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Wiltshire Community History

Wiltshire History Questions Search Results

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Question Date :

Monday 22nd June 2015 09:36

Question:
I am interested in the history of the Vikings but wondered if they ever reached Salisbury.
I have lots of information about when they were in York and the north but it made me think about which other British towns and cities they occupied.
If you have any general information I would be most grateful as I have found very little on the Internet.

Answer:
You need to look at the distinction between the area of England and Wales that was under Danelaw – northern and eastern England with York as the most important centre – and the western and southern parts that were seasonally attacked and raided. At the time of King Alfred Wessex became the centre of resistance to the Danes but in Saxon England Salisbury, or Old Sarum, was not such an important a place in the county as it became in later medieval times. Wilton was the capital of Wiltshire, Malmesbury was important for its abbey and Chippenham, along with many other places were royal estates. The Danes attacked up river valleys such as that of the Frome and Avon reaching most parts of Wiltshire when raiding but did not occupy the county for any length of time.

In 878, on Twelfth Night, the Danes from occupied eastern England attacked Alfred at Chippenham during the Christmas feasting causing his retreat to the marshes of Athelney in Somerset and later that year his victory at Ethandune (Edington), on the northern scarp of Salisbury Plain, was decisive, while in 871 his final battle in Wiltshire was at Wilton.

Later Danish rule did extend over the whole of England between 1017 and 1066 when Cnut (Canute) became king of England and was succeeded by his son; in 1016 Cnut had fought a battle against the Saxon Edmund Ironside at Sherston in north western Wiltshire. From 1017 England was ruled by Danes but I don’t think that Wiltshire would have been considered as occupied in a military sense.

Bibliography:
Alfred the Good Soldier; his life and campaigns, by John Peddie (Millstream Books, 1989)
Alfred's Kingdom: Wessex and the South 800 - 1500, by David Hinton ( Dent, 1977)

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