Tag Archives: anglo saxon chronicle

Hastings or Haestingas?


Hastings must be one of the most known places in England.  Known as the place that William the Conqueror in 1066 defeated Harold and the Normans took control of England.  The history though of Hastings doesn’t start there.  The Haestingas were one of the tribes that settled in the south eastern tip of England sometime before the end of the 8th Century.  Not much is known about the tribe but let’s look at what is.

The foundation legend of South Saxons is given in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle.  The Chronicle states that in the year 477 AD, Aella arrived at a place called Cymenshore in three ships with his three sons.   Cymenshore traditionally is thought to be located around the Selsey area in the south west of Sussex.  However archaeological evidence based on the number of Anglo Saxon cemeteries indicate that around the 5th Century the South Saxons mainly settled the lower Ouse and Cuckmere rivers in East Sussex.

To the east of Pevensey, beyond the Saxon Shore Fort of Anderitum on the other side of the estuary were a group of people that settled and were called the Haestingas.  They gave their name to the town Hastings.  They were believed to a separate group of people than the South Saxons, although there is no archaeological evidence to support the occupation of the area between the 5th and 8th Century AD.  Medieval sources suggest with place name evidence that there were people living there by the late 8th Century AD.

Some of the Anglo Saxon charters from the Kingdom of Sussex do such that there may have been two separate dynasties and people.  The charters of King Northelm who ruled in Sussex in the late 7th Century and early 8th Century AD mention a second King by the name of Watt (or Wattus).  It is suggested that Watt could have been the ruler of the Haestingas.  This is because around the Hastings area there are place names with Watt or What as part of them, but there are no places like this in West Sussex.

Simon of Durham who was a 11th Century monk, records the defeat of the gens Hestingorum (the people of Hastings) by Offa of Mercia in 771.  Mercian overlordship was ended when they were defeated in 825 AD, by Egbert of Wessex at the Battle of Ellandum.  Egbert annexed the territories of Essex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.  This suggests that by this time the Haestingas had fused together with the South Saxons of Sussex.  Although in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle it states that the Haestingas were harried by the Danes in 1011.  This would mean that they would of maybe kept an unique identity within Sussex, then Wessex and in England as a whole.

The 19th Century AD writer Grant Allen, suggest that the Hastings area was separated to that of Sussex and Kent, only later to join Sussex.  He stated that it was isolated separated from the rest of Sussex and England by the marshland of the Pevensey Levels lying to the west and the forest of Weald in the North.  It was separated from Kent by the Romney Marsh in the east.  He stated that the Kingdom of the Haestingas went on to join Sussex and to become one of traditional ‘rape’ sub-regions of the county.

The actual origin of the Haestingas people is also up for debate.  It is suggested that they may be of Frankish origin and that Watt was a sub-king to the South Saxons.  It may be that the name also gave name to Watten in north east France supporting this claim.  However some say that they may have been of Jutish origin from Kent.  Kent was one of the first places to be converted to Christianity at the beginning of the 7th Century AD, and the simple Christian burial was introduced.  As there is little archaeological evidence of the Saxon Haestingas it could have been they were already converted to Christianity before they moved to the area around Hastings.

Whether they were Saxon or Jutes, it is clear that the people of Haesta (ingas being the Old English for people of) gave the name to Hastings and with that a significant name at a major turning point in England’s history that will be remembered for ever.

Aella, King of Deira.

When you think of England and you think of all the different accents and dialects there are within the few hundred miles that separate the English channel and Hadrian’s Wall, it may be more easier to picture how fragmented the land once was.  England wasn’t always England.   The joining of the last fragmentation brought Northumbria in with Wessex, East Anglia and Mercia uniting them all as England. 

Northumbria it’s self was not always as one and was a make up of smaller kingdoms. 

One of these was Deira.  According to Simeon of Durham (died after 1129) it lay on the east coast of what would become England between the Humber and the Tyne.  Although the land north of the Tees was wasteland and useless.  It’s capital would of been Ebrauc which is now modern day York. 

The first known King of Deira was Aella who died in 588.   According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he became king the same year as Ceawlin of Wessex (560) on the death of Ida of Bernicia, and ruled 30 years. However, the Chronicle records in the year 588 that Aella died, and was succeeded by Aethelric. Possibly this is the reason Florence of Worcester offered the date Aella came to the throne as 559, which would closer align the dates of his death and reign. 

Not much is actually known of Aella but his geneology is disputed by two different sources.

According to the manuscripts of Matthew Parker a 16th Century Archbishop of Canterbury, Aella was the son of Yffe, the son of Uxfrea, the son of Wilgisl, the son of Westerfalca, the son of Sæfugl, the son of Sæbald, the son of Segegeat, the son of Swebdæg, the son of Sigegar, the son of Wædæg, the son of Woden

Although in the Historia Brittonum it is stated that Aella was the son of Iffi, grandson of Giulgis, great grandson of Sguerthing and great-great grandson of Soemil who “first separated Deira from Bernicia”. 

Another mention of Aella, appears in the Gautreks Saga where he was visited by a peasant hero. 

One of Aella’s sons was Edwin of Northumbria who went on to become King of both Bernicia and Deira which joined together to become Northumbria.  Edwin was later venerated as a Saint.  Aella’s daughter was Acha who married Aethelfrith of Bernicia.

He was succeeded by Aethelric (d.c604) although there is some ambiguity regarding this.  The Anglo Saxon Chronicle states that Aethelric succeeded Aella in 588.  Bebe states that Deira was invaded by Aethelfrith in about 604.  The exact details are unclear and it is stated that Edwin is exciled which would lead to believe that Deira was conquered by Aethelfrith and Aethelric’s fate is unknown.  Aethelfrith then ruled both Deira and Bernicia together until his death in battle when then Edwin and the Deria line was restored.