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Mercia Tourist Guide
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Sammy Gee : Mercia Editor

The Comprehensive Website for the Ancient English Kingdom of Mercia   

Mercia, sometimes spelled Mierce , was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy, in what is now England, in the Midlands region, with its heart in the Trent valley and its tributary streams. This site shows  places of Interest & Events in  Mercia

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According to sources such as the History of Bede, after the invasion of Britannia, the Angles split up and founded the kingdoms of the Nord Angelnen (Northumbria), Ost Angelnen (East Anglia), and the Mittlere Angelnen (Mercia).  Confirmation is afforded by English and Danish traditions relating to two kings named Wermund and Offa of Angel, from whom the Mercian royal family claimed descent and whose exploits are connected with Angeln, Schleswig, and Rendsburg. Danish tradition has preserved record of two governors of Schleswig, father and son, in their service, Frowinus (Freawine) and Wigo (Wig), from whom the royal family of Wessex claimed descent. During the 5th century, the Anglii invaded Great Britain, after which time their name does not recur on the continent except in the title of Suevi Angili.
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Background of The English
Kingdom of Mercia

Goodbye Rome, Hello England

The period of British history between the departure of the Roman legions and the Norman Conquest is often referred to as the 'Dark Ages'. It is called the Dark Ages for a number of reasons: the written and archaeological record for this period is scarce and the violence and lawlessness that came about from a withdrawal of formal government and administration added to its aura of bleakness.
In the years after the Roman departure the very identity of Britain changed as we became 'England'. The native Britons were either assimilated into this new identity, forced further west into Wales, Cornwall and Cumbria or migrated to other parts of Europe.

Roman rule had been gradually accepted in Britain and there were no rebellions or uprisings that caused the end of Roman Britain. Problems elsewhere in the empire had necessitated the movement of troops back eastwards and whilst many in Britain expected them to return this was not to be the case. In 410 AD Britain received confirmation that she was now on her own when they wrote to Rome asking for help against the invading Picts and were told in an edict of the Emperor Honorius to look to themselves for their defence.

Within 30 years Britain had severed nearly all her ties with Rome and the end of Roman life, particularly in the more rural areas, was quick and complete. Anglo-Saxons began to arrive and the taking of control was made easier for them as there was no administration, Roman or otherwise, to adapt or overthrow.

One important factor in the speedy collapse of Roman Britain would have been the removal of the Roman economy. The economy that came over with the Romans had been responsible for everything that signified Roman Britain. The market for goods had brought with it towns, housing, clothes and laws. Across the country pockets of organised society had begun to appear, in contrast to the self-sufficient nature that had represented Iron Age Britain. After the collapse of Roman Britain many people would have returned to the almost self-sufficient life that they had lived before the Romans.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle begins its history with the coming of the first Saxons, Hengist and Horsa, to Britain. They had been invited by King Vortigern to help him in his battles against the fearsome Picts and Scots who had begun to invade Britain after the departure of the Romans at the beginning of the 5th century AD. At first the Saxons helped the Britons to win victories against their enemy but soon they turned against those who had invited them in the quest to secure riches and land for themselves.

After victories over the Britons they were quick to send the message home telling of the 'worthlessness of the Britons and the excellence of their land' (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, AD 449). Soon many more began to invade Britain in the hope of a profitable return.

At first the British paid off the Saxon raiders with money called 'Danegeld' (raised by taxes) but the Saxons began to want more and the thought of easy money brought further invasions.

The Anglo-Saxons were from various tribes - Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Franks etc. They lived in the south of what is now Denmark and along the sandy coast of north-west Germany and Holland. Coming from such mountainous and wooded areas they were particularly interested in the fertile fields of Britain.

The English (as the invaders called themselves) defeated several British Kings, and set up their own independent kingdoms.

In 585 they founded Mercia (the middle of England to the Welsh Border) and to the north the English kingdom of Northumbria stretched from coast to coast. Eastern Britain was now steadily becoming England.

The natives who refused to succumb to the new rulers were pushed into Wales, Cornwall and Scotland, killed or sold into slavery.

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The Anglo-Saxons and Mercia

The name Mercia comes from the Old English word 'Mierce' which means boundary, hence Mercia means 'the land of the boundary people'. This name may be significant in that part of the Western border of Mercia formed the boundary between the Anglo-Saxon English and the unconquered Britons of Wales. Some scholars have suggested that the name may to refer to the boundaries the area shared with other kingdoms such as Northumbria.

It is thought that the first Anglo-Saxons in Mercia migrated across from East Anglia, travelling along river valleys. The date given for this is early in the 6th century.
 It was settled by Angles c.500, probably first along the Trent valley With the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in the area many of the Britons would have moved westwards into more securely British territory. As the Anglo-Saxons moved west from East Anglia many would have settled in places along the route that provided good water, fertile soils and timber for house-building.

As a result the kingdom of Mercia would eventually stretch from Oundle and Northampton in the east and to Hereford and Shrewsbury in the west.
Within this area lie the Mercian episcopal centre of Lichfield (founded 669) and the important royal centres of Repton and Tamworth.This kingdom soon developed two main divisions; Central Mercia and Outer Mercia.

Central Mercia was made up of one tribal unit whereas Outer Mercia comprised a series of smaller tribes who would eventually owe allegiance to Central Mercia (Mercia - Sarah Zaluckyj, pg 17).

