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Potted history viewed through the bottom of an empty beer glass By a happy consumer of amber nectar
Jan 06, '13

A light-hearted yet informative view of British history.

If there is any thread that weaves its way through history it is oft explored in the social comfort of ones ale house with friends and drinking partners. Reasons, motives, politics, religion all add colour to the flow of a story and the mixture thereof that swells curiosity.

The truth is, history, much written about, is far less complex than people would think; it is only the teachers and authors of books that make it so complicated and difficult to understand simply being in their interest to do so. Other than that, of course, the victor writes history and thus edits it quite profusely; however, history is made by people, people with vision, people with needs, seeking power and knowledge to sustain their lives and improve life’s passage.

Let me explain;

55BC- saw the first landings of the Romans into Britain as led Julius Caesar having crossed the Channel with a force of around 10,000 soldiers. Having landed on the coast where Deal is now located they were met by a strong force of Britons. With superior discipline the Romans eventually established a beach head and waited for cavalry back up to arrive from France before moving inland. However, it is recorded that a storm prevented the reinforcements from reaching Britain and Caesar decided it fortuitous to withdraw. The ill conceived landing was embarked upon on very uncertain grounds as the main source of Roman recreation and entertainments was in the arena and all entrances and exists were named vomitorium, an educated Latin word that hid the true meaning of these passages as to allow public spectators quick exit having endured the putrid Roman ales that would only be pacified by an expedition to Britain to secure more palatable drinks of recreational worth.

43AD – Forty three AD was the year Claudius arrived on these shores with a Roman army of largely European auxiliaries or mercenaries. Common policy to Roman expansion across Europe was to recruit conquered manpower with the opportunity to seek gainful employment within Roman growth and enjoy full citizenship of Rome upon completion of a 25-year span in the armed services. Within their ranks, men came from Spain, Hungary and Germany with the best of Rome standing fast in the ranks of Legionary veterans considered the elite of Romans strength to be deployed when the chafe had been expunged. To supplement this formidable force further it did not just include a host of nations, but animals unseen on the shores of England. Great beasts of burden and terrifying in battle with sheer, unstoppable weight of African elephants. Certain to put the fear of God into the incredulous inhabitants these great lumbering beasts had massive impact as anticipated and the organizational strength of the Roman army. Even still many animals respond to kindness and good treatment and one age-old Cantiacci soothsayer named Merlin gave a particular elephant a name that would rhyme with his and called it ‘Fremlin’ and the legend of this great beast was to survive over two thousand years.

Although the initial landing in Kent went unopposed, a subsidiary landing took place in the area of Hayling Island on the south coast, where in both proximities advance agents and pseudo traders established links with ambitious, sympathetic indigenous allies in local chieftains who were bribed by the prospect of wealth and power.

Meanwhile the windswept marshes around Richborough was host to the first military encampment that soon transposed to a more substantial fortification and very soon after, a triumphal gate would be constructed to welcome visitors to this new land and mark the beginning of the Roman road system, which grew as a spinal route through Britain known as Watling Street.

Ever ingenious, military commanders surged forward with their auxiliary troops to secure a bridgehead that would creep steadfastly across the land and, to consolidate their progress every single night without exception, a defensive marching camp would be constructed some miles behind the front line as a holding point and place of rest.

This defensive encampment comprised of a ditch surmounted by a row of pre cut wooden stakes or staves that were tied together, each man having carried four in his personal equipment. The trench would enclose the advancing troops in groups of eight or a contuburnium would sleep in leather sewn segmented tents.

Advance troops would retire to these secure strongholds each night and devised a system of route finding that would ensure their soldiers would return to camp without loss or risk. This transposed as a pre-set direct line of intermittently painted timber poles in red and white for easy vision, stuck vertical in a straight line between the local alehouse and the military camp. Then, between each stake would be tied a sturdy chord known as a chain which not only measured the distance but allowed their route to be easily retraced by simply shuffling body movement hand over hand to follow the guide rope.

Thus as more and more troops landed to take advantage of this advance planning, the ground underfoot was gradually worn down and compacted so that it became clear to everyone that these routes should be converted to roads and being straight as a die, they would carve their way through the land in the quickest and shortest route from one objective to another.

Whereas in contrast the indigenous peoples, loosely known as Celts were fiercely proud of their independence and would ne’er deem to follow recommended routes from one place to another, thus the trails they made with drunken sway were laid in ever winding directions that would be carved into the landscape and became timeless to serve rural communities and farmsteads for several millennia as subsidiary roads.

As the Roman occupation progressed, military camps evolved into townships which would garrison localized police forces to protect the surrounding area and people. Towns became cities one of the first was named after the local tribe the Cantiacci, to become known as Canterbury. One visionary who secretly subscribed to the foundling mystical belief that came out of Israel was involved in the architecture and design of these early city developments.

His visions were of horseless carriages and unruly youngsters staggering drunkenly from alehouses to alehouse and in his dreams he heard loud squealing of sirens like beasts of prey that screamed the progress of numerous public support vehicles such as Police and Ambulance services and this vision caused him to influence his new walled city design and bear the common base title of Cester. With the common thread of self defense he secured a name after the noise so loudly playing in his head which he likened to the sirens of Greek mythology ‘sirens’. Thus came the names Chichester, Rochester, Cirencester and Chester.

On a more serious note, the Picts in the north were well known to be a wild and wooly bunch and their lands offered no fertile regions or commodities of which the Romans might make use. As a result, Hadrian initiated a great wall to stretch from Carlisle to Walls End and virtually hem in the Picts and deter them from weakening Roman stocks of goods, produce and chattels. It was duly considered quite rightly that their own home brewed ale might well contribute to their aggressive reputation and as such, there seemed no rhyme or reason to avail them of such drink as the meads and ales of England where they already enjoyed perfectly good sustenance in its own right.

Roman politicians and governors evolved a keen ability to recruit allies from amidst tribal chieftains and elders that were scattered around the regions and where passive enrolment could not prevail. Then conspiratorial actions were evoked to induce the required loyalties or affiliations. One such scheme of defined design was to degrade and deflower a Celtic princess and effectively terminate a political marriage between two rival tribes the Icceni and Trinovantes. Such marriage required the female partner to be of pure virtue and in these troubled times a union of the two tribes too risky for the Roman governor to allow.

A single contuburnium of legionaries were conscripted to break into a prenuptial gathering to deter this marriage of convenience. Rudely interrupting the revelry and making much ado about consuming copious amounts of local mead and ale, the legionaries lashed Boudicca publicly in front of her people. Furthermore, they raped both teenage daughters for all to see and witness, thus averting any political marriage in the future, for marriage of such Royal magnitude demanded virgin union and no less.

