Page images

whole clerical body. In consequence of his extreme old age, he was not present, but by the friar Askill, a monk of his community, he had, in a most humble letter, apologized for his absence on account of the weight of his years. Bertulph, the king, being mindful of the complaints of the church of Croyland, detailed explicitly to the council himself the calumnies that had been but too often alleged against the lord abbot Siward and his monastery of Croyland, by the infatuated rancour of their adversaries, and commanded that such remedial measure as the council might determine should be put in force. When, therefore, the business was entered upon, and the petition of the lord abbot Siward, presented by the aforesaid friar Askill, had passed from hand to hand among the prelates and thanes of the whole assembly, and much diversity of opinion had arisen ; Ceolnoth, the lord archbishop of Canterbury, in a loud voice, said that he was sound and cured of his disease, through the merits of that most holy confessor of Christ, the blessed Guthlac, whose business was then in their hands. Also many others of the most powerful in that council, as well priests as magnates, cried out that they too had laboured under that disorder, but that now, by the grace of God and the merits of the holy Guthlac, they no longer felt any pain or numbness in

any of their limbs. All of them bound themselves by a solemn vow, to make a devout pilgrimage, as soon as possible, to the tomb of St. Guthlac, at Croyland. Whereupon king Bertulph commanded the bishop of London, who was then esteemed the best penman, and the most eloquent inditer, and who, moreover, being affected with the same disorder, had declared with great joy, that he was cured, to draw out the charter of the privileges of Croyland, and in his elegant hand-writing to express that honour to his holy physician Guthlac, which had been voted by the council. This was consequently executed; and therefore we find that in the ene grossed copy of the deed, the archbishop of Canterbury signs himself • Ceolnoth, the recovered and healthful ;" St. Swithin, the bishop of Winchester, rejoices in the miracles of the Lord; Elfstan, bishop of Scherburn, and Arkenwald, bishop of Lichfield, “rejoice in the increased glory of the church;' and Rethun, the bishop of Leicester, promises that ' as long as he lives, he will be the servant of St. Guthlac.'”

Boerred or Buhred succeeded his father in the year 852. This prince formed an alliance with Ethelwulph, the sovereign of England, by espousing his daughter Ethelswitha, at the abbey of Chippenham; and being attacked by the Welsh in the first year of his reign, he sought assistance from his father-in-law, and at the head of a considerable army, drove the invaders back into their own country with great loss. After his victory, Mercia enjoyed considerable tranquillity for the space of fifteen years, but in the year 868, the Danes, under Ivar and Hubba, having ravaged Northumbria, penetrated into Mercia as far as Nottingham, where they established themselves in winter quarters. Buhred, in the meantime assembling his troops, despatched messengers to Ethelred and Alfred, with pressing entreaties for immediate assistance. The cause of humanity, policy and justice, pleaded by the distressed husband of a beloved sister, was not urged in vain. The army of Wessex, commanded by the royal brothers, quickly forming a junction with Buhred's Mercian force, marched to the quarters of the invaders; but the subtle enemy, sheltered by the walls of Nottingham, and secure in their strong fortifications, well knowing that to conquer he must divide, wisely declined the proffered combat of England's associated force in open field; and as the allies were unable to break through the Danish circumvallation, Buhred, tired of a protracted siege, and of the maintenance of so large an army, entered into a convention with the enemy, in which it was stipulated, that the Danes should abandon Mercia and retire unmolested into Northumbria with all their plunder.

Hostilities having ceased, the Wessexians returned home, and the Danes retracing their steps, in the following year took up their winter quarters at York: but, urged by famine, the certain consequence of their devastating warfare, in 870 they left that city, and, crossing the Humber, landed at Humberstan, in Lincolnshire, whence passing through part of Mercia, burning the abbeys and murdering the monks of Bardney, Croyland and Medehamsted, the present Peterborough, they entered the East Anglian kingdom.

