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Waterloo, Hastings, Culloden and Agincourt are battles well known to British people as those that
shaped our nation today.  What many people do not know is that there is another great battle which
formed the backbone Englishness as we know it.  The battle which has been shrouded in mystery for
over a thousand years was possibly the bloodiest battle fought in Great Britain; which claimed the lives
of five kings, seven earls, many noblemen and thousands of warriors in a single day.  On a forgotten
battlefield in 937AD, a power struggle the likes of which the British isles had never seen took place, this
was the Battle of Brunanburh.

Although we cannot be certain as physical proof has not yet surfaced, most evidence points to the Wirral
as the site of the great battle.  The only clues to the battle’s location were two place names recorded in
a contemporary account in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.  The first is the word
“Brunanburh”, which is
formally believed to be Bromborough today.  When translated from Norse this would mean “Brunnas
Fort”, which incidentally is believed to be the site of Poulton Hall.  The second is the word “Dingesmere”.  
Ding” refers to the Viking meeting place or “Thing” at modern-day Thingwall in Wirral, which is the site of
the old Viking parliament.  The word would have been pronounced “Ding” by Viking settlers who had
acquired a Celtic accent.  When translated from Norse Dingesmere would then mean “marshland of the
Thing”, a name that warned travellers of the dangerous marshland of the River Dee near by.  We know
that near by is Thingwall which was the site of much Viking activity and when put together this would
mean the marshland near Thingwall.  The Anglo Saxon accounts state that the battle of Brunanburgh
took place on a heath land near a fort, flanked by woods and a river.  At the pivotal point of the battle
the invaders are recorded as having fled over a river into the marshland back to their boats, and across
the sea.    

This account fits perfectly with the site of Wirral.  Experts believe that the battle took place on
Bebbington Heath, near Brunanburgh, (Brunnas Fort) and surrounded by woods (Storeton woods).  The
invader were beaten and fled across a river (The River Dibbin) and back to Dingsmere (marshland near
Thingwall).  No other site in Britain today displays so much compelling evidence of being the site of the
battle and having been researched by many leading professors and linguistics experts, the translations
have been described as “rock solid”.  The man at the forefront of promoting Wirral as the site of the
Battle is Professor Stephen Harding.  He is a native to Wirral and has been researching the Vikings for
over 30 years.  So why is there no evidence so far ? Professor Stephen Harding believes that the battle
site now lies under Brackenwood Golf Course.  


The Leaders & Armies involved:
In 937AD the country that is now Britain was divided into many kingdoms and fiefdoms, each with its
own king or ruler.  


The Anglo-Saxons (English)
The King of Wessex was Athelstan.  He ruled most of what is now southern and central England, known
as Wessex and Mercia, as well as parts of the north.  His lineage was West-Saxon.

The Celts (Scottish)
King Constantine II Mac Aed was a Celt and King of Alba.  Broadly speaking, Alba was what is now
Scotland.  
King Owein of Strathclyde was another Celt, ruling lands in south-west Scotland, Cumbria and parts of
Wales.

The Norse (Viking & Irish)
The Earls of Northumbria ruled what is now Northumberland and northern Yorkshire, they were of Viking
descent.
King Olaf Guthfrithsson another Viking was at the time, King of Dublin.  He ruled over most of the
inhabited parts of Ireland and was a separate army and faction to the Northumbrian Vikings.  

In the late 8th and the 9th Centuries, Vikings from Scandinavia colonised the coastal areas of what is
now northern Scotland, Ireland and England.  Gradually they extended their territory southwards,
conquering and colonising as they went.  They forced many Celts to the western fringes and began to
take many important town in northern England.  
At this time southern and central England was controlled by Anglo-Saxons based in the Kingdoms of
Wessex and in allegiance with surrounding fiefdoms, including Mercia.  The Saxons also drove the Celts
of England and Wales to the western fringes of the country.  King Alfred of Wessex spent much of his
reign fighting the Vikings on the northern borders and learned much about military tactics and fighting
techniques.  By the time he died in 899AD the Vikings controlled most of the north and east of England.  
Alfred's son, Edward the Elder took his fathers place and continued to exert control over the borders and
continued the campaigns against the Vikings until his death in 924AD.   Heir to his kingdom was his son
"Athelstan".  Having learned much about waring from his grandfather Alfred the great and his farther
Edward the Elder, Athelstan was highly motivated and well educated in warfare and the ways of the
Vikings.  With this knowledge in tow he set off on his own campaigns achieving relative success in 928AD
having captured and defeated the Viking Kingdom of York.  However the Vikings had their sights firmly
set on central and southern England and the Celts had ambitions to regain lands lost to the Anglo-
Saxons.  After the defeat by Athelstan of the Vikings at York, Constantine regarded Athelstan the King of
Wessex, as a real threat to his monarchy.  So he set about forging links with neighbouring rulers with
the intention of protecting his own lands known as Alba.  Constantine married his daughter to Olaf
Guthfrithsson, which also brought the Earls of Northumbria into line alongside Constantine.  Owein of
Strathclyde was related to Constantine and took little persuasion to join the King of Alba in a pre-
emptive strike against Athelstan.  

A combined Celtic-Norse force, under Constantine and Olaf, marched south into England, seeking battle
against Athelstan.  Athelstan marched north to meet them, collecting warriors along the way through
Wessex and Mercia.  It is this which makes the Battle of Brunanburh significant; Athelstan rallied all the
Saxon noblemen in Wessex and Mercia to his cause for the first time. Thereafter they were bound to
Athelstan and he became King of a united Saxon nation.  Both armies marched until they reached a site
upon which to do battle.  If experts are correct then the Saxon forces lined up a shield wall towards the
back of the Bebbington Heath.  The Celtic - Norse invaders strategically would have made their stand on
a slight ridge just below the woods on Storeton Hill, looking down over what is now Brackenwood golf
course.  The Chronicle recounts how the two armies advanced, forming a wall with their wooden
shields.  The wealthy had swords and chain mail; the rank and file had to rely on short stabbing spears,
daggers and simple helmets.  The armies fought relentlessly from morning until the on set of night.  It is
also worth noting that the battle of Brunanburgh is considered unique as it is suggested that at one
point the West Saxons deployed a cavalry charge, contradicting popular belief that the early English
fought in infantry-based armies.  It is of course worth noting that cavalry were still a relatively
insignificant part of the Saxon force and may well have been mercenaries from any number of other
kingdoms.  The battle took its toll on both sides and one participant quoted afterwards "Never yet on
this island has there been a greater slaughter".  During the battle thousands of men were killed
including a renowned Saxon Bishop, five Saxon kings, seven earls from the Celtic Norse alliance, King
Owein of Strathclyde and Prince Callech, who was Constantine's son and heir.  At the pivotal point the
Saxons broke through the line and began the pursuit of the invaders, chasing them up what is now the
fairway of the par 4 11th hole.  It is at this point the invaders are recorded as having fled over the river
and through the marshland back to the boats in Dingsmere.  Olaf fled home over the Irish Sea by boat
and Constantine fled back to Alba with a small band of survivors to protect him on the journey.  
Athelstan was victorious and the essence of what it means to be English seems to be the legacy of this
great battle.  Athelstan succeeded in uniting all the tribes of Saxons in Wessex and Mercia, at the same
time as ensuring that the seemingly inexorable march of the Vikings into England was halted and the
Celts remained firmly in their place in the west of Britain.  Despite subsequent invasions and
colonisations of England from the continent, the Anglo-Saxon roots of the nation were consolidated on
that day in 927.  
Click to visit the website
Battle Site
Taken from Viking School
Projects - Key Stage 2/3