My interest in the Northumbrian-Welsh conflict came about because I work with a patriotic Northumbrian (Mike Lowery) and I like playing the Thomas=Welsh ancestry card on him. This developed into the challenge of 15 mm DBA armies at 1 foot to decide the issue. We’re now gearing up to paint those armies (actually for the Britannia 600 AD Campaign).
The gist of the conflict is that the ancient British inhabitants of northern Britain were old Welsh speakers and were driven west by the early Northumbrians (Anglo-Saxons) who settled there in the 6th century A.D.
c.496 The Siege of Mount Badon
The Britons under their “war leader” Arthur defeat the Saxons under King Esla of Bernicia and possibly Cerdic of Wessex (Britannia History). The Saxon invaders return to their own enclaves. A generation of peace ensues.
c.500 Angles settle in Bernicia
Angles settle in Bernicia – possibly in the region between the Forth and the Tyne and probably as laeti (The History Files: The British Isles). They were probably brought in to help defend the borders against devastating Pictish and Scotti raids.
c.547 Angles found Kingdom of Bernicia
Angles form a kingdom around modern Durham and Northumbria (The History Files: The British Isles). Bernicia is the Angle form of the earlier Celtic Bernaccia.
549 “Yellow” Plague
The “Yellow” Plague hits British and Irish territories but not the Saxon (Britannia History).
c.570-79 Battles of Gwen Ystrad and the Cells of Berwyn
The Northern British Alliance (North Rheged, Strathclyde, Bryneich and Elmet.) fight the Bernicians at the Battles of Gwen Ystrad and the Cells of Berwyn (Britannia History; The History Files: The British Isles). Britannia History gives c.570-75 but The History Files: The British Isles gives 577 or 579.
575 Battle of Leeming Lane
Prince Owein of North Rheged kills King Theodoric of Bernicia at the Battle of Leeming Lane (Britannia History).
580 Caer Greu
(Britannia History)The army of Kings Peredyr and Gwrgi of Ebrauc march north to fight the Anglians of Bernicia. Both are killed by King Adda’s forces at Caer Greu. The Deirans rise up, under King Aelle, and move on the City of Ebrauc. King Peredyr’s son is forced to flee the Kingdom. St. Cadog is martyred in Calchfynedd by invading Mercians.
(Britannia History) King Edwin of Deira is ousted from his Kingdom by the Bernicians and seeks refuge at the court of King Iago of Gwynedd.
590 Siege of Lindisfarne
Britannia History The Siege of Lindisfarne. The Northern British Alliance (North Rheged, Strathclyde, Bryneich and Elmet) lays siege to King Hussa of Bernicia and almost exterminates the Northumbrians from Northern Britain. King Urien of North Rheged is assassinated at the behest of his jealous ally King Morcant Bulc of Bryneich. The Northumbrians recover while internal squabbles tear the British Alliance apart.
The History Files: The British Isles Elmet and Rheged form a Confederation of British Kings, primarily based and operating in the north. The dispossessed Morcant Bulc of Bernaccia, and Riderch Hael of Alt Clut both join the confederation in operations against the Angles, and are present at the siege of Ynys Metcaut (Lindisfarne) in this year.
(Britannia History) King Dunaut Bwr of the Northern Pennines mounts an invasion of North Rheged, but is repulsed by its King, Owein, and his brother, Prince Pasgen. Prince Elffin of North Rheged is simultaneously attacked by King Gwallawc Marchawc Trin of Elmet.
(Britannia History) King Morcant Bulc of Bryneich invades North Rheged and kills King Owein in battle. Prince Pasgen of North Rheged flees to the Gower Peninsula. A greatly diminished North Rheged probably continues under the rule of their brother, Rhun.
595 Bernicians overrun North Pennines
Britannia History The aging King Dunaut Bwr of the Northern Pennines dies fighting off a Bernician invasion. His kingdom is overrun and his family flee to join his grandson in Gwynedd.
The History Files: The British Isles A resurgent Bernicia apparently conquers the minor British kingdom of Dunoting, and probably The Peak at the same time. Elmet is now surrounded.
