Tag Archives: church

RAC MAP of EAST ANGLIA

This booklet of road maps was printed circa 1930, sometime between the death of Queen Alexandra in 1925 and George V’s passing inRAC 1936. I can tell this from the Royal Warrants on the advert for Southgates Ltd, the ‘motor specialists’ of Fakenham. No doubt they got Royal approval from servicing the cars at Sandringham. The booklet is a treasure trove of information. From it I learn that the road through Lyng crossed the river by a ford, the bridge that I assumed had been in place for centuries is in fact only about 80 years old. The lane to Ringland had another ford, to be used if you were driving, though pedestrians could use the wooden footbridge from Taverham that had been there since the 19th century. I wonder how often those early cars stalled mid-river through getting water on the sparking plugs while making this perilous crossing? Deeper waterways required other methods of traversing them; there was a car ferry between Plumstead and Surlingham on the river Yare, and another one between Horning and Woodbastwick on the Bure.

There were four toll bridges in Norfolk; that at Hilgay near the river Great Ouse cost you 1/6 (one shilling and sixpence) –  there was no option but to pay if you wanted to go to the railway station there. Hilgay station closed in 1963, although tolls had ended long before. If you were driving between Dereham and Holt the bridge at Guist only cost you fourpence, or threepence in a motorcycle with sidecar. There were no toll bridges in Suffolk, and just two car ferries; those at Walberswick and Bawdsey. These two ferries still ply the rivers Blyth and Deben, but now the largest thing you can take across is a bicycle.

Being a map for touring motorists the booklet does not include railways, but their ghostly presence can be discerned by the roads they crossed, where the level crossings are shown on the map.  It mentions attractions and sights along the way; bathing at Cromer, yachting at Wroxham and angling at these and other places. The flint knapping workshops at Brandon were still operational and were well worth a visit, according to the Royal Automobile Club. It draws the map reader’s attention to the rood screen at West Tofts church. This marvellous church is not now available for visitors, being part of the STANTA Battle Area. If you are determined to see it there is normally an annual carol service held there, but arrive in good time if you want a seat! It is very popular, and deservedly so.

This copy of the book appears almost brand new, apart from the rusty staples. I had originally bought the book of maps to remind me of the routes taken by motorists before any bypasses were built, but I have discovered so much more. There is a gazetteer which has much of interest in itself; Yarmouth is the ‘premier herring port of the British Isles’, while the Quay is ‘one of the largest and finest in Europe’. Some of the information is wrong though; Henry VIII’s fifth wife Catherine Howard was not born at Horsham St Faiths, in spite of what the book says. She was probably born in the Duke of Norfolk’s home in Lambeth South London, and when she moved as a young child it was certainly to Horsham, but the one in Sussex, not that in Norfolk.

Best of all are the adverts. It is quite remarkable how many hotels are still in existence, about 90 years later. The hotel which is annually take over by the Fishmongers of London (the governing body) for Speech Day at Gresham’s School, the Blakeney Hotel; The Crown at Woodbridge, where I had lunch as a nine-year old and The Cliff Hotel at Gorleston where we went last year for my cousin’s 80th birthday were all advertised in the book. Other hotels like the Bell in Norwich and the White Lion in Eye have closed long ago, but are still remembered with affection. The illustrations, like that of the steam launch carrying tourists on Oulton Broad, or the elegant motor car that appears on the Potter Heigham Garage advert are quite rare among the pages of adverts, but are all the more welcome for that.

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA

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WEST PORINGLAND

West (or Little) Poringland was pronounced ‘West Pauling’ or ‘Little Porland’ in the days when it existed as a separate medieval parish. It lay between East Poringland and Shotesham. The church of St Michael had fallen into dereliction before the Reformation. It had formerly been administered under a curacy and in 1540 the spiritual needs of the small population were taken over by the Rector of Howe, although the church of All Saints in East Poringland was in fact slightly nearer. The poor of the parish were looked after by East Poringland, who also took care of the roads. The hamlet of West Poringland remained as a churchless parish for over three hundred years.

The site of St Michael’s church is in a farmyard off Shotesham Road, the only remaining vestige of the ancient West Poringland village. I imagine that the large pond and meadow between the farm and the road are what remains of the village green. All traces of the church have now been lost, but the walls still stood at just over shoulder-height in 1800. It was at this time that the land in the village was enclosed, and no doubt that was when the village green was incorporated into the local farm. In 1845 the village had a population of 57, compared with 520 in East Poringland. In 1840 there were four tenanted farms in West Poringland, all owned by the Lord of the Manor.

All the principal buildings and businesses were located in East Poringland – pubs, two windmills and a National School, set up in 1841 and still taking pupils a hundred and twenty years later when I was a lad. In the nineteenth century the surnames of Minns and Tubby were already known in the village, and both families were distant relatives of mine. My connection with Poringland arose from my parents moving there shortly before I was born, and the fact that it was also the home to these relations is coincidental.

JOHN CROME, PORINGLAND OAK

Leafy Oak Lane was a popular dog walking place for me and my sister nearly fifty years ago. This is in West Poringland. Dove Lane, which leads off it, and eventually ends up at the Dove Public House, was a green lane (i.e.not made up) and so no traffic passed that way; it was perfectly safe for our dogs who would happily run and sniff along the lane. Leafy Oak Lane is a lovely name, but most of the oak trees must have been felled a hundred years ago or more, and the fields now do not even have hedges. It is near where the Poringland Oak is said to have been, and as there is a pond where Dove Lane meets Leafy Oak Lane this may have been the exact spot where Crome painted his famous picture.

Unfortunately the local farmer had taken to dumping farm effluent in the pond some forty years ago, and the result was not pleasant. Luckily nature soon recovers, and although I have not been there for many years I am sure that the scene is again tranquil and serene.

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIA

HAVE YOU SEEN IT YET?

           St Edmund and the Vikings                    869–1066

Joseph C. W. Mason

Now Available!
Paperback, 234×156 mm, 168 pp. With 7 maps, 27 colour and 7 b/w illustrations

ISBN: 978-1-9997752-1-6

THIS IS THE PUBLICITY BROCHURE FROM THE PUBLISHER, THE LASSE PRESS

King Edmund’s short reign over the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia was marred by invasion by Vikings from Denmark. Edmund himself was killed by them. He won no great battle. But he became the most celebrated of all Anglo-Saxon royal saints: dedicatee of dozens of churches, whose relics were the object of great pilgrimages, and regarded for some time as the national saint of England.

The author signs a copy for a customer at the launch on the 19th April.

As his cult grew, it became impossible to draw a line between the truth and its embellishment by hagiographers with their own messages to promote. Was Edmund the chaste, peace-loving man whom Abbo of Fleury depicted, or was he rather a powerful warrior? And why did the Vikings later play a large part in fostering his legend?

Joseph Mason roots his account in the Viking period: the last days of the life of the real man, and the first decades of the development of his cult. He focuses on the Vikings and Edmund’s interaction with them, both before and after his death, and he draws on unconventional sources of information: the pattern of church dedications to Edmund, place names, and the archaeological record. Mason argues that these traces, albeit sparse, provide valuable evidence that suggests how and where the Vikings travelled, where the impact of their invasion was greatest, and where the source of his subjects’ gratitude to Edmund – which was surely the main factor in his acclamation as a saint – is really to be located. The book concludes with a gazetteer of churches dedicated to St Edmund, in East Anglia ad beyond.

Joe Mason read history at Oxford and worked as a freelance journalist for many years. His blog on memories of East Anglia has recorded 200,000 hits.

Available from bookshops and online sellers, or order direct from the publisher: visit www.lassepress.com

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St FELIX

St Felix Church Babingley

The priest Felix was brought over from Burgundy by King Sigeberht to evangelise the East Anglian people. This would have been much more difficult had the king not already been a Christian, but even so it was not a straight forward task as the East Anglians were pagans; their gods have been preserved in the names of the days of the week (the Sun god, the Moon, Tiw, Woden, Thor, Freya and an interloper from the Roman pantheon, Saturn). This daily reminder of a belief system that they were trying to eradicate must have irked the early churchmen, and I am sure they would have changed this if they could; at least on the Continent Sunday became the Lord’s Day in their various Latin-based languages. Here we remained resolutely pagan in this respect.

Felix arrived in England in 630 AD. According to one tradition, he first landed at Babingley on the extreme west coast of the county of Norfolk. Norfolk has coasts to the east, north and west, and that to the west borders the Wash. I can understand why many people doubt the authenticity of the story, as to get there from the south would entail going past all the rest of East Anglia, with much more suitable ports all along the coast. It is the very improbability of Babingley that convinces me it must be true; no one would invent such a ridiculous landing-place. The fact that the  medieval Babingley church (still a place of worship in the 19th century but now a ruin) was dedicated to St Felix is another factor. There are few other churches dedicated to him, so maybe this points in the direction that Babingley had some importance in the life of Felix. The legend goes that Felix was led to safety by a beaver (native British beavers were wiped out 400 years ago).

He was made Bishop of East Anglia soon after his arrival, and we know that the place of his see was in Suffolk. It was called Dumnoc, and for many years this was assumed to be Dunwich because of the similarity of the names. The idea that it was in fact at Walton Castle has gained ground in the last fifty years, although the first recorded mention of Walton Castle being the location of the East Anglian see goes back to the 13th century. This Fort of the Saxon Shore, erected in the extreme south-eastern corner of Suffolk by the Romans, fell victim to tidal erosion in the 18th century. The nearest place to Walton Castle still in existence is Felixstowe, and again the name convinces me that Dumnoc must have been here.

Stowe is defined as meaning just a location in place-name reference books, but it had a more specific use in Anglo-Saxon times. To them it meant the shrine or home of a saint (thus the vanished hamlet of Stow near Swaffham was associated with the veneration of St Guthlac, and the burial-place of St Benedict in the Loire valley was called St Benet’s Stowe in Anglo-Saxon sources). Felixstowe therefore originally meant the dwelling place of St Felix, and surely his Cathedral would have been nearby. At another Fort of the Saxon Shore, Burgh Castle (in north-east Suffolk until 1974, now part of Norfolk) an early monastery was established by the Irish monk Fursey; he was also brought to East Anglia by King Sigeberht to help Felix convert the people. It seems to me that a religious building could easily have been constructed in the corner of an old Roman fort, thus saving the building of two walls! Remember that these were the very earliest years of Christians building in England, before the Church became powerful and rich. Anything that saved resources was valuable to the local pioneers of Christianity like Felix and Fursey.

Bishop Felix established a school to teach the boys who would become the priests he required to educate the people of East Anglia about the Christian message. Thetford Grammar School claims its origins in this school that Felix set up, and as it is by far the oldest school in East Anglia, who are we to dispute this? Other snippets of information about Felix may be gleaned from medieval sources. The Liber Eliensis (the Book of Ely) records that he founded the church at Reedham in Norfolk (the church is dedicated to St John the Baptist). He also built the monastery at Soham in Cambridgeshire, which lasted until it was destroyed by the Danish invaders in the late ninth century and was never rebuilt. Another monastery was built during the lifetime of Felix at Beodricesworth (later to be known as Bury St Edmunds) by King Sigeberht. The growth in christian belief continued throughout this period, in spite of the defeat of the East Anglian army by the pagan Mercians under their king Penda.

St Felix died on the 8th March, his Saints Day. King Sigeberht had abdicated to the monastery in Beodricesworth while St Felix was still living. (I may do a post on the king later, but for now suffice it to say that he was martyred circa 643, killed by Penda’s men.) Felix died in 647 or the next year and his body was first buried at Soham and later translated to Ramsey Abbey. He was the first in a line of East Anglian bishops that lasted until 869, when the Danes killed Bishop Humbert and the position fell into abeyance. Various divisions have been made in the see; first in 673, when Norfolk was given its own bishop. When the bishopric was restored after the Danish period East Anglia had a single bishop once again. The western part of the Diocese was hived off when Ely was made a Cathedral in 1109, but the Diocese of East Anglia continued uninterrupted for almost a thousand years until 1914, when Suffolk again got its own bishop.

Little is known of the life of Felix; almost all that is known is recorded in this article. Nevertheless, as you can see, his seventeen years work in establishing the Church in East Anglia was of huge significance. The influence of Christianity may be waning, but it is still deeply embedded in the fabric of our lives. We may no longer go to church, but the eyes of the nation still turn to Westminster Abbey for great national events.

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIA

BOOK IS NOW ON SALE

Following its successful launch on Thursday (19th April), the book is now available for the public to buy. The book may be purchased worldwide direct from the publisher, (post free in the UK) LASSE PRESS, 2 St Giles Terrace, Norwich NR2 1NS (Tel: +44 (0)1603 665843) [www.lasse.press.com], or in Norwich from Jarrold’s Book Department. It can also be ordered from your local book store. Don’t forget the title; St Edmund and the Vikings, 869-1066.

ISBN: 978-1-9997752-1-6

The author signs the book for a customer.

BOOK LAUNCH

St ALBAN

St Alban is Britain’s protomartyr, that is the first Christian in Britain to be killed because of his faith. The period was around 270 AD, and at the time the whole of the Roman Empire worshipped pagan gods. Although Christian missionaries were operating throughout the Empire, they were routinely persecuted. Several of the early popes were martyred. This persecution was ended in 313 by the order of the Emperor Constantine, and thereafter he progressively introduced the Christian religion into the Roman Empire. He was himself baptised shortly before his death in 337.

What made this Roman Emperor so well disposed towards the new faith? It was the influence of his mother Helena. Helena must have been very attractive as a young woman, because, in spite of her lowly birth (by later report she was a stable-maid), she became enamoured of a senior Roman officer, who became Emperor in 293. It is doubtful that they were formally married, but that so humble a woman should have achieved the position of being mother to his successor is remarkable enough. That she was also a member of that persecuted minority, a Christian, was hugely significant. The fact that his consort was a Christian had little or no effect on her husband, who allowed the persecution of her coreligionists to continue, but with her son things were different. When his father died in 306 he was serving in Britain, together with son Constantine, who was acclaimed Emperor in succession to his father by the legions in York. It is immensely satisfying that such an epoch-making occurrence should have happened in this country.

In his early years his hands were tied by having to share power with two other emperors, but once he had defeated his rival in 312 he became sole Emperor. He was able to introduce his toleration of Christianity.

Roman glassware (found in Colchester).

Having given you some of the historical context of the death of St Alban, let me fill you in on some of the less contentious details of the story. (I will omit the more miraculous parts which inevitably crept into the story.) A Christian priest was being hunted down in Britain, and on his travels he came across Alban, who was living in Verulamium (now St Albans), to the north-west of London. Although not at that time a believer, Alban was well disposed to fugitives from persecution, and took the priest into his house. Being impressed by the sanctity of the man Alban became a convert. On hearing that a Christian priest was in hiding with Alban, the local magistrate sent a party of soldiers to arrest the priest. Alban dressed himself in the priest’s cloak and presented himself in his place. On discovering that Alban had enabled the priest to escape, the court imposed the same penalty on Alban that had been intended for the priest. He was whipped, but on refusing to indulge in a pagan sacrifice he was taken outside to be beheaded.

Within a few years the whole environment of the Empire changed, and a shrine to St Alban was established at Verulamium once Christianity emerged from the shadows. This first period of St Alban’s veneration was interrupted by the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons who destroyed the shrine in 586. Once the newcomers were themselves converted, a church was built near the place of his martyrdom. This is referred to in the History by Bede, from which book I take the story of St Alban. Bede died in 735 and King Offa II of Mercia founded an abbey in St Albans in 793. Less than a hundred years later the shrine was again destroyed by the pagan Danish invaders. It re-emerged when the Danes were pushed back from the London area. The Abbey’s high point came with the Norman Conquest, but hundreds of years of decay and destruction began even before dissolution of the monasteries, and continued up until the 19th century. Major repairs were then carried out to the Abbey, and the Bishopric of St Albans were created in 1877. Its constituent parts, Essex and Hertfordshire, were previously in the Diocese of Rochester south of the Thames; Essex was split off when the Diocese of Chelmsford was created in 1914.

So there you have the story in short of who St Alban was.  Considering the importance of Alban in the story of the Church in Britain, the long history of the settlement on the river Ver has been a chequered one. [Don’t forget to learn more about another local martyr, St Edmund. My book on this King of East Anglia will be published on April 19th at Jarrold’s shop in Norwich. Arrive at the Book Department from 6 p.m. for the presentation at 6.30: attendance and refreshments will be free. Enquire may be made at Jarrolds on 01603 660661.]

 

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR HISTORY

EASTER in the 19th CENTURY

After the restrictions of Lent, Easter was a time for everyone to let their hair down metaphorically; one of the principal ways of doing this involved ladies putting their hair up for the Easter Ball. The Mansion House is the Lord Mayor of London’s official residence, and in 1802 the Easter Ball there had extravagant decorations which transformed the hall into a piece of Ancient Egypt, with pyramids and obelisks. It was decorated with orange trees and flowering shrubs. Easter Sunday was the first time that the wealthy could parade their spring fashions, and for the ladies the first among the items of clothing was the Easter Bonnet. This however was far from being the only piece of apparel to be brought out for the occasion;

At Easter let your clothes be new
Or else be sure you will it rue. [Tradition rhyme]

This Easter tradition goes back long before the 19th century; there are references to the wearing of new clothes (or at least spruced up ones) in the work of both Pepys and Shakespeare.

Among the less elevated members of society the Easter Holiday was a time for more basic forms of entertainment. The Epping Hunt traditionally took place on Easter Monday (a Bank Holiday from 1871), and provided a chance for the Cockneys of the East End to experience all the thrills of the chase. After copious glasses of gin had been consumed, the stag was released and took off into the forest; the fun could then begin. Many pursued the poor animal on foot (which naturally put it at a considerable advantage), and were joined by unhorsed riders. Naturally the stag normally escaped from the Epping Hunt unharmed, except for the fact that its antlers had been sawn off. Easter was also a time for brutal bare-knuckle fist fights and wrestling matches.

Easter Bunny

In contrast to today, when they may be bought at any time of year, Hot Cross Buns only appeared for breakfast on Good Friday. This tradition remained into my childhood in our household. Easter Eggs (symbolising fertility of course) are a tradition that goes way back to pagan times, and in the 19th century they were still real eggs; chocolate Easter Eggs were first produced by Cadbury’s in the third quarter of the 19th century. The Easter Bunny is also a recent development; originally it was the Easter hare, and like the rabbit it is a symbol of fertility and of rebirth. The message of Easter, the death and resurrection of Christ, may also be seen as a symbol of rebirth.

The Revd  Armstrong

THE REV BENJAMIN ARMSTRONG was Vicar of East Dereham in the latter half of the 19th century. From the published volumes of his diary we may learn that the preparations for Easter began at midday on Shrove Tuesday, with the ringing of the “Pancake Bell” from the church tower. The Reverend complained that Dereham church was so cold that many of his older parishioners stayed at home rather than attend church services during Lent. The coming of the railway brought coal trucks to the town, and this enabled the building of a gas works. It also led to central heating pipes being installed in the church.

