Battle of Assandun

Last updated
Battle of Assandun
Date18 October 1016
Unknown, various locations possible, but probably somewhere in Essex
Result Danish victory
Kingdom of England Kingdom of Denmark
Commanders and leaders
Edmund Ironside Canute the Great

Ashingdon hill, possible location of the battle. Ashingdon Hilltop.jpg
Ashingdon hill, possible location of the battle.

The Battle of Assandun (or Essendune) [1] was fought between Danish and English armies on 18 October 1016. There is disagreement whether Assandun may be Ashdon near Saffron Walden in north Essex or, as long supposed, Ashingdon near Rochford in southeast Essex, England. It ended in victory for the Danes, led by Canute the Great, who triumphed over the English army led by King Edmund Ironside. The battle was the conclusion to the Danish reconquest of England.



During the battle, Eadric Streona, the Ealderman of Mercia, left the battle allowing the Scandinavians to break through the English lines and win a decisive victory. Eadric Streona had previously defected to Canute when he landed in England but after Canute's defeat at the Battle of Otford he came back to the English, but this was a trick as he would betray them at Assandun.

The battle is mentioned briefly in Knýtlinga saga which quotes a verse of skaldic poetry by Óttarr svarti, one of Canute's court poets.

King Knut fought the third battle, a major one, against the sons of Æthelred at a place called Ashington, north of the Danes' Woods. In the words of Ottar:

At Ashington, you worked well
in the shield-war, warrior-king;
brown was the flesh of bodies
served to the blood-bird:
in the slaughter, you won,
sire, with your sword
enough of a name there,
north of the Danes' Woods. [2]

During the course of the battle, Eadnoth the Younger, Bishop of Dorchester, was killed by Canute's men whilst in the act of saying mass on behalf of Edmund Ironside's men. According to Liber Eliensis, Eadnoth's hand was first cut off for a ring, and then his body cut to pieces. [3] The Ealdorman Ulfcytel Snillingr also died in the battle.


Following his defeat, Edmund was forced to sign a treaty with Canute. By this treaty, all of England except Wessex would be controlled by Canute and when one of the kings should die the other would take all of England, that king's son being the heir to the throne. After Edmund's death on 30 November, Canute built a church, chapel, or holy site after winning the battle to commemorate the soldiers who died in battle. A few years later in 1020 the completion of the memorial church known as Ashingdon Minster took place, on the hill next to the presumed site of the battle in Ashingdon. The church still stands to this day. Canute attended the dedication of Ashingdon Minster with his bishops and appointed his personal priest, Stigand, to be priest there. The church is now dedicated to Saint Andrew but is believed previously to have been dedicated to Saint Michael, who was considered a military saint: churches dedicated to him are frequently located on a hill.

Battlefield location

There is another possible location of the battle; Ashdon, also in Essex. There have been many finds of Roman and Anglo-Saxon coins in the area. Historians have argued inconclusively over the two sites for years. Also, the 10th-century wooden village church, itself possibly built on the site of a pre-Christian temple, was probably rebuilt in stone in the early 11th century, about the right time for Canute's conquest. Unfortunately little remains of the earlier structures, which were largely obliterated by the construction of the current church of All Saints during the late 13th to early 15th centuries. [4]

Related Research Articles

Cnut the Great 10th and 11th-century King of Denmark, Norway, and England

Cnut the Great, also known as Canute, was king of Denmark, England and Norway; together often referred to as the North Sea Empire. Yet after the deaths of his heirs within a decade of his own, and the Norman conquest of England in 1066, this legacy was lost. He is popularly invoked in the context of the legend of King Canute and the tide, which often misrepresents him as a deluded monarch believing he has supernatural powers, contrary to the original legend which portrays a wise king who rebuked his courtiers for their fawning behaviour.

Edmund Ironside King of the English

Edmund Ironside was King of the English from 23 April to 30 November 1016. He was the son of King Æthelred the Unready and his first wife, Ælfgifu of York. Edmund's reign was marred by a war he had inherited from his father; his cognomen "Ironside" was given to him "because of his valour" in resisting the Danish invasion led by Cnut the Great.

Eadric Streona Anglo-Saxon noble

Eadric Streona was Ealdorman of Mercia from 1007 until he was killed by King Cnut. Eadric was given the epithet "Streona" in Hemming's Cartulary because he appropriated church land and funds for himself. Eadric became infamous in the medieval age because of his traitorous actions during the Danish re-conquest of England.

Eiríkr Hákonarson earl of Lade, ruler of Norway and earl of Northumbria

Eric Håkonsson was Earl of Lade, Governor of Norway and Earl of Northumbria. He was the son of Earl Hákon Sigurðarson and brother of the legendary Aud Haakonsdottir of Lade. He participated in the Battle of Hjörungavágr, the Battle of Svolder and the conquest of England by King Canute the Great.

Ashdon Human settlement in England

Ashdon, is a village and civil parish in Essex, England. It is about 4 miles (6 km) northeast of Saffron Walden and 23 miles (37 km) northwest from the county city of Chelmsford. The village is in the district of Uttlesford and the parliamentary constituency of Saffron Walden. The village has its own Parish Council.

Ashingdon Village and civil parish in Essex, England

Ashingdon is a village and civil parish in Essex, England. It is located about 2.5 miles (4 km) north of Rochford and is 13 miles (21 km) southeast from the county town of Chelmsford. The village lies within Rochford District and the parliamentary constituency of Rayleigh.

