Lost Saxon battlefields Mearcredesburnan Steðe - Aelle's battle 485AD.

Anglo Saxon
History
Map Position

This map shows the position of locations containing 'Merecredesburnan, Aldrington, Pevensey, Shoreham' centered on Aldrington in City Of Brighton And Hove.

Map Logic

Lost Saxon battlefields Mearcredesburnan Steðe - Aelle's battle 485AD.

The forest of Andredsweald is shown in lightly shaded green with a green border , which was impassable except where Roman Roads or rivers cut through it.

Roman roads are shown in black plotted from Ivan D Margary 'Roman Roads in Britain' published in 1955.

The red roads are taken from Ivan D Margary 'Roman ways in the Weald' published in 1948.

The Blue lines show the extent of the tidal rivers with the blue shaded areas showing tidal salt marshes as it would have been in Saxon times(aproximately 5 metres above todays high tide marks).

The dark areas jutting into the sea show the original land based on the current erosion rates(aprox 0.8 mtrs/year).


 
Icon Key:
Town Village
Farm/House Battle Site
 

Extract from the Anglo Saxon Chronicles 485AD

Original :- Her Ælle gefeaht wiþ Walas neah Mearcredesburnan steðe.
Translation :- Here Aelle defeated the 'Welsh' near Mearcredesburnan stede.

Where was Mearcredesburnan stede, lets try to translate.

   mære translates to - the sea or lake(large body of water).
   credes doesnt seem to be an Anglo Saxon word, but a similiar sounding word could have produced a miss copying of 'credes' by one of the later chroniclers with word misspelt from 'cærses'(meaning watercress) to 'credes'
   burnan translates to - a stream or torrent
   steðe translates to the modern day staithe - a bank or shore(landing point).

This would provide the following spelling mærecærsesburnan steðe
So the overall translation could be :- The sea landing point at the watercress stream.

Lets see if we can now locate where Mearcredesburnan stede was.

Firstly we need to see where the high tide level was in Saxon times to work out where the landing point might be.
Please refer to our Sea Level page for our explanation of where the shoreline was at the time.

Aelle is recorded as being king of the Suth Saxons who occupied modern Sussex so the location is likely to have been somewhere in Sussex.

If credes should be cærses(watercress) then to grow it in the old fashioned way would require a constant stream of fresh spring water.

If we accept this, then the location would need to be in Sussex next to the sea with a spring fed stream running into it, there is a location which could be derived from Mearcredesburnan(Mearcærsesburnan) stede by firstly removing the Mearcredes(Mearcærses) to give burnanstede, then to Benestede in the Domesday Book then finally simplifying this to Binsted.

So to our logic this would seem the most plausible location for this battle and is shown as a , so lets look at other information we have.

Some historic context.

From 475AD until 485AD it would seem like the South Saxons were heading west to occupy the land between the Arun and Adur rivers, as they dont seem to expand towards Pevensey until 491AD. Evidence for this expansion from Lancing is seen by the predominance of villages containing ing(nering - fortified place) along the Roman road towards Chichester(Noviomagus Reginorum [The new fields of the Regeni]). It would seem likely that the Saxons kept pushing west and were advancing, building forts, consolidating and repeating this process as the number of ings seems to increase the further west they push, this cycle appears to have been used in Kent and other areas .

As the Saxons pushed the 'Welsh' back to the edge of the Arun, it would seem most likely that the inhabitants of Chichester would have become more and more concerned, so they would have raised a force to prevent the Saxons advancing across the Adur. To this end they would have the force deployed on the Roman Road between the Adur and Chichester(Noviomagus Reginorum), so Binsted is a good point for the defense of Chichester. This is also on one of the old Roman roads so is easy to take an army from Chichester to the Arun valley.

As there doesn't seem to be any more references to Aelle in the west of Sussex, it again seems likely that this battle opened up Chichester to the South Saxons as there seems to be some conjecture that the name Chichester derives from Cissa's Castle, however it could also mean chi(derived from chyae - a crow or jay) and chester(derived from ceaster - roman fortified town).

NEWS - Only recently (Oct 2017) have I come across this from the Binsted website
I quote 'A prehistoric earthwork (ditch and bank) runs north-south through Binsted, and north of the A27 as far as Madehurst on the Downs.' this would give a good reason for Aelle fighting here as he would have had to fight through the earthworks to reach Chichester. For the full details on this please go to the Binsted village website



External References in no particular order :-
Original Manuscripts of the Anglo Saxon Chronicles
Online Anglo Saxon dictionary
Online Etymology dictionary
Open Domesday Book - The first free online copy of the Domesday Book
The Ermine Street Guard Roman re-enactment and research Society
The "Kent A" cadastre - page 5 - Peterson 2002
Archaeologia Cantiana Online
Romney Marsh Research Trust
Romney Marsh the Fifth Continent
VillageNet the reference guide to villages in Kent & Sussex
Global warming Flood Maps
The Anglo Saxon Chronicles
Google Maps - the core of the system
GeoPlaner - Useful site for plotting map data
Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars 55BC(Books 4 & 5)
Wikipedia - Caesar's invasions of Britain
Wikipedia - Portus Istus
The Geography of Claudius Ptolemy (Bill Thayers)
Roman Britain.org
Runetree Beowulf
Bayeux Tapestry Online
The Secrets of the Norman Invasion
Chronicles of John of Worcester
Battle Historic Society
Binsted village website(Mearcredesburnan Steðe)

 

Copyright saxonhistory.co.uk 2013 - 2017
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Author: Simon M       Document Created: 2016-12-28
Data is derived from a number or sources including the Ordnance Survey Gazetter data overlayed onto Google Maps