Timeline of conflict in Anglo-Saxon Britain

The Timeline of conflict in Anglo-Saxon Britain is concerned with the period of history from just before the departure of the Roman Army, in the 4th century, to just after the Norman Conquest in the 11th century.

The information is mainly derived from annals and the Venerable Bede. The dates, particularly from the fourth to the late sixth centuries, have very few contemporary sources and are largely later constructions by medieval chroniclers.[1] The historian Diana Greenway described one such 12th century chronicler, Henry of Huntingdon, as a 'weaver' compiler of history, and the archaeologist Martin Welch described the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as "a product of the West Saxon court... concerned with glorifying the royal ancestry of Alfred the Great. Manipulation of royal genealogies, in this and other sources, to enhance the claims of present rulers was common. Literary formulas associated with original myths are a common feature of earlier entries."[2][3] Although the timeline uses the annals for this period of history, information provided by these sources can be problematic, particularly with the earlier dates.


Constructing a chronology of the early Anglo-Saxon period, and how the Anglo-Saxons took over land in Britain from Romano-Britons (Celtic-speakers, Latin-speakers, or both), is highly complex. The limitations of source material place constraints on just how accurate any chronology can be. As an example, the following table shows how much variation there is between historians on just one date, the Battle of Badon:

Suggested dates for the Battle of Badon
Sources[4] Date
Annales Cambriae 516
Bede 493
Higham c. 430 – c. 440
Snyder c. 485
M. Wood 490s
Morris 494–497
Dumville c. 500
I. Wood c. 485 – c.520

Much of the dating of the period comes from Bede (672/673–735), who in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, tried to compute dates for events in early Anglo-Saxon history.[5] Although primarily writing about church history, Bede is seen as Britain's first true historian, in that he cited his references and listed events according to dates rather than regnal lists.[5] So we know that he relied heavily on De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae by Gildas, a sixth-century cleric, for his early dates and historians have found Gildas unreliable where dates were concerned.[6] Bede's work was widely read among the literate in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, and his dates were used by the monks who compiled the various Anglo-Saxon Chronicles from the late ninth century onwards.[7] Some sources say that the Saxon warriors were invited to come, to the area now known as England, to help keep out invaders from Scotland and Ireland. Another reason for coming may have been because their land often flooded and it was difficult to grow crops, so they were looking for new places to settle down and farm.

The most controversial dates in the period—those from the fourth to the late sixth centuries—have very few contemporary sources, and are mainly derived from later attempts to construct Anglo-Saxon history.[1]

The following is an outline of some events recorded in Bede's Ecclesiastical History, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Welsh Annals (Annales Cambriae), and Brut y Tywysogion. Many of the dates from the fourth, fifth, and sixth century are points of contention.[8]

AC = "from the Annales Cambriae" (English translation at this link).
ASC = "from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle".
B = "from Bede's writings".
ByT = "from Brut y Tywysogion".
(?) = Dates and events that are contentious or subject to debate.

4th centuryEdit

5th centuryEdit

6th centuryEdit

7th centuryEdit

8th centuryEdit

  • 710: [ASC 17] (... and in the same year ealdorman Beorhtfrith fought against Picts between [the rivers] Avon and Carron [which flow into the River Forth from the south about 20 miles west of Edinburgh ], and Ine and his relative Nunna fought against Geraint king of Welsh ... [This second battle may have been the Battle of Llongborth.] ) ...
  • 722: According to the Annales Cambriae, 722 saw "the battle of Hehil among the Cornish, the battle of Garth Maelog, [and] the battle of Pencon among the south Britons, and the Britons were the victors in those three battles."
  • Before 730: Northumbria annexed the kingdom of Rheged.
  • 760: A battle between the Britons and the Saxons, the Battle of Hereford, in which Dyfnwal son of Tewdwr dies. AC
  • 778: The devastation of the South Britons by Offa. AC
  • 779: "Cynewulf and Offa fought at Bensington, and Offa took the town." Asc
  • 784: The devastation of Britain by Offa in the summer AC
  • 794: [ASC 18] (796 [corrected from 794]: In this year pope Hadrian and king Offa die.) (AC: 797: Offa king of the Mercians and Maredudd king of the Demetians die, and the battle of Rhuddlan.)
  • 798: Caradog king of Gwynedd is killed by the Saxons. AC

