Home » Lancashire » Brunanburh and Blackburn by the Rev. T.C. Porteus
"One of the most widespread tales among the legends of the Northmen," says Porteus evocatively, "is the story of the Everlasting Fight." The ubiquity of Brunanburh in insular sources, as well as Icelandic material, qualifies it as an exemplar.
A summary of the argument, with particular reference to the similarity between the Winshaed and Winheath of Egil's Saga and Symeon of Durham's Wendune on the one hand and the Wenshead region of Darwen Moor on the other.
An introduction to Egil's Saga, regarded by Porteus as a key source on the battle.
An overview of the preparations for the battle from Egil's Saga. According to Porteus' interpretation, Athelstan made camp at Bolton, while Olaf mustered his troops at Blackburn.
A skirmish involving the brothers Egil and Thorolf alongside Alfgeir of Northumbria and the Britons Hring and Adils. Hring is killed, while Alfgeir, defeated, flees to Earls Ness (identified with Ness on the Wirral) and hence to Normandy.
The major portion of the battle results in the death of Thorolf at the hands of Adils, who is subsequently slain by a vengeful Egil. Egil buries Thorolf while Athelstan returns to his encampment.
Egil is rewarded by Athelstan at the victory feast.
An overview of the common Brunanburh-Burnswork theory.
The major thrust of Porteus' argument against the Burnswork theory involves miracle stories associating Athelstan with St. John of Beverley's shrine.
Porteus argues that the "Scottiswath" associated by Neilson and Bremner, major proponents of the Burnswork theory, cannot be the Solway as they would require: it is the Forth.
Porteus argues that Burnswork proponents have confused Brunanburh with an earlier campaign in AD 934, in which Athelstan defeated the Scots and conquered "as far as Dunfoeder and Wertermor." This is the battle alluded to in the account of Athelstan's visit to St. John of Beverley's shrine.
Items in Egil's Saga stated to support the Burnswork theory are also applicable to a Blackburn with Darwen location.
Porteus argues that Bolton, being putatively larger than Burnswork, would be a better match for Athelstan's encampment, as Burnswork would not have been able to accomodate the number of troops stated to have joined Athelstan's cause.
The term borg, as applied in Egil's Saga, suggests a town rather than a fortified site such as Burnswork.
Originally at the end of Porteus' articles, this is a translation of the entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle concerning Brunanburh.
An examination of the Brun and Win/Wen toponyms associated with the battle in various sources.
More on Winheath, Winswood and Win.
Is Winheath identified? A consideration of Wenshead on Darwen Moor.
Wenshead identified as the battle site, with Brunanburh being the closest significant settlement.
An attempt to explain how the name Brun (in Brunanburh) became Blackburn.
The name Win as a river name is connected to the River Darwen.
A consideration of the historical use of the terms Wenshead and Wensyde in Darwen and Tockholes, and a note about Wensley Fold near the River Darwen west of Blackburn.
The history of the names for Wenshead and an attempt to associate the Darwen Head of 1699 (near Hollinshead Hall, southern Tockholes) with the moor as a whole.
The battlefield is located on the portion of the moor east of Stepback Brook and south of the modern Jubilee Tower.
Many names from the area of the town of Darwen suggest the area was formerly extensively wooded. Porteus associates this area with the Winswood of Egil's Saga.
The Ashleigh Barrow once stood in a part of modern-day Darwen. Porteus suggests that Egil's brother Thorolf was buried here. Torhawe, mentioned in a source dating from AD 1410 as a location in Turton south of Darwen, is another candidate.
A more detailed examination of the history of Bolton, including the tradition that Smithills Hall once housed Saxon kings.
More on Blackburn as Anlaf's base of operations.
A suggestion that Brunesburh/Blackburn was one of the burhs built by Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, in AD 910.
Brunanburh identified as the Bremesburig built by Æthelflæd after the defeat of the Danish forces at Teotanhaele.
The Jervaulx Chronicle credits Æthelflæd with building a monasterium at Brunnesburg. Bremesburh dismissed as a copyist's error based upon the Roman name for Ribchester, Bremetennacum.
A consideration of why a burh was needed at Blackburn.
Much of the Anglo-Saxon settlement in South Lancashire was Mercian by nationality. This was particularly so after AD 923.
Agmund the Hold, one of the Danish host's leaders in the war against Æthelflæd, possibly gave his name to Amounderness north of the River Ribble. South Lancashire, then, particularly is eastern portion, would be something of a buffer zone. Additionally, the Cuerdale Hoard is introduced.
Porteus attempts to dismiss the claim that the Cuerdale Hoard was deposited by a fleeing Northman in AD 911.
A number of the Alfred coins in the Cuerdale Hoard interpreted as commemorative coins or Viking forgeries.
Porteus discusses the coins of "Cnut" from the Cuerdale Hoard.
An attempt to find Olaf and Athelstan at Cuerdale and a summary of the argument for a post-Brunanburh deposition.
The Cuerdale Hoard invoked as evidence for a site south of the Ribble for Brunanburh. Mention is also made of the evidence for a battle at Tockholes, conventionally dated to the English Civil War in AD 1644.
A look at the folk etymology of Stepback Brook, which suggests that Oliver Cromwell gave it the name by ordering his forces to "Step Back!"
Porteus briefly summarises his argument and conclusions.