Searching for Brunanburh

The battle of Brunanburh, fought in AD 937, was a notable victory for the English king Athelstan. On the losing side stood an alliance of Scots, Vikings and Strathclyde Britons, led by their respective kings. Contemporary annals, later chronicles and an Anglo-Saxon poem have left us in no doubt of the battle’s importance. Some modern historians regard it as a defining moment in the history of Britain: the moment when ‘England’, the territory of the Anglo-Saxons, became a true political entity.

But where was Brunanburh?

Where was Wendune, another place associated with the battle?

Where was the stretch of water called dinges mere – mentioned in the Brunanburh poem – if indeed this is a place-name at all?

Many theories have been put forward to answer these questions, but none has so far solved the mystery. Bromborough on the Wirral peninsula is often promoted as the best candidate for Brunanburh, primarily because it was recorded as Bruneburgh and Brunburg in twelfth-century documents. The place-name argument for Bromborough is certainly strong, but it is by no means decisive. Even if it was once known as Brunanburh, there is no certainty that the great battle of 937 was fought nearby, for we have no reason to assume Brunanburh was a unique place-name in Anglo-Saxon England. There might have been several places so named, in different areas, with not all of them being identifiable today behind modernised forms. It is also worth considering the position of Bromborough relative to tenth-century political geography: the Wirral peninsula is a long way from Scotland. Why would a combined force of Scots and Strathclyders choose to fight a battle there? If these northerners wanted to raid Athelstan’s territory and challenge him to a showdown, they could achieve both objectives without marching so far south.

Professor Andrew Breeze of the University of Navarre has recently proposed Lanchester in County Durham as an alternative candidate for Brunanburh. Andrew draws our attention to the nearby River Browney as a possible source of the Brun– element in the name. Could he be right? Lanchester clearly has a body of support and could even emerge as a strong rival to Bromborough, especially if the local media keep it in the spotlight.

For myself, I prefer to look west – not east – of the Pennines. I’ve said so in a couple of comments at Revealing Words, the fascinating blog run by Anglo-Saxon specialist Karen Jolly. Fans of the Brunanburh debate might like to know a few of us have been discussing the battle at Karen’s blog in the past week or so. Some interesting ideas are being bounced around, with input from various points of the spectrum.

The map below shows Lanchester, Bromborough and other candidates. More places could be added, but then things would get rather cluttered. These five sites should, however, be enough to show that Brunanburh has not yet been identified.


I’ve been working on a Brunanburh-related blogpost of my own, to show where my thoughts are heading at the moment. It means I’ll be dusting off my old thesis to refresh half-forgotten memories of early medieval military logistics, as well as reading some newer stuff. I now have in my possession a pristine copy of the ‘Brunanburh Casebook’, which I’ll be examining closely in the next couple of weeks. Not sure when the blogpost will appear, but it won’t be imminent. It will be preceded by a couple of others from the Senchus backlog, one of which will be on St Columba.

I will also be looking at Brunanburh in my fifth book, which I’m due to start very soon. It’s about the kingdom of Strathclyde and will probably include an entire chapter on the Brunanburh campaign. An announcement of this new project will appear here at Senchus and at my other blog Heart of the Kingdom.

In the meantime, here are some interesting links to explore….

Karen Jolly’s blogpost on Brunanburh (with discussion)

Andrew Breeze on Lanchester as a candidate for Brunanburh

The case for Bromborough, summarised by Michael Livingston, editor of The Battle of Brunanburh: a Casebook.

A concise blogpost from three years ago, written by Diane McIlmoyle.

* * * * * * *

51 comments on “Searching for Brunanburh

  1. badonicus says:

    Very interesting Tim and I hadn’t heard of the Lanchester theory until now. (I grew up playing football against Lanchester St. Bede’s!). Not sure if I’m convinced of this siting, however, but, never say never.

    • Tim says:

      Well, Mak, it’s always good to hear of Northumbrian schools being named after Northumbrian saints. I could even imagine Bede passing through Lanchester on his fairly limited travels. More difficult, though, to picture the battle of 937 being fought there. Still, as you point out, who knows?