9th centuryEdit

  • 813: [ASC 19] (815 [corrected from 813]: ... and in this year king Ecgbryht raided in Cornwall from east to west.)
  • 816: ... Saxons invaded the mountains of Eryri and the kingdom of Rhufoniog. AC
  • 818: Cenwulf devastated the Dyfed region. AC
  • 822: The fortress of Degannwy is destroyed by the Saxons and they took the kingdom of Powys into their own control. AC
  • 823: [ASC 20] (825 [corrected from 823]: Here was a fight of Welsh/Britons [against] men of Devon at Gafulford ...)
  • 825: The Battle of Ellendun was fought in Wiltshire between Ecgberht of Wessex and Beornwulf of Mercia It effectively ended Mercian Supremacy over the southern kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England and established West Saxon dominance in southern England.
  • 835: [ASC 21] (838 [corrected from 835]: Here a great ship-army [of Vikings] came to Cornwall and they [= the Cornish] joined them, and were fighting against Ecgbryht king of the West Saxons. Then he heard and with an army fought against them at Hengestdun and there put to flight both the Cornish and the Danes.)
  • 877: Rhodri Mawr, a Welsh opponent of the Vikings, and his son Gwriad were killed by Mercian forces, even though Mercia was almost completely under the control of the Vikings at the time.[21] AC
  • 878: Alfred the Great defeated the remnants of the Great Heathen Army at The Battle of Edington. A
  • 893:A combined force containing men from Mercia, Wessex and Wales besieged the Vikings at Buttington for several weeks, starving them out until finally the Vikings had to emerge and they were defeated there by the English and the Welsh: the surviving Vikings fled back to Essex.[22]A

10th centuryEdit

11th centuryEdit

  • 1016: Battle of Assandun, fought in Essex on 18 October between the armies of Edmund Ironside (King of England) and Canute (King of Denmark).
  • 1059: Macht, son of Harold, came to Wales with a great army in his train; and the Prince Gruffudd, and Macht, with combined forces, proceeded against the Saxons, and devastated the country of England a great way towards its centre; and they returned to Wales with great spoil. ByT
  • 1060: Caradoc, son of Rhydderch, son of lestin, hired Harold to come with an army to S.Wales. Then, conjointly with a great host of the men of Glamorgan and Gwent, they went against Grufudd. After Grufudd, son of Llywelyn, was slain, his head was cut off and taken as a present to Harold. (The ASC dates this as 1063) ByT
  • 1063: Here Earl Harold and his brother Earl Tostig went into Wales both with land-army and ship-army, and conquered that land; and that people gave hostages and submitted to them, and afterwards went to and killed their king Gruffudd, and brought Harold his head, and he set another king for it. ASC (Peterborough manuscript).
  • 1066: Battle of Hastings. William, Duke of Normandy, came as an intruder to the island of Britain, and a pitched battle took place between him and Harold; in which, after a severe and bloody fight, Harold was killed. ByT
  • 1068: Some of the Saxons sought protection from the Normans in Powys then.. Afterwards, by the power of the Saxons, Bleddyn, son of Cynvyn, reigned sole king of Gwynedd and Powys; and Meredydd, son of Owain, son of Edwin, by the power of the Saxons became prince of South Wales. ByT

ASC NotesEdit

The Timeline was constructed using the following extracts from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, they are in their original Old English form. For a more complete version and explanation Click Here :

