Thursday, 9 November 2017

Dark Ages and Britain's Rivers

I have just had accepted a Dark Age Hail Caeser supplement by those delightful if somewhat crazed chaps at Warlord Games.

It struck me when I wrote the book how important the waterways were in Dark Age Britain. One is struck by how many battles took place near rivers, probably for reasons of logistics and navigation.

But it goes deeper; the kingdoms formed in river basins and of you ignore the rivers and draw imaginary lines between them from coast to coast then you start to see the shadowy outlines of the kingdoms themselves.


  1. I'd say that rivers were hugely significant; besides cradles of kingdoms and supply routes, they also create natural borders that can be easily policed via a limited number of crossing points.

    Wroxeter was built at a crossing of the Severn, almost at what is thought to be the tribal border between the Cornovii and Ordovices and on the line of a Pre-Roman 'highway' between the two territories.

    Likewise the Mercians are thought to have used the Trent to settle far inland from East Anglian over-lordship, to the vicinity of Tamworth, with the Tame possibly being the border between them and the seemingly welcoming local Britons.

    In the Marwnad Cynddylan, his 7th Century kingdom is described in terms of the rivers that form its boundaries.

    So yes, in short I think you're right.

  2. Hi John I was watching the new programme on BBC 4 about invasions when they mentioned that there had been a major battle at Aylesford between the Saxons Hengist and Horsa and the local "british" "king" Wurtigen I mean I knew of them coming to britain (possibly as roman mercenaries initially) but didn't realise it had been more or less settled on our door step somewhere near the Medway again
    the Medway gets another mention later in the series with the Dutch raid on the Medway during the much later Dutch Anglo wars of the 1680's (bit off topic I know)
    Still one to watch perhaps

    1. There's no evidence that Hergest and Horse are anything but a myth.

  3. HO HUM no battle of Aylesford then