  2. Steve says:

    Thanks again Tim ,I Agree , Up North and probably west of the Pennines , my favourite candidate is Brougham ( as proposed by J Jackson of Cumbria Heritage) , which is pronounced Broon or Broom to this very day , close to the treaty site at Eamont Bridge or Dacre and a place with which Athelstan would strike on his very borders if he was to try and teach them a lesson (Athelstan saw this land and coveted its richness).nearby Whinfell means PRECISELY Wendune and Vinheath and also can lie between a river and a forest . I admit that its not particularly near the Sea but neither was Stamford Bridge where if we didnt know precisely where that was we wouldve assumed it was near the coast for Hardradas ships , besides its only 18 miles to Carlisle .Its thought that Brougham was once much larger and the population moved to Penrith after flooding , but something also devastating couldve caused an upheaval. (its also my site for Bregouin) but thats another matter .

    • Steve says:

      In the Brittania Version of the ASC in modern English they call Brunanburh : Brumby!
      Here Athelstan king,
      of earls the lord,
      rewarder of heroes,
      and his brother eke,
      Edmund atheling,
      elder of ancient race,
      slew in the fight,
      with the edge of their swords,
      the foe at Brumby
      note ; in the Ogilvy 1675 map and another Ancient map i noticed they call Brougham “Broom” or Broome. which is pronounced like this to this very day.
      erm …
      I think it was a fleeing rout till dark as the remnants of seamen found their ships at Carlisle.

    • Tim says:

      I think the Cumberland/Westmoreland border area is worth considering in the Brunanburh debate. However, I’d steer clear of any connection between Brun– and the place-name Brougham, which is a straightforward Anglo-Saxon name meaning ‘village by the fort’ (i.e. the Roman fort of Brocavum). Also, none of the modern Whin- names can be confidently pinned to Wendune or Vinheath – too many possible candidates, like looking for a needle in a haystack.

  3. kljolly says:

    Thanks, Tim, for the link to my blog. I am happy to see this conversation shift to Senchus now that you have started your posts. I was about to do a second one, trying to move forward with placing Aldred in that landscape during the 930s.
    I am taken with Steve’s suggestion of Brougham near Eamont Bridge, and not just because I visited the region last summer. What are the usable coastal landing sites in Cumbria for Irish Sea transit? Morecambe Bay (Urswick), Ravenglass, and Workington? At ISAS last summer, Rosemary Cramp called into question the use of any other Cumbrian sites due to silting, noting work by Fiona Edmonds, although the context was 7th-8th century.

    • Tim says:

      I wonder if Fiona Edmonds’ research is published somewhere? Morecambe Bay seems a possible escape-route for Dublin Vikings fleeing from a battle fought in the Penrith area (whether near Brougham or further west). As I’ve said in my reply to Steve above, I still think this area is a realistic part of the Brunanburh debate.
      I hope you go ahead with your follow-up blogpost, Karen. I’m starting to focus on the tenth century for my new book.

      • kljolly says:

        Fiona Edmond, ‘The practicalities of communication between Northumbrian and Irish Churches, c. 635–735’, in J. Graham-Campbell and M. Ryan (eds.) Anglo-Saxon/ Irish Relations before the Vikings, Proceedings of the British Academy 157 (Oxford: OUP, 2009), pp. 129–47.

  4. Thomas Gavin says:

    Hi Tim, looking from the outside objectively a little, Bromborough would have been easily reached via a Sea route by Vikings or Scots from Argyll, it’s also in the middle of all the kingdoms. Furthermore, the combined force seems to be the attacking? so they would probably go to the English Army as aggressors?

    • Tim says:

      I guess it boils down to whether we envisage the Scots arriving by land or sea. If Brunanburh had occurred 200 years earlier, I’d be happy to imagine a war-fleet sailing south from Dal Riata. But the tenth-century ‘Scots’ were ruled from a power-base in the old Pictish heartlands of Perthshire, with royal centres at Forteviot and Scone. I don’t see them retaining enough authority in the West to mount a major seaborne expedition from Argyll. Hebridean Vikings presumably had the western seaways sewn up by then, and some of them maybe answered a call to arms from Anlaf of Dublin in 937, but the Scots surely travelled to Brunanburh by marching overland. Strathclyde may have faced a similar situation, with Gall-Gaidhil longships perhaps controlling the Firth of Clyde from harbours along the Ayrshire coast.

  5. […] Durham (with the possibility of another, at present unnamed option entering the fray by means of a forthcoming post on the rather good Senchus blog). This would integrate the various forms of evidence and accord the same treatment to each, […]

  6. kevin halloran says:

    Tim, I look forward to your piece but hope you will examine all aspects of the battle with a critical eye. For example, what exactly is the evidence that Brunanburh was a ‘notable victory’ for Athelstan? As I argue in my Academia paper this interpretation is open to question. So far as we can tell the kingdoms of Strathclyde and Alba are left unmolested: there is no repetition of the forced appearances of Owain and Causantin at Athelstan’s court as in the year or so following the 934 invasion and there is no record of any tributary payments, hostages or whatever. By 945 the Alban kingdom has recovered to the point where it secures very favourable terms from Edmund in the political settlement following his invasion of Strathclyde.

