England, made in Sheffield?

Posted April 24th, 2016 in Blogs by admin

England, from Engleland, the land seized and settled by Germanic people who migrated there from northern Europe.

There’s not much said of “England” until about a hundred years before the Norman conquest in 1066AD, and without two major events, both of which probably occurred in Sheffield, we might never have heard of it at all.

At school we all learned that according to Bede, writing around 731AD, it was the Angles and Saxons from northern Germany, and the Jutes from Jutland, that kicked off the process of English settlement, much to the annoyance of the Welsh. This continued from about 450AD to 700AD. These Germanic settlers divided the land into several small kingdoms which survived in one form or another until about 927AD.

It was Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, who created England by unifying Mercia and Wessex, the last two remaining old Anglo Saxon kingdoms. But, he could not have done this, but for two major Sheffield events.

The first of these occurred in 829AD when King Egbert of Wessex accepted tribute from the Northumbrian king and several other lesser kings at Dore in Sheffield. He thus became the Bretwalda, (The Big Boss of Britain) and held sway over lands stretching from the English Channel up to Scotland’s River Clyde.

The second, and decisive event in the creation of England was the Battle of Brunanburh in 937AD. The aforementioned Athelstan led his troops against an army comprising Danes, Scots and Welsh warriors, all madly determined to stop him in his tracks. Athelstan was victorious and England was born.

History tells us when this battle was fought, but unfortunately, nobody is sure where it took place. For years, historians have argued about the location of Brunanburh. To date none has nailed it down. Michael Wood, the historian and TV broadcaster (not the service station on the M5) has suggested Sheffield – Tinsley Wood near Brinsworth to be precise. He points to what he regards as striking similarities between the present day location and the battlefield as described in Egil’s Saga, an ancient poem about the battle. Sir Frank Merry Stenton, the big daddy of Anglo Saxon and Danelaw history, is also thought to have favoured the Tinsley location. Since nobody has come up with a better idea, I say, why not go along with ‘em and agree it was Tinsley in Sheffield?

There can be no doubt whatsoever, that the Battle of Brunanburh was the most significant in Anglo Saxon history before the Norman invasion. What a pity Sheffield doesn’t celebrate its truly unique role in the birth of England.

Another major mystery is precisely what colours the victorious army carried on that blood soaked day, red and white, or blue and white. It’s probably a safe bet to say they had Blades, but there were plenty of Owls around Tinsley Wood at that time too, so that part of the mystery may never be resolved.


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