Bartlow Human settlement in England

Bartlow is a small village and civil parish in the South Cambridgeshire district of Cambridgeshire, England, about 12 miles (19 km) south-east of Cambridge and 7 miles (11 km) west of Haverhill in Suffolk. The River Granta runs through the village.

<i>Edmund Ironside</i> (play) anonymous Elizabethan play apocryphally attributed to Shakespeare

Edmund Ironside, or War Hath Made All Friends is an anonymous Elizabethan play that depicts the life of Edmund II of England. At least three critics have suggested that it is an early work by William Shakespeare.

Battle of Brentford (1016) battle of 1016

The Battle of Brentford was fought in 1016 some time between 9 May and 18 October between the English led by Edmund Ironside and the Danes led by Canute. It was one of a series of battles fought between Edmund and Canute, ultimately resulting in the lands held by Edmund's father Ethelred the Unready being divided between the two. Edmund was victorious in this particular battle, but ultimately failed to defend the lands inherited from his father.

"Then collected he [Edmund] his force the third time, and went to London, all by north of the Thames, and so out through Clayhanger, and relieved the citizens, driving the enemy to their ships. It was within two nights after that the king went over at Brentford; where he fought with the enemy, and put them to flight: but there many of the English were drowned, from their own carelessness; who went before the main army with a design to plunder.(Anglo-Saxon Chronicle)"

Canewdon Human settlement in England

Canewdon is a village and civil parish in the Rochford district of Essex, England. The village is located approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) northeast of the town of Rochford, while the parish extends for several miles on the southern side of the River Crouch.

Anglo-Saxon London London after the Roman Empire withdrew in the 400s until the Norman Conquest of 1066

The history of Anglo-Saxon London relates to the history of the city of London during the Anglo-Saxon period, in the 7th to 11th centuries.

Eadnoth the Younger 11th-century Bishop of Dorchester and Abbot of Ramsey

Eadnoth the Younger or Eadnoth I was a medieval monk and prelate, successively Abbot of Ramsey and Bishop of Dorchester. From a prominent family of priests in the Fens, he was related to Oswald, Bishop of Worcester, Archbishop of York and founder of Ramsey Abbey. Following in the footsteps of his illustrious kinsman, he initially became a monk at Worcester. He is found at Ramsey supervising construction works in the 980s, and around 992 actually became Abbot of Ramsey. As abbot, he founded two daughter houses in what is now Cambridgeshire, namely, a monastery at St Ives and a nunnery at Chatteris. At some point between 1007 and 1009, he became Bishop of Dorchester, a see that encompassed much of the eastern Danelaw. He died at the Battle of Assandun in 1016, fighting Cnut the Great.

Ulfcytel was an Anglo-Saxon nobleman. He was apparently the ealdorman of East Anglia from 1004 to his death at the battle of Assandun in 1016, although he is not called an ealdorman in any of the charters he witnessed. Scandinavian sources refer to him as Ulfkell Snillingr, the byname meaning bold.

Events from the 1010s in England.

Northman was a Mercian chieftain of the early 11th century. A member of a powerful Mercian kinship (clan), he is known primarily for receiving the village of Twywell in Northamptonshire from King Æthelred II in 1013, and for his death by order of King Cnut the Great (Canute) in 1017. His violent end by Cnut contrasts with the successful career enjoyed by his brother Leofric, as Earl of Mercia during Cnut's reign. Northman is believed to have been an associate of the troublesome ealdorman Eadric Streona, who was killed with him.

House of Knýtlinga ruling royal house in Middle Age Scandinavia and England

The Danish House of Knýtlinga was a ruling royal house in Middle Age Scandinavia and England. Its most famous king was Cnut the Great, who gave his name to this dynasty. Other notable members were Cnut's father Sweyn Forkbeard, grandfather Harald Bluetooth, and sons Harthacnut, Harold Harefoot, and Svein Knutsson. It has also been called the House of Canute, the House of Denmark, the House of Gorm, or the Jelling dynasty.

Cnut the Great has been depicted in a number of fictional works.

Cnut the Greats invasion of England

In the autumn of 1016, the Danish prince Cnut the Great (Canute) successfully invaded England. Cnut's father, Sweyn Forkbeard, had previously conquered and briefly ruled England for less than a week.

Wendreda, also known as Wendreth, was an Anglo-Saxon nun, healer, and saint, perhaps of the 7th century. She was uncertainly reported as a daughter of King Anna of East Anglia, a Christian king, which would make her a sister of Etheldreda, abbess of Ely, Sexburgha, abbess of Minster-in-Sheppey, and Ethelburga, abbess of Faremoutiers, who are all better-known saints, and a half-sister of Sæthryth, also an abbess of Faremoutiers.

Ian Yearsley is a local historian and author of books on the history of Essex.


  1. Smith, Ernest F. Fairbairn, W. H. (ed.). Tewkesbury Abbey. Notes on Famous Churches and Abbeys. [1916]. London: SPCK. p. 2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  2. "Knut's Invasion of England in 1015-16, according to the Knytlinga Saga". De Re Militari. Archived from the original on 26 September 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  3. Fairweather, Janet, trans., Liber Eliensis (Woodbridge, 2005), p. 169
  4. "All Saints Church, Ashdon, Essex - History". Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 10 May 2013.