The tribes of Outer Mercia would often remain under the rule of their original king or leader who would govern on behalf of the King of Mercia, many of these smaller tribes would eventually be absorbed into the inner core of the kingdom. Outer Mercia included Herefordshire, Worcestershire,  Shropshire, Cheshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire,  and Lincolnshire,  Also parts of Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

The early annals apparently indicate that the Kingdom of Mercia began in 585 AD with a man called Crida or Creod(d)a as king (It is thought that Credenhill [the site of an Iron Age hillfort] was named after this king).

He was then succeeded by Wibba/Pipba who it is thought reigned between 593 and 597. The first Mercian king mentioned by Bede is Cearl who reigned for 10 years between 597-607. Cearl was succeeded by Penda, who was to become one of the most famous kings of Mercia.

The kings of Mercia were itinerant people moving from one royal district to another expecting the local nobility to feed and take care of them. This in itself was no small feat and it has been estimated that in the 7th century '10 vats of honey, 300 loaves, 12 ambers (casks) of Welsh ale, 30 of clear ale, 2 full grown cows, or 10 wethers (castrated sheep), 10 geese, 20 hens 10 cheeses an "amber" full of butter, 5 salmon, 20 pounds of fodder and 100 eels' were required to feed and water the king and his men for one night. *1

By travelling around the different communities of the large kingdom the king could demonstrate his power and influence and hopefully discourage uprisings or rebellions. He could also listen to criminal cases and complaints and so keep a role in the leadership of his kingdom.

Eventually the smaller Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England became absorbed by the larger kingdoms until the majority of the country was under the control of 7 different main kingdoms. These were Mercia, Northumbria, Wessex, East Anglia, Sussex. Kent and Essex.

By the 8th century Mercia had come into her own and was considered one of the three most powerful kingdoms along with Northumbria and Wessex. By this time her territory stretched from Kent in the south-east, through London and the Midlands and as far north as the Derbyshire Peak District.

This area included rich, fertile soils for crop and arable farming and in the west there were large areas of woodland such as the Forest of Dean for timber. There were quarries for stone and lead and salt works at Droitwich and Cheshire. All these would have combined to create a profitable industry for Mercia and with wealth her power would have grown.

Mercia was one of the seven kingdoms of the Heptarchy, and its peoples are listed in a document known as the Tribal Hidage. Until the annexation of the Middle Saxons and London in the 8th century, all Mercian folk-groups were Angles. In addition, Celts survived in the western fringes, and many Danes settled in eastern Mercia in the late 9th century, though both groups became assimilated. Sovereign Mercia defines as Mercian those whose ancestry can be, or in the absence of records can be presumed to be, traced back to this period – i.e. when Mercia was an independent nation-state.
The Kings & Queens of Mercia

The first dynasty of the Mercians was called Iclingas after Icel, father of Cynewald, grandfather of Cnebba, and great-grandfather of Creoda of Mercia.
Reign Incumbent
c.585 to 593 Creoda
593 to c.606 Pybba
606 to 626 Ceorl
626 to 655 Penda
655 to 656 Peada
Northumbrian Dynasty
direct rule 656 to 659 Oswiu
Mercian Dynasty
659 to 675 Wulfhere
675 to 704 Aethelred
704 to 709 Cenred
709 to 716 Ceolred
716 to 757 Ethelbald
757 Beornrad
757 to 796 Offa
787 to 14/17 December 796 Ecgfrith
December 796 to 821 Cenwulf
821 Cenelm
821 to 823 Ceolwulf I
823 to 825 Beornwulf
826 to 827 Ludeca
827 to 829 Wiglaf
Wessex Dynasty
829 to 830 Egbert of Wessex
Mercian Dynasty
830 to 840 Wiglaf
840? to 840? Wigstan
840 to 852 Beorhtwulf
852 to 874
873 to 879 Ceolwulf II
879 to 911 Aethelred
911 to 918 Ethelfleda
918 to 919 Aelfwynn

(r. 757-796)
King Offa
Perhaps the most important of all Mercian Kings was Offa. Offa, King of Mercia seized the throne after a civil war, and established supremacy over many lesser kings.

He consolidated his position by marrying his daughters to the kings of Wessex and Northumbria, and was the first ruler to be called 'king of the English'. Offa ruthlessly overcame strong opposition in southern England. By the end of his reign, Offa was master of all England south of the Humber. He had a frontier barrier (Offa's Dyke) built; this continuous ditch and bank ran 149 miles along the boundary between the Mercian and Welsh kingdoms 'from sea to sea'. Offa had dealings with the emperor Charlemagne (a proposed dynastic marriage between their children came to nothing), and he visited Rome in 792 to strengthen his links with the papacy.
The English penny (silver currency) was introduced during Offa's reign.
In the first recorded coronation in England, Offa's son Ecgfrith was consecrated in 787 in Offa's lifetime in an attempt to secure the succession. However, Ecgfrith died childless, months after Offa. Offa's success in building a strong unified kingdom caused resistance in other kingdoms.
The Mercians' defeat at the hands of Egbert of Wessex at the battle of Ellendun in 825 meant that supremacy passed to Wessex.
Three places claim to be the capital of Mercia. They are Lichfield, Repton and Tamworth. Below we list what is known of these places in the dark ages.

