Investigations continue into whether Wirral is the site of historic Viking battle

An independent report published yesterday will be a key milestone in establishing that Wirral could be the site of one of the most important battles in English history.

The Battle of Brunanburh was fought in 937 by Æthelstan, King of England against an alliance of Viking and Celtic armies.

It is often stated by historians to be the most important battle on British soil prior to 1066 as it preserved the unity of England and led to the birth of the country as we know it today.

The report was commissioned by Wirral Council to review the work undertaken by the Wirral Archaeology volunteer group, a not-for-profit organisation that has searched for the location of the Battle of Brunanburh for a number of years. They have collected evidence and significant archaeological finds in areas of central Wirral, which it is thought could relate to the Battle of Brunanburh.

The report is an initial assessment to see if further investigations are warranted, and whether the site could be of sufficient historic interest to merit registration as an official battlefield.

Dominga Devitt, a director of Wirral Archaeology CIC, said, “We welcome the interest and support of Wirral Council in commissioning this report. We do not claim to have found the site of the battle of Brunanburh but we have a firm belief that it did take place on the Wirral peninsula. 

“The Council’s report highlights some of the practical problems encountered when compiling our comprehensive evidence base, particularly relating to the conservation of artefacts. 

“Wirral Archaeology has now been formally reconstituted as a Community Interest Company, with a new management team at the helm, ready to focus on delivering some key projects of huge significance to the heritage of the Wirral Peninsula. 

“We are grateful for the support of local businesses, organisations and individuals who have assisted us in this quest so far and we are looking forward to working in partnership with the Council and others to continue this exciting investigation into Wirral’s past.”

Paul Sherman, one of the co-authors of the report added, “The area where Wirral Archaeology has recovered its most significant finds provides a unique opportunity to research a site of potential regional historical significance.

“The group’s members have recovered finds spanning two thousand years of Wirral’s rich and diverse history. The presence of a large amount of material related to pre-industrial metalwork production is particularly interesting as is the recovery of a small number of arrowheads and gaming pieces which could possibly indicate the presence of an early medieval military camp close to the edge of a battlefield.

“I believe these small but significant finds warrant a comprehensive programme of planned research on surrounding land in order to progress the project and to gather further evidence about the existence of a possible battlefield site.”

Cllr Tony Jones, Chair of the Council’s Economic Regeneration and Development Committee said, “The Council commissioned this report as we were keen to understand the implications for the local authority of the potential significance of the search for the Battle of Brunanburh as we take forward our plans for the borough.  We are delighted to now publish this report and we know it will generate lots of interest in the work of Wirral Archaeology CIC and provide a platform to move the project forward.”

Cllr Helen Cameron, Chair of Wirral Council’s Tourism, Communities, Culture and Leisure Committee, said, “Wirral is a very special place, with a wealth of history across the borough.  The Council has an important role to play in safeguarding this history for future generations which could bring many visitors to the borough as well as being really important to our local communities. I am excited to see the quest continue!”

Cllr Jerry Williams, the Council’s Heritage Champion, added, “The search for the Battle of Brunanburh is one of the many heritage projects happening in Wirral, many of which are run entirely by volunteers.  I encourage everyone to find out more about our fantastic heritage groups and to get involved.  Wirral’s History Fair on the 12th March at Hulme Hall, Port Sunlight is a good place to start!”

A copy of the report is available here

Wirral Archaeology CIC

Wirral Archaeology Community Interest Company is a local, not-for-profit voluntary group dedicated to researching Wirral’s historic past and bringing it to life by sharing knowledge with the local community,  Prior to the establishment of WA CIC, Wirral Archaeology had operated on an informal basis for many years.

In 2021 the group was formally reconstituted as a Community Interest Company, giving it the status of a legal entity and enabling it to apply for lottery and similar funding. Members of Wirral Archaeology CIC have a wide range of professional skills and experience, and are keen and knowledgeable amateurs, rather than professional archaeologists. 

Members regularly give talks and presentations to schools and other community groups on aspects of current projects. As well as the ongoing search for the site of the battle of Brunanburh, Wirral Archaeology CIC’s current projects include investigations into the Roman roads on the Wirral and the possible ancient ‘clinker-built’ boat beneath a car park in Meols.

Visit here for full details of Wirral Archaeology CIC

Paul Sherman, PHC Services

PHC Services’ current heritage activities include the archaeological research and assessment of the remains of a large 18th C. country house overlying a medieval castle at Lathom near Ormskirk as well as consultancy work involving work on various heritage assets in the area, consisting of both archaeological sites and listed buildings.

Services include the conservation of artefacts, heritage contract works and building services engineering and delivering archaeology field schools that provide training in archaeological techniques to university students and other interested groups. Paul has a close working relationship with Liverpool John Moore’s University, providing relevant archaeological training and support for their forensic anthropology students.

Wirral History Fair

The Wirral History Fair 2022 is taking place at Hulme Hall, Port Sunlight, Saturday, 12 March, 10am – 4 pm (historical societies, family history and new & second-hand books).  Free parking, level access and café.

Image: Gioele Fazzeri

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