The Danish Invasion to the Norman Conquest
The year 865
heralded disaster for Anglo-Saxon
According to Aethelweard writing 100 years later, their leader was Igwar or Ivar, one of the sons of
Ragnar Lothbrok. Ragnar had two sons involved in these raids. One was called
Ubba, and the other was known as Ivar
the Boneless. The chronicle implies that King Edmund paid them off in money and
supplies to keep the peace in
Modern historians refer to the 200 year period after 865 as The Late Anglo-Saxon time.
The viking force marched north from
Vikings moved on
If King Edmund had indeed paid off the Danes to avoid
war in 865, we do not know why the same thing was not attempted in 869. Perhaps
the Danes now felt strong enough to take him on, or perhaps he had now resolved
to resist them. "The Danish host rode across
That description came from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, version A, written between 877 and 899, and is the first record of the death of King Edmund, later to be called St Edmund, King and Martyr. A note to Version F adds that the Danish head men who slew the King were Ingware (Ivar) and Ubba.
Later stories were to tell how Edmund was captured in battle, and offered his life to share his kingdom and renounce his Christian faith. This he refused to do and was shot with arrows and his head was cut off and thrown away.
The death of King Edmund is attributed to November 20th, and the History of the Legend of St Edmund is described fully elsewhere on this website.
According to Abbo of Fleury, writing in 985, the death of St Edmund occurred at Haegelisdun Wood. According to Herman of Bury, writing in 1095, the saint was then buried nearby at Sutton. Aeldorman Aethelweard, writing at the end of the 10th century said "and his body lies entombed in the place which is called Beadoriceswyrthe".
writers now support the ideas of Dr Stanley West that
the location of Edmund's death was at Bradfield St George, rather than at Hoxne, which had been the claim of the medieval bishops
after 1101. Dr West has noted that there still survives an old field name Hellesden, close to a Sutton Hall six miles south of
Prior to this
time there had been a single
The town of
At this time
there were a few settlements scattered around
The Danes now
moved against King Aethelred of
King Aethelred died after Easter and was succeeded by his brother, Alfred.
Ealdorman Aethelweard wrote his Chronicle towards the end of the 10th century.
In 871 King
Alfred the Great became King of
After 871, part
of the Viking army settled at
On the feast of Twelfthnight 878 the Vikings surprised Alfred's army at Chippenham. Much of
By May, Alfred
rallied the army and won a decisive battle over king Guthrum,
or Godram, at Edington near
Godrum converted to Christianity and changed his name to Athelstan, his new Christian name. He also agreed to pull
his army back into
As Athelstan, Godrum would start to issue coins in his new name, based upon the coinage of Alfred. For a viking, this was an adoption of English ways, as the traditional viking medium of exchange had always been hack-silver, for exchange by weight.
Danish settlement began in ernest
following the invasion. "Here the raiding army went from Cirencester into
In many ways the
known to exist at
Peace of Wedmore, new Viking bands continued attacks
They set up the
five fortified boroughs of
continued to harry
By 885 the Danes had largely converted to Christianity, and within only twenty years of Edmund's death, they themselves were issueing coinage in his memory.
Memorial Penny from Thetford
It is entirely
possible that the mint was in Thetford, a major town
at this time. Possibly it was as big as, or bigger, than either
Meanwhile Beodricsworth, the settlement to become
By 890 Alfred
Alfred found time to translate Latin texts into English and had these distributed throughout his lands.
minted naming Alfred King of the English, but of course, in practice, this
excluded the Danelaw, north and east of a line from
The Cuerdale Hoarde
Vikings landed in
Alfred constructed burhs or defensive strongholds along his borders, following the Danish example. He also designed new ships meant for naval battles.
including those from
Asser wrote a Life of King Alfred in which he refers to the death of King Edmund in battle.
coinage known as St Edmunds memorial coinage continued to circulate in
retreated to the East and fortified the area, but various battles continued on
the borders of
By about 900 the
Norse settlements in
The East Anglian Danes again started to raid into
The peace of Tiddingford was confirmed between King Edward the Elder and
the Danes both with the
St Edmund's remains were moved to Bedericsworth from their original burial place in a small chapel at Sutton near to the site of his martyrdom. This must have happened with active Danish involvement and support. At Bedericsworth, (Bury St Edmunds) the wooden church of St Mary was enlarged and improved to hold the new shrine for St Edmund.