  1. ^ ASC 455. Her Hengest & Horsa fuhton wiþ Wyrtgeorne þam cyninge, in þære stowe þe is gecueden Agælesþrep, & his broþur Horsan man ofslog; & æfter þam Hengest feng to rice & Æsc his sunu.
  2. ^ ASC 457.Her Hengest & Æsc fuhton wiþ Brettas in þære stowe þe is gecueden Crecganford & þær ofslogon .iiiim. wera, & þa Brettas þa forleton Centlond & mid micle ege flugon to Lundenbyrg.
  3. ^ ASC 465. Her Hengest & Æsc gefuhton uuiþ Walas neah Wippedesfleote & þær .xii. wilisce aldormenn ofslogon, & hiera þegn an þær wearþ ofslægen, þam wæs noma Wipped.
  4. ^ ASC 473. Her Hengest & Æsc gefuhton wiþ Walas & genamon unarimedlico herereaf, & þa Walas flugon þa Englan swa þær fyr.
  5. ^ ASC 477. Her cuom Ælle on Bretenlond & his .iii. suna, Cymen & Wlencing & Cissa, mid .iii. scipum on þa stowe þe is nemned Cymenesora, & þær ofslogon monige Wealas & sume on fleame bedrifon on þone wudu þe is genemned Andredesleage.
  6. ^ ASC 485. Her Ælle gefeaht wiþ Walas neah Mearcrædesburnan stæðe.
  7. ^ ASC 491.Her Ælle & Cissa ymbsæton Andredescester & ofslogon alle þa þe þærinne eardedon; ne wearþ þær forþon an Bret to lafe.
  8. ^ ASC 501.Her cuom Port on Bretene & his .ii. suna Bieda & Mægla mid .ii. scipum on þære stowe þe is gecueden Portesmuþa & ofslogon anne giongne Brettiscmonnan, swiþe æþelne monnan.
  9. ^ ASC 508.Her Cerdic & Cynric ofslogon ænne Brettisccyning, þam was nama Natanleod, & .v. þusendu wera mid him. Æfter was þæt lond nemned Natanleaga oþ Cerdicesford.
  10. ^ ASC 571.Her Cuþwulf feaht wiþ Bretwalas æt Bedcan forda. & .iiii. tunas genom, Lygeanburg. & Ægelesburg. Benningtun. & Egonesham. & þy ilcan geare he gefor.
  11. ^ ASC 577.Her Cuþwine & Ceawlin fuhton wiþ Brettas, & hie .iii. kyningas ofslogon, Coinmail, & Condidan, & Farinmail, in þære stowe þe is gecueden Deorham. & genamon .iii. ceastro Gleawanceaster, & Cirenceaster, & Baþanceaster.
  12. ^ ASC 584.Her Ceawlin & Cuþa fuhton wiþ Brettas, in þam stede þe mon nemneþ Feþanleag. & Cuþan mon ofslog. & Ceaulin monige tunas genom, & unarimedlice herereaf, & ierre he hwearf þonan to his agnum.
  13. ^ ASC 614.Her Cynegils & Cuichelm gefuhton on Beandune, & ofslogon .ii. þusendo Wala & .lxvi.
  14. ^ ASC 642.Her Oswald Norþanhymbra cyning ofslægen wæs.
  15. ^ ASC 658.Her Cenwalh gefeaht æt Peonnum wiþ Walas, & hie gefliemde oþ Pedridan; þis wæs gefohten siþþan he of East Englum com. He wæs þær .iii. gear on wrece, hæfde hine Penda adrifenne, & rices benumenne. forþon he his swostor anforlet.
  16. ^ ASC 682. On þissum geare Centwine gefliemde Bretwealas oþ sę.On the Parker MS it was 682. On the Cotton Tiberius 683
  17. ^ ASC 710..... & þam ylcan geare feaht Beorhtfrið ealdorman wið Pehtas betwux Hæfe & Cære, & Ine & Nun his mæg gefuhton wið Gerente Weala cyninge,
  18. ^ ASC 794.Her Adrianus papa & Offa cyning forþferdon ...
  19. ^ ASC 813.... & þy geare gehergade Ecgbryht cyning on West Walas from easteweardum oþ westewearde.
  20. ^ ASC 823.Her wæs Wala gefeoht & Defna æt Gafulforda. ...
  21. ^ ASC 835.Her cuom micel sciphere on Westwalas & hie to anum gecierdon, & wiþ Ecgbryht West Seaxna cyning winnende wæron. Þa he þæt hierde & mid fierde ferde & him wiþ feaht æt Hengestdune & þær gefliemde ge þa Walas ge þa Deniscan.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Gransden. Historical Writing. Ch. 1. Gildas and Nennius
  2. ^ Huntingdon. Historia Anglorum. p. 97
  3. ^ Welch. Anglo-Saxon England. p. 9.
  4. ^ a b Snyder. The Britons. p. 123.; Jones.The End of Roman Britain. pp. 44–45.; Morris. Dark Age Dates. p. 154.; Michael Wood. The Domesday Quest. p. 64.; Bede.EH. Book 1. Ch. 15–16.; Annales Cambriae.
