Did a King die at Cuckney?

Photo:St Mary's Church Cuckney

St Mary's Church Cuckney

Ralph Lloyd-Jones

Photo:Modern cemetery on site of Cuckney castle

Modern cemetery on site of Cuckney castle

Ralph Lloyd-Jones

Photo:River Poulter from St Mary's

River Poulter from St Mary's

Ralph Lloyd-Jones

Photo:Paulinus baptising Edwin

Paulinus baptising Edwin

Ford Madox Brown, Manchester Town Hall

Photo:A small part of the Staffordshire Hoard (bent cross top left)

A small part of the Staffordshire Hoard (bent cross top left)

Staffs County Council

Photo:Sutton Hoo helmet

Sutton Hoo helmet

Raedwald?

Photo:Another small part of the Hoard

Another small part of the Hoard

Edwin of Northumbria and the Battle of Hatfield

By Ralph Lloyd-Jones

In 1951 the National Coal Board extended mining operations to just beneath St Mary’s Church, Cuckney. It was necessary to reinforce the foundations of the ancient building, starting by digging six trenches across the nave. A remarkable discovery was made when the contractors unearthed more than 200 skeletons, all of young men, buried together there. Since neither women nor children were present, this looked very like the victims of a major battle which must have once been fought nearby. Unfortunately there was no time for a proper archaeological investigation, although Professor M.W. Barley inspected one of the trenches and wrote a brief report in the Transactions of the Thoroton Society (Vol LX, 1952: 26–29).

Who was this mysterious dead band of brothers? Much of the modern cemetery, which stretches away to the west of the church, is known to be built on the site of a motte and bailey castle, probably late 11th or early 12th Century and associated with the wars of Stephen and Matilda. Yet it seems most unlikely that anyone who lived there would have buried hundreds of men quite literally ‘on their doorstep’. Nor is there any record of a major battle in the area at the time of the castle. The skeletons are almost certainly much older.

In another interesting article, also published in the Transactions of the Thoroton Society (Vol LXXIX, 1975: 40-49), Stanley Revill suggested that they may have been killed at the Battle of Heathfield in 633 A.D. This was when King Edwin of Northumberland was defeated and killed by Penda of Mercia and Cadwalla, King of Gwynedd. In his History of the English Church and People, Bede mentions ‘a fierce battle on the field called Haethfelth on the twelfth of October’, though the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives the date as 14th.

‘Heath-’ or ‘Hat-field’ is a common place name meaning simply ‘field of heather’. William Camden the Elizabethan antiquarian decided that the 7th Century battle must have been at the Hatfield which is now a suburb of Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Most significantly, however, there is still a Hatfield Grange just east of Cuckney.  In Anglo-Saxon times the whole area between Nottingham and Worksop was heavily forested, so a ‘field of heather’ would have stood out as a suitable place for battle. It is also exactly where armies coming from Northumbria, Gwynedd (North Wales) and Mercia might have converged. Furthermore, since Doncaster was long-established as a Roman town (Danum) it seems likely that any battle fought near there should have been named the Battle of Doncaster, a point which Camden overlooked.

Edwin (c.586 – 633) is important as the first Christian King of Northumbria, baptised by Saint Paulinus in 627. Interestingly he spent some time at the court of his (dubious) ally, Raedwald King of the East Angles, the most likely occupant of the famous Sutton Hoo ship burial. Raedwald had received the Christian sacraments, but if Sutton Hoo is indeed his last resting place, then clearly he had a pagan burial. At the time of the battle Penda of Mercia was definitely a pagan, though the Welsh Cadwalla was supposed to have converted like his enemy Edwin.

Whether the battle was indeed fought at Cuckney, or further north near Doncaster, Edwin’s body was removed by the Northumbrians and taken to York where he had been baptised. Edwinstowe is said to mean ‘Edwin’s resting-place’ and to be where his remains spent the night after the battle; though being to the southeast this seems most unlikely for a Northumbrian army retreating to York. There was also a medieval St Edwin’s Chapel near Warsop, again, clearly named after a person associated with the area, but not necessarily somewhere he actually visited. Having died at the hands of (at least some) pagans, Edwin soon acquired sainthood and his shrine in York became a place of pilgrimage. His feast day is, for obvious reasons, October 12th.

Since the Sutton Hoo dig just before the Second World War, the most significant Anglo-Saxon archaeological discovery has been the Staffordshire Hoard found near Lichfield in 2009. This enormous collection, mainly of bejewelled sword decorations (the iron blades would have been re-used) is thought to have been concealed by one of the Kings of Mercia, possibly Penda. The hoard includes a magnificent gold cross, crumpled out of shape to make it easier to bury. Although this remains conjecture, it is not beyond the bounds of probability that such items were booty taken from the unfortunate Edwin and his men who may have fallen at Cuckney. Only a proper archaeological dig at the church, and on the nearby possible Hatfield Chase battle site, will answer these mysteries from the Dark Ages. Cuckney's skeletons may one day prove the link between the treasures of Sutton Hoo and those of the Staffordshire Hoard.

 

Further Reading: Transactions of the Thoroton Society are available for reference at most of the county's libraries. Also recommended:

Castles of Nottinghamshire by James Wright (NCC, 2008)

This page was added by Ralph Lloyd-Jones on 03/02/2011.
Comments about this page

Wouldn't it be good if both alleged sites were investigated! I'm particularly interested in the Cuckney site which is local to me, no matter what battle it really was, the death of 200 men was very signifcant

By ian smith
On 08/03/2011

The archaeologists are always leaving stuff for later, but it does seem much more likely that the battle referred to by Bede and the AS Chronicle was fought near Cuckney, not Doncaster. It is now private land and some metal-detector lads once told me that they could not get permission to search there. Maybe we should suggest it to 'Time Team'?!

