The Battle of Cynuit was last in the news in 2010 when a memorial stone was set up in Appledore to mark the defeat of Hubba the Dane. Most of the press reports conceded that this is ‘legend’ (at least as far as the connection with Appledore is concerned).
At some points ‘history’ and ‘legend’ are interchangeable, as in: “History has it that he came to grief on Torridgeside when his army was routed at Bloody Corner between Appledore and Northam. Hubba was slain and, by legend, buried under a huge stone on the local shoreline.”
‘History’, however, says nothing of Torridgeside and Bloody Corner as the scene of Hubba’s downfall.
Devon County Council’s website on Appledore has a different suggestion as to the origin for Bloody Corner. The historian W. G. Hoskins wrote in Devon (1954):
“There is little doubt that a village called Tawmouth existed here in the 11th century. It seems to be identical with the Tawmutha referred to in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under 1068 (actually 1069) when Harold’s three illegitimate sons crossed from Ireland with 64 ships, landed here and were beaten off with great losses. The scene of this battle may be Bloody Corner, just below Northam, where human bones and coins are said to have been found.” [NB Not sure about Tawmouth village. ASC’s ‘coman … mid .lxiiii. scypum into Taw muðan‘ just seems to indicate ‘the mouth of the R. Taw’, as æt Pedridan muþan meant at the mouth of the R. Parrett]
Though, more firmly, Hoskins says: “This site [i.e. Bloody Corner] is marked on the O.S. map as the scene of the battle of 878 [i.e. the battle of arx Cynuit] but there is no authority for this identification.” Moreover, such local names in Appledore as ‘Hubbastone Road and ‘Odun Road’ merely expand on the legend: they don’t confirm its historical truth.
But, old traditions die hard – and why not? Where would Alfred be without his cakes?
“Year 6 children who were unable to go to Bude have been on the trail of Hubba the Dane.
They went to Appledore to see the stone at Bloody Corner commemorating the battle between Odun’s Saxons and the fleeing Vikings led by Hubba.
Then on to Boat Hyde (or Boat Cove) where Hubba and his ships landed in 878 to try and take Kenwith Castle and the local Saxon settlement.
[ … ] Finally after a walk through Appledore they went to Northam Burrows for a re-telling of the grisly tale of the whole event which ended in the failure of the Viking invasion.”
The stone which the children went to see was erected by a Northam man in 1890, and reads:
“Stop Stranger Stop,
Near this spot lies buried
King Hubba the Dane,
who was slayed in a bloody retreat,
by King Alfred the Great.”
Which must have puzzled the children who had been told that it was Odun’s Saxons who did battle with Hubba, not Alfred the Great (who in 878 was away defeating Guthrum’s Great Heathen Army at Eþandune, by Selwood in Wiltshire).
So how did the story come to be associated with this part of Devon?
[To be continued, starting at the beginning]
E&OE as there are experts present