Brunanburgh - also Britain's forgotten battle.
What's the book about?
Despite getting 78 lines in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle the Battle of Brunanburgh has been ignored by mainstream history. The Chronicle mentions no location as it was so well known at the time. The victor King Athelstan was the first monarch to briefly unify England and feel entitled to call himself Rex Totius Britannae, king of all Britain, because of Constantine King of the Scots, and the Welsh kings swearing fealty to him. This all fell apart on his death in 939 and Anglo-Saxon England began a descent into the chaos which led eventually to the Norman invasion of 1066. The Normans were the real unifiers of England and their successive historians seemed to have hushed up the life of the first king and his society who nearly created Great Britain, and over seven centuries before the one we know.
The novel explores the history of the battle and its background, and combines it with action around the lives of some of the real historical characters and scenes on the battlefield itself. The real and fictional characters tell the real story which is an attempt to set out the case for the battlefield being located in South Yorkshire. Brunanburgh was the Roman fort of Morbium at Templeborough in Rotherham, the site of the former rolling mill which is now Magna, and it was built of the brown sandstone found in the area. Nothing remains on site of the fort. A few stones and other artefacts from Thomas May's 1916 excavation and rescue can be viewed at Rotherham's Clifton Park Museum. A recent re-excavation discovered nothing of consequence. Both digs showed no evidence of the Saxon rebuilding ordered by Lady Ethelfreda of Mercia (King Athelstan's aunt and daughter of Alfred the Great) around AD 910. The fort was part of a defensive system running from the Rivers Dee and Mersey to the Humber.
Many historians have considered that the battle was either at or near the fort. In 1933 JH Cockburn thought place name evidence located it there. Michael Wood in his book and tv series In Search of England, favours a site a Brinsworth, possibly that of the former Sheffield Airport, about a half mile away. Other historians support the case for it being along the border of Mercia and Northumbria. After all the pupose of the Scots and Irish Vikings invading was to put their man Earl Anlaf on the throne of Northumbria. His supporters in Yorkshire had invited him to come over from Dublin, so its likely he would have gone to them in York and then move south to meet Athelstan's challenge. The Medieval historians agree he put his fleet in the Humber and the Scots marched down the eastern side of the hills. This was the route in reverse Athelstan had used to invade them in 935.
Most of all I was influenced by local historians Leslie and Sylvia Becket. Their original investigation of Latin and other texts at the Gilbert Collection in Dublin indicated a site around Rotherham. Whilst in my work of fiction, there is considerable action at the fort of Brunanburgh, the main battle is elsewhere and spread out. There seems no real evidence to me that Medieval battles were fought like games of chess on fields enhazelled. They were more like modern battles than people imagine.
Me and Morrigan my cat
Me and the book!
Who am I?
I am not a mainstream historian for a start but I have read a lot of it down the years from schooldays and schoolbooks in the 1950s to the Internet of last week. Like RH Tawney in his book "What is History?", I tend to view history as a social science and not just narrative. We should be learning from it, if only not to keep making the same well-recorded mistakes. Alas, we are not in my view, and it ought to be compulsory learning for politicians, especially those who like taking the country to war in far off places. The historical struggles in our own land should be example enough for most sensible people if they had the opportunity to learn about them. Britain is littered with battlefields great and small. They need both remembering and protection if they have the remnants of the battle.
Brunanburgh's battlefield is most likely lost for ever under Rotherham's built-up area, so only its memory can remain.
I can give presentations to local groups about the real case for a South Yorkshire site for this battle.
For what I do for a living, see the links below.
If you are interested in the real King Athelstan, read Paul Hill's book, The Age of Athelstan, Britain's Forgotteen History or alternatively the September 2011 edition of the magazine Hisory Today. Sarah Foot, Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Christ Church Oxford has written and interesting article, Giving Life to Athelstan. She is the author of Athelstan, First King of England. Yale University Press 2011.
I believe the article may be read on
My own view of the real history of the period around the battle can be read on Rotherham Archaelogy Society's web site.
and go to Brunanburgh in the menu.
This book can be purchased the following ways:
1. Direct from the Author David Anson using, cheque, or cash.
2. You can order it from your local Waterstones or any bookshop.
3. In e-book format. This can be downloaded directly from the publishers
website. Please click on the link below and search for
ISBN 978-1-4520-5444 (e)
4. Directly from David Anson when you hear him speak at promotional events.
David is also willing to sign your book for you.
5. The book is available in Rotherham town centre from Tourist Information in All Saints Square and from Philip Howard Books in Wickersley.
David has 38 years experience of being a town planner for a Local Authority. He now sits at the other side of the table for you and offers advice on planning issues to a wide range of clients. He can advise you on, on-site power generation and green building techniques.
He can be contacted at:
We are also beekeepers.
David is also a member of The Friends of Wincobank Hill.
Wincobank Hill has on it an Iron Age Fort dated possibly to 400-600 BC.
The hill may also have been fortified by the Saxons as part of the defence system on the Don Valley. The site is used as a location in my book, artistic licence notwithstanding.
It was last used in World War 2 as a base for anti-aircraft guns and the remains of that use is part of its archaeology and worthy of protection.
Details of the Friends and what they do can be found at:
For a discussion on line of the location of the battle log on to: