathercole), Cannington being a suggested site of – arx Cynuit. The mouth of the Parrett provided easy access for the Danish ships. The Parker manuscript records better news for the Saxons this time:

Her Eanulf aldorman gefeaht mid Sumursætum 7 Ealchstan biscep 7 Osric aldorman mid Dornsætum gefuhton æt Pedridan muþan wiþ Deniscne here 7 þær micel węl geslogon 7 sige namon.

‘In this year ealdorman Eanwulf with the men of Somerset and Bishop Ealchstan and ealdorman Osric with the men of Dorset fought at the mouth of the Parrett with the Danish host; there was much slaughter and they were victorious.’

Ealhstan (d.867) was bishop of Sherborne, a diocese which stretched over Dorset, Somerset, Devon and, eventually, Cornwall according to Richard Abels (p. 30-31). Eanwulf, ealdorman of Somerset, was granted land to the SE of Glastonbury by King Æthelwulf in 842; he was named as the king’s ‘princeps’.  Couldn’t find anything about Osric. But those were the leaders of the Saxon force that triumphed over the Danes.

King Æethelwulf, who was reigning when this raid took place

King Æethelwulf, who was reigning when this raid took place

However, although this event is not mentioned by Asser, he does have something to say about the bishop and ealdorman:

§12. Interia tamen, Aethelwulfo rege ultra mare tantillo tempore immorante, quaedam infamia contra morem omnium Christianorum in occidentali parte Selwuda orta est. Nam Aethelbaldus rex, et Ealhstan, Scireburnensis ecclesiae episcopus, Eanwulf quoque Summurtunensis pagae comes coniurasse referuntur, ne unquam Aethelwulf rex, a Roma revertens, iterum in regno reciperetur. 

Roughly: while King Æthelwulf was in Rome, his second son Æthelbald, with Ealhstan and Eanwulf, plotted against him to prevent his return. Or some, or all, of the three. But the conspiracy fizzled out when Æthelwulf returned (because he was wise and loved by his people).

And this is the area where the Danes arrived in 845 (or 848). It must be presumed that this was in Somerset (as now), not Devon, since Eanwulf was ealdorman of Somerset.

And this is all I have to say about the raid æt Pedridan muþan for the moment.

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