World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Battle of the Winwaed

Article Id: WHEBN0000240071
Reproduction Date:

Title: Battle of the Winwaed  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Penda of Mercia, Æthelhere of East Anglia, Oswiu, Battle of Maserfield, 650s
Collection: 650S Conflicts, 650S in England, Battles Involving Mercia, Battles Involving Northumbria
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Battle of the Winwaed

Battle of the Winwaed

Stained glass window from the cloister of Worcester Cathedral showing the death of Penda of Mercia.
Date 15 November 655/654
Location Possibly the Cock Beck in present-day Yorkshire
Result Northumbrian victory
Belligerents
Northumbria Mercia
Commanders and leaders
Oswiu of Bernicia Penda of Mercia 
Strength
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The Battle of the Winwaed (WelshMaes Gai; Medieval Latin: Strages Gai Campi[1]) was fought on 15 November 655 (or 654) between King Penda of Mercia and Oswiu of Bernicia, ending in the Mercians' defeat and Penda's death.

Contents

  • History 1
  • Battle 2
  • Aftermath 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

History

Although the battle is said to be the most important between the early northern and southern divisions of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain, few details are available. The two armies met on the banks of a river named the "Winwaed", but this river has never been identified. Possibly it was a tributary of the Humber. There is reason to believe it may have been the river now known as Cock Beck in the ancient kingdom of Elmet, which passes Pendas Fields, Leeds, before joining the River Wharfe (which eventually feeds into the Humber). Another possibility is the River Went, a tributary of the River Don, situated to the north of modern-day Doncaster. It could also be in Oswestry or Winwick.[2]

The roots of the battle lay in Penda's success in dominating England through a number of military victories, most significantly over the previously dominant Northumbrians. In alliance with Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd he had defeated and killed Edwin of Northumbria at Hatfield Chase in 633, and subsequently he defeated and killed Oswald of Northumbria at the Battle of Maserfield in 642. Maserfield effectively marked the overthrow of Northumbrian supremacy, and in the years that followed the Mercians apparently campaigned into Bernicia, besieging Bamburgh at one point; the Northumbrian sub-kingdom of Deira supported Penda during his 655 invasion.

Battle

Penda, after gathering allies from East Anglia and Wales, marched with a force led by "thirty warlords".[3] Oswiu, who was Oswald's brother but had succeeded him only in Bernicia, the northern part of Northumbria, was besieged by Penda's forces at a place called Urbs Iudeu (which has been identified, perhaps dubiously, with Stirling[4]) in the north of his kingdom. Iedeu appears as a historic name for Jedburgh, also located in the north of the kingdom.[5] Apparently Oswiu was desperate enough to offer a great deal of treasure to Penda in exchange for peace. Although the sources are unclear, it is likely that some sort of agreement was reached at Iudeu: although Bede says that Oswiu's offers of treasure were rejected by Penda, who, Bede says, was determined to destroy Oswiu's people "from the highest to the lowest", he does mention that Oswiu's young son Ecgfrith was being held hostage by the Mercians, perhaps as part of a deal. The Historia Brittonum contradicts Bede regarding the treasure, saying that Penda distributed it among his British allies, which would presumably mean that he accepted it. The recorded events may be interpreted to mean that Penda and his army then began marching home, but for some reason the two armies met and fought at a place called the River Winwaed. Breeze (2004) argues that Penda and his army would have been in a difficult strategic location along the Went during their withdrawal, giving Oswiu a good opportunity to attack. It is almost certain that the small (perparvus, according to Bede) Northumbrian forces were considerably outnumbered by the Mercians and their allies. According to Bede, before the battle Oswiu prayed to God and promised to make his daughter a nun and grant twelve estates for the construction of monasteries if he was victorious.

Penda's army was apparently weakened by desertions. According to the Historia Brittonum, Penda's ally Cadafael ap Cynfeddw of Gwynedd (thereafter remembered as "Cadomedd" (="battle-shirker")) abandoned him, along with his army, and Bede says that Aethelwald of Deira withdrew from the battle to await the outcome from a place of safety. Penda was soundly defeated, and both he and his ally, the East Anglian King Aethelhere, were killed, with thirty allied leaders of warbands (duces regii).[6] The battle was fought by the river in the midst of heavy rains, and Bede says that "many more were drowned in the flight than destroyed by the sword". Bede mentions that Penda's head was cut off. Writing in the 12th century, Henry of Huntingdon expanded his version of Bede's text to include supernatural intervention and remarked that Penda, in dying violently on the battlefield, was suffering the same fate he had inflicted on others during his aggressive reign.[7]

Aftermath

The battle had a substantial effect on the relative positions of Northumbria and Mercia. Mercia's position of dominance, established after the battle of Maserfield, was destroyed, and Northumbrian dominance was restored; Mercia itself was divided, with the northern part being taken by Oswiu outright and the southern part going to Penda's Christian son Peada, who had married into the Bernician royal line (although Peada survived only until his murder in 656). Northumbrian authority over Mercia was overthrown within a few years, however.

Significantly, the battle marked the effective demise of Anglo-Saxon paganism; Charles Plummer, in 1896, described it as "decisive as to the religious destiny of the English".[8] Penda had continued in his traditional paganism despite the widespread conversions of Anglo-Saxon monarchs to Christianity, and a number of Christian kings had suffered death in defeat against him; after Penda's death, Mercia was converted, and all the kings who ruled thereafter (including Penda's sons Peada, Wulfhere and Æthelred) were Christian.

References

  1. ^ Annales Cambriae [B], p. 8.
  2. ^
  3. ^ duces regnii XXX, qui ad auxilium uenerant in Bede, book III, ch. 24.
  4. ^ Bede, the Firth of Forth, and the Location of Urbs Iudeu James E Fraser in Scottish Historical Review Vol 87, 2008
  5. ^
  6. ^ , restores to Penda Bede's phrase auctor ipse belli, the "author of the conflict himself", which some scholars had applied to Aethelhere.
  7. ^ Noted by Prestwich (1968), p. 91.
  8. ^ Venerabilis Baedae Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, ed. Charles Plummer, Oxford, 1896; p. 184.

Further reading

External links

  • Bede's account of the battle
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.