Tintagel? Tin-TAG-el?

I had thought that, possibly, Tintagel might have been the site of the Battle of Arx Cynuit in 878, not Countisbury.


Well, the archaeology suggests that it was a promontory fort, like Wind Hill, Countisbury; and ‘ille locus situ terrarum tutissimus est ab omni parte, nisi ab orientali‘ – like Countisbury. But more than that Tintagel had been an important port since Roman times so the Viking ships would have had somewhere to land, whereas I don’t think that was true of Countisbury.

It’s not in Devonshire, though, is it?

Not now, but Asser only said the Vikings sailed ‘ad Domnaniam‘ which could just mean the Dumnonian peninsula. And the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle said ‘on Westseaxum on Defenascire’ which could mean the area under control of the West Saxons.

Was that bit of Cornwall under the control of the West Saxons by then, 878?

It must have been, because King Alfred’s Will was drawn up c.881 as he says he consulted Æthelred, Archbishop of Canterbury, and those are his dates 870-888.



The three divisions of Triggshire: Stratton, Lesnewth and Trigg, are marked in pink; Tintagel by the red circle.

In his Will, Alfred granted first to his elder son Edward ‘the land at Stratton in Triggshire and Hartland’ and to his younger son [Æthelweard] ‘Lifton and the lands that belong to it, namely all that I have in Cornwall except Triggshire’. Altogether this appears to cover the whole stretch of the coast from the estuary of the R Camel to Hartland Point, and a wide area inland. Just where Tintagel is. And the fact that this was land held by the king would explain the presence of many ‘ministri regis’, in both military and domestic service. Why would there have been so many of these retainers at Countisbury that they could slaughter 800 Vikings?

But it does suggest Tintagel was in Cornwall, not Devon.

Yes, in a way, but still … what he actually said was ‘Lifton and the lands that belong to it, namely all that I have in Cornwall‘, but Lifton hundred included places like Tavistock, Okehampton and Lydford which were in Devon, so ‘Cornwall’ wasn’t clear-cut.

Is that it, then?

What else do you want to ask?

Tintagel seems a very long way to have rowed from Dyfed – ex Demetica regione?

Perhaps they camped out on Lundy as a halfway house, like they camped on Steep Holm before attacking north Somerset? Archaeologists found glass beads there which they identified as 9th c. ‘Hiberno-Norse’, and the Vikings who sailed from Dyfed are most likely to have come from Ireland. Also there are pit burials similar to ones found near Repton and almost certainly connected with the Great Heathen Army which wintered in Repton, 873-874,  dated exactly by coins. Not only that, but in both  a ‘giant’ warrior was said to have been found: the Repton giant was said to have been about 9 feet tall and the Lundy giant about 8 feet tall (2.5m).

So, you rest your case?

There is one more thing – the name. But I’ll leave that until next time.


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