Tag: Hampshire

Guthrum Chased King Alfred the Great into the Marshes 5 Jan 878

Photo Credit: Odejea [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Beginnings of an English Monarchy

King Alfred the Great of Wessex (Present day western England) was the youngest son of five of King Athelwulf, but did not become king at Athelwulf’s death. The throne went  through most of his older brothers who promptly died, leaving Alfred. After a series of devastating Viking raids from the north of the English isle, Alfred knew that he was too weak to fight off the Vikings that were on his territory in the 870s, so he made a series of treaties, sealed with large quantities of Danegeld, with the Vikings that they promptly broke. Guthrum, the Danish Viking, knew that the Christian Alfred would be celebrating Epiphany on the 12th night (5/6 January) in 878, so Guthrum struck at Chippenham with the hopes of capturing Alfred as well as taking the important town of Chippenham.

King Alfred the Great on the Run

The attack so soon after a peace treaty surprised the English and drove many to France where they arrived with little more than the clothes on their backs. Some say Alfred was in Chippenham that night and fled with his people. Others say he was in Dorchester. Either way,  Guthrum chased King Alfred the Great into the marshes of the Somerset Levels. There Alfred began his guerrilla days fighting out of the marshes and bogs near Athelney. Only a few warriors were with Alfred, but he soon began recruiting local militias throughout modern day Somerset, Wiltshire, and Hampshire. By building a resistance force from the ground up, Alfred was able to remain the only major kingdom in modern day England to successfully hold out against the onslaught of the Vikings. This success and eventual victory in southern England is what established the legend of Alfred the Great in Anglo-Saxon history.

Guthrum Chased King Alfred the Great Motorcycle Ride

If you have a full day, try the long circular ride from Chippenham to Box and down to Athelney on the A4, then back up to Melksham and Devizes on the A365 and back to Chippenham on the A342. Good biking roads all. The route to Box and Athelney is a likely route that Alfred could have taken out of Chippenham.If you are in the area of Athelney, also check out this ride around the Battle of Langport from the Battlefield Biker English Civil War series. When near Devizes, you can also zip up to Roundway Down to see the site of the English Civil War battlefield of that name from the Battlefield Biker series.

Waller Defeats Hopton at Battle of Cheriton on 29 March 1644

Introduction

In the summer of 1644, the Royalist forces were threatening London in the English Civil War with the Parliamentarians. The Royalists confidently blocked a Parliamentarian force near Winchester and forced a battle. They would regret it. The battle was a turning point in the southern campaign and suddenly stopped the Royalist pincer strategy on London by destroying the lower jaw of it.

This is one of my favourite local rides. The battlefield is highly accessible by bike and foot with multiple farm tracks and lanes. Additionally, this part of Hampshire is beautiful and the lanes and good “A” roads around here make it a great Sunday morning ride.

The Battle of Cheriton

Around 27 March 1644, the Royalist forces of Lord Hopton, joined by the Earl of Forth had succeeded in halting Hopton’s old friend William Waller’s Parliamentary forces from securing Winchester by blocking the main road between London and Winchester near Alresford. Two days of skirmishing in the area left Waller’s army near the village of Hinton Ampner and Hopton’s army northeast of Cheriton with pickets on a ridge overlooking Hinton Ampner to the south.

Hopton’s pickets and Waller’s patrols skirmished in the night of 28/29 March. Waller had flanked Hopton’s pickets on the south ridge to the point of making it untenable. Thus the day of the battle began with Waller on the south ridge and Hopton on the north ridge. Upon seeing the ground between the two forces, Waller saw that Cheriton Wood would be the key to Hopton’s left flank and dispatched 1,000 musketeers there. Understanding this threat, Hopton countered with 1,000 musketeers of his own under Colonel Matthew Appleyard. The two forces met in the dense Cheriton Wood and by all accounts fought a fierce hand-to-hand melee with Appleyard’s forces securing the ground. Hopton had been frustrated by previous attempts to bring his old friend, Waller, to battle, due to Waller’s pessimistic nature and previous defeats, most notably Roundway Down and Lansdown Hill. Alas, Hopton would be frustrated, but not by Waller this time.

Although intending to hold their position on the north ridge, one of Hopton’s lieutenants, Royalist Sir Henry Bard, on his own initiative, led his regiment on a ill-starred attack from the right on Sir Arthur Haselrige’s regiment of horse, known as the “lobsters” for their 3/4 armour suits. Haselrige made Bard pay for his folly and destroyed the entire regiment in plain sight of the Royalists. The Royalists were so horrified by what they saw in front of them that they felt compelled to send re-enforcements to Bard. However, they were sent piecemeal without supporting fires or flank protection. The Roundheads met the challenge and soon the entire front became engaged between the two ridges.

Parrying between the two forces ended up in close quartered fighting along the hedges. Meanwhile, several cavalry actions played out over a period of hours with the Parliamentary cavalry gaining the upper hand. Finally, Waller’s infantry enveloped the flanks and forced Hopton to salvage his troops and guns with an orderly retreat up today’s Scrubbs Lane towards Basing House, passing the point where the commemorative stone sits today.

Ride Recommendation

This is a good ride with the tour of the battlefield in the middle of the ride along the farm lanes northeast of the village of Cheriton. Use Ordnance Survey Landranger 185. The battlefield is centred on SU 598294. If using a road map, the battlefield is located northeast of Cheriton village. It is 42.8 miles beginning and ending near Winchester, Hampshire. There is a National Trust property at Hinton Ampner, a good pub called the Flower Pots in Cheriton, a Husqvarna dealership (Husky Sport) in Cheriton and a BMW Motorrad dealer (Bahnstormer) at Lower Faringdon.

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