ABC of Chippenham: King Alfred

The building in front of you is the Chippenham Museum, not far from the Buttercross which we looked at for the letter B. What makes this of interest for the letter K is the plaque on the wall, which you can just see to the top left of the lady walking past.

You see the legendary King Alfred was here: he of burnt cakes fame. He was king of Wessex - one of the realms of England during the Dark Ages - and one of the more famous ones of those times.

During these times Chippenham was a villa regia aka a royal estate with a hunting lodge. The king would bring his court here to stay for hunting in the surrounding rich forest and also preside over matters of justice. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle states that the Anglo Saxon Witan, or parliament was held in Chippenham in 933.

During the ninth century, the kingdom of Wessex was under threat from Danish Vikings, who'd already captured the other three Anglo Saxon kingdoms. In 878, the Anglo Saxon Chronicle says:

This year, about midwinter, after Twelfth Night, the Danish army stole out to Chippenham, and rode over the land of the West Saxons, where they settled, and drove many of the people over sea.

In 879, King Alfred defeated the Danes at the battle of Ethandune, which is thought to be modern day Edington near Westbury. He then chased them back to their stronghold at Chippenham and lay siege. Thus peace was restored to the kingdom of Wessex and it's this defeat which went towards him earning the title King Alfred the Great.

Whilst the remains of buildings dating from Saxon times have been found close by where the pictured commemorative plaque is displayed, there's no real proof yet that this is indeed where the royal hunting lodge actually was.

However, a couple of mentions in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, one of the key documents we have of this poorly documented time, shows that Chippenham must have been of some importance. There's other evidence too, but that story is a better tale for next month :)

This is for ABC Wednesday and is the eleventh in my themed round of posts about Chippenham.

Update Sept 2017: Here's a link to a podcast and info page about King Alfred and Chippenham.


  1. Reading your story makes me glad again that I'm living in these days and not of yore. :-)

  2. I'm very close to Edington and the suposed site of the battle.

  3. interesting historical klashes.
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  4. Another one to be kept inside my knowledge vault.

    abcw team

  5. Beautiful take on K!

    Want some more K? Come and have some Kisses from my webpage.

  6. Interesting history story, so far I only knew Sophie of Wessex, lol ! Thanks to blogging I become real instructed !
    ABC Team

  7. Fascinating.
    It is so important to mention these fragmentary traces of the past. They have so much to teach us about our origins and our future.

  8. It always astonishes me how these old Kings (and knights and others later) managed to get around all over the place. We complain about rail travel - imagine wading through bogs and being attacked through the mist and travelling hundreds of miles on foot/horseback/barge so you can . . . possibly die!


  9. Welcome Halie :)

    Hi ABCers - I'll come over to see you...

    Petoskystone - yes, 'tis the stuff of legend. When the skirmishes with the Danes weren't going that well, King Alfred was in hiding in the Someset Levels (about 30 miles from here). He was left to guard some cakes whilst the woman of the house went out. He didn't do his job very well and got scolded for his negligence! Naturally the woman didn't know she was telling off the king of Wessex at the time. Well, that's the tale we grow up with from schooldays and is usually the key thing that people remember about King Alfred, rather than his defeat of the Danes!

    Robert - bet you didn't know Chippenham had so much to it did you? ;)

    Esther - it's rather mind boggling isn't it?


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