The Kingdom of Mercia

Subdivisions of Mercia

For knowledge of the internal composition of the Kingdom of Mercia, we must rely on a document of uncertain age (possibly late 7th century), known as the Tribal Hidage – an assessment of the extent (but not the location) of land owned (reckoned in hides), and therefore the military obligations and perhaps taxes due, by each of the Mercian tribes and subject kingdoms by name. This hidage exists in several manuscript versions, some as late as the 14th century. It lists a number of peoples, such as the Hwicce, who have now vanished, except for reminders in various placenames (see map at the head of this article). The major subdivisions of Mercia were as follows:

South Mercians

The Mercians dwelling south of the River Trent. Folk groups within included the Tomsæte around Tamworth and the Pencersæte around Penkridge (approx. S. Staffs. & N. Warks.).
North Mercians

The Mercians dwelling north of the River Trent (approx. N. Staffs., S. Derbys. & Notts.).
Outer Mercia

An early phase of Mercian expansion, possibly 6th century (approx. S. Lincs., Leics., Rutland, Northants. & N. Oxon.).

Once a kingdom in its own right, disputed with Northumbria in the 7th century before finally coming under Mercian control (approx. N. Lincs.).
Middle Angles

A collection of many smaller folk groups under Mercian control from the 7th century, including the Spaldingas around Spalding, the Bilmingas and Wideringas near Stamford, the North Gyrwe and South Gyrwe near Peterborough, the West Wixna, East Wixna, West Wille and East Wille near Ely, the Sweordora, Hurstingas and Gifle near Bedford, the Hicce around Hitchin, the Cilternsæte in the Chilterns and the Feppingas near Thame (approx. Cambs., Hunts., Beds., Herts., Bucks. & S. Oxon.).

Once a kingdom in its own right, disputed with Wessex in the 7th century before finally coming under Mercian control. Smaller folk groups within included the Stoppingas around Warwick and the Arosæte near Droitwich (approx. Gloucs., Worcs. & S. Warks.).

A people of the Welsh border, also known as the Westerna, under Mercian control from the 7th century. Smaller folk groups within included the Temersæte near Hereford and the Hahlsæte near Ludlow (approx. Herefs. & S. Shrops.).

A people of the Welsh border under Mercian control from the 7th century. Smaller folk groups within included the Rhiwsæte near Wroxeter and the Meresæte near Chester (approx. N. Shrops., Flints. & Cheshire).

An isolated folk group of the Peak District, under Mercian control from the 7th century (approx. N. Derbys.).
Land Between Ribble & Mersey

A disorganised region under Mercian control from the 7th century (approx. S. Lancs.).
Middle Saxons

Taken over from Essex in the 8th century, including London (approx. Middlesex).

 After Mercia was annexed by Wessex in the early 10th century, the West Saxon rulers divided it into shires modelled after their own system, cutting across traditional Mercian divisions. These shires survived mostly intact until 1974, and even today still largely follow their original boundaries.
Mercian religion
 The first kings of Mercia were pagans, and they resisted the encroachment of Christianity longer than other kingdoms in the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. Mercian rulers remained resolutely pagan until the reign of Peada in 656, although this did not prevent them joining coalitions with Christian Welsh rulers to resist Northumbria. The first appearance of Christianity in Mercia, however, had come at least thirty years earlier, following the Battle of Cirencester of 628, when Penda incorporated the formerly West Saxon territories of Hwicce into his kingdom.
The conversion of Mercia to Christianity occurred in the latter part of the 7th century, and by the time of Penda's defeat and death, Mercia was largely surrounded by Christian states. Diuma, an Irish monk and one of Oswiu's missionaries was subsequently ordained a bishop - the first to operate in Mercia. Christianity finally gained a foothold in Mercia when Oswiu supported Peada as sub-king of the Middle Angles, requiring him to marry Oswiu's daughter, Alchflaed, and to accept her religion
Decisive steps to Christianise Mercia were taken by Chad (Latinised by Bede as Ceadda), the fifth  bishop to operate in Mercia. This controversial figure was given land by King Wulfhere to build a monastery at Lichfield. As in other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, the many small monasteries established by the Mercian kings allowed the political/military and ecclesiastical leadership to consolidate their unity through bonds of kinship
Lichfield - Mercia's Ecclesiastical Centre
Lichfield Cathedral
In 669, according to the Venerable Bede, Chad moved his bishopric to a place called 'Licidfelth'

The burial in the cathedral of individual kings of Mercia, such as Celred in 716, further increased the prestige of Lichfield. In 786, Pope Adrian I raised it at the request of Offa, King of Mercia, to the dignity of an archbishopric, but in 803 the primacy was restored to Canterbury. St. Chade, the Patron Saint of Mercia was buried here and many pilgrims visited his Shrine.

The first church probably stood on the site of the present cathedral, and the settlement quickly grew as the ecclesiastical centre of the Kingdom of Mercia

Repton - The Birthplace of Christianity in Mercia
The village dates back to Anglo-Saxon times and was the place where Christianity was first preached in the Midlands.  In the crypt of the church there are still well preserved remains of Saxon architecture. Repton church was the burial place of Mercian Kings. It dates from around 750 AD and contains the tombs of King Ethelbald of Mercia(ad757), King Wiglaf in AD840 and his grandson St Wystan who was brutally murdered. The crypt became a place of pilgramage.

