Images from Anglo-Saxon England

Being mostly photographs taken on pilgrimages to Anglo-Saxon sites in the company of that intrepid guide and Essex historian, Mr. Michael J. Hands

I. Maps

This map displays the Anglo-Saxon "Heptarchy," the seven kingdoms finally united in the tenth century due to the efforts of King Alfred (d. 899). For a good brief historical overview, see


This is a modern chart of the area around Maldon, where the battle took place in 991.


II. Images of the probable battle site at Maldon

Maldon, Essex. The causeway (bricg) from the northwest, just before high tide on the Blackwater (Pant), with Northey Island in the background, as seen in 1984. The area in the foreground (adjusting, of course, for erosion and other geological changes over 1000 years) would have been the site of the main battle. Mr. Hands and I figured everybody in Maldon would be familiar with the site of this fabled conflict, but the first person we asked, a local publican, figured we had already had a few pints too many. Eventually a bystander provided directions, but seemed amazed we were actually going to walk the quarter-mile or so out to this very muddy and desolate place. A dubious locale for combat; even more so for tourism; I guess this makes us even less prudent than Byrhtnoth. My apologies for the darkness of the image; I really do need to re-scan these two slides.

Maldon, Essex. The causeway from the southeast, Northey Island again in the background, a few minutes later when the tide was a bit higher. The whole topography has undoubtedly changed over a thousand years, but mutatis mutandis , the "X" marks the spot where the poem's Wulfstan, Ælfhere and Maccus would have stood, at the head of the causeway, to prevent the Vikings from reaching the mainland. Three minutes later the causeway was completely awash.

III. The Tomb of Byrhtnoth in Ely Cathedral

Prof. Arlene Hilfer of Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, OH (, has kindly sent me these images of Byrhtnoth's tomb in Ely Cathedral. This is a wide view of the entire tomb that bears the names of seven early benefactors of the cathedral, whose remains were translated from the Saxon church to the north wall of the choir in 1154.


A close-up of the right side of this tomb, with plaque noting Byrhtnoth's tomb (farthest right). The inscription reads "BRITHNOTHUS, NORTHUMBRIORUM DUX, PRAELIO CAESUS A DANIS A.D. DCCCCXCI" [B., leader of the Northumbrians, cut down in battle by the Danes, 991 A.D.]. See E. V. Gordon's excellent introduction to his edition, The Battle of Maldon (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts), 1966, esp. p. 17, for explanations of this strange Northumbrian attribution, and for a general discussion of the character, career, and burial of Byrhtnoth.


This plaque identifies Byrhtnoth's tomb, and includes some local history, details gleaned mainly from the Liber Eliensis and Vita Oswaldi.

I'd like to thank Prof. Hilfer once again for the use of her photographs, and encourage any other viewers who have good shots and would like to see them added to this humble collection to send them on.


IV. Images of Saxon-era monuments elsewhere in Essex

The Chapel of St. Peter ad Murum, Bradwell-juxta-Mare, Essex (not far from Maldon), built by St. Cedd in 654 A.D. The church was built on the site of a Roman coastal fort, and red Roman brick is visible in the chapel's walls. A lovely ancient place, a stone's-throw from a nuclear reactor. Thanks to Peter Hardy of the Othona Community for correcting the orientation of my picture.

St. Andrew's Church, Greensted , near Ongar (Essex), was built ca. 845 A.D. The oldest part of the church is the timbers of the nave (center of photo). The body of the Anglo-Saxon martyr King Edmund (d. 870) rested here in 1013 on its way to a final interment at Bury St. Edmunds.

This is the 11th-12th-century village church at tiny Sturmer, Essex, where Eileen and Michael Hands brought me during an exploring trip in March 1994. It was well out of our way and the church had nothing from the era of the battle at Maldon, but we just couldn't forget Sturmer's valiant son, Leofsunu:

"Ne thurfon me ymbe Sturmere stede-fæste hæleth
wordum ætwitan, nu min wine gecrang
thaet ic hlaford-leas ham sithie . . ." (Maldon 249-251)

Note: I figure there could be Anglo-Saxonists out there who have interesting images they would like to make available to a Web audience , but who lack the resources for putting up their own web pages. If anyone has such materials and would like me to post them, send 'em on, and I'll see if I can fit them in here. Of course, I'll give photographers credit for their work, etc.

Updated 31 January 1999: As you can see from the Byrhtnoth images above, I keep my promises.