    Furthermore, if Anlaf suffered a ‘decisive’ defeat how was he able to raid widely in Ireland immediately on his return there and by late 939 organise, recruit and finance a new expedition against the mainland?

    If Brunanburh was a decisive step in the development of England how come the Northumbrians renounced their allegiance and welcomed back a Viking king in early 941; why did the English lose control not only of Northumbria but much of the southern Danelaw as well, only finally re-establishing control of the former almost twenty years after Brunanburh?

    Why was Brunanburh fought? How did we move from a situation whereby after the battle of Corbridge in 918 the English agree a treaty of mutual protection with Alba and Strathclyde against the Vikings, apparently confirmed at Eamont in 927, to the position in 937?

    What were the war aims of the various belligerents? What did Alba and Strathclyde hope to achieve from the Viking alliance? William of Malmesbury (and some later commentators such as Michael Wood) argue that Causantin and Anlaf hoped to ‘usurp’ Athelstan’s kingdom. This is surely hogwash. I have seen no evidence that Causantin aimed even at significant territorial acquisitions in Lothian and Bernicia. He may well have sought to expand political influence in the region and perhaps even exercise a measure of lordship over the earls of Bamburgh but none of this required an invasion below Hadrian’s Wall.

    We know Brunanburh was fought late in the year, probably no earlier than October. If the coalition was down in South Yorks or the Wirral what would they have done if Athelstan, with Winter fast approaching, had simply reinforced the border forts and sat tight?

    Hopefully you’ll provide some answers.

    • Tim says:

      War aims of the protagonists, and the political effects of the battle, are crucial points to consider. I’m probably giving a subconscious nod to the West Saxon poet when I use phrases like ‘notable victory’, but you’re right – we don’t know the repercussions of Brunanburh. It doesn’t seem to have harmed Anlaf’s fortunes, nor does it seem to have hit the Scots and Britons as hard as the campaign of 934. Having said that, I don’t rule out the possibility that Owain of Strathclyde perished on the battlefield of 937.

  7. Steve says:

    thats why they dealt with Dunmail
    few years later , another three or four years we wouldve held our own.

    • Tim says:

      Yes, the early years of the reign of Dyfnwal (‘Dunmail’) are part of the wider picture here. The Life of Cathroe (written c.980) suggests that, in 940 or 941, Strathclyde was on friendly terms with the kings of Alba and York and was not in thrall to Athelstan’s brother Edmund. True, this changed in 945 after Edmund’s thorough ravaging of Strathclyde, but I can imagine Dyfnwal enjoying five or six years of freedom from English overlordship between Athelstan’s death and Edmund’s invasion.

  8. Steve says:

    Carlisle has always been the linchpin

    • kevin halloran says:

      I find the practicalities of 937 intriguing and baffling. Presumably the war is in some sense a response or reprisal for Athelstan’s invasion of Scotland in 934. After that, from September 934 to Christmas 935 the northern kings join the Welsh kings as occasional visitors to the English court where they are described as ‘subreguli’ and ranked first and second above Hywel Dda, King of Dyfed. It appears that Athelstan had established at least a nominal overlordship in Britain. They then disappear and we next hear of them at Brunanburh.
      Anlaf Guthfrithson begins raiding in Ireland in 936 possibly to finance an expedition. But at Christmas 936 he is threatened by the movement of the Limerick Vikings to Lough Ree; on 1 August 937 he attacks and defeats them and sometime thereafter departs for the mainland.
      Between Christmas 935 and the commencement of the 937 campaign we assume there were negotiations between Anlaf and the northern kings. At the same time Anlaf (presumably) recruits widely across the Viking world to assemble the force to take to the mainland.
      Negotiations presumably involve discussions of strategy, arrangements for coordinating the various coalition elements, transportation, logistics etc. They also presumably involve some discussion of war aims: who gets what. It is not immediately apparent that the northern kings and the Vikings would have an agreed preferred strategy. It is certainly difficult to discern that they shared compatible war aims.
      Both the Wirral supporters and Michael Wood argue that the coalition advanced (or arrived) south into friendly territory. But whether in friendly or hostile territory a large army is very destructive and has to move around consuming large amounts of resources as it goes. It seems clear that such a move by the coalition late in the campaigning season absolutely required that the issue be settled by a decisive battle sooner rather than later. They simply could not sustain themselves long term so far from their bases.
      If we assume that Athelstan obliges them and loses a decisive battle either by the Mersey or the Don what happens then? What do the kings of Alba and Strathclyde do with such a victory? Can they seriously intend to carve up Northumbria increasing their territories by a factor of 2 or 3 at a single go and extending their lines of communication and control hundreds of miles or do they return north and hand southern Northumbria over to the Vikings? A Viking Dublin-York axis reinforced with thousands of adventurers from across the Viking world seems to me to be a neighbour from hell. It doesn’t make sense to me that the northern kings would hazard so much on an expedition so far into England which even if successful would inevitably replace a distant Wessex hegemony with a resurgent Viking kingdom.