A monastery had been founded following the arrival of Christianity in Mercia around AD653. It was sacked by the Danes, lay in ruins for 200 years and never rebuilt, but the crypt survived and a church was built on the old site. Its 212 ft spire is a land mark for miles around.
Repton is known and sign posted as the capital of Mercia.
Tamworth - The Site of The Royal Palace
Offas Palace
When Offa came to the throne of Mercia in 757 AD, he made Tamworth his chief residence and built a palace there

Offa's palace was likely a large, thatched, wooden building and as such it's location is not known, but it might have been north-east of Bolebridge Street in Tamworth following excavations in 1968, although other possible locations include the area of the churchyard north of St. Editha's church or in the Castle Grounds near the castle gatehouse.

Tamworth   was sacked by Danes in the 9th century. Defences in the form of a castle were constructed against Danish invaders by Ethelfleda Queen of the kingdom of Mercia.
Places Named After Anglo-Saxon People

The Anglo-Saxons felled many clearings in the Forest of Arden to make way for their homesteads, and many Midland towns and villages have names which are derived from their original Anglo-Saxon owners. The following list is only a quick example, there are many others:

Eccleshall - Æcla's Halh - 'the Hillside of Aecla'
Essington - Esne Ingas Tun - 'The Farmstead of Esne's People'
Handsacre - Handa's Acre - 'the Farm of Handa'
Hednesford - Heoden's Ford - 'the Ford of Heoden'
Teddesley - Tyddi's Leah - 'the Woodland Clearing of Tyddi'
Tutbury - Tutta's Byrig - 'the Fortification of Tutta'
Wednesbury - Weoden's Byrig - 'The Fortification of Weoden'
Wednesfield - Weoden's Feld - 'the Field of Weoden'
Wolseley - Wulfgar's Leah - 'the Woodland Clearing of Wulfgar'
Wolverhampton - Wulfruna's Hame Tun - 'the Home Steading of Wulfruna'
Anglo-Saxon Place-names
Describing the Locale

Many other places have names which have been derived from Anglo-Saxon words describing their original local situation. These names are important as they give an idea of what the land actually looked like around one and a half thousand years ago. The following list contains a few examples of this type of place-name which occur around the Cannock Chase area:

Aldridge - Alr Wic - 'the Village of the Alder trees'
Alrewas - Alr Woesc - 'the Alder Swamp'
Brereton - Brere Don - 'the Hill of Briar bushes'
Bromley - Brom Leah - 'the Woodland Clearing covered with Broom bushes'
Brewood - Bre Wudu - 'the Wooded Hill'
Burton - Burh Tun - 'the Farmstead at the Fortifications'
Fazeley - Fearr Leah - 'the Woodland Glade where Bulls are raised'
Hagley - Hacga Leah - 'the Woodland Clearing where Hawthorn grows'
Rugeley - Hrycg Leah - 'The Clearing on the Ridge'
Stafford - Staeth Forda - 'the Ford at the Wharf'
Stoke - Stoc - 'the Holy Place'
Stretton - Straet Tun - 'the Farmstead on the Roman Road'
Tamworth - Tame Weorth - 'the Enclosure on the River Tame'
The Mercian Language

Mercian was spoken in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. Together with Northumbrian, it was one of the two Anglian dialects. The other two dialects of Old English were Kentish and West Saxon.

The dialect was spoken as far east as to border East Anglia and as far west as Wales. It was spoken as far north as Staffordshire, bordering Northumbria and Strathclyde; and as far south as South Oxfordshire/ Gloucestershire, where it bordered Essex and Wessex. The language has an Anglo-Celtic structure, reflecting the meeting point between the two cultures. Language from the Northumbrian dialect, which has strong Viking
influence, also filtered in on a few occasions. Mercian grammar is very dense and often complex.

Nouns have three genders: masculine, feminine, neuter; and four cases: nominative, accusative, dative and genitive. These, in addition, all have singular and plural forms.
Mercian nouns can be strong or weak.

J.R.R. Tolkien is one of many scholars who have studied and promoted the Mercian dialect of Old English, and introduced various Mercian terms into his legendarium – especially in relation to the Kingdom of Rohan, otherwise known as the Mark (a name cognate with Mercia). Not only is the language of Rohan actually translated  into the Mercian dialect of Old English, but a number of its kings are represented as having the same names as monarchs who appear in the Mercian royal genealogy, e.g. Fréawine, Fréaláf and Éomer (see List of kings of the Angles).

The Angles
The Angles is a modern English word for a Germanic-speaking people who took their name from the ancestral cultural region of Angeln, a district located in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. The Angles were one of the main groups that settled in Britain in the post-Roman period, founding several of the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, and their name is the root of the name "England".  The ethnic name "Angle" has had various forms and spellings, the earliest attested being the Latinized name Anglii, a Germanic tribe mentioned in the Germania of Tacitus. The original noun from which this adjective was produced has not been determined with confidence. The stem is theorized to have had the form *Ang?l/r-. The more prominent etymological theories concerning the name's origin have included:
    * Derivation from the Latin word angulus, translating as "angle".
    * The Old English word for the Jutlandic district of Angeln (where the Angles are believed to have emigrated from) is Angel. This is the preferred etymological theory amongst historians, and may connect to Angle (the peninsula is noted for its "angular" shape).
    * It may mean "the people who dwell by the Narrow Water," (i.e. the Schlei), from the Proto-Indo-European language root ang- meaning "narrow".
    * Derivation from the Germanic god Ingwaz or the Ingvaeones federation of which the Angles were part (the initial vowel could as well be "a" or "e").

