Guthorm's Invasion of Wessex:
The Battle at Chippenham

Shortly after January 6, 878, just after the Christmas celebration of Twelfth Night, Guthorm's army burst into peaceful Chippenham and caught everyone by surprise. The English were terrified to see the Viking warriors so soon after they had left Wessex. Hadn't they taken the payment of Danegeld and promised to go away? The land was supposed to be at peace!

Here is what King Alfred's own biographer, Asser, wrote about this attack soon after it happened:

There they wintered, and drove many of the people of Wessex overseas by force of arms, and through lack of the necessities of life. They reduced to almost complete subjection all the people of the country.

Apparently, what Asser wrote was true, because in France there are records that tell of the year 878 when many fugitives from England arrived in France. These may have been the English people chased out of their homelands by Guthorm's army.

Even King Alfred was caught totally by surprise. He had been celebrating the Christmas holidays in the royal city of Dorset. With Guthorm now controlling the north way into his kingdom, Alfred had to escape to the wilderness of the moors and the forests before Guthorm could catch up to him. Alfred was so unprepared for Guthorm's attack that the only fighting men he had with him were his bodyguards. These were only a few hundred men. Guthorm's warriors, however, numbered in the thousands.

- 14. august 2004 -