Bromborough

Please note this is taken from an interview with Prof Stephen Harding on the ‘Wirral’ website: http://www.wirral-mbc.gov.uk/Vikings/AskSteve/BattleBrun.shtml

By 937 A.D. 35 years after the initial settlement, Wirral may have been the site of a huge battle between the Anglo Saxons coming from the South and Midlands and a combined army of Viking raiders coming from Dublin and their Scottish allies coming mainly from Strathclyde. No-one is quite sure where this battle took place, although the majority of experts favour Wirral. The main reason is that the contemporary record of the Battle – the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle describes the battle having taking place (around Brunanburh) – which happens to be the old name for Bromborough. Indeed if Wirral Borough Council – or whatever it was called in the Middle Ages – hadn’t decided to change the name then I suppose there would be no debate!

The Chronicle also explains how some of the raiders escaped to Dublin from Dingesmere – which has now been explained as the “mere” or “marr” (meaning wetland/ marshland) travellers coming by sea to the Viking Thing parliament at Thingwall. Some later writers, writing about the battle over 100 years after the battle took place (in some cases 200-300 years, and not always with the purpose of providing an accurate historical account) have given other names for the battle site and this has caused confusion amongst modern historians, leading some to believe the battle may have taken place elsewhere, some suggesting Yorkshire and some suggesting Scotland. The contemporary (i.e. written at the same time as the battle took place) records are however quite clear and experts such as Nicholas Higham, Professor of History at the University of Manchester, the late John McNeill Dodgson who wrote the comprehensive series “Place Names of Cheshire”, Dr. Paul Cavill, Research Fellow of the English Place Name Society, Dr. Jayne Carroll, Lecturer in English at the University of Leicester and Judith Jesch, Professor of Viking Studies at the University of Nottingham are all in little doubt that the battle took place “around Bromborough”. After the battle the armies (or what was left of them) would have returned to their bases, including the English: the West Saxon English to the south, the Mercian English to the Midlands. Some have argued that, despite the Anglo-Saxon propaganda, the English victory was only partial and indeed it was not long after they were defeated.

If the battle took place in Wirral the extent of local involvement from the Scandinavian and neighbouring English and Welsh is also a matter of debate: by 937AD there may have been some degree of integration of the local communities. If they had any sense they would have stayed well clear of the battle. Interestingly, if the later reports are to be believed, the Icelandic Saga called Egil’s Saga reports Vikings fighting on both sides –with Scots and with the English, which must have been very confusing.

An excellent account of the argument for the location of ‘Dingesmere’  can be found here: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/-sczsteve/JEPNS_paper.PDF