Pope Gregory the Great is the first known to have simplified Anglii to Angli, which he did in an epistle, the latter form developing into the preferred form of the word in Britain and throughout the continent (the generic form becoming Anglus in answer). The country remained Anglia in Latin. Meanwhile, there are several likenesses of form and meaning attested in Old English literature: King Alfred's (Alfred the Great) translation of Orosius' history of the world uses Angelcynn (-kin) to describe England and the English people; Bede used Angelfolc (-folk); there are also such forms as Engel, Englan (the people), Englaland, and Englisc, all showing signs of vocalic mutation and later developing into the dominant forms. Angle is used as the root of the French and Anglo-Norman words Angleterre (Angleland, i.e. England) and anglais (English).

The map shows both the Angeln peninsula (to the east of Flensburg and Schleswig) and the Schwansen peninsula (south of the Schlei).
Godiva (Old English: Godgifu, "god gift"), often referred to as Lady Godiva (fl. 1040–1080), was an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who, according to legend, rode naked through the streets of Coventry, in England, in order to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation imposed by her husband on his tenants. The name "Peeping Tom" for a voyeur originates from later versions of this legend in which a man named Tom had watched her ride and was struck blind or dead. 
Lady Godiva

Lady Godiva was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. Her name occurs in charters and the Domesday survey, though the spelling varies. The Old English name Godgifu or Godgyfu meant "gift of God"; Godiva was the Latinised version. Since the name was a popular one, there are contemporaries of the same name.  If she was the same Godgifu who appears in the history of Ely Abbey, the Liber Eliensis, written at the end of 12th century, then she was a widow when Leofric married her. Both Leofric and Godiva were generous benefactors to religious houses. In 1043 Leofric founded and endowed a Benedictine monastery at Coventry .

 Writing in the 12th century, Roger of Wendover credits Godiva as the persuasive force behind this act. In the 1050s, her name is coupled with that of her husband on a grant of land to the monastery of St Mary, Worcester and the endowment of the minster at Stow St Mary, Lincolnshire.[4][5] She and her husband are commemorated as benefactors of other monasteries at Leominster, Chester, Much Wenlock and Evesham. She gave Coventry a number of works in precious metal made for the purpose by the famous goldsmith Mannig, and bequeathed a necklace valued at 100 marks of silver. Another necklace went to Evesham, to be hung around the figure of the Virgin accompanying the life-size gold and silver rood she and her husband gave, and St Paul's Cathedral, London received a gold-fringed chasuble. She and her husband were among the most munificent of the several large Anglo-Saxon donors of the last decades before the Conquest; the early Norman bishops made short work of their gifts, carrying them off to Normandy or melting them down for bullion. 

The manor of Woolhope in Herefordshire, along with four others, was given to the cathedral at Hereford before the Norman Conquest by the benefactresses Wulviva and Godiva – usually held to be this Godiva and her sister. The church there has a 20th century stained glass window representing them. Her mark, di Ego Godiva Comitissa diu istud desideravi, appears on a charter purportedly given by Thorold of Bucknall to the Benedictine monastery of Spalding. However, this charter is considered spurious by many historians.  Even so it is possible that Thorold, who appears in the Domesday Book as sheriff of Lincolnshire, was her brother.
After Leofric's death in 1057, his widow lived on until sometime between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and 1086. She is mentioned in the Domesday survey as one of the few Anglo-Saxons and the only woman to remain a major landholder shortly after the conquest. By the time of this great survey in 1086, Godiva had died, but her former lands are listed, although now held by others. Thus, Godiva apparently died between 1066 and 1086.
The place where Godiva was buried has been a matter of debate. According to the Chronicon Abbatiae de Evesham, or Evesham Chronicle, she was buried at the Church of the Blessed Trinity at Evesham, which is no longer standing. But, according to the authoritative account in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "There is no reason to doubt that she was buried with her husband at Coventry, despite the assertion of the Evesham chronicle that she lay in Holy Trinity, Evesham."  Dugdale (1656) says that a window with representations of Leofric and Godiva was placed in Trinity Church, Coventry, about the time of Richard II.
Lady Godiva statue by Sir William Reid Dick unveiled at midday on 22 October 1949 in Broadgate, Coventry, a £20,000 gift from Mr WH Bassett-Green, a Coventrian

*1 (Nicholas Brooks : 'Formation of the Mercian kingdom', in 'The Origins of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, 1989).



We, representatives of the Mercian Constitutional Convention, have assembled here today in the heartland of Mercia to reaffirm and declare the legal independence of the region under The Constitution Of Mercia, which we have now published and which is available to all the people of the region upon request. We have spent over two years in careful deliberation and embrace this Constitution in order to re-create Mercia as an autonomous region, constructed as an organic democracy, based on holistic principles.

Mercia developed in the valleys of the upper Trent and its tributaries in the sixth century and gradually expanded to its natural boundaries to form the middle lands of England. In 1066, Mercia was one of six earldoms which comprised the non-expansionist confederation of England and operated as an organic democracy. Most Mercians lived as freemen in stable subsistence farming communities, which were bonded by common customs and traditions, kinship and co-operative effort on the land. They also held a great respect for the environment and Mercia was an extremely wealthy region, both in terms of its soil fertility and agricultural production and of its creation of magnificent jewellery, tapestries, manuscripts and literature.  

