Lewes 750 years ago this day

Unlike many battles, which by their nature are terrible and destructive events, Lewes stands out for certain features that give it an almost mythical quality worth remembering on today’s 750th anniversary of the battle. The divided families, the exchange of letters, Edward’s vengeful blunder, the coach at the top of the hill, the windmill. They have been deservedly recounted in plenty of books and articles (and here), but for a change it might be worth noting what England was like three-quarters of a millennium before 1264. At that time the land was under constant pressure as Saxons from the continent continued to encroach on the native population. The first king named among the Anglo-Saxons was Ælle, who conquered what became Sussex after landing with three sons and three ships on the south coast. His men drove the Britons back into the wood later known as the Weald, where incidentally Simon and his men were encamped before Lewes. The information about Ælle is scanty, but 12th century chronicler Henry of Huntingdon put his death in 514. Since Lewes is almost smack in the middle of southern Sussex, Ælle could have drawn his last breath there 750 years before that fateful battle, but that’s like speculating whether the leader of the Britons he chased off was a king named Arthur.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle with mention of Ælle (and no Arthur)
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle with mention of Ælle (and no Arthur)

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