|In February members Alan Mills and Richard Hunt gave a talk with the intriguing title ‘Here, there and who knows where?’ The subject was King Athelstan and his ‘great battle’ of 937AD. Athelstan, who ruled the Anglo-Saxons from 924, is hardly a household name, unlike his grandfather Alfred the Great. He is, however, often regarded as the first King of all England, following his defeat of the Viking Kingdom of York and the submission of the Scots and Welsh kings in 927. Athelstan had the inscription ‘Rex Totius Brittanniae’ minted on his coinage.
Athelstan waged war several times during his reign, taking his army to the far north of Scotland in 934. At the Battle of Brunanburh in 937, Athelstan and his half-brother Edmund, defeated the combined forces of the Irish Vikings led by Anlaf Guthfrithson, the Scots under King Constantine, and the Strathclyde Welsh under King Owain.
Exactly where the battle took place is unknown. Nearly thirty possibilities have been suggested to date. Different sources and translations spell the name in different ways – Brunanburh, Brunnaburh, Brune, Brunandune, Wendune and Brunanwerc are some of these. The most popular contenders for the site are modern day Burnswark in the Scottish Borders, Bromborough in the Wirral, and Burghwallis in South Yorkshire. So far there has been little in the way of archaeological evidence to support the claims, except at Bromborough and even that has been questioned. Alan and Richard presented some of the arguments in favour of these three locations, based on the likely routes of the invading forces and place name evidence. Alan favoured the Scottish site, whilst Richard favoured South Yorkshire. The subject is still being debated amongst academics. After the talk members discussed some of the other contenders for the battle site. It is probable that unless fresh, convincing evidence emerges the issue might never be resolved!