      • Tim says:

        Thanks for these points, Kevin. Synchronizing the chronology indicated by Irish annals and Anglo-Saxon charters is crucial to understanding the movements of key players in the run-up to Brunanburh. We do need to be sceptical of any suggestion that Alba and Strathclyde were seeking territorial gains in southern Northumbria. I cannot imagine the northern kings being happy to topple Athelstan just to create a power-vacuum which Anlaf could then exploit far more easily than they ever could.

  9. […] recent posts and comments at Tim Clarkson’s Senchus and Karen Louise Jolly’s Revealing Words have instigated a discussion on the location of […]

  10. Andrew Breeze says:

    I am Andrew Breeze, and thank everyone for their interest….

  11. Steve says:

    Did this entry in the ASC 934 cause bitter enmity leading to 937 ? “This year went King Athelstan into Scotland, both with a land-force and a naval armament, and laid waste a great part of it”.

    • Tim says:

      Yes, the political context of Brunanburh can be traced back to the campaign of 934, when Athelstan subjugated both Strathclyde and Alba to his overlordship. Anglo-Saxon charters indicate that Constantin of Alba attended the English court as a vassal-king for about a year, before rejecting Athelstan’s authority altogether. Owain of Strathclyde, who appears in the charters with his name Latinized as Eugenius, followed suit not long afterwards. By 936, it seems likely that these kings were already plotting their revenge, in alliance with Anlaf of Dublin.

      For more detail, see above for Kevin’s second comment of 18th October. Kevin has researched this topic in depth and is one of the few historians to highlight the crucial role of the northern kings in the events leading up to and during the Brunanburh campaign.

  12. Tim says:

    Karen Jolly’s latest blogpost discusses churches in the Northumbrian/Cumbrian borderlands around the time when Brunanburh was fought. It’s well worth a look and can be found via this link.

  13. diaspora52 says:

    Congratulations on a brilliant blog. Enjoyed the thought-provoking discussion.

  14. Steve says:

    Would it be far fetched to suggest Derwent water or Bassenthwaite as the landing place of Dingsmere ? I reckon the river is navigable all the way to Workington , especially when a lot of these small ships only had a draught of 1 and a half feet.
    Again only 18 Miles to Penrith .
    I suspects the harrying retreat of the “sea men” was because these chaps were on foot after the cavalry had scarpered.

    • Tim says:

      I’m not sure about the navigability from these lakes to the sea, but the Derwent river might be worth considering, especially with one of the Brunanburh candidates not far away at Bromfield (which has Viking Age sculpture). This is all too far north for me, as I’d be inclined to look for Brunanburh in Lancashire. But Bromfield can’t be ruled out of the search, and it’s a far stronger candidate than Brougham.

  15. Jon says:

    Hi. Sorry to go off topic a bit. I’m trying to find the link for recording of the debate that was held a few months ago with Michael Wood. Anyone point me in the right direction?



  16. Steve says:

    has anyone thought that Brewyn (Cellawr) (Uriens battle )and Brunnaburgh might be the same place ?

    • Tim says:

      The two names aren’t connected philologically. Some people think Brewyn might be the Roman fort of Bremenium, at High Rochester in Northumberland, which is possible on linguistic grounds.