However, historic Mercia was annihilated by the Norman invaders after the Conquest in 1066 and its territory, along with that of the other English regions, was forcibly added to the Norman Empire. The Conquest also destroyed the region’s ancient organic democracy and imposed an hereditary absolute monarchy in its stead, under which the people were reduced in status from freemen to ‘subjects of the crown’. New hierarchical political and social systems ensured the suppression of the indigenous people and the imposition of the Norman feudal system marked the origins of the iniquitous modern class system. English community law was replaced by a centralised system of courts, where arbitrary punishments were decreed, and, following the Conquest, vast numbers of English people were murdered by their alien masters. The conquerors regarded England as a source of plunder and therefore decisively altered the human relationship with the land thenceforth into one of exploitation.  

Today, little has changed, despite the persistent efforts of the radical political movement extant in England for almost a millennium which has campaigned to free its historic and natural regions from the illegal and suffocating control of the authoritarian forces of the United Kingdom. Therefore, Mercia remains locked inside a crumbling empire, which shows little inclination to release the English regions from its weakening grip. The anachronistic hereditary monarchy continues to thrive and symbolise the impotence of the millions of Mercian ‘subjects of the crown’, who are obliged to fund it , whilst only small concessions to real democracy have yet resulted from the determined efforts of countless English radicals over the centuries. The class system remains essentially intact so that the rich live in luxury whilst homeless people beg on the streets and the environment is currently being abused at an even faster rate than it was during the last millennium. Consequently, destructive individualism, centralisation and generalised economic growth are leading the region and its people further down a blind alley into disaster. This can only be averted by the formation of the new holistic society outlined in The Constitution Of Mercia, based on organic democracy, co-operative community and ecological balance, the selfsame principles that formed the bedrock of the sustainable society of historic Mercia.  

Although almost a millennium has passed since Mercia existed as an autonomous entity, recognition of the historic region has remained remarkably strong. Mercia gradually became better known as the Midlands, but remains a rich farming area and therefore still constitutes a highly sustainable region. Mercia also forms a viable region culturally and Midlanders generally see themselves as belonging neither to the north of England nor the south.  

King Offa Despite its natural unity, Mercia was unlawfully dismantled by foreign conquerors and The Constitution Of Mercia consequently reaffirms its legal independence. Furthermore, the production of the Constitution and this declaration of independence are part of a programme of positive action aimed at the de facto re-creation of Mercia as an autonomous and sustainable bioregion within an English confederation. It was hoped that this might be achieved through a process of negotiation with the relevant representatives of the UK, especially following the election in 1997 of a government committed by its manifesto to ‘the democratic renewal of our country through decentralisation’ and to ‘decentralise power throughout the United Kingdom’. This was put to the test in January 2000 when the Mercia Movement sent letters to the key agents of political control in the UK, requesting joint meetings to discuss fully the future of the region. However, none was willing to enter into any such discussions and their refusal thereby revealed the hypocrisy of the government’s professed commitment to democratic regionalism. Therefore, a draft Constitution was produced without their assistance in January 2001 and circulated as widely as possible across the region. This led to the formation of the Mercian Constitutional Convention on 17 March 2001, which amended the draft to enable the production of The Constitution Of Mercia.  

We hereby declare that this Constitution is now the ultimate legal authority in Mercia, but that it remains subject to amendment by the people of the region. Furthermore, we reaffirm and declare the legal independence of Mercia, which will comprise its historic twenty shires (Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Middlesex, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire) or such of these that find a common Mercian identity and wish to be included in the region. Finally, we hereby proclaim that the Constitutional Convention has now become the Acting Witan of Mercia, to spearhead the full democratisation of the region and the re-establishment of its de facto independence under The Constitution Of Mercia. Long live free Mercia!

Contact Details

 Jeff Kent, Convener of the Acting Witan of Mercia, Cherry Tree House, 8 Nelson Crescent, Cotes Heath, via Stafford, ST21 6ST, Mercia. Tel. 01782 791673

email: witan@mail.com  Website : www.independentmercia.org   For general enquiries:  info@acting-witan-of-mercia.org


 The Mercian Regiment
Wootton Bassett
  Mercian Regiment Formation Parade (78.06kb)
The Colonel in Chief of the Mercian Regiment is HRH the Prince of Wales and the first Regimental Colonel is Brigadier ARD Sharpe OBE, late The 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment, who is assisted by three deputy colonels, drawn from the antecedent regiments.

L/Cpl Andrew Breeze, who attended Audenshaw School and was a former member of the Church Lads' and Girls' Brigade at Christ Church,

L/Cpl Andrew Breeze, who attended Audenshaw School and was a former member of the Church Lads' and Girls' Brigade at Christ Church,

The Mercian Regiment (MERCIAN) is an infantry regiment of the British Army, formed by the amalgamation of four existing regiments in 2007.

The Mercian Regiment serves as the county regiment of the following counties:

    * Cheshire
    * Derbyshire
    * Nottinghamshire
    * Leicestershire
    * Staffordshire
    * Worcestershire

The regiment was formed on September 1, 2007 at Tamworth Castle.[1] It is called the Mercian Regiment as it is generally located within the ancient English kingdom of Mercia.


The regiment's formation was announced on 16 December 2004 by Geoff Hoon and General Sir Mike Jackson as part of the restructuring of the infantry - it consists of three regular battalions, plus a TA battalion, and was created through the merger of three single battalion regiments:

    * Cheshire Regiment - 1st Battalion
    * Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment - 2nd Battalion
    * Staffordshire Regiment - 3rd Battalion
    * West Midlands Regiment, elements of The King's and Cheshire Regiment and East of England Regiment - 4th (V) Battalion

The regiment formed on September 1, 2007; at this point, 1 CHESHIRE (by this time the only remaining line infantry regiment never to have been amalgamated in its history) moved to Catterick as part of 4 Mechanised Brigade, becoming 1 MERCIAN. At the same time, 1 WFR became 2 MERCIAN while part of London District (although the battalion was in Afghanistan at the time of re-badging), and 1 STAFFORDS became 3 MERCIAN at Tidworth. The 4th Battalion retained a multi-badge structure, with E Company (Light Infantry) West Midlands Regiment being badged as Rifles and A Company badged as Fusilliers.

The new structure sees the regiment having a single battalion of armoured infantry and three battalions of light role infantry:

    * 1st Battalion, Mercian Regiment (Cheshire) - Light role Infantry based at Catterick.
    * 2nd Battalion, Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) - Light role Infantry based at Holywood, Northern Ireland
    * 3rd Battalion, Mercian Regiment (Staffords) - Armoured Infantry role based at Fallingbostel, Germany.
    * 4th Battalion (V), Mercian Regiment - A Territorial Army Light Role Infantry battalion created from the West Midlands Regiment and the King's and Cheshire Regiment and a company from the East of England Regiment

Private Derby, the mascot of the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, became the new regiment's mascot. He is described as "a pedigree Swaledale ram".

The Regimental Headquarters is at Whittington Barracks near Lichfield, which is also home to the Museum of the Staffordshire Regiment.

For soldiers and their families
 Soldiers from the Mercian Regiment march along Dane Street	 n104682
Back Home in Nantwich
Regimental Support Teams
The Mercian Regiment recently raised over £16k for Help for Heroes at Wolverhampton Wanderers FC

The Mercian Regiment has three Regimental Support Teams (RSTs) that promote The Mercian Regiment and maintain our close links with our home counties, as well as recruiting and training tasks. They also maintain our close affiliations with ACF and CCF detachments.

They attend schools, sports events and other local fairs and attractions raising the profile of the Regiment and providing interest and entertainments such as paintball ranges, command tasks, physical training and similar events.

If you would like to request the presence of the Teams to enhance your event, or if you would like to have a Mercian visit or presentation then get in touch with the Mercian Regimental Adjutant, Captain Simon Cupples, on 01902 303813. Alternatively, you can write to him at:

Regimental Adjutant
Wolseley House
Fallings Park
WV10 9QR

Regimental Associations

Regimental Association

The Regimental Association's aim is to maintain contact between past and present members of the regiment and to foster esprit de corps amongst its members.

The Association is administered from:

Regimental Headquarters
The Mercian Regiment
Whittington Barracks
Heath Avenue
WS14 9TJ

Tel: 01543 434357/4358
Email: RHQMERCIAN-AAAdmin@mod.uk

The Association has branches across the regimental counties of Cheshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands.

There can also be branches in other areas if there are enough members of the regiment or former regiments to sustain them.


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Campaigning for a sovereign Mercian state in the Midlands

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Saxon treasure found in Staffordshire

 The Daily Mail has terrific coverage of a spectacular new find.

The largest haul of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found has been discovered by a metal detector enthusiast on farmland in Staffordshire, it was revealed today. 

Experts say the hoard, which is at least as significant as any other treasure from the Anglo-Saxon era ever unearthed, is worth millions and could have belonged to a king. The discovery of at least 1,345 different items, thought to date back to the seventh century, is expected to redefine perceptions of the period. Terry Herbert, from Burntwood, Staffordshire, came across the collection as he searched a field near his home with his trusty 14-year-old detector and is now in line for a seven-figure sum.

It had been hidden for more than 1,300 years but was recently thrown up by ploughing and amazingly, some was just sitting on the top of the ground.  Experts have already examined the 1,345 items but another 56 clods of earth have been X-rayed and are known to hold more metal artefacts, meaning the figure is likely to rise to around 1,500. At least 650 are gold, weighing more than than 5kg, and another 530 are silver, weighing around 1kg.

This is far bigger than previous finds – including the Sutton Hoo burial site in Suffolk.
Many of the items in the hoard are warfare paraphernalia inlaid with precious stones, including sword pommel caps and hilt plates.Experts say it is the best example of Anglo-Saxon workmanship they have ever seen and may have belonged to Saxon royalty, possibly the King of Mercia.’

Archaeology expert Leslie Webster, who used to work at the British Museum, said: ‘(It is) absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells.’

It was officially declared treasure by a coroner today, which means the haul will now be valued by committee of experts before being offered for sale. They may take more than a year to value the collection and, given its scale, the financial worth will be massive.

Once a valuation and sale is complete, its market value will be split between Mr Herbert, who is unemployed, and the owner of the farmland where it was found.
Roger Bland, head of portable antiquities and treasure at the British Museum: ‘I can’t say anything other than we expect it to be a seven-figure sum.’

What these gems reveal about the brutal men who made England


Penda of Mercia was one the central figures of English history from 632 until his death in 654. He first appeared before he was king, as an ally of Cadwallon in his campaign against Edwin of Northumbria that ended in victory at Hatfield Chase, after which Penda became king of Mercia.

 In 641, he defeated and killed Oswald of Northumbria at Maserfelth, establishing himself as the most powerful of the southern English kings, although he never became Bretwalda (Overking).