By Ralph Lloyd-Jones
On 31/03/2011

Theres a cross in the woods at Birklands which stand near to the chapel which was dedicated to Edwin. It's meant to represent the place where he was killed prior to being moved to Edwinstowe.

By Penske666
On 10/06/2011

I recently read Capt. Peters' book on this subject and he seems persuaded that the actual number of remains was many more than 200. It seems to me that this,coupled with the proximity of the "packman road" at Whitwell common would substantiate Capt. Peters argument for the battle of Hatfield site at Cuckney. I wonder, has the television programme "Time Team" been approached with a view to using their resources to investigate, I feel sure there is the possibility of an interesting discovery.

By J M Woolley
On 10/08/2011

Don't know 'Captain Peters' book', can you give further info please? Time Team were recently at Clipstone, so they have been near. The Cuckney site really needs proper long-term scientific investigation, not just a quick TV/entertainment glance. The main problem is that the working church is slap-bang on top of those graves, though no doubt archaeologists will go there one day during the next Millenium.

By Ralph Lloyd-Jones
On 11/08/2011

Capt.Roy Peters is the author of "the Ancient Village of Cuckey which is one of a series of North Trent Local History Series. There is one concerning the villages of Whitwell and Barlborough, Warsop and Skegby and Teversal in 3 subsequent editions. I was not aware of the time team visit, was it quite recent? I have to agree with you about the next millenium, it (the programme) appears to more concerned with the southern area of England.

By J.M.WOOLLEY
On 15/08/2011

Thank you, I will get hold of the Peters book. Recently found out that archaeologists are not usually permitted to dig on consecrated ground or cemeteries that are still in use. That explains why only a brief survey was carried out when the Cuckney skeletons were first discovered.

By Ralph Lloyd-Jones
On 02/09/2011

I'm not sure where the bodies were reinterred - they were definitly taken out of the four pits where they were buried in though. The church refused any archaeological assessment of the bones and I doubt they would now (assuming they are in any fit condition after exposure to air and reburial) Time Team went to Kings Clipstone and it'll be in the next series

By Penske666
On 04/10/2011

I seem to remember reading somewhere thay the remains were reinterred in the field by the side of the old road from Warsop to Norton/Worksop between the river and the Cuckney/Budby road. There was an area in the field which was enclosed for quite a while.

By J M Woolley
On 21/10/2011

Will check - and photograph - next time I'm in the area. If the skeletons were reinterred, then archaeologists and forensic scientists may yet be able to investigate.

By Ralph Lloyd-Jones
On 28/10/2011

Interesting, I'm currently writing a book about King Edwin and the Staffordshire hoard but had always assumed the battle to have been at Hatfield Chase near Doncaster, 200 men would certainly be the right sort of size for an army of this period. Shame the site is on private land, I would have loved to have a look round.

By Stuart Davies
On 16/11/2011

No harm in coming and having a look round the church/castle; I am almost certain that the Cuckney, Notts Hatfield is the correct site of the battle, as it seems are many others. Do get in touch with me through NCC Libraries; can also provide copies of the Thoroton articles if you don't already have them.

By Ralph Lloyd-Jones
On 18/11/2011

I don't have copies of the Thornton articles, sorry how do I contact you through the NCC libraries?

By Stuart Davies
On 29/11/2011

Seems interesting enough, unfortunately as un-proveable a theory as any, but I like a good local folk legend. What does strike me as odd is that Cuckney is north of Edwinstowe, if Edwinstowe was the site of Edwins temporary place of rest you would expect it to be north of the battle as the Northumbrians would be retreating Northwards, there doesn't seem to be any major Roman roads nearby either, from Edwins base at York, and Pendas base at Tamworth they would travel Ermine street/Fosse way/Watling street to get to each other, Cuckney is not on that route, although the A638 is not too far away and Edwin could have been coming through Doncaster then south which would put him on a straight line through Cuckney. Sorry, how do I contact you through the NCC libraries?

By Stuart Davies
On 29/11/2011

Hi Stuart, You can contact me through this site: go to 'About Us' and there is a 'Contact Us' subsection to that, through which you can reach me. Looking forward to hearing from you and hope your research is going well and that we'll be able to help more.

By Ralph Lloyd-Jones
On 01/12/2011

Ralph, did you get hold of Capt. Roy Peters book and if you did, what do you make of it?. He certainly dwells on the importance of the "Packman road" which passes over Whitwell Common and closeby the promonotory fort at Markland grips as a North-east/Southwest artery and also of Ricknield street running roughly parallel at Eckington, the former of which is but a mere 3 miles from Cuckney. I do believe that Capt. Peters also theorises about the existance of an old road which passed directly over the top of Warsop hill and about 200/300 mtrs to the east of present day Cuckney and the church/castle, through Norton and onwards north to the eastern edge of Worksop and its castle hill. As Stuart says, it may be an unprovable theory and at this time it appears to be just that but as with many other things with investigation and modern technology this may not always be the case and the investigation,supposition and zeal of Capt. Peters certainly helps in keeping interest alive.

By J M Woolley
On 29/12/2011

Rumour has it that the bodies were reburied in GRAVES WOOD about 2 miles outside Cuckney near to Whaley Thorns ? The woodland is very undulating and appears to have suitable pitted and ridged areas.

By John siddall
On 30/01/2012

I'll try to check/photograph the spot next time in the area. There was quite a good Staffordshire Hoard TV programme recently, mainly devoted to bigging up Tamworth as the capital of Mercia. They missed the point that the bent cross seems strongly to signify a Christian army being defeated by pagans. That cross, and personal weapon decorations, would have been considered bad enemy magic. The whole lot may represent a deliberate sacrifice to the Mercians' gods, perhaps buried in a long-vanished sacred grove or at least near a lost landmark/magical tree.