Back in the days of King Sigbert he had set up a small monastery there, but it seems unlikely that the monastery still remained from 630 as local lay volunteers had to guard the shrine.
The acquisition of so notable a relic as a royal saint was to make the small town a place of pilgrimage and recipient of many royal grants.
Tradition was that one Oswen would open the tomb every Holy Week to cut hair and clip nails.
The English and the Danes fought at Tettenhall.
King Edward the
Elder, the son of Alfred the Great, took an army to Maldon in
were also built elsewhere, and it is possible that Bedericsworth
was made into a fortified burh at this time. Bungay and
In Yates' Antiquities of 1805, he quotes various monastic papers as recording that Edward the Elder marched an army into East Anglia to repress the Danes. Having ravaged the country he retreated, but his Kentish men stayed behind at Bury, desirous of more plunder. They were then attacked by an alliance of Danes and the Saxon Ethelwald who wanted to contend for Edward's crown. In the battle, Ethelwald died, but the Kentish men were routed by the Danes.
The exact years in which this took place is open to doubt. One version of the Anglo - Saxon Chronicle gives 912AD, but others read it as 920, and some writers have split the difference and said it was in 917.
Edward the Elder set up several more fortified burhs, including Maldon in 916.
This was a
turbulent year. Danish controlled
Hundreds were killed in a siege at Maldon when the vikings fought back.
King Edward the
Elder then repaired and restored
Please note that
the date of this is unclear, and it may have all
happened earlier, in 912, or even in 917. Nevertheless, by this time Edward
seems to have broken up
Edward also set
up the system of hundreds, as sub divisions of the shires, for the purposes of
administration and taxation. Later the hundreds would have their own courts,
often held at a ford, or at a prominent hill or barrow, also known at the time
as a hoe. Examples are the Thingoe and Thedwastre hundreds in
success at York, by the end of his reign Edward the Elder had pushed the Danes
He was succeeded
by Aethelstan who quickly took over
According to Yates' Antiquities, monastic papers recorded that in 925 the ecclesistical votaries of St Edmund were incorporated into a college of Priests, either by King Aethelstan, or by Bederic, under royal protection. Bederic was the local chief lord, and he may have supported the new shrine by giving it land for the clergy to live off. This story is merely reporting a more formal arrangement being put in place to maintain the shrine of St Edmund.
The kings of
Aethelstan won a major victory at Brunnanburh
and the Northmen's lord was put to flight back to
King Edmund (NB
not our St Edmund) succeeded Athelstan and continued
the war with the Danes. Edmund was grandson of King Alfred the Great and ruled
Edmund was also interested in the church in general and wanted to help the monasteries in any way he could.
The Banleuca by 1450
According to an Anglo-Saxon Charter, in 945 King Edmund gave up his royal rights to taxes and all feudal dues and fees in the area of Bury St Edmunds for about one mile around St Edmund's shrine. M. D. Lobel was not the first writer to consider that this charter was spurious, invented by the monks at a later date to bolster their claims. The claim was that this was the first charter to confirm all the privileges claimed by the monastery. As such, its existence needed to be established, because later grants and charters tended to confirm existing rights, while in some cases, extending them.
However, the story goes that King Edmund gave these rights to the collegiate church (also called the convent) of St Edmund. It would appear that by now, the lay volunteers who had first tended the shrine since 906, had been incorporated into a college, or body, of priests.
This area of land was later to become known as the Banleuca and its grant indicates the important status of the shrine of St Edmund and the growing importance of its monastery. The income from the Banleuca belonged, therefore, to the college of priests as a whole, and did not belong to the Abbot alone when in later years, this was to become an issue.
Most of this
area was farmland at this time, with only small settlements around the farms,
and Bedericsworth was just a growing village around
the shrine. In later years the boundaries of the banleuca
were to be marked by four stone crosses on the main roads into town. The map
shown here displays the banleuca and streets and
buildings as they would have been by the 15th century. This grant of land by
King Edmund effectively defined the administrative boundaries of
Eadred became King of
The King commanded much slaughter in Thetford in vengeance for the death of the Abbot there.
The end of
Scandinavian domination in
In the 25 years peace that followed there was a cultural and religious revival.
the time after the Danelaw was reconquered
the system of hundreds was marked out in
During the 950's it has been written that the Bishop of London inspected the body of St Edmund in his shrine and confirmed that it was incorrupt, and only a thin red crease, like a piece of thread, showed where the head had been severed.