  17. damo says:

    How about this new piece of evidence



  18. yodamo says:

    & here’s the plains of othlynn solution –

  19. yodamo says:

    & heres the place where Analf escaped into the Irish Sea

  20. ANDY937 says:

    Hi all, after 4 years of searching I am certain I have found the battle of Brunanburh location. I’m awaiting a response from battlefield experts and will keep you posted. I have found what I believe to be the site and it has an answer to every question posed by the records, Weondune or Wendun, the Vin name posed by Egil’s Saga, the wood and the river, lomg ridge, the heathen site nearby, the conflux of two rivers, the place not only where Athelstan’s forces were camped but also where his enemies were camped in the run up to the battle. I have also found a site where I believe a mass grave and also smaller burial sites across the field of battle are located. It also has markers of the battle in true Anglo-Saxon form and has turned up previous evidence simply misidentified. I also have evidence of Athelstan linking the land the battle was fought on. If I’m right and I’m not going to say I have definitely found it, although I do believe I have, this will finally lay to rest this great riddle once and for all.

  21. Tony says:

    My view is that the OE/AS language is still spoken today. It is just a case, that today we don’t write how we speak.

    This is how i read the first verse.

    Aethelstan signing, all of the writing,
    Born a be-giver, and his brother is
    Eadmund Atheling, Elder long not to you.
    Goes looking at saecce* sweared a he come.
    Him by Brunanburh, Bird well cloven.

    *Sicced – to set upon; attack; to urge or incite to hostile action; set.

    What the writer is saying…

    Aethelstan is signing all of the documents.
    That Aethelstan was born a be-giver and that his brother is Eadmund Aetheling who is an Elder to you and that he hasn’t been an elder very long.

    Aethelstan is looking to start an attack, but Eadmund hasn’t arrived yet, although he swore that he would come. This is because he is at Brunanburh where he has been fighting; the bird (the enemy) is well cloven.

  22. Tony says:

    Hello Tim,

    I have identified the location where Aethelstan fought.

    I have identified the location of the places of Brunanburh (both Northern and Southern.)

    I have identified the location of the place of the ‘bird well cloven’ where Eadmund fought.

    I have identified the location the place of Dingsmire.

    I also think that i have identified part of the route which Aethelstan took to get to the battle.

    The places that i have identified, are not; The Lanchester area, the Wirral, Newton le Willows, Burnley, the Humber, Lincolnshire, Axminster in Devon, South Yorkshire, or Scotland.

    Are there any other locations or names of places to do with the battle, that you know of, that need identified?


    • Tim says:

      One problematic name is the ‘Plains of Othlyn’ which appears in the Annals of Clonmacnoise. It has so far defied identification but is usually regarded as an authentic (though possibly corrupt) alternative name for the site of Brunanburh, or possibly the district in which the battle was fought.

  23. Tony says:

    Thanks Tim,

    My first thought on the word othlyn was maybe oath-line ???

    I’ll have a look in the area where i’ve located the others to see if anything turns up.

  24. Tony says:

    The meaning of the word Brunanburh.

    Brunan – Brown
    Burh – An area of land.

    The area of Brown land.

    On the 6th line of poem, it reads ‘Heo wan Heathu-linde’. This is the biggest clue to the area. For whatever reason this sentence has been mistranslated by various poets. The correct translation of the sentence would be ‘Here won Heather land’.

    There is a place, that used to be known as ‘Æthelstan moor’. Today it is called ‘Alston moor’.

    On Alston moor [Æthelstan moor] there is an area named ‘Battle Green’.

    On the Western side of Alston moor [Æthelstan moor] is Brownber Hill.

    To the South of Alston moor [Æthelstan moor] is Brownber.

    On the Western side of Alston moor [Æthelstan moor] is Penrith.
    Below Penrith is an area called Ingmire. This is Dingmire, Ðingmire, The Ingmire.

    Eamont Bridge was where the ‘Treaty’ [An Oath] took place in 927. Lyn is referring to the river.

    On old maps, on the Eastern side of Penrith there is a place named Barco Hill where it is written ‘The site of Battle between the British and the Danes’.

    The sentence ‘Bord weall cloven’ translates to ‘Bird Well Cloven’.
    On the Southern side of Brownber is Ravenstonedale and to the North Western side of Brownber is ‘Crossby Ravensworth’ . ‘Cross by Ravens Worth’.

    Æthelstan signing · all of the writing
    born a Christian · and his brother is
    Eadward Atheling · elder long not to you

    goes looking at saece · sweared he’d come
    him by Brunanburh · bird well cloven
    here won heather land.

    Saece* Start battle, fighting.

  25. Tony says:

    oop’s, that should read Eadmund Atheling, not Eadward!

  26. Tim says:

    Thanks for posting your theory here, Tony. I think the Cumbria/Northumberland border does have more merit than some other places that have been put forward, such as the Wirrral Peninsula. I suppose the main obstacle to Alston having a connection with Athelstan is an early record of the place-name as ‘Aldeneston’ (c.1200) which suggests a different personal name like Aldhun or Halfdan as the first element. The second element is usually interpreted as Old English tun, ‘farmstead’.

  27. Tony says:

    Hello Tim,

    Sorry for not getting back to you sooner.

    I was thinking that Æthelstan came via Æthelstan Well at Boldron on the outskirts of Barnard Castle, then followed what is now the B6277 up to Alston, while Eadmund came via Ravensdale, Crosby Ravensworth. Thus forming a two pronged attack from the South and the East before reaching the Ingmire.

    I did a bit more digging for Æthelstan moor to see if i could find anything else, and found a reference saying that Sir Robert Clavering received his knighthood after fighting at Æthelstan moor. However, on further research the location that Sir Robert Clavering fought at turned out to be Aderton moor.

    Whether they did take the route that I thought, or they came via another route is still open to question and I think needs more research.

    I have been doing a bit more digging and as far as I have found, every name for the site of the battle, although each called something different, all refer to brown land, a brown hill. i.e. moorland.

    The research that i have done points to the Southern part of Penrith as being the location where the [main] Battle of Brunanburh took place. Specifically the area known as the Ingmire, and the area along the Eamont river, [The Plains of the Oath Water.]

    Places mentioned In the poem.

    Brunanburh → Brown hill fort, Brown area of land, Brown hill.

    Dingmere, Ðingmere, The Ingmere, The Ingmire → mere, mire, moor.

    Hethu-linde → Heather-land.

    Places mentioned by others.

    Æathelweard calls the place Brunandune which means Brown hill.

    Pictish Chronicles call the place Duinbrunde which means Brown Hill.

    William of Malmesbury calls the place Brunefeld or Bruneford → Brown field or Brown ford [river]

    The Annals of Clonmacnoise call the place The Plains of Othlyn, → [The Plains of the Oath Water.]

    The land adjoining the Eamont river, where the other kings had sworn an oath to Æthelstan in the year 926.

    Symeon of Durham calls the place Wendun, Ƿendun, → Pendun which means Brown hill.

    The letter ‘W’ in the word Wendun would have been used later on. Previously the letter ‘W’ would have been written as a ‘uu’, ‘u’, ‘v’ or the letter Wynn ‘Ƿ’.
    The word Wendun would have been Ƿendun.
    It looks to me that the word Ƿendun may have been Pendun which means Brown hill.

    Egils Sagas call the place Vinheide, Ƿinheide, Pinhead, Penhead.

    This is similar to the explanation of ‘Wen’, ‘Pen’, mentioned above.
    The word Pin and Pen would sound the same.
    The word ‘head’ when spoken today still sounds like Heid or Heed.
    Penheide would mean Hill-head.

  28. Tony says:

    It appears that Æthelstan moor is back as part of the puzzle.

    I’ve found Æthelstan moor mentioned in a letter from 1595, which is earlier than the one of Sir Robert Clavering.

    The letter is by Sir William Bowes was MP for Westmorland, commr for the Middle March, etc., to Burghley.

    Sir William had lead mines in North West Durham and in 1595 had a smelt mill at Burtree, down the road from Alston.

    • Tim says:

      The 1595 reference is certainly interesting – not least as a curious snippet of Cumbrian history. However, even if ‘Athelstan Moor’ is definitely an alternative name for Alston Moor, we’ve got a very big gap between the battle of Brunanburh and the era of Sir William Bowes. His letter was written nearly 400 years after the oldest recorded forms of the place-name Alston (‘Aldeneston’, etc) and unfortunately none of these suggest a link with the personal name Athelstan.

  29. Dingle says:

    Dingesmere:- as is well reported “ding” means noise (din) or “sound” [an inlet that narrows and becomes shallower causes otherwise tranquil waves to break, causing noise]; “es” implies belonging: “of the”; “mere” simply means river just as mær-es-ea (Mersey) = means river-of the-border … So the nailed-ships were on a river estuary.
    “mere” cannnot be translated as “sea” because the term contrasts with “deep water” (which does mean the sea); neither can it be marshland (you don’t sail or moor ships on a marshland!).

    • Tim says:

      The estuary description seems a good fit with any scenario that sees the Norse ships embarking from the mouth of a major river. There are several candidates on the west coast, from the Dee or Mersey (both too far south for me) all the way up to Morecambe Bay (an estuary for five major rivers rather than an actual sea-bay).

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