Thursday 12th September 2019 – Marlow lecture: Anglo-Saxon Estates and Defences

Invitation from Marlow Archaeological Society

Anglo-Saxon Estates and Defences: thoughts on Wessex and the Thames Valley

by Dr Ryan Lavelle, Reader in Early Medieval History, University of Winchester

This talk will investigate royal landholding in Anglo-Saxon Wessex, and politics and warfare in 9th to 11th century England. The subject has local appeal as Cookham was a royal estate in the Anglo-Saxon period with an early minster, then a burghal hidage fort of Alfred the Great in defence against Viking raids.

Royal estates were lands used to support kings and their immediate retinue, and lands granted by kings to members of the royal family. Royal minsters had suffered badly from Viking raids and the properties of many were transferred to the Crown. But by the end of the ninth century, Alfred the Great had created a revival in learning and monasticism.  The talk’s focus concentrates on the later Anglo-Saxon period in England (the mid-9th century to the mid-11th century). These centuries were a formative period in early medieval history, in which a state can be seen to have developed from a small kingdom to take control of lowland Britain, and, indeed, exert political influence over much of the rest of Britain.

The defence of the 9th century kingdom of Wessex under King Alfred against the ‘Great Viking Army’ is one of the major military achievements of early medieval history. While the guerrilla warfare in the Somerset marshes and the battle of Edington are characteristic of Alfred’s military abilities, his definitive physical achievement was a series of some 30 well-structured fortifications (known as burhs) across the kingdom. The most local burh to us is Sceaftesege (Sashes) at Cookham, which was closely linked to its nearest neighbour, the wealthy and important burh at Wallingford, the remains of which still dominate the town.

An internationally-recognised expert in Anglo-Saxon Winchester and King Alfred, Ryan is the author of the award-winning book Alfred’s Wars: Sources and Interpretations of Anglo-Saxon Warfare in the Viking Age.  He was historical advisor for The Last Kingdom, the hit BBC series based on Bernard Cornwell’s novels, telling the story of King Alfred and the birth of England.

Main Room, Liston Hall, Marlow  SL7 1DD  at 8pm 

A shared talk with AiM, organised by MAS

Pay at the door: Members of MAS/AiM £3, Visitors £4.50, full-time students £1.50 Free parking is available after 7pm adjacent to the Liston Hall All queries, including membership and fieldwork, tel: 01628 523896. http://www.marlowarchaeology.org/talks.php

Photograph courtesy of Hugh Mothersole