Between 952 and
956 King Eadred set up the new diocese of
A King Edwy is recorded as having given the manors of Beccles and Elmswell to the monastery of St Edmund. Registers such as that of Walter de Pynchbeck also state that many of the possessions of the collegiate church of St Edmund were given in this same period of 952 to 956.
Norwich and Thetford had both flourished in this century, expanding beyond their old fortified limits.
King and appointed Dunstan Archbishop of
became sole king of
Bury St Edmunds does not seem to have qualified to have a mint at this time.
King Edgar also
recognised some of the old Danish liberties by now
well established in
Theodred the second, the Bishop of Hulm, and later London, left to St Edmund's the manors of Ickworth, Whepsted, Horringer, and 'other valuable manors in the vicinity of Bury'.
Adulphus, or Athulf, became Bishop of Hulme after Theodred, and he also bequeathed valuable properties to St Edmund. In his case it was said to be nine manors, the biggest gift so far. Yates also reported that monastic papers claimed that around this time the monastery also received Cockfield and Cherlsworth from Ethelfled's will, the daughter of Earl Alfgar. The King's Chancellor Turketell, gave it Culford, part of Palgrave, and other possessions.
A new set of
regulations for monastic life in
King Edgar supported all these church reforms, removing secular monks and replacing them by celibate monks with allegiance to St Benedict's rule, rather than to local landlords.
This must have started to put pressure on the clergy who were in control of St Edmund's shrine. They may have had wives, and did not follow the new fangled Benedictine strict codes of subjugation to the rule of a monastic order.
Dunstan delayed Edgar's coronation until the king was 30, the age for ordination of priests.
The kingship ceremony was made intensely religious at this time, and the King became Christs' appointed, a religious power as well as a secular one.
King Edgar died to be succeeded by his young son Edward, who became known as Edward the Martyr.
The young king was murdered and Aethelred took the throne in very bad circumstances.
His nickname, the Unready, is believed to have been best translated as 'unwise' or 'ill-advised'. The country was incensed by the intrigue and many were ready to fight his rule.
Harold Bluetooth was uniting
raided the coasts and sacked
Abbo of Fleury wrote his 'Life of St Edmund' at Ramsey Abbey, near St Ives. It was based on the report of an old armour bearer of St Edmund himself. This was to become the basis of all future lives of the saint, which were reworked many times in years to come.
According to a legend of the Abbey of St Edmund, recorded many years later in monastic records, around this time Ailwin was appointed guardian of the shrine. The secular priests who had been in charge of St Edmund's shrine for most of the century had been overtaken by new ideas of what was suitable devout religious practice. The rule of St Benedict was being adopted in the new monasteries, and it seems that they were widely held to be more devout and more fitting to guard a shrine. Perhaps the local people were not ready for such a drastic change at this time, and so Bishop Algare put Ailwin, described as a monk, in charge at Bury. It would seem that he merely ruled over the existing college.
According to Dr Antonia Gransden, it is possible that St Oswald, the founder of Ramsey Abbey may have had a hand in introducing Benedictines to Bury. Oswald died in 992, so if this was the case it was well before the traditional date of about 1020 when Canute is said to have introduced them. Maybe Ailwin was a follower of St Benedict.
In the late 10th
Century, a second wave of Danish attacks assailed
In 991 a large,
well organised army led by Olaf, later King of
By this time, Sturmer was the main centre in the
Sturmer remained the chief settlement in the
After these battles, the invaders were paid Danegeld of £10,000 and a peace was made, but not for long. This money was raised by taxation, and only served to produce further raids and demands. Danegeld would seriouly weaken the economy for years to come.
The Danes invaded again, not having total success despite betrayal of the King's intentions by Aelfric.
From 997 to 1014 viking raids occurred every year.
By this time
In a desperate
attempt to regain control of his destiny, King Ethelred ordered a general
massacre of all the Danes in England on St Brice's day, November 13th. His
orders were unlikely to have been carried out in the Anglo-Danish area of
In 1003, King Swein of
Ulfketel Snilling was the local Anglo-Danish Eolderman, and he raised a force to confront the invaders. Ulfketel or Ulfcytel took heavy casualties next day and lost the most senior of his East Anglian troops. However, although the invaders won the day, they too took heavy losses, and they ran for their ships and left the country. Ulfcytel had anticipated this and had sent orders to destroy these ships, but this never took place.