His final campaign, in 654, was against Oswiu, brother of Oswald, whom he considered to be a personal enemy. Penda invaded Northumbria with a large army that included many British allies, but despite apparently coming close to defeat, Oswiu defeated and killed Penda at the battle of Winwaed, near Leeds, temporarily eclipsing Mercian power.

 It was a custom of the day, a form of ritual humiliation of the foe, described in the great Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf: ‘Weapons of war and weeds (clothes) of battle, with breastplate and blade – a heaped hoard’.

Could it be that this was the scene that took place 1,400 years ago – and that such a hoard has now been discovered in Staffordshire? It seems more than possible.

King Penda would have been worthy of such treasure. He killed five kings in battles in the mid seventh century, becoming the most powerful Anglo-Saxon ruler of the age.
He was described by a contemporary as ‘a most warlike man of the royal race of the Mercians’. Later, he would be beheaded in battle. Truly it was a brutal era.

 Penda remained a Pagan throughout his life but, by his wife, Cunewise, he fathered a large family who all became Christian: Peada, King of Middle Anglia; Wulfhere and Aethelred, eventually Kings of Mercia; Merewalh, King of Magonset; St. Cuneburga, wife of King Alcfrith of Deira and Abbess of Castor; St. Cuneswith; St. Cunethrith of Castor; St. Edith of Aylesbury; St. Edburga of Bicester; and Wilburga, wife of King Frithuwold of Surrey.

The early Anglo-Saxons founded England as we know it. They spoke Old English – and they would have been just about intelligible to us. They developed royal families, systems of justice and a currency, which has come down to us with only slight modifications. They lived in settlements of wooden houses, with fireplaces in the middle and few windows.

The names of their villages still exist – Reading, Henley, Fulham, Hastings and Middleton are all Anglo-Saxon words. By the time the Staffordshire hoard was assembled, about half of England was officially Christian and monasteries were beginning to appear.

Their homes would have been smoky, dark and primitive. All activities requiring good light had to take place outside, making the magnificent craftsmanship seen in this treasure even more amazing.

Their food would have been familiar to us, but much more restricted in variety. They would have eaten porridge and bread, butter and cheese, but not so much meat, and not very many vegetables.

They did however have leeks, garlic and onions, and relied heavily on herbs to flavour their food. Meat came from farmed animals and from hunting. Apples and other native fruit would have provided vitamins.

They loved to party, drinking mead – a brew fermented from honey – beer and ale. They sang and danced, and were wonderful storytellers – we know this from the little poetry they left behind.

But there are still many ‘known unknowns’ about the Anglo Saxons. The big mystery is where did they come from?

Did they arrive from Germany in family units? Or as immigrant men who had children with native British women? Or did just a few come from the continent and show the native British a way of life to adopt.

Our Anglo Saxon forebears remain something of an enigma but with these magnificent treasures, we come a step closer to knowing our early English ancestors.

  • Dr Helen Geake is National Finds Adviser (Early-Medieval Artefacts) at the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge.
Saxon treasure

Prize pieces from a huge horde of Anglo-Saxon gold are on display at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
 The exhibit is on until October 13, but if you can't make it check out these amazing pictures on the horde's official website. Many of the pieces are still undergoing conservation and study, but once that's all done, you can expect a worldwide tour in a year or so. Watch this space.

 is the name given to a group of museums and historical sites in the West Midlands of England that will be used to display objects from the Staffordshire Hoard. The trail is organised by a partnership of Lichfield District, Tamworth Borough Council, Staffordshire County Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Birmingham City Council, and features the following locations:

    * Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
    * Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
    * Lichfield Cathedral
    * Tamworth Castle

Most of the objects from the Staffordshire Hoard will be put on display at these four locations, although other locations may be included in the trail in the future. In addition a touring exhibition will take some objects from the hoard to other parts of the West Midlands, starting with Shire Hall in Stafford.  The Mercian Trail is not only intended to make the Staffordshire Hoard available for display to the public, but it is also intended to highlight the history and archaeology of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, which was centred on the area corresponding to the modern county of Staffordshire  The exhibits of the treasure will attempt to relate the items to other archaeological objects, and promote a greater understanding of the items in their historical context. The organisers of the trail have stated that the trail will attempt to provide answers to the following questions.

* How were such ornate items made in Anglo-Saxon times?
    * What trading links were established in Anglo-Saxon times?
    * How did the gold reach Britain's shores, and how was it carried here?
    * What links are there to Birmingham's thriving jewellery industry today?
    * What role did Staffordshire play in ancient Mercia?
    * What was life like in Staffordshire during Anglo-Saxon times?
    * What links are there to existing Staffordshire Anglo-Saxon finds?
    * Why did the Hoard end up in Staffordshire?
    * What are the links between the Hoard and early Christendom?
    * What does the biblical inscription tell us?
    * What are the links to the Lichfield Angel and St Chad?
    * What is the significance of the folded up cross and serpents?
    * Are there any links to the St Chad Gospels?
    * What are the links to Offa, and key figures of the period?
    * What battles took place, and what role did the Hoard play?
    * Who were the owners of the Hoard, and what wars did they fight in?
    * What role did Tamworth play in ancient Mercia?
    * How did the archaeologists extract the Hoard?
    * Why did the Hoard get laid down in Staffordshire?
    * How can archaeology uncover the secrets of the Hoard?

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