By Ralph Lloyd-Jones
On 30/01/2012

The site where it was buried is of some significance, high status inhumation burials of the period tend to be either on a hill, or next to a roman road, the hoard site is on both. There is also a strong suggestion that there was a mound placed over the burial. Given the proximity of the site to Tamworth, and the fact there's evidence of neolithic field systems on the hoard field I'd bet money that the hoard field was a pagan temple site.

By Stuart Davies
On 10/02/2012

I remember as a child the work at the church and I was led to believe that the bones were reinterred within the churchyard. As I understand it the bodies were in rows and passed under the wall of the church, so definitely predating it. Southwell should hold any records of any service of reinterrment. I do know many villagers would be interested in a proper investigation. The vicar of the time appears not to have wanted any publicity.

By Judith Reynolds
On 13/07/2012

I would like Mr Ralph Lloyd Jones to contact me regarding the site at Cuckney. I have some interesting theories which may add credibility to the claim. I worked at Hampton Court Palace and I recently contacted Mr Jonathan Foyle (Head of English Monuments). Look forward to speaking with you. P. S. When I have sourced further information, I will place it on this page.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 25/10/2012

Thanks Mr Waterfall - you are welcome to contact me directly through this site. I'm a County Local Studies Librarian.

The more I think about this, the more I'm convinced that Cuckney IS the correct site of the Battle of Hatfield which MUST be investigated properly by archaeologists and SHOULD be marked on OS maps (not that housing estate in Doncaster)!

By Ralph Lloyd-Jones
On 25/10/2012

Thank you for your reply. I will be contacting Jonathan Foyle next month regarding the Cuckney issue and as soon as I have information from him I will post it on this site for all to see. Regarding the Cuckney issue, I would like to suggest that I feel it would be progressive if we could set a meeting up with all concerned with the intention of taking this issue forward onto another level. I feel those who are interested with the Cuckney issue are the ones who should take it forward and possibly re-write English history. I believe we have a strong case to achieve this.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 28/10/2012

I have just received an email from Dr Jonathan Foyle, Head of English Monuments and he gives me bad news. Several people had hoped to contact The Time Team regarding the Battle of Hatfield and Cuckney but he informs me that the Time Team has officially been dissolved and there is no chance of it being reformed.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 07/11/2012

So now Time Team is itself history... On the other hand, though popular and good for publicity, they would not have done a detailed enough excavation. It's still to be hoped that a proper university Archaeology Dept will get to Cuckney and Hatfield in the near future. It now seems certain that the mistake of siting the battle in Doncaster, still perpetrated by OS maps, was made by Camden and has simply been repeated ever since.

By Ralph Lloyd-Jones
On 07/11/2012

Thank you very much for your reply and I do tend to agree with you but do you think we can put this suggestion to a University Archaeological Department which may trigger an excavation of the site ? I would like to hear your reply. I think we are at a standstill at the moment but we must try to take it to the next level. What do you think ?

By Joseph Waterfall
On 11/11/2012

Hello Ralph, just to let you know - I have been in touch with the British Council of Archaeology and they are very interested about Cuckney. They will phone me back within the next few weeks. When they have made contact, I will post it on your site.

By Joseph Waterfall
On 11/11/2012

Hello Ralph, I agree with what you say regarding the Time Team but it may have opened a University's eyes. Anyway, I have contacted The British Council of Archaeology and put it to them regarding the site and they are going to come back to me. By the way, I came across a dig near Doncaster which was 5th to 9th century bones which were both Saxon and Viking but no connection with the Battle of Hatfield. When the BCOA contact me I will put the result on this page.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 11/11/2012

I have been speaking with the British Council of Archaeology regarding an excavation at Cuckney. They appear to be very supportive and I have been given a person who is Head of Archaeology at a University who is also interested. I was advised to speak to this person regarding a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. I would like to hear you views.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 29/11/2012

Hi Joseph, sorry about the delay in replying. This is excellent news and I very much hope that the BCA will go ahead with organising proper excavations. They could at least go to the skeletons' reburial site and investigate them forensically. I'm contacting you by email so that we can discuss this in more detail. Would very much like to know who you've been in touch with about Cuckney/Hatfield.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 11/12/2012

I am interested too on this subject, so much so I am going to get in touch with various land owners around "slay pit lane" (which is said to be named after the slaying of the northumbrians) and believed to be in close proximity to the alleged site of the battle. I emailed time team after being redirected by channel 4 customer services and still waiting for a reply, so besides taking a shovel to people's fields and land which I am not too keen on doing for obvious reasons, I can only ask to poke around with the metal detector just as a shot in the dark basically. One last thing, Ralph your comment on cuckney IS the site of the battle without undoubtable evidence and "that housing estate in Doncaster isn't"! Disappointed me as this shows lack of respect for people who live in that area as well as immaturity and ignorance. Why ask the question in the first place if you have already made your mind up?! I suspect local bias is blinding people, which may form people's opinions without hard evidence.lighten up!

By craig collins
On 21/01/2013

Thank you Craig; you join a long line of teachers, bosses and my wife who have, down the years, accused me of immaturity. Having completed the first 50 years I will endeavour to mature (like a cheese?) during my next half century. Please note that on first writing this article I was not at all certain that Cuckney is the correct site of the Battle of Hatfield. I do not mean to disparage anyone in Doncaster who is proud to live on any Dark Ages battlefield; or indeed anywhere else where any historic event, violent or otherwise, may have taken place.

