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Norwegian Vikings on the Wye

It must have been one of their furthest incursions into England when in AD 911 the army of  Eric Blood Axe and  two Jarls, Rognvald and Uhter, landed at Beachley on the River Severn, near Chepstow, and crossed the Forest of Dean and set up their base at Symond's Yat, near Ross-on-Wye.  The story is told in The Book of South Wales, the Wye, and the Coast. First published by Arthur Hall, Virtue & Co., London, 1861:
"In the eleventh year of Edward the Elder (AD 911), a body of Norwegian Vikings, led by Eric, the Bloody Axe, then a mere lad, one of the numerous sons of Harald Haarfager, supported by two Jarls, Roald or Rognvald, and Uhter or Otter, in a marauding expedition landed at Beachlev, near Chepstow, and crossing Dean Forest, took post at Symond's Yat, or Jutland. From its summit they could survey the broad expanse of meadows west of the town of Ross, and which had been part of the little British kingdom of Ergnig, now called the Hundred of Archenfield, over which the celebrated Vortigern was once king, or subregulus. In quest of plunder, they took prisoner a British bishop, named Camailgaret, who was ransomed by the king for £ 40. The scene of ransom is depicted in an ancient fresco on the church wall at Dewchurch, near Ross. The shires of Hereford and Gloucester were assembled and the posse comitatus surrounded the Viking troop in their fastness at Symond's Yat, near which they formed a square encampment, yet visible. From this place Svmond's Yat would be so exposed to arrow-shot as to be untenable.
Here the Vikings seem to have escaped down the easiest side of the Precipice towards the old camp on Doward Hill; but, as it would seem, with ill fate, for near the ford leading to it is a defile still called "The Slaughter." It is said that Jarl Roald, and Geolcie, the brother of Jarl with a great part of their army, were here slain. A considerable body, must have reached the Doward Hill; and as some time was necessary to follow and surround them again, they were able to enlarge the old Silurian fortress, and protect its summit by the same kind of triple embankment found at Symond's Yat. In the sequel they capitulated, and were allowed to leave the country-a sequel quite intelligible when the nature of the entrenchment at Doward Hill is considered."

There are Churches at Little Dewchurch and Much Dewchurch, and while we were not able to get access to the Church at Little Dewchurch, the Bell Tower is 14th Century, but the rest of the Church is 19th Century.  The Church at Much Dewchurch is older, but the plaster has been removed and the stonework re-pointed, and there is no mention of an old fresco.

Church at Much Dewchurch





The Book of South Wales, the Wye, and the Coast. First published by Arthur Hall, Virtue & Co., London, 1861. Republished 1977 by EP Publishing Limited East Ardsley, Wakefield West Yorkshire, England ISBN 0 7158 1233 5


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© Iain Laird 2006