South Saxons - Aelle's battle of Mearcredesburnan stede in 485AD.

Anglo Saxon History
Map Position

This map shows the position of locations containing '477AD, 485AD' centered on Findon in Sussex.

Map Logic

South Saxons - Aelle's battle of Mearcredesburnan stede in 485AD.

The forest of Andredsweald is shown, 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 purple line joins the two settlements of Lancing and Shoreham.

Icon Key:
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 Anglo Saxon, but could be cæses - meaning watercress
   burnan translates to - a stream or torrent
   steðe translates to the modern day staith - a bank or shore(landing point).

So the overall translation could be :- The sea landing point at the watercress stream.
As the Anglo Saxon Chronicles were written a long time after the events, then the written spelling could be wrong, but tries to re-create the spoken history.

If credes should be cæses(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 stede by firstly removing the Mearcredes to give burnanstede, then to Benestede in the Domesday Book then finally simplifying this to Binstead. So to our logic this would seem the most plausible location for this battle, so lets look at other information we have.

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/mage 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 Binstead is a good point for the defense of Chichester. This is also on one of the old Roman roads so is easy to take a force 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).
This could possibly mean(I am really unsure of this) that the Saxons sacked Chichester and killed every one inside just leaving the crows to circle round around the City - the South Saxons would seem fairly bloodthirsty lot as they killed everyone in the fort at Pevensey in 491AD.

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)
Runetree Beowulf
Bayeux Tapestry Online
The Secrets of the Norman Invasion
Chronicles of John of Worcester
Battle Historic Society
Binsted village website(Mearcredesburnan Steðe)


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Author: Simon M       Document Created: 2016-07-12
Data is derived from a number or sources including the Ordnance Survey Gazetter data overlayed onto Google Maps