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
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.