The incursions of the Danes were frequent, and they desolated the country in every direction. The monasteries were seized and plundered, for there the most valuable effects of the people were conveyed, as to places that would be preserved by their sanctity. Ingulphus, who describes the events of that period more circumstantially than is usual in the old historians, narrates the destruction of the monastery of Croyland. That building was connected with Repton, and was situate in the Mercian territories; it therefore belongs to our subject, and we shall give from Ingulphus an abstract of the more interesting particulars. —“At the commencement of spring, in the year 869, the Danes, after a short delay at York, sailed to Lindissy,* and up the river to Humberstan, where they laid waste the whole country, and destroyed the ancient and celebrated monastery of Bardney, slaying all the monks without mercy. There they remained during the summer, until the province around them was reduced to ashes. They marched, about Michaelmas, into Kesteven, where they burnt, murdered and consumed, all that came in their way. At length, during the September of the year ensuing, the brave Earl Algar, with two of his seneschals, Wibert and Leofric, called together the young men of Hoyland, and to these was added a company from the monastery of Croyland, consisting of two hundred robust warriors, who were, for the most part, fugitive soldiers, and were on this occasion commanded by friar Tollius, a brother of the same monastery, who, before he had turned monk, had been famous throughout Mercia for his skill in warfare. Earl Algar drew also from Deeping, Langtoft and Barton about four hundred, and was joined by Morcard, the lord of Bourne, with his dependents, who were brave and numerous; and by Osgoth, lieutenantt of Lincoln, a veteran warrior, at the head of a body of Lincolnians, consisting of five hundred men, raised in Kesteven. On the festival of St. Maurice, they joined battle with the pagan Danes, and God granting them the victory, the christians having slain three Danish chiefs, with great slaughter of their followers, pursued the barbarians to their encampment, where they made a desperate resistance, and the night terminating the battle, the brave earl withdrew his forces. There arrived in the Danish camp, the same night, all the rest of the pagan chieftains, who, dividing the country among them, had gone out to plunder. These were Gogrum, Baseg, Oskitel, Hulfden and Hamond, with their counts or companions, Frena, Unguar, Ubba, and two Sidroks, the elder and the younger, together with their troops, and an immense booty, among which was a numerous multitude of women and children. This being known, the greater part of the christians were smitten with fear, and deserted during the night; and there remained with the earl and his seneschals scarcely two hundred out of eight. With these, at the earliest dawn of the day, they proceeded into the field against the barbarians, all prepared to die in defence of their country, for the faith of Ohrist, having first heard divine service and taken the sacrament. The brave earl, then perceiving that his army was very much exposed, placed the friar Tollius, with his five hundred men, because he esteemed them to be the strongest, upon the right wing, giving to him also the valiant squadron of Morcard of Bourne, with all who followed his banners; on the left wing he placed the illustrious lord lieutenant Osgoth, with his five hundred, appointing to it a brave squadron, namely, Hartington of Rehale, with his Stanford men, who were young and extremely warlike. Himself with his seneschals acted in the centre, ready to be in each wing should he perceive it necessary. The Danes, enraged the more by the preceding slaughter, were burying their three chiefs, early in the morning, in the town which was formerly called Laundon, but which on account of the sepulture of the three Danish kings, is named Trekyngham, under the command of four chieftains and eight counts; for two chieftains and four counts remained to protect the camp and the captives. Then the christians, on account of the paucity of their numbers, closing their ranks so as to form one body, under the skilful direction of their leaders, presented the strong rampart of their united shields|| against the attack of the archers, and a thick field of lances against the charge of the horse, throughout the day, in one immoveable station. When they had thus remained unvanquished until the evening, and the archers of the enemy had expended their arrows in vain, while their horsemen, who were wearied with continued efforts, began to lose their energy, the barbarians by common consent, feigning flight, appeared to be quitting the field. The christians, perceiving this, broke from their ranks, in spite of the commands and persuasions of their leaders,

+ Vicedominus. Paganorum Reges. & Comites.
|| Durissimam testitudinem clypeorum.



and in pursuing the pagans spread themselves abroad over the plain, without order and without the direction of their commanders. The barbarians, then turning back, fell furiously upon them, lions upon a

scattered flock of lambs. The brave Earl Algar, with the distinguished warriors already named, and the friar Tollius, forming themselves in a compact body, on a mound of earth which rose a little above the rest of the plain, sustained, for a long time, the onset of the barbari. ans. And, when the aforesaid illustrious and ever-to-be-remembered Earl Algar, with the six intrepid leaders, saw that the bravest men of their forces were slain, they rushed together where the slaughtered christians lay in the greatest heap, and avenging their blood with all their force on every side, they fell at length covered with innumerable wounds on the corses of their breth

A few young men, of Sutton and Gedeney, having thrown away their arms, escaped with great difficulty through the neighbouring wood, during the subsequent night, and entered the monastery of Croyland; where, crying out with sad and mournful lamentations, they related at the gate of the church, just as the matins were about to be celebrated by the abbot Theodore and the holy fathers, the total slaughter of the christians, including that of friar Tollius and his company.