  5. ^ a b Gransden. Historical Writing. pp. 11–23
  6. ^ Bede. Ecclesiastical History. Farmer Ed. p. 24.
  7. ^ Alfred the Great. Asser.(2004) pp. 275–281. - Discussion of sources, authors, dates and accuracy
  8. ^ J. Campbell, 'The Lost Centuries: 400–600' in The Anglo-Saxons. ed. J. Campbell, et al.) pp. 20–44
  9. ^ D.J.V. Fisher, The Anglo-Saxon Age c.400-1042, London: Longman, 1973, ISBN 0-582-48277-1
  10. ^ Esmonde Cleary. The Ending of Roman Britain. pp.137 - 138. The source for the Rescript of Honorius was Zosimus, he was a chronicler from the eastern part of the Roman Empire. He was writing in the late 5th and early 6th century. His work was copying earlier sources and it seems that he may have compressed a lot of the dates. Also the Rescript of Honorius was in a section discussing northern Italy and Liguria. It has been suggested that the name copied down was in error and that the copyist mistranscribed Brettannia (Britain) for Brettia or Brittia, which is a place in southern Italy
  11. ^ Butler, Rev. Alban, "St. Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre, Confessor", The Lives of the Saints, Vol. VII, 1866
  12. ^ Gildas. The Ruin of Britain 23. Gildas says that it is Saxons who come over to fight the Picts and settle, whereas Bede, HE.Book 1 Ch 15 suggests that it is Angles or Saxons.
  13. ^ Welch.Anglo-Saxon England p.9.- When Aella and his three sons land from three ships on a beach named after one of the sons, we are reading legend rather than history.
  14. ^ Ashe, Geoffrey, From Caesar to Arthur pp.295-8
  15. ^ R. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N. Dupuy, The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History From 3500 B.C. to the Present, Fourth Edition (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993), 193.
  16. ^ C. Warren Hollister, The Making of England to 1399, Eighth Edition (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001), 31.
  17. ^ The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 577.
  18. ^ A History of the County of Gloucestershire vol.10. suggests that Fethanleag could possibly be Fretherne, Gloucestershire another possible place according to A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6. is perhaps near Stoke Lyne in Oxfordshire
  19. ^ Stenton. The Age of Arthur.p.299. The English were badly beaten on the Wye in 584, and Cealin returned home in anger...in 591 a new king is said to have ruled over the Gewissae (West Saxons)... wars between the English drove him (Cealin) back to his original territory...
  20. ^ Macbean, Lachlan (1924), Kirkcaldy Burgh and Schyre.
  21. ^ Mercia and the Making of England. p. 107
  22. ^ Mercia and the Making of England. p. 84
  23. ^ http://www.wolverhampton.gov.uk/article/2753/Anniversary-of-historic-battle[dead link]
  24. ^ a b Wood. In search of the Dark Ages.pp. 146 - 147.He(Athelstan) now attacked the 'West Welsh'(Cornish) ..crushed their opposition, deported the dissident minority, established a new boundary at the Tamar.. Athelstan was remembered in Cornwall not as a conquering warlord but as the benefactor of their churches.
  25. ^ Ellis. The Celtic Revolution.p.135.This has given rise to two schools of thought. Celts were still living east of the Tamar...Athelstan simply drove them beyond the river. Secondly...the Tamar was already a national boundary and that the Cornish lived in Exeter as foreign settlers.
  26. ^ Woods. Dark Ages. p.152. Constantine king of the Scots broke his treaty with Athelstan. Whether he was already plotting against Athelstan we can not say, but he must have refused to pay tribute. Athelstan's response was swift..