The Danegeld paid was £36,000 of silver.
onwards, for administrative purposes most of Haverhill was in the Risbridge Hundred of Suffolk, but one third of it in what
is now the Hamlet Road area, was in the Hinckford
King Swein attacked
A large Danish
force under Thurkill the Tall landed at
This location may have been at Rymer Point, near Honington, about four miles south of Thetford, or at Ringmere, four miles north-east of that town.
ravaged at will for three months, burning Thetford,
The remains of
St Edmund were taken to
There are some
accounts, reported by Yates in his 1805 book on Bury, that
Turchill, one of the Danish leaders under Sweign, having harassed and devastated the whole of
proceeded to the
The Danegeld was £48,000, a massive sum, the biggest ever recorded.
By now Ethelred
had lost his grip and King Swein of
By now it was judged safe to return the remains of St Edmund to the monastery at Bury. On the journey back, the body passed through Stapleford, and miraculously cured the local Lord. The manor of Stapleford was given to St Edmund in gratitude.
This journey was
said to pass through Edmunton, Chipping Ongar, Greenstead,
King Swein Forkbeard died suddenly. He was said to have been struck dead while threatening to sack St Edmund's town or extract a heavy ransom from it. Pictures of this event were to be painted over Edmund's shrine centuries later. The local people of Bedericsworth were said to have been so pleased to be spared Swein's extortions that they voluntarily agreed to pay a carucagium, or local land tax, to the monastery. The levy was four pence on every carucate of land. In later centuries no doubt this story was produced to answer local critics who questioned why this tax should be paid.
After Swain's demise, his son Cnut (or Canute) took over, but Ethelred returned and drove him out. Cnut returned to try some inconclusive campaigning.
Unready died and his son, Edmund Ironside, was
proclaimed King in London, but Cnut was also crowned
The Bartlow Hills
There have been
claims that this battle took place at Ashdon, near
Ulfcytel left the manors of Redgrave, Rougham and eight others to the monastery at St Edmund's.
King Edmund Ironside died within a month of the Battle of Ashingdon,
and so Cnut received all the kingdom. He was the
first Danish King of all
Cnut built a church dedicated to St Edmund at the site of his victory at Ashingdon, in Essex, although once again, the round towered Bartlow church has been given this attribution in the past. This act of Cnut may indicate an existing interest in St Edmund which was to help the development of St Edmund's shrine at Bury in a few years time.
Suffolk, and indeed all England, was now once more under Danish rule and was to remain part of a large Scandinavian empire until 1042.
Ethelred the Unready had died, he left a widow, Queen Emma. Canute
now married Emma and gave her
Cnut created four new earldoms of
Cnut levied a tribute of £11,000 in
Canute was interested in religion and had already
supported the cult of St Edmund. In 1020 he made a pilgrimage to the shrine at Bedericsworth. At Bury, King Canute
had to settle a dispute between the shrines' priests and the Bishop of Elmham whose diocese included Bedericsworth.
The priests refused to pay over the normal tithes etc due to the Bishop,
believing that St Edmund was exempt from such dues. Possibly in consultation
with his new wife, Queen Emma, who owned the jurisdiction of
To appease the
Bishop, the dozen secular priests were sacked, but the Bishop did not get
control. Perhaps to atone for his father, Swein's
impiety, King Cnut arranged for the building of a
rotunda to the
William of Malmesbury, King Canute
also allowed the town of maybe a thousand people to be surrounded by a ditch
and ramparts, becoming a burh or borough. However the
town was of less significance than others in
Canute had given the town a terrific leg up by his local reforms, and had endowed the new religious house with lavish gifts. If the name of the saint had now begun to define the town as well as the religious house, then it is likely that its new status as a burh would result in the name St Edmund's Burh now starting to be used over the next few years.
organisation of local government at this time is extremely vague to us today.
However, we need to remember that anglo-Saxon
These new burh dues may have included Hadgovel, or the rent of one penny for each measure of land inside the town, probably for the right to occupy a burgage tenement or dwelling. This land could be inherited by its occupier's kin, but only on payment of a lump sum.
Exactly what happened to Bederic's own rights as the local lord, at this time is not known. However, the documents do not seem to imply that he, (or his rightful successors), lost any of their old rights. Thus Bederic may have continued to receive his own local dues. These may have included Landmol, a rent on farmland in the town fields, which lay outside the town boundary. Jocelin tells us that by his time, from every acre of the nine hundred that had been Bederic's, the payment was two pence. By the time of Jocelin of Brackland, in the late 12th century, this rent was collected by the reeve and paid to the sacrist.
Bederic himself was either paying some of this cash over to Queen Emma, who had the rights in west Suffolk, or he was providing other duties and fees to her as landlord in chief. We do not know how the old Saxon system of dues had been altered by Viking rule.
Cnut had to defend
Cnut visited the Pope and various shrines and was an enthusiastic Christian and patron of the arts, giving many splendid gifts to other religious houses, as well as to Bury.
Cnut returned to
The new round church of stone was consecrated at Bury, situated to the north of where the Chancel of the Norman Abbey would later be built.
King Cnut died and was buried at
Although viking influence lingered on, the
Viking Age in
King Harold Harefoot died and was succeeded by Harthacnut who was condemned by the Anglo-Saxon Chroniclers for increasing taxes and "he never did anything kingly." He was apparently prone to illness.
Danish rule finally ended when Harthacnut collapsed and died and was succeeded by King Edward the Confessor.
Edward the Confessor
He was an Anglo-Saxon,
being Aethelred's son, but for 25 years he had lived
Edward never produced an heir and the problem of succession was to become acute in 1066.
Edward was also
responsible for first bringing French ideas and Norman noblemen into English
life. One such man was his Physician, Baldwin, eventually to become Abbot at
Since her marriage to Canute, the area of West Suffolk had become administered as a unit for Queen Emma, the mother of Edward the Confessor. It had come to her as part of her dowry.
Confessor was Queen Emma's second son by Ethelred. Emma had married Canute after Ethelred died and had another son with Canute. Emma had supported Canute's
son over Edward and so when Edward came to the throne, he stripped his mother
of her jewellery and her income from
Bury in 1066
The old word hadgovel or hawgable dates from these Danelaw years, and supports the idea that the town had an administrative life at least as old as Cnut. Hadgovel was the Bury form of the word and represents the penny rent paid for each measure, or burgage plot, of town land. This rent persisted into medieval times and was often the cause of disputes with the abbey. It was payable only in the oldest parts of the town, which dated back to the old Anglo Saxon layout, around the area of the old market, what we now call St Mary's Square.
It is not clear what portion of local rents had previously flowed through to Emma, as part of her West Suffolk income, and therefore it equally unclear which local income streams were now diverted into the abbey of St Edmund. But at some point in time the hadgovel rents were assigned to the abbey and this is a point in time at which this could have happened.
The High Street
of Bury was probably parallel with the river in 1044, running more or less
By contrast with
The Sheriff (or
Shire Reeve) of Suffolk was left with the eleven hundreds remaining in East
Suffolk over which he exercised the powers of taxation, and this area became
called the Geldable, and its tax revenues went to the
crown. Because geldable
Edward the Confessor also granted the town of St Edmund its own mint, and its currency bears the first documented use of the name St Edmunds Bury. Bury is from burh, a fortified town, so probably, by now, the town had built a ditch and ramparts on its borders where it was not protected by the River's Lark and Linnet and the Tayfen. Canute had given permission for such fortifications in 1020. The town wall would not be built for perhaps another hundred years.
The first known
document to use the names
By about 1050 it
is possible that
Harold Godwine died and Edward's position was strengthened at
home. He invaded
Abbot Leofstan of Bury built the
At some time
around 1060, Abbot Leofstan decided to ensure the
saints' body was still clean and not being neglected. The old monk Ailwin was called to verify the body, as he had taken
charge of it back in 1010 when he took it to
Earl Harold Godwinson, son of Godwine,
visited William of
There were now
three powerful claims to the English throne, all threatening the position of
King Edward. They were Harold Godwinson himself,
Harold Hardrada of
According to Dugdale's Monasticum Anglicanum it was in 1065 that the Confessor allowed Abbot Leofstan the right to mint money. It is possible that a
royal mint already existed in Bury, and that it was merely transferred to the
Abbot. This confirms Bury's importance as a trading centre before the conquest.
In later years the mint was set up in Le Mustowe, or
King Edward the
Confessor died, and the Chronicles say that he
committed the kingdom to Harold Godwinson. Harold
seized power immediately and both in
At Bury, Abbot Leofstan died and Abbot Baldwin was appointed and began to build a new church.
crowned on 6th January in
Soon after, Hardrada and Tostig (Harolds' exiled brother) invaded in the North from
Death of King Harold
September, the long feared attack of Williams' fleet was launched from the