In spite of (or perhaps because of) his High Church leanings, the vicar’s personal attitude to Lent was not particularly strict; he even attended a dinner party where wine and liqueurs were served, although he did grant that this was unusual for Lent. Regarding his own habits he intended merely to ‘smoke less’; as we have already seen, he did not expect to abstain entirely from wine during the period. He appears not to have given up anything entirely; nevertheless he hoped to ‘have the grace’ to observe these not very onerous restrictions to his pleasures during Lent.

The Royal Wedding of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra on March 10th 1863 (a Tuesday) caused some friction in the country at large, as the celebrations fell right in the middle of Lent. Quite why the ceremony had to be carried out at that time of year is unclear to me; surely the Court could not have been unaware of the problems that this would cause. Certainly in Dereham the choice of date was not universally popular; luckily for the more devout citizens of the town a heavy fall of snow in the afternoon curtailed the Rustic Sports that were to have taken place to mark the occasion, much to the relief of many. Although the public houses were full, many of the more respectable members the community simply went home. In the event the Rustic Sports were successfully held on April 7th, after Easter Sunday.

JOSEPH MASON

THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EASTER

joemasonspage@gmail.com

A NEW BOOK IS ON ITS WAY!

A history book entitled St Edmund and the Vikings is due to be published shortly. It will be launched with a reception at Jarrolds, London Street, Norwich, Book Department (Lower Ground Floor) on April 19th. Do come along; arrive from 6 o’clock for the 6.30 start. Drinks will be served and the event is free, but you will need to reserve your place. I look forward to meeting you in person. I will give short talk on the origin of the book. If you are unable to come along it will be available from your local bookshop at a very moderate price, although you may have to order it; do so now.  I urge you to place your orders at once, as who knows how quickly it will sell out? If you go to the publisher’s website (Lasse Press ) it is available there. The ISBN is 9 781999 775216 , which may be helpful if you want to go to another bookshop.

This no heavyweight academic tome; this story is quite unlike the dry accounts of most medieval saints. This is all about war and violence. As the Vikings circled the country and preyed upon its people, the English looked to Saint Edmund to protect them. For those who are interested, the book has a full range of footnotes, a bibliography and an index. It includes a gazetteer which lists all the known medieval churches, chapels, carvings and pictures of the saint; it is worth buying for this alone! It has plenty of illustrations (most in colour) including maps, which allow the reader to place the story in its geographical context – an important part of the history.

St Edmund

As you might have guessed by now, I wrote the book. I have been working on it for many years, during which time my knowledge of Anglo-Saxon history has grown enormously. The list of monarchs since William the Conqueror used to be part of every child’s school learning; there was even a rhyme to help you remember them. It began ”Willie, Willie, Harry, Ste…”; children no longer have to memorise such things, but even when they did the list of kings before William the Conqueror was a closed book to them. The brightest pupils might have been able to mention Edward the Confessor, but beyond that they would have looked blank. One of the problems about writing Anglo-Saxon history is the poverty of written texts that you can use as source material. For more recent history you can go to the collection in the local record office, but for Anglo-Saxon history you will find nothing there. Some Old English texts remain, but these have been pored over by historians for centuries and have little new to offer.

This has led me to adopt a revolutionary approach; instead of using the well trodden path of traditional history I have fallen back on the information that lies hidden in the landscape. I can hear you saying ‘How so? What can the muddy acres and hedgerows possibly tell me of events so long ago?’ The answer may surprise you. For a start, the place-names we still use on an everyday basis were nearly all created by the Anglo-Saxons, and these names alone can tell us a lot of history, if only they are used intelligently. For example, we can tell that the river at Attlebridge was crossed by a bridge; at nearby Alderford a tributary of that river was crossed by a ford. This is simple once you think about it, because ‘bridge’ and ‘ford’ are the same words in modern English, but by judiciously using such information with the invaluable scraps we can gather from the few written sources, we can build up a surprisingly detailed picture of long ago events. Place-names also record long-ago battles too. The landscape dictates what is possible and what is not; an army cannot cross an estuary without boats, but a stream poses no such problem. The basic landscape can only give us so much, but once you add in other things like church dedications, the world opens up. You don’t believe me? Read my book and make your own mind up.

