15th November 654/5. Moves to a United England.

Anglo-Saxon incursions into England coincided with the arrival of many Celtic, Irish, Christian missions, notably at Iona in 563 under Columba. These were to later spread to Lindisfarne (Holy Island), and Northumbria.

It was a movement to eventually destroy the paganism of Mercia under Penda, who was defeated Today by Oswiu of Northumbria at the Battle of Winwaed, in 654/5.(1)

The battle which was ‘decisive as to religious destiny of the English’, resulted in the supremacy of Oswiu in northern England, and marked the defeat of the last credible pagan force in England, according to the chronicler Bede.(2)

After Winwaed, Oswiu divided Mercia into two parts: the north of the River Trent retained by himself, whilst the south went to Peada (son of Penda).

Penda had been a thorn in the flesh to Northumbria for years as he invaded in 633 leaving the ruler dead, and in 642 Penda resisted a retaliatory attack by Oswald (Oswiu’s brother and predecessor), who was to be killed at Maserfield (Cogwy) near Oswestry.(3)

At this battle, the Mercian rivals to Penda were also killed, which left him as the most formidable king in England, and he thus chanced his arm on raids on Northumbria in 651. When Oswiu unwisely tried to buy him off, this, as with the later Viking Danegeld, only increased Penda’s military resolve, which was to end however, at Winwaed three year’s later.(4)

It was the dynastic marriage of Oswiu’s daughter Elchfrida to Peada (son of Penda), that Christianity spread, as she brought down missionary priests, including the Irish cleric Diuma, first Bishop of the Mercians (at present day) Repton, Derbyshire. Later Adda and Cedd would spread the Gospel elsewhere.

However with the Anglo-Saxon acceptance of Celtic Christianity of Northumbria and its spread south, they weren’t to know that in a few years, the Synod of Whitby (664), in its final dating of Easter, in favour of Roman practice, would in due course, result in the supremacy of papal Rome.

(1) As the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, said the Battle of Winwaed was won by Oswiu (Oswy) in the region of Loidis [Leeds] on 15 November, ‘in the 13th year of his reign’.

Winwaed is in present day south-west Yorkshire, near a river not yet identified.

(2) Venerabilis Baedae Historia Ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. Ed. Charles Plummer, Oxford, 1896, P.184.

(3a) Battle of Hatfield Chase near Doncaster. Northumbrians under Edwin, who was killed, against Gwynedd (Cadwallon ap Cadfan) and Mercia under Penda). 12th October, 633.

(3b) Bede regarding above says 12th, but 633 Chapter 20; Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says 14th October.

(3c) As Bede said: ‘was exposed to cruel and intermittent invasions of Penda King of the         Mercians’.

(4) See Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and Stenton’s Anglo-Saxon England.


There is a window in the cloister of Worcester Cathedral showing the death of the pagan Penda, which shows how Christianity is inter-twined with paganism..

A 12th century wall painting at Durham shows St Oswald killed at Maserfield (Masserfeith) on 5th Aug 641/2, and to be succeeded by Oswui.  .

Ref: England/north-east.co.uk/Oswald King of the Northumbrians.

Ref: Battle of Winwaed-Venerable Bede’s Account.

Ref:  Lords St Oswalds (Wynn family), name taken from Oswald. King of Northumbria, killed in battle 642 CE

Ref: Nostell Priory near Wakefield once home to Augustinian Canons.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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