The Battle of Winwaed: Royalty in Barwick-in-Elmet?

Thomas Langdale says "This place is said to have been the seat of the Kings of Northumberland, and Dr. Whitaker supposes it to have been founded by the great Edwin". Can we find any evidence for this statement?

Bede (Ch. 14), has the following on this:

These events took place in the province of Bernica. In the province of Deira, where Paulinus often stayed with the king, he baptized in the River Swale, which flows near the village of Catterick; for during the infancy of the church in those parts it was not yet possible to build oratories or baptisteries. A basilica was built at the royal residence of Campodonum [Doncaster or Slack]; but this, together with all the buildings of the residence, was burned by the pagans who killed King Edwin, and later kings replaced this seat by another in the vicinity of Loidis [Leeds]. The stone altar of this church survived the fire, and is preserved in the monastery that lies in Elmet Wood and is ruled by the most reverend priest and abbot Thrydwulf.

Bede lists Edwin as being baptised in 627 and was killed in 633. Barwick's full name is "Barwick-in-Elmet". The modern distribution of the names Elmet and Elmete, cover Sherburn (east of Leeds), to Roundhay (north Leeds). Elmet was a relatively small British kingdom centred on the area, which came into existence soon after the Roman withdrawal. The area covered by Elmet was probably comparable to that of modern West Yorkshire.

It appears likely that the Royal Seat was in Elmet at the time of the Battle at Winwaed - and this may have had much to do with the location of the battle.

Edwin was King of Northumberland. Northumberland was then made up of Deira in the south, and Bernica in the north. When Deira and Bernica merged, Elmet was quickly absorbed into the resulting Kingdom of Northumbria.

Geoffrey of Monmouth, being interested primarily in the Britons, merely lists Edwin's palace as being at York. York, at the time, was much bigger than Catterick or Leeds.

Barwick village does have a series of earthworks. Coins from the 1st Century AD have been found here, and it may represent a Brigantean camp. A later (ie. medieval) moat and bailey also survives (SE398375). Although I haven't found any direct evidence yet, it is not inconceivable that the site was occupied during the 7th Century AD.

Is this Bede's monastery?

Return to the main Winwaed page.

Winwaed Software Technology LLC  
Contact Page
© Copyright 1995-2018, Richard Marsden