In the case of St Edmund, for the first time ever (or since the tenth century anyway), we can be almost certain where he died, to within a few hundred yards. Once he was dead, I have a convincing theory of where he was first buried. Next we can trace the spread of his cult in the same way, all with only minimal input from the written sources. Without question the most important of these written sources is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It may only mention King Edmund of East Anglia once, but the Vikings appear on almost every page. By putting this information together with the mute testimony of the church dedications, I have demonstrated how much St Edmund meant to the Anglo-Saxon people. I would like to tell you more, but to read the next instalment of the story of St Edmund and the Vikings you must buy my book.

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE

ST EDMUND and the VIKINGS

St Edmund was king of East Anglia in the 9th century; he was killed by the Vikings in the year 689 AD. In other words a very long time ago; but there is much new information about this Anglo-Saxon monarch, his people and their attitude to him as a saint, and their relationship with the Vikings. This is contained in a new book, St Edmund and the Vikings, to be published on April 19th. This book is a must-read for anyone with an interest in history. It uses a revolutionary approach to the period, one that you have to read to appreciate.  The new source material that the author has uncovered offers an amazingly detailed account of the year that ended with the death of the king. All the standard histories of this period use the same religious texts, which give a one-sided and biased view of the way in which contemporaries viewed him. According to the religious authorities he was a peace-loving man of God. This was not at all how he was seen by ordinary Englishmen; to them he was the hero who united the people against the Viking menace. No wonder some people refer to him as the first patron saint of the English. He was certainly that, and with reason.

Let me give you a hint of the way the Saint was invoked by the ordinary inhabitants of England, as they were hounded by the marauding Vikings. In the late ninth century these warriors landed on the island of Mersea in Essex. There the Viking invaders built ramparts to defend their camp against the local Englishmen, and these earthworks remain to this day in the North East corner of the island. When the Vikings left and the immediate danger had passed, the people of this Essex island built a church near the Viking camp that they dedicated to St Edmund, the saint who they hoped would defend them from any return of the unholy Danes in the future. In case you think this is just an isolated example, this pattern can be seen time and again round the coast of England. Even two hundred years after this attack on Mersea Island, the Viking were still descending on the English people, intent on warfare. When, for the last time, these Viking warriors tried to take over the country, they were defeated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire. This victory was commemorated by a chapel built on the bridge; these river crossings frequently possessed a chapel in those days, but there was something special about this long-vanished building. Is it just a coincidence, or does the fact that the holy place was dedicated to St Edmund tell us something about his opposition to the Vikings? Surely it was to commemorate what the people saw as St Edmund’s help in defeating the Scandinavians that the chapel was dedicated to him.

So you must not expect this book to refer only to the way the Vikings killed the king; this martyrdom was obviously a very important event, but it was only the start of a long period of Viking aggression against the English. We can trace the various raids and battles between the two sides, and at every turn the saint appeared to support the English; nor is this only moral support. The most dramatic event was when the long-dead king returned to kill the Danish monarch Sweyn Forkbeard as he slept in Grantham, Lincolnshire; or at least this was what everybody believed at the time. There can be no doubt that this East Anglian king became the symbol of Anglo-Saxon resistance to the Vikings; this is the most important aspect of the saint, and it is the theme of the book.

The book has other insights into the story of St Edmund. It sets out a convincing case for the location where the saint was killed, and the village where his body was first interred. His final resting place was of course in Suffolk at Bury St Edmunds, but initially his cult began in Norfolk. To find out where you must read the book.

The book, which is well illustrated with photographs in colour, is due to be published in April this year. It will be available from the launch day from Jarrold’s shop in the city, and from the publisher’s website on-line, via Ebay or you can order in from you friendly local bookshop. Do not hesitate to spend a few pounds on this exciting new work.

The author, JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIA