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The Vikings in Herefordshire

As Herefordshire was on the very western edge of Anglo-Saxon England, and is a landlocked county, it managed to escape much of the fighting and damage brought about by the Vikings.

However, at one point during the 9th century the Vikings were able to make incursions into the south of Herefordshire by sailing up the Severn and Wye rivers. Between AD 866 and 874 King Burgred of Mercia was involved in almost constant battles with the Vikings. By 877 the Vikings were in the position of being able to establish one of their own leaders, Ceolwulf, as king.

In 914 the Vikings made further visits to Herefordshire, and according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle they ravaged Archenfield (the area in the south-west of Herefordshire that had remained British after the Saxon invasions) and took Cameleac, Bishop of Archenfield, as a prisoner. King Edward was forced to ransom the bishop back for the sum of forty pounds.

" ... Here in this year Warwick was built, and a great raiding ship-army came over here from the south from Brittany, and with them 2 jarls, Ohtor and Hroald, and then went around west until they got into the mouth of the Severn and raided in Wales everywhere along the banks where it suited them, and took Cameleac, bishop in Archenfield, and led him to ship with them; and then King Edward ransomed him back for 40 pounds. Then after that the whole raiding-army went up and wanted to go on a raid against Archenfield; then they were met by [the men] from Hereford and from Gloucester and from the nearest strongholds, and fought against them and put them to flight, and killed the jarl Hroald and the other jarl Ohtor's brother and a great part of the raiding-army, and drove them into an enclosure and besieged them there until they gave them hostages ..." Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, AD 915, Worcester Manuscript, p. 99

This attack by the Vikings prompted the Saxons of Hereford and Gloucester to join together and fight the Vikings back, using the element of surprise. The site of this battle is though to be "Killdane Field" (HER reference no. 12549) in Weston-under-Penyard, close to the site of the Roman town of Ariconium.

Other than this there is very little mention of Viking presence in the county, and we are distinctly lacking in Viking place-names or settlements that were characteristic of places elsewhere in the country where the Norsemen's presence was more noticeably felt.

[Original author: Miranda Greene, 2005]