“While all were dismayed at this intelligence, the abbot, retaining with himself the aged monks and a few children (perhaps that their feebleness might incline the barbarians to pity) not recollecting the verse,


Nor faith, nor mercy feel these camp-bred men,

commanded all the strongest and youngest men, to take refuge in the adjoining marshes, and taking with them the sacred reliques of the monastery, namely, the sanctified dust of the body of Saint Guthlac, with his scourge and psaltery, with the most valuable jewels and records, such as the charters of King Ethelbald and of other sovereigns, confirming the foundation of the monastery, together with certain donations of King Wichtlaf; and there to remain until the end of the war. They, with much grief of heart, obeyed his commands; and, having laden a small boat with the aforesaid reliques and regal records, they threw into the well of the cloisters, the table of the great altar, inlaid with plates of gold; (presented formerly by King Wichtlaf) and ten goblets, with wash-basins, bowls, pots, kettles, dishes and other vessels of brass ; yet when these things were immerged, the end of the table, on account of its length, continually rose above the water. Then, as they perceived that the flames of the burning villages throughout Kesteven were gradually becoming nearer and nearer, and fearing the immediate attack of the pagans, they drew out the table and left it in the custody of the abbot and the aforesaid old men ; and taking with them their boat, they arrived at the forest of Ancarig, which adjoins our island towards the south. There, with the friar Toretus, then a hermit, and with other friars, who were there abiding, they remained four days, in number thirty ; ten of whom were priests, and the rest of inferior rank. In the meantime, the abbot Theodore, taking with him two elders, concealed the above-mentioned table in the northern part beyond the church, so that it might not be immediately discovered. Then, clothing themselves in their sacred vestments, as well the abbot as all the rest, they assembled together in the choir, where they performed divine service at the regular hours, with the whole of the psaltery of David; and afterwards the lord abbot celebrated the high mass, the friar Elfgeth, deacon, the friar Savine, sub-deacon, and the youths Egelred and Ulrick, censerbearers, assisting at the service. When mass was over, and the abbot with the aforesaid attendants had participated in the communion of the holy mysteries, the pagans burst into the church. The venerable abbot, a true martyr and victim of Christ, was immolated on the holy altar, by the hand of that most sanguinary chieftain Osketul, and the attendants surrounding him were beheaded by the barbarians; the old men and the boys, attempting to escape from the choir, were seized and were put to death with excruciating torments, being required to discover the treasures of the church ; the lord prior Asker, in the vestry, and the sub-prior Lethwyn, in the refectory, whom the younger brother, Tugarius, a child of no more than ten years of age, lovely both in countenance and form, having followed with inseparable step into the refectory, and beholding his revered instructer slain, he entreated that he might be instantly slain there, and expire with him. The younger count Sidrok was, however, moved with pity at sight of the boy, and stripping him of his cowl, he threw over him a Danish cloak, and commanded him to follow close behind him wherever he went; and thus of all the aged and the young that had remained in the monastery, he alone was preserved, going in and out among the Danes like one of themselves, the whole time of his remaining with them, through the favour and protection of the aforesaid count. All the monks being slain by their torturers, and none of the treasure being yet discovered, the Danes demolished with hatchets and stakes all the sepulchres of the holy men who reposed in marble tombs, to the right and left, around the sepulchre of St. Guthlac: namely, to the right, the sepulchre of St. Cessa, priest and hermit, and the sepulchre of St. Bettlemus, a man of God, and some time servant of St. Guthlac (the sepulchre to the pious memory of the lord abbot Siward was to the left of that of St. Guthlac, as was the tomb of St. Egbert, the confidant and confessor of St. Guthlac) there was also the tomb of St. Tatwin, formerly a leader of Croyland, and the pilot of the holy Guthlac: also the tomb of the holy virgin Etheldritha, and also the tombs of Celfrida, the queen, and of Wymund, the son of king Wichtlaf, were broken up by the barbarian Danes, who not finding the treasures they expected, were greatly enraged, and heaping together the bodies of these sanctified persons, they set them on fire on the third day of their arrival, and most fatally consumed them all in the flames, together with the church and all the buildings of the monastery.- This happened on the 8th calends of September, 870.

“On the fourth day they passed on to Mideshamstead, * with innumerable herds of cattle and horses: where finding that the principal monks had concealed themselves beneath the monastery, and that the gates were barricadoed, they attacked the walls on every side with their archers and with their battering instruments. On the second assault, as the pagans were rushing in, Tulba, the brother of count Hubba, fell in the entrance grievously wounded by a stone, and was carried by the hands of his followers into the tent of his brother, without any hope of life. Whereupon Hubba, foaming with anger and violently enraged against the monks, slew with his own hand every person who wore the symbol of our holy religion: the fury spread from band to band : not one of the whole monastery was preserved. The venerable father, lord abbot Hedda, as well as all his brotherhood, with their countrymen, were slain. The boy Tugarius was admonished, by the count Sidrok, his master, to avoid meeting count Hubba in any place. All the altars were overturned, the monuments were entirely demolished, the large library of holy books consumed by fire, an imniense pile of the charters and records of the monastery torn to pieces, the precious corpses of the holy virgins Kyneburga, Kyneswitha and Tibba trampled upon, the walls thrown down, and the church with all its buildings set in flames, the conflagration of which continued during the five following days.