Slay Pit Lane is very interesting. It seems unlikely that Graves Wood really has anything to do with the battle, since it is too far in the opposite direction - the other side of Cuckney - from Hatfield. It appears possible, however, that the Northumbrian army did indeed retreat via Edwinstowe, since they were presumably using what is now the A617 to get to the Great North Road.

Note that Camden is the origin of the Doncaster mistake and that it's particularly upsetting that OS maps mark the battle (with crossed swords) in what is surely the wrong spot. As mentioned above, permission was not granted to previous metal-detector inquiries at Cuckney/Hatfield. (A bone-detector might be more useful - the metal seems to have somehow made its way to Staffordshire.)

By Ralph Lloyd-Jones
On 21/01/2013

Thanks for the reply Ralph, I understand your point of view. I have since emailed Doncaster library history and archeological dept to ask about the possibilities of investigating alleged sites in Doncaster. I find it hard to believe that nobody from any organisation , council or historical society who are much better equipped and knowledgeable are not interested?! Personally I think Doncaster is happy to be known as a historical Roman fort and anything after this period doesn't really matter to the people that make the decisions. Also Doncaster has been obsessed with gaining city status for the last 30 years. The first Christian king who later became a saint after death doesn't matter? I know from what I researched that a battle was fought in cuckney not long after Edwin s death this time led by Edwins brother/son against cadwallon. Sorry this info is a bit vague it was just a glance as I read it before coming across this site and your question. I will try and find out more for you unless somebody knows of the battle in question?

By Craig Collins
On 22/01/2013

Don't think there's any archaeological evidence of any battle outside Doncaster; as mentioned, it was just a guess by Camden. Another interesting fight in Notts (before Hatfield) was the so-called 'Battle of the River Idle', site never identified properly, but it was probably at a ford. I think Raedwald of Sutton Hoo's son was killed there. It is all rather vague in Bede and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, but archaeologists may one day sort some of these things out!

By Ralph Lloyd-Jones
On 22/01/2013

Here's the battle I was talking a little about earlier: After the defeat of Edwin the kingdom was split between bernicia and Keira, Eanfrith son of AEthelfrith took power in bernicia while edwins cousin osric ruled over deira. Cadwallon wasn't defeated until a year later by Oswald at the battle of heavenfield also known Deniseburna AC:cantscaul near cuckney.a year after the battle of Hatfield. This might explain the Anglo Saxon bodies at cuckney but still doesn't define the location of the battle of Hatfield I know.sorry if I've complicated things.source D.p. Kirby .

By Craig Collins
On 23/01/2013

Correction Oswald succeeded eanfrith of bernicia ,Oswald was also eanfriths brother I'm led to believe.

By Craig Collins
On 23/01/2013

Think proving the whereabouts of the battle might be difficult. However, there are a couple of pointers which err on the site possibly being at Cuckney. The 1st is that at the time of the battle the borders between Mercia and Northumbria may have been in this general area. The site of Thynghowe has been suggested by some as being a boundary but obviously not proven. The Mercian border eventually moved north up to the borders with modern South Yorkshire but from I have read scholars believe this didn't happen until around 650 A.D. The 2nd is the road through Cuckney and Norton was possibly known known as a north/south route. An army heading up from Tamworth may have come to Derby and headed across towards Cuckney. They may have also headed towards Nottingham then headed north up the western edge of Sherwood. Of course, to counter this argument is why would the Northumbrians head south east to Edwinstowe after the battle? If the border was indeed in this area then an fleeing army could have melted into the forest and there may have been Northumbrian supporters living at Edwinstowe. It might make a logical escape rout. I saw the earlier comment about the army retreating down the A617 then joining the Great North Road. This was not the main route north/south at the time. The actual route was the King's Great Way which followed the A614 up to Bilsthorpe before it took an easterly route through to Wellow (which didn't exist at that time) then followed a notherly track until re-joining the A614 near where Clumber Park Hotel is. So making for Edwinstowe would be a good choice as an army would be covered by dense woodland and be only a couple of miles from the main London to York route of the Saxon era. The entry about the battle Heavenfield is interesting. A local historian believed that a battle was fought on what is now Walesby Scout Camp in the Saxon era. He was pretty adamant about this but he is now dead and all his (apparently) massive collection of local history was disposed of by his widow. I have looked in vain for any evidence of a battle there but the location of the site is interesting. Firstly is is located on the east side of the river Maun which was then known as the Idle (it was know by this name into the 19th century) Between the river and the camp is a bridleway which was the King's Great Way so could have been the route of armies heading north and south. Could be a candidate for Heavenfield I suppose. As a matter of interest I sent an email to Dr Sam Newton last year to ask if he knew about this being a possible battle site. I got a nice reply saying he didn't think so (I was specifically referring to the battle of the Idle) as Bede mentions that this was fought near to the site of a Roman road. I didn't say that some scholars think the A614 might be Roman (due to width, straightness, it shows on earliest road maps of the county but was never a turnpike, etc).... ;o) But I don't believe a battle was fought there as there is no written evidence and I am not aware of any archaeology up there either.

By Albie Ontour
On 29/01/2013

Can I just clarify that the Time Team is no longer in existence. They folded up a few months back and after speaking with Dr Jonathan Foyle he confirms that the Time Team will not be returning in the future.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 29/01/2013

I was a camera opp on Time Team last year and i can also confirm that C4 is not commissioning TT next year:(. It was an extremely expensive programme to produce. The crews numbered around 50+. Although we are still filming TT specials and the production company is always looking for new ideas. Hopefully some kind of evolved version of TT will return soon. In the meantime enjoy the rest of the series as it will be the last.

