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Was epic Anglo-Saxon battle fought in Burnley?

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AN amateur historian is researching the lost site of an epic battle of Anglo-Saxon England – in Burnley.

Mr Steve Chapples believes the bloody battle of Brunanburgh took place around Pike Hill and Mere Clough. It was so brutal, legend has it, that the River Brun ran red with blood.

Historians are agreed the battle took place in 937 AD and resulted in a victory for Athelstan, King of England, and his brother Edmund over the combined Viking armies of Olaf III Guthfrithson, Constantine II, King of Scots, and Owen I, King of Strathclyde.

What historians cannot agree on is where the battle took place with locations such as The Wirral, other parts of Merseyside, Northumberland, Yorkshire and even Devon suggested.

But Mr Chapples has drawn on the etymology of local place names such as Harle Syke, where he believes the battle started, saying this is a key clue.

“The etymology of places near Burnley is the strongest case for it being the battle site. At Mereclough there is a battle stone and a field called the battle spot.

“On the site of Sir John Thursby College is Saxifield also known as Saxonfield, where the Vikings unsuccessfully launched a night attack and, as local historian Jack Nadin pointed out to me, there is a Saxifield Street at Harle Syke.

“Syke means dyke or entrenchment. Could Harle be connected with the word jarl or earl? Also close to Duke Bar is Earl Street not far from Heasandford.

“Apart from the place names, many artefacts and skeletons have been found over the centuries.

“Under the foundations of Lower Saxifield House many human bones were discovered and among the moss were found iron arrowheads. Close by is Red Spar Road. Could this refer to a bloody fight?”

The Anglo-Saxon victory has been described as “the moment when Englishness came of age”. The battle was so brutal it resulted in the deaths of thousands, including five kings and seven earls on the Viking side.

Mr Chapples added: “Athelstan is believed to have made his stand on high ground at Rowley and Hollin Hey Brownside.

“The combined total of both armies was in the region of 200,000. Perhaps Higher Red Lees was so-called because so much blood was spilt on its meadows.

“To the right of Brownside bridge there is a barrow-like mound by the river. Is this a Viking tumulus or burial mound?”

Mr Chapples’ findings can be found in his new book “The Battle of Brunanburgh”.

 

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