“The pagan army, on the fourth day, having obtained abundance of plunder from all parts of the country, re-assembled and proceeded towards Huntingdon; and as the two counts Sidrok, who for the protection of the rear of the forces, on fording rivers, always closed the march, were crossing the river Nene, just as the troops had passed over in safety, they lost two chariots, heavily laden with great wealth, besides a quantity of household goods, which sunk in a deep whirlpool of the stream on the left side of the stone bridge, and the cattle were drowned before they could be extricated from the water. The whole of the attendants of the younger Sidrok being busily employed in drawing the chariots out of the flood, and in carrying the goods they contained into other wagons and carriages, the young friar Tugarius escaped by flight to the nearest wood, and walking all night, arrived by day-break at Croyland. He there found the monks who had returned the preceding day from Incarig, and who were employed in extinguishing the fire which still raged among some of the ruins of the monastery. When they beheld him whole and in safety, they were for a short time comforted, but when they heard from him in what places their abbot, the elders, and their fellow monks lay slain, and how that the sepulchres of the saints were demolished, and that all the records and sacred volumes, with the bodies of the saints had been burnt, they were confounded with inconceivable sorrow, and their lamentations were long and

• Now Peterborough.


violent. At length, exhausted by weeping, they resumed their labour, and clearing away the fragments of the roof of the church from around the great altar, they found the headless body of their venerable abbot, the father Theodore, stripped of clothing, very much burnt and bruised, and beaten to the earth by the fall of the rafters (on the eighth day after his death, a little remote from the place where among the extinguished torches his life had been extinguished) together with the bodies of the other priests (except that of Ulric the censer-bearer) which lay in the same manner, crushed by the weight of the fallen beams into the earth: but these were discovered at different times.

“In the meantime the Danes laid waste all the country as far as Cambridge, a celebrated sanctuary situate in the isle of Ely, and all that were found in it, as well nuns as friars, they slew; the cattle and the piles of wealth which had been brought there from all the region around, as a place of security, were carried away by the barbarians, and the buildings were set on fire. Then passing over into East Anglia, they slew the brave Earl Ulketul, with his whole army, who had marched against them and most firmly opposed them : also, they martyred the most holy Edmund, the king of that province, whom these barbarians having seized, they bound him to the trunk of a tree, as a mark for their arrows, and then showering upon him their spears and darts, they pierced him through with horrible cruelty, and cut off his head, on account of his pious faith in Christ and his patriotism. Thus having become masters of East Anglia, they remained there the whole winter. In the year following, they invaded Wessex and fought many battles with king Ethelred and his brother Alfred, with various success ; in these their cheiftains Boseg and Orguil being slain, and many leaders, among whom were the two Sidroks, Frena, Osbern, Harola and Fungo, with a vast multitude of their followers, the christians were ultimately victorious."

From such sufferings the Saxon kingdoms were never free for any considerable interval ; whilst their internal divisions and the increasing ambition of their respective sovereigns, together with the avaricious imbecility of the monastic institutions, which held immense estates that they were unable to defend, increased the misery of the country. The sovereigns of Wales also took advantage of these dissensions and distresses. The western districts of Mercia were infested by their inroads, and Buhred was engaged in repressing their incursions, when he heard that the Danes had laid waste all the eastern part of his domains. He hastened to London and raised a considerable

army ; but this was not done without the infliction of additional calamities on his subjects. A heavy tax was levied in the isle of Ely, the inhabitants of which were still deploring the recent devastations of the barbarians, and Buhred seized upon Stamford, Huntingdon and Wisbeach, although they were monastic property, and quartered his mercenary troops upon the lands of abbeys and other holy houses. In vain Godric, abbot of Croyland, displayed before the sovereign and his military court, the charters of the donors and the confirmations of kings and princes, he could obtain no mitigation of Buhred's demands, who bestowed the manors of Spalding, Depyng, Croxton and other territories belonging to that abbey upon different officers for the maintenance of his soldiers, and passing over to Lindsey, he laid the extensive lands of the monastery of Bardney under contribution, and the more distant villages he granted to his most distinguished warriors.

It is not surprising that the monkish historians should attribute Euhred's want of success against the Danish invaders to his sacrilegious conduct, and probably his troops themselves were sometimes disheartened by a consciousness that they and their leader had offended against the superstition of that period. A series of misfortunes attended the Mercian king during the ensuing three years: and in 874, while Alfred, who had then succeeded his brother Ethelred, was delayed in Somersetshire, the Danes re-entered Mercia, and took up their winter quarters at Repton, where they destroyed the celebrated monastery, the mausoleum of all the Mercian kings. Buhred had reigned two and twenty years, if to be continually in arms against internal faction as well as against barbarous invaders can be called reigning. He saw the residence of his predecessors


« PreviousContinue »