The Sack of London, Autumn 872 A.D. (Flaunden, October 2013)

At which the Vikings harried refugees from the sack of London, as they fled up Watling Street towards the Abbey of St. Albans.

Autumn 872. The great Mercian town of London had been taken by the Great Army, causing many Christian folk to flee the city.

King Burhred of Mercia and King Alfred of Wessex each sent fyrdsmen to find and succour the fleeing Christians and escort them to safety. Besides that, each fyrd was tasked to try and find out what the Great army intended to do next – and, in the case of the West Saxons, also what the Mercians’ intentions were.

Having fought their way through bands of Viking plunderers, the Mercians and West Saxons found the fleeing Christians and escorted them north up Watling Street to seek sanctuary at the Abbey of St Albans. That was not without incident – the prospect of taking slaves and booty drew Viking raiders to the convoy, harrying it incessantly. The members of the refugee column were thus often scattered, but the Christians did eventually succeed in re-forming the convoy and continuing north. In a last attempt to stop them, the Vikings drew up across Watling Street to block the road.

The fyrdsmen charged them, and although there were many slain on both sides, the Christians fleeing London managed to reach the Abbey, and safety.

Some weeks later the Mercians made peace with the Great Army, and a banquet was held to celebrate that – and to try and find out what might happen next.

Because so many had fallen in battle, Abbot Wulfnoth of St Albans wished to make good his losses and bolster his local defences, and so Guthwald of the Cilternsaete was granted five hides of land at Sandridge and made a thegn, provided he fulfilled the three common dues of bridge work, fortress work, and fyrd service, and was presented on behalf of the Abbot with a mail byrnie. His wergeld was increased to 1200 shillings.

During the banquet, it emerged that the Vikings would next raid Northumbria – but what after that?

An excerpt from Hauk Ragnarsson’s Saga
The next year the Great Heathen Host descended upon London. As the Englisc fled their burning city, the Oestvikingae fell upon them, under the orders of the vǫlva Guðrún to gather living creatures for sacrifice at blót. The Englisc attempted to travel in a convoy, escorting refugees to St Albans, but the Oestvikingae harried them, chasing through the woodlands, howling like wolves and striking where they were weakest. The Englisc convoy collapsed, and Hauk unleashed Thorhelm the Cruel, who chased down the unarmed civilians and children like a fearsome beast. However, the Oestvikingae over-extended themselves, advancing ahead of the other Vikings, and were driven off by the re-grouped Englisc, who marched on to St. Albans. Guðrún was displeased not to have her offering, and the Oestvikingae swore to do better next time… Whilst the plunder from London was being divided, Fritha of the Oestvikingae, wife of Thorhelm, claimed for herself the Chalice of King Edwin of Northumbria, a precious vessel that once bore the sainted King’s head.

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