598 Battle of Catterick
Britannia History Kings Mynyddog Mwynfawr of Din-Eidyn & Cynan of Gododdin ride south to fight King Aethelfrith’s Bernician army against enormous odds at the Battle of Catterick. The British are victorious. Probable expansion of North Rheged to fill the vacuum left in North Yorkshire.
Britannia History King Aethelfrith of Bernicia invades Deira and kills its king, Aethelric. Prince Edwin, son of the late King Aelle of Deira (and possibly nephew of King Aethelric) flees to the Court of King Iago of Gwynedd. Aethelfrith marries King Aelle’s daughter, Acha, and takes the kingdom.
Britannia History Birth of Prince (later King) Oswald of Bernicia.
Britannia History Death of King Pybba of Mercia. He is succeeded by his kinsman, Ceorl.
613 Battle of Chester and Battle of Bangor-is-Coed
Britannia History King Aethelfrith of Bernicia invades Gwynedd in order to route out his old enemy, King Edwin of Deira. A united British force (Gwynedd, Powys, Pengwern and Dumnonian warriors) clashes with his army at the Battle of Chester. King Iago of Gwynedd and King Selyf Sarffgadau of Powys are both killed but the victor is unclear.
The Battle of Bangor-is-Coed follows in quick succession. King Bledric of Dumnonia is killed in the fighting and 1000 monks are massacred by the Northumbrians. King Edwin of Deira flees to the Court of King Raedwald of East Anglia.
Birth of Prince (later King) Oswiu of Bernicia.
The History Files: The British Isles c.613 South Rheged falls to the Northumbrian Bernicians.
Britannia History King Aethelfrith of Bernicia visits King Raedwald of East Anglia at Rendlesham and persuades him to hand over the former’s old enemy, King Edwin of Deira. In return, Raedwald is promised rich rewards, yet war is threatened if he fails to comply. Raedwald’s wife however, reminds him of his obligations as Edwin’s protector and the King begrudgingly declines the offer. King Edwin of Deira marries Princess Cwenburga, daughter of King Ceorl of Mercia.
616 Battle of the River Idle
Britannia History King Edwin of Deira, with the help of King Raedwald of East Anglia, conquers Northumbria at the Battle of the River Idle. King Aethelfrith of Bernicia & Deira is killed in the fighting and his children are forced to flee north. His heir, Prince Eanfrith, seeks refuge with his mother’s family, probably in Gododdin, and then moves further north into Pictland; Princes Oswald, Oswiu and others escape to Court of King Eochaid Buide of Dalriada where they are converted to Christianity by the monks of Iona.
The History Files: The British Isles c.616 Edwin forces the collapse of the British kingdom of North Rheged, although some of it survives and continues as an isolated enclave. The rest is absorbed into Bernicia. He also conquers Ynys Manau.
617 Deira conquers Elmet
King Edwin of Deira conquers Elmet. killing King Ceretic in the process (Britannia History; The History Files: The British Isles).
c.620 Angles invade South Rheged
Britannia History Angles probably under King Edwin of Deira invade South Rheged, and expel King Llywarch Hen who flees to Powys. Edwin’s armies also move north into Southern Strathclyde and Gododdin. Prince Eanfrith, heir of Bernicia, marries a Pictish Royal Princess and fathers Prince (later King) Talorcan (I) of the Picts.
(Britannia History) King Edwin of Deira is baptised by Prince Rhun of North Rheged, according to the Historia Brittonum. This was probably at the Royal Court of Gwynedd. He soon relapses back to paganism.
626 Battle of Win Hill & Lose Hill
(Britannia History) Death of King Ceorl of Mercia. He is succeeded by Penda, son of his predecessor.