By David Thompson
On 04/02/2013

The Skeletons of Cuckney By Joseph S Waterfall The 200 or so skeletons uncovered at Cuckney in a mass grave poses a few questions regarding – 1 was there a battle in the Cuckney area? 2 from what period do the skeletons belong? 3 who buried them? 4 why so many in a mass grave? 5 why all feet face east? 6 what was the reason for their death? The difference between a skirmish and a battle is - a skirmish is regarded as being approximately 200 or less participants, above that figure of 200 would be regarded as a battle. According to the 1951 work being carried out by the NCB, Professor M.W.Barley (1909 – 1991) suggests if a full excavation was carried out the total amount of skeletons may be nearer the 800 mark buried there, and being guided by Professor Barley, on that basis with that amount of bodies we have to accept a battle being a strong possibility. When I first heard of this find, my first question was, was it the plague, I then found out that the skeletons were all young males of a fighting age. That eliminated the plague and assured me that it was more likely to be a battle. We must be aware that when the skeletons were unearthed in 1951 no forensic scientist or pathologist was made aware of this find to the best of my knowledge. Also there was no time to call an archaeological team in from a University so all we are left with these facts – all were male, approximately 200 bodies feet facing east and of course the location. We are not sure at this moment if the skeletons when uncovered were moved and interred elsewhere or simply left in their original location. I believe they were not moved from the sacred ground. Regarding the period which the skeletons came from, I would assume anywhere between the early 7th Century and the 12th Century and 500 or so years is a wide gap but remember very little information is available due to the early part of the 500 years is covered by the Dark Ages. Their burial again shows no record let alone who buried them but we have one small glimmer of hope as to who may have buried them. All their feet are facing east which to me would indicate being a Christian burial from a battle. We have to ask “why a mass grave”, but if we assume all these bodies were victims of a major battle, yes I believe a Christian would have placed them in this position and certainly in a mass grave. It is stated that all the skeletons were buried without any trophies, personal items and without weapons and to me would indicate that the burial also would be a Christian one. Who would need these items if you are going to Heaven? Just imagine, 200 victims are slaughtered, would you dig 200 individual graves, and imagine the length of time it would take you. If you place one body in one grave or 200 in a mass grave it is immaterial the evidence indicated that they all had a Christian burial. Because the bodies were positioned with their feet facing east it does not mean they were Christians, it means the people or person who buried them was Christian and if we assume the skeletons were a result of a battle there would be casualties on both sides. All would be buried in one grave whether they are Pagans or Christians. Professor Barley states that the burials antedate the building of the Church and perhaps the biggest two questions for me is - why would you build upon a Christian burial site from whatever century these bodied came from and why would Thomas de Cuckney build a Motte and Bailey Castle where the bailey encircled a burial area?, but perhaps he was not aware. Pre 1951 no one was aware of these skeletons and obviously there was no indication of any form of conflict within the area. The uncovering of these skeletons opened another page in history with many questions involved but as of yet we have very few facts, only theories and suggestions to go on. We are slowly putting the jigsaw together with what little evidence we have but the ultimate piece of the jigsaw is “an excavation” and this would confirm the period of this grave. I believe we can conclude this mystery with the right input, backing and staying positive. If the skeletons are not from this period, then we have to look elsewhere and the obvious time scale could be 12th century. Many people have voiced their opinion that the skeletons cannot be from the 12th century due to the chronology, I would question that and keep an open mind. Don’t close the door until you are sure. I am hopeful that a major excavation will take place in the near future and finally conclude this story.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 12/02/2013

I was born within 1/4 of a mile of 'that housing estate' near Doncaster. It is certainly no housing estate. The site which every local says is a burial mound opposite the Hatfield Chase pub is actually the site of an old windmill. If the battle site was here I would think from the description in Bede that the would be what is called the Lings (Lings Lane) The land here is much higher and looks across to the area where Slay Pitts Lane is situated. I spent my childhood playing in the fields surrounding Slay Pitts Lane. The lane itself is actually in Hatfield Woodhouse. In the sixties there were lots of earthworks and ditches around the area which have sadly been filled in. I have always been intrigued by the story, tried to follow the account and try to fix the place to the description in Bede. The problem is that the land looked very different then, than it does today as it would have been birch and alder scrubland similar to the moors in Hatfield. The land has since been drained. I am not sure if anyone has done any work in the area or if anyone has granted permission. About 15 years ago a friend of mine found a gold buckle not very far away, on the surface of the soil. I find the theory about Cuckney interesting and would like to find the truth either way one day.

By Anthea Brown
On 18/02/2013

Hello to all, Here is the latest regarding the skeletons at Cuckney, Both Ralph and I agree that we need a membership and a committee in place so we can move on to the next level. I have contacted the County Archaeologist (waiting on a reply) and the Council for British Archaeology and also Dr Jonathan Foyle (Head of English Monuments). I will be contacting Professor Martin Biddle in the near future after I have spoken with the County Archaeologist. We have been offered a small amount of finance (£1000) from the CBA to get us started and if we need any more (which we will do) we could approach the Heritage Lottery Grant who would look at the project favourably due to us taking finance from the CBA. So, things are looking good at the moment but we do need your support and input, without it, we go nowhere. If anyone is interested in attending a meeting, please contact me at hcp1995@sky.com If I receive a decent response then I will go ahead and book a venue. It is likely to be the village hall at Meden Vale just 2.5 miles south of Cuckney. If everything goes to plan I will put all the details on this site. We need a good show of people so we can push forward and we really do need your help. This is perhaps the only chance we will get, please take this opportunity, it may never come again. Yours Sincerely, Joseph S Waterfall.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 18/02/2013

I'd certainly be interested in any further developments. I visited the church at the weekend - more to take a few pics of gravestones than anything else - and have since re-read some articles about the place. I also hope to pop to Nottingham Central Library shortly to have a look at the Thoroton Society papers referenced above.