Prince Cwichelm of Wessex sends an assassin to murder King Edwin of Deira. Edwin is saved from the assassin’s dagger by the timely intervention of one of his thanes who is killed in the process. Edwin’s daughter, Eanflaed, is born the same night and he promises to give her for baptism to St. Paulinus, if he is victorious over the instigator of this crime. Edwin discovers Cwichelm’s treachery and marches on Wessex. Prince Cwichelm and his father, King Cynegils of Wessex, march north to meet the Northumbrians at the Battle of Win Hill & Lose Hill, possibly with the aid of King Penda of Mercia. Despite their army’s superior numbers, the Wessex duo are defeated and flee south. Edwin keeps his promise to St. Paulinus.
c.626 Deira invades the Isle of Man and then Anglesey
(Britannia History) The rivalry between King Edwin of Deira and King Cadwallon of Gwynedd, which has grown since childhood, reaches a climax. Edwin invades the Isle of Man and then Anglesey. Cadwallon is defeated in battle and is besieged on Puffin Island. He eventually flees to Brittany.
628 Battle of Fid Eoin
(Britannia History) The exiled Prince Oswald of Northumbria accompanies King Connad Cerr of Dalriada to Ireland to fight against Maelcaich and the Irish Cruithne at the Battle of Fid Eoin.
630 Battle of Pont-y-Saeson
(Britannia History) The West Saxons invade Gwent. King Meurig defeats them, with the help of his aging father, at the Battle of Pont-y-Saeson.
c.630 Battle of the Long Mountain
(Britannia History) King Penda of Mercia besieges Exeter (possibly held by King Clemen of Dumnonia). King Cadwallon of Gwynedd lands nearby, from his Deiran imposed exile in Brittany. He negotiates an alliance with King Penda of Mercia and a united British and Saxon force moves north to re-take Gwynedd. The Deirans are defeated at the Battle of the Long Mountain and Cadwallon chases them back to Northumbria. The British ransack Northumbria and bring the kingdom to its knees.
(Britannia History) King Edwin of Deira re-fortifies the City of York, probably including the building of the so-called Anglian Tower.
(Britannia History) The West Saxons cross into Wales and defeat King Idris of Meirionydd on the Severn.
633 Battle of Hatfield Chase
(Britannia History) King Edwin of Deira and his Northumbrian army meet the British, under King Cadwallon of Gwynedd, in the Battle of Hatfield Chase. King Edwin is killed in the fighting and Cadwallon is victorious. Edwin’s cousin, Osric, succeeds to the throne of Deira and Prince Eanfrith of Bernicia returns from Pictland to claim his rightful crown. Both are pagans. St. Paulinus, Bishop of York, flees south and is made Bishop of Rochester. Cadwallon is later besieged at York by King Osric. The former is again victorious.
North East England History Pages: Tynedale Battle of Hatfield near Doncaster The Welsh had formed an alliance with the Midland Kingdom of Mercia to defeat the Northumbrians. The Welsh killed King Edwin, one of Northumbria’s most powerful rulers, at Hatfield. King Edwin’s successor was King Oswald (634-642), (later Saint Oswald), a Christian king who had been converted to his faith by the Scots.
The History Files: The British Isles 632/3 Edwin is killed by Penda of Mercia while the latter is allied to Cadwallon, king of Gwynedd, and High King of the Britons. Bernicians lose Ynys Manau.
634 Battle of Heavenfield
The History Files: The British Isles Oswald defeats High King Cadwallon at Heavenfield, thus removing any British claims to the conquered Elmet.
(Britannia History) Despite suing for peace, King Cadwallon of Gwynedd slays both King Eanfrith of Bernicia and Osric of Deira rather than negotiate with them. Eanfrith’s half-brother, Oswald succeeds, as son of Aethelfrith of Bernicia and Acha of Deira, to a united Northumbria. He is given a force of men (including monks from Iona) by King Domnall Brecc of Dalriada and marches south to claim his inheritance. He clashes with King Cadwallon of Gwynedd at the Battle of Heavenfield. Despite having superior numbers, Cadwallon is killed, and King Oswald victorious. The former Queen Ethelburga of Deira packs up her infant sons and step-grandson and flees to France for fear that, as offspring of her husband, King Edwin, Oswald will have them murdered. The Deiran Royal Court at Yeavering is probably abandoned at this time. Oswald re-introduces Christianity to Northumbria.