By Dave Skinner
On 20/02/2013

Up to now, we have only had two people who responded to our request of taking the project to the next level. This is a poor show and with only two who responded indicates to me that the vast amount of you do not wish to take the project forward, so I am saying that if we still have a poor show by the end of March I will be backing out of the Cuckney project and taking on another project on my own. I will put the response on the web page for all to see.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 26/02/2013

There seems to be some confusion between the battle of Heavenfield, and River Idle, The battle of heaven field was fought up next to hadrians wall, Bede mentions it. River Idle was earlier. I am interested in this as a project but the problem you have is you will never identify this as a battle field. Battles were small scale, you won't find arrowheads/armour fragments like you would at a larger site such as the medieval Towton or Bosworth. The only hope would be to recover the skeletons and get a carbon date. If they were reburied on consecrated ground you need church permission to dig, if not, then you're looking for a needle in a haystack. I keep meaning to stop by cuckney while im near there on work to have a look at the lie of the land, but havent yet done so. Proving the location of a battlesite is frought with difficulties. Even a big well known site such as the battle of hastings has been thrown into disrepute recently. Finding a small scale battlefield from the 7th century is nigh on impossible, no reliable location of a similar period battlefield exists.

By Stuart Davies
On 11/03/2013

This is the nearest I have come to locating the site. The Battle of the River Idle After reading several papers on the battle of the River Idle 616AD, they seem to indicate that the battle took place near Newington, Doncaster. I include the following few paragraphs from the Misson Community Group. Misson is a village in North Nottinghamshire east of Newington. Quote: Misson Community Group MISSON: A BRIEF HISTORY 616 A.D – 1892 A.D. Misson Parish was formerly in two counties, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. The ancient spelling of the parish name was either Mysen or Misne, both of which have Danish origins. Misson now lies at the northern most point of the county of Nottinghamshire. Hagg Hill Newington is where it is most likely the first settlement was made in the Parish of Misson. It is said to have been a Roman encampment which was later developed by the Danes who came up the Trent valley to Gainsborough and then up the River Idle and used the old Roman encampment at the Hagg to establish their own settlement. There is an ancient earthwork within the parish which is thought by some to be a burial place of some importance and possibly Roman, although it has never been disturbed. 616 AD The River Idle was the lifeblood of the village and has played its part in the history of England. In 616AD a battle took place on the banks of the river, down what is now Slaynes Lane. The legend seems to run that at the time of Raedwald of East Anglia, England’s regional “kings” could be counted in dozens with their various kingdoms. Raedwald is known to have taken an army through Mercia to Bernicia (Northumberland). The Northumbrians aware of his intentions raised an equally large force and marched south. The two armies are said to have met in the Trent Valley. There is a line quoted in a publication of the village history, said to come from a song of the time that records the lyric “Foul ran the Idle with the blood of English Men" As a result of Raedwald defeating the Northumbrians by the time he had battled through Mercia to their frontier Edwin was elevated to the throne of Northumbria. (616-632) Unquote It is very interesting to note that there is a route heading southwards from Newington with the name of Hagg Lane, and on the left-hand side is a road veering off called Slaynes Lane, it is strange, and for this could be where the Battle of the River Idle was fought. Also we must take note that previous authors have quoted that the Battle of The River Idle was fought south of the River Idle and east of Bawtry and this would place the Battle in the same area.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 12/03/2013

However the contemporary accounts have little to say on the location, so any assumptions as to its location is completely baseless. The battle could've happened anywhere along the river, since fording points may not neccessarily be where the battle took place. The armies may have used the river as a secure flank.

By Stuart Davies
On 23/03/2013

Regarding the battle of the River Idle - the information I have quoted above is all that is available, if you have anymore info I would like to read it. Regarding Cuckney - If we think negative we will never get any progressive movement. I believe with the right people on board who have a positive attitude we can take this project further and hopefully to a conclusion. We are aware that we need a Home Office Licence, also permission from the Diocese of Southwell also permission from Welbeck Estate and we need a National Heritage Lottery Grant but this is not putting me off and we can locate your needle in a haystack although we do need a little bit of luck. I have had meetings in London, spoken with important professional people regarding this project and also have the backing of several organisations up to this point. It is not going to be resolved in the next couple of months but more like the next 18 months. Lets Keep Positive. I will be posting more info soon.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 24/03/2013

I will be setting up a meeting (all are welcome) in Cuckney, hopefully by the end of April. I have spoken with an archaeologist who is interested in joining this project, also a retired solicitor / historian. The people who have pledged to the membership is currently standing at 17 but quite a few others would attend a meeting. I also have an important meeting in April regarding Cuckney so things are moving along albeit slowly. When I have firmed the date up for the meeting, I will post the time, date and location.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 05/04/2013

I was actually looking for post offices closing in the Meden Vale area and stumbled on this article which I found amazing,to think that over 200 bodies were buried within miles of were I am now living and coming from up North an added interest. I would love to here of any progress made.

By mick Gustard
On 06/04/2013

Mick if you would like to contact me at hcp1995@sky.com - I would bring you up to date. I also live in Meden Vale. The post office will give you my address. All the best Joseph

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 08/04/2013

Sometime in early May, I will be setting up a meeting (most probably) in Cuckney Village hall but I have not firmed a date up as of yet. all are welcome and I will place details on this site. I have more information on the progress of Cuckney but we need the meeting first. If anyone wants to contact me, my email is hcp1995@sky.com

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 11/04/2013

There will be a meeting at Cuckney Village Hall on Friday 10th May at 19:30 regarding the Skeletons and possible Battle of Hatfield in 633AD. All are welcome and I look forward to seeing you on the night Many Thanks.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 21/04/2013

Unfortunately I can't get to the meeting in Cuckney. I'm stuck in Abu Dhabi with work until the middle of next week. Please keep me posted on what happens as I am still very interested in the projecy. I'll help with whatever I can as well.

By Albie Ontour
On 13/05/2013

Albie, The meeting went ahead and was progressive, with about 40 people turning up. Can you please email when you can. my email is - hcp1995@sky.com Look forward to hearing from you.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 16/05/2013

The latest information: We are now in the process of putting a steering group together which will build a active and progressive committee which will take us forward. There are still several societies and organisations we still have to contact. The next meeting is still not arranged due to the fact that we have work to do first. I will give the information out on this page when we have finalised the date.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 04/06/2013

Sorry its been a while without any info but we have been trying to acquire documents from the 1951 excavation carried out beneath St, Mary's Church. We have been talking with Archaeologists (regarded very highly in the county) and doing field walks with them. At this moment in time we are also putting letters together so we can despatch ASAP. We have been in contact with the CBA (Council of British Archaeology) who are very supportive of our aim. We are opening a bank account this week and we should be setting up a meeting shortly. I will let you know when that date is and I will also let you know of any further movement. In the meantime,please cheching on this site.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 22/07/2013

I've just taken an interest in this and the more I look into it, the more it seems to be Cuckney. One interesting thing that I saw yesterday while looking at Chapman's Map of Nottinghamshire (1774) is that the Budby Rd, A616 is named 'King's Stand'. This is the road that runs West to East across, just south of Hatfield. Surely there's something in this?

By Josh Pickering
On 12/08/2013

I have read the above with interest but have noted that no reference is made to the fact the bodies may be the result of a skirmish fought near Worksop in Dec 1460 during the Wars of the Roses when a Lancastrian force routed part of the Duke of York's vanguard.

By ian brandt
On 13/08/2013

Thank-You for making a comment Ian. I would like to look into this suggestion but the chronology will not work. we are now looking at the 1460's and the Church of St. Mary's in Cuckney was build during the 12th century and the mass grave runs north to south beneath the Nave, hence, they must have been buried before the church was erected.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 15/08/2013

Thank you Josh for adding some potential information on the site. I will research this and if it is correct, we will add it to our ongoing quest. We must also be aware that the name "Kings Stand" could be referring to any king between the 7th - 18th century so we need to be accurate, hopefully it refers to Edwin. Any more info you have I would like to read it. Again thank you.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 15/08/2013

Ian, This is the 1st I've heard of this & it is interesting. However, St. Mary's Church Cuckney was built in c. 1140 and the 200 bodies (rising potentially to 800) were buried on the site before the church was constructed upon it.

By Paul Jameson
On 15/08/2013

Hi Josh. Interesting about the King's Stand on Chapmans map. I've had a look on my copy and can verify it. however, on other maps I've seen (after Chapman's was printed) the Kings Stand is shown as being much further south. It is situated to the south of the B6030 road that goes from the A614 to the crossroads for Edwinstowe, Clipstone and the Rose Cottage junction is situated (Robin Hood pub is there). If you look on the modern OS map you will see Kings Stand Farm and the Kings Stand Plantation near Amen Corner cart track. This general area has been known as Kings Stand for many years I believe. I've had a quick look at other maps and cannot find reference to the A616 stretch between Budby and Cuckney being called Kings Stand.

By Albie Ontour
On 16/08/2013

Kings Stand. It appears to have nothing to do directly with a road or track-way etc. After listening to a very well educated friend, the information he put forward seams quite clear. We have to picture the way the area might have been in the past and also accept that the area would have been mainly forestry The Kings Stand would be a raised platform from which the king would stand on and take aim when the game is forced to run in front of this stand. There would be several Kings Stand's within the area from where the King would hunt. I really would have liked to think that it might have been a road title but I have to go along with it being a hunting position. Please prove me wrong.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 19/08/2013

Yes, it would seem that the hunting hypothesis is more plausible then. Is there any information detailing the levels of forestation in that exact area for the period? If Hatfield is a potential battlefield, surely it is a clear space.

By Josh Pickering
On 21/08/2013

I'm still wondering what the evidence is here, there is no contemporary evidence to say Cuckney is the site, the battle is referred to sparsely as "Hæðfeld" which could be anywhere in-between York and Tamworth, or even further afield owing to some of the strange places geographically 7thC kings found themselves in. As far as I can source there is not even a local tradition of the battle being fought there, no place names linking it directly merely the suggestions made by 19th/20thC antiquarian types. There is no period-relevant archaeology there, and none likely to survive from what would've been, by later medieval standards, a very small scale battle. What exactly is this being based on?

By Stuart Davies
On 21/08/2013

I'm still wondering what the evidence is here, there is no contemporary evidence to say Cuckney is the site, the battle is referred to sparsely as "Hæðfeld" which could be anywhere in-between York and Tamworth, or even further afield owing to some of the strange places geographically 7thC kings found themselves in. As far as I can source there is not even a local tradition of the battle being fought there, no place names linking it directly merely the suggestions made by 19th/20thC antiquarian types. There is no period-relevant archaeology there, and none likely to survive from what would've been, by later medieval standards, a very small scale battle. What exactly is this being based on?

By Stuart Davies
On 21/08/2013

As far as I am concerned this about trying to find out what date these bodies are from and then trying to piece a solution. There is so little evidence for many things but this has some intrigue. Over 200 bodies and no written word about any battles in this area. The fact it was called Hatfield and was a hundred in Bassetlaw wapentake is a given. Bede and the AS Chronicle both state a battle was fought. It was between Mercia and Northumbria and the border between the 2 kingdoms was probably in this general area at that time. The road that runs by was probably an old Nottingham - York road and would suit an army moving north like the Mercian's. It is as good a place as any for the battle. But obviously, like most history, open to much conjecture. Hopefully this project will at least give some credence to whether this could a potential site for the battle or not. Not sure if anyone watched the Michael Wood show about Athelstan last night. He suggested the unknown battle site of Brunanburgh in AD937 could have been along the Great North Road near Barnsdale. He has changed his mind on that particular location over the years. In his Dark Ages series of 1979 he suggested a site in the suburbs of Sheffield. In the same way Cuckney could be the site of Hatfield battle, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that it could be Brunanburgh instead.

By Albie Ontour
On 23/08/2013

Stuart, I can understand what you are saying but firstly we have set up a committee to investigate exactly what you are asking. the committee is "The Battle of Hatfield Investigation Society". Secondly there are possible connections with place names within the immediate area such as Hatfield Grange, Hatfield Plantation, High Hatfield and Hatfield House etc. We are working very close with an Archaeology Company who are well respected within the east-midlands and our intentions are to conclude with an excavation assuming we can acquire permission. We need to remember - there is more evidence within the Cuckney area than the suggested area near Doncaster being the battlefield. We will never know the final outcome until an excavation is completed regarding the 200 skeletons which were uncovered in 1951. There are several people and companies who believe we are onto something within the Cuckney area, so please do not give up hope. Stuart, if you wish to call me and have a chat about the topic feel free, my number is 01623 845456

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 23/08/2013

It occurs to me that we're in an unusual situation here, and one which could lend itself to a slightly unusual excavation. Establishing the age of the bones is key. But in our case we're not speculatively searching an area for possible bones - we know that they're down there. We know where they are, and we know that they're fairly tightly packed. Surely it would be cheaper, and far easier to obtain permission, to take core samples in the same manner as geologists. Find a bone fragment at an appropriate level that's suitable for dating, and send it off. It would at least help to narrow the guesswork down a bit.

By David Skinner
On 02/09/2013

David. We need firstly to acquire permission from the Diocese of Southwell before we can start digging. We have been talking with the Archaeologists and we are not quite ready to excavate. One of the problems is that we do not know the exact location of the bones. We are trying to confirm where the bones on their internment are located, so we need to be more exact. By the way, we now have a society name which is "The Battle of Hatfield Investigation Society". I will be putting a complete update in the next 2 weeks and also hoping to give you a date for the next meeting. We may be starting our own website regarding the project.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 03/09/2013

The next meeting will be on Friday 18th October at 19:30 in Cuckney Village Hall. The village Hall is directly behind the Greendale Pub. We hope to have some good news for you.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 23/09/2013

Joseph, I'm out of the country for the foreseeable future so can't attend the meeting at Cuckney Village Hall, which is frustrating as it's walking distance from home! Is there any way I'd be able find out what is said at the meeting after it takes place? By email perhaps?

By Josh Pickering
On 02/10/2013

Hi Josh, yes I will put the information on this page for all to read. By the way, there was a 2 page coverage in yesterdays Chad Newspaper (02/10/13) about what we are doing. There are a few mistakes but is interesting reading.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 03/10/2013

Hello to all. We now have our own website and from now on all information will be placed on Our Nottinghamshire "Did a King Die at Cuckney" and also our website at www.battleofhatfield.webs.com please enjoy it and hopefully we will see you on the 18th October at 19:30 - Cuckney Village Hall.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 06/10/2013

Interesting to see on information board at Edwinstowe church as I drove past today that the original church was built in the year 633AD. The same year that King Edwin was killed at the Battle of Hatfield. An obvious connection one would have thought.

By Gordon murdock
On 08/11/2013

There is a website www.battleofhatfield.webs.com. you can find odds and ends there.

By Pete Bennett
On 12/11/2013

I too have been reading to enquire as to whether it is feasible that the battle of Brunanburgh was fought near or at the earlier battle of Hatfield. The site is is on lines of march used throughout the AS period from Nottingham, Rykneld street, York and Torksey. If only some serious work could be done in the area! I would like to join in what is going on.

By Ian smith
On 09/12/2013

All information from now on will be placed on our website at www.battleofhatfield.webs.com

By J S WATERFALL
On 09/12/2013

Just to let you know. There will be a meeting at Cuckney Village Hall on Thursday 29th of May for 19:30. All are welcome and there is no admission fee.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 13/05/2014

Just caught up with this after an absence.

I may be giving you a ring at some point Joseph to discuss things, whens best for you?

By Stuart Davies
On 08/07/2014

Hello to all, If anyone wishes to speak with me regarding the Battle of Hatfield, please contact me on 01623 845456 or 07583 545269 or hcp1995@sky.com.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 21/07/2014

Just to add, we have our own email address, (www.battleofhatfield.webs.com) where anyone can access the site.

By Joseph S Waterfall
On 03/08/2014

Please note that there will be a 4th meeting of the Battle of Hatfield Investigation Society on the 12th December 2014 at 7:30pm at Cuckney Village Hall.

A lot of progress has been made but our Heritage Lottery Fund bid (made on the 22nd August) was recently turned down. We are in the process of re-submitting a claim.

However, we have one of the two permissions required (from the Welbeck Estate Company Ltd.) and are awaiting an imminent decision from the Diocese of Southwell on the other).

We hope to see you there.

 

 

 

 

 

By Paul Jameson
On 14/11/2014

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