North East England History Pages: Tynedale Hadrian’s Wall crossed the River North Tyne only a few miles to the north of Hexham, near the Roman fort of Chesters (CILURNUM). Upstream the valley beyond here is entirely to the north of Hadrian’s Wall. The Battle of Heavenfield, took place in the vicinity of the North Tyne, near to where it was crossed by Hadrian’s Wall at Chesters. The Welsh King Cadwallon brought a huge army north into Northumbria to fight Oswald. Oswald assembled his men for battle to the north of Hexham on high ground in the vicinity of the North Tyne, close to Hadrian’s Wall – the area that became known as Heavenfield.
Here they were well situated to meet the Welsh, who were advancing up the old Roman road called Dere Street, which crossed the Tyne at Corbridge. Oswald prepared for the conflict by placing a cross in the centre of the Battle field and led his men into prayer for victory.
When the Welsh arrived in the north they were were heavily exhausted from their long journey while the Northumbrians were alert and ready for the fight. Oswald’s men chased the Welsh sothwards into what is now known as ` Hexhamshire’, and their King, Cadwallon was slain on the banks of the Rowley Burn, near the valley of a stream called the Devil’s Water.
Oswald believed that the victory over the Welsh, confirmed his Christian faith and decided to set about converting the whole of his largely Pagan kingdom to Christianity. He employed St Aidan, a Scottish monk from Iona, as the first Bishop of Lindisfarne and with Aidan he travelled throughout the Northumbrian kingdom evangelizing among his people. St Aidan was later succeeded by many great Northumbrian saints like Cuthbert. It is therefore to Oswald that we owe the early development of Christianity in the northern part of England.
(Britannia History) King Penda of Mercia aims to gain control of Middle Anglia and therefore attacks his rivals in East Anglia. Ex-King Sigebert is forced to leave his monastery in order to join King Egric of East Anglia in battle against the invaders. Sigebert and Egric are both killed in the fighting. Sigebert is later revered as a saint. Egric’s brother, Anna, succeeds to the East Anglian throne.
637 Battle of Mag Rath
(Britannia History) King Oswald of Northumbria probably sends troops to Ireland to assist King Domnall Brecc of Dalriada in his alliance with King Congal Caech of Ulster during the Irish dynastic wars. They are defeated at the Battle of Mag Rath.
638 Northumbrians take Edinburgh
(Britannia History) King Oswald and his Northumbrian army besiege and conquer Edinburgh. His half-brother, Prince Oswiu of Bernicia, marries Princess Rhiainfelt, heiress of North Rheged. Northumbria probably embraces North Rheged in a peaceful takeover. Oswiu may have been sub-King there for a time.
The History Files: The British Isles The greatly weakened British kingdom of Goutodin is conquered.
641 Bernicia conquers Gododdin
(Britannia History) Prince Oswiu of Bernicia conquers Gododdin as far north as Manau, on behalf of his half-brother, King Oswald.
642 Battle of Oswestry
(Britannia History) King Penda of Mercia commands a united British and Mercian force against King Oswald of Northumbria. The British contingent includes the army of Kings Cadafael Cadomedd of Gwynedd, Eluan of Powys and Cynddylan of Pengwern. Oswald is killed at the Battle of Oswestry, as is Prince Eowa of Mercia, probably sub-King of Wrocenset. Oswald is buried at Bardney Abbey and is later regarded as a saint. He is succeeded by his half-brother, Oswiu, in Bernicia, but he is found to be unacceptable to the Deirans. The Mercians become dominant in Midland Britain.
654 Kingdom of Northumbria
The History Files: The British Isles Following his victory in battle over Penda of Mercia and Aethelhere of the East Engle, and his conquest of Mercia, Oswiu cements the increasingly accepted union of Deira with Bernicia to create a single kingdom of the Angles north of the Humber, known, as with most Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, by it’s geographical location – Northumbria.
The History Files: The British Isles The Northumbrians destroy the royal family of Pengwern.
The History Files: The British Isles Alcfrith was the great-grandson of Rhoedd map Rhun map Urien Rheged, and inherited the remains of North Rheged (possibly long before he gained the Northumbrian throne).
This marks the ascendancy of Mercia and the Welsh-Northumbrian theme takes a back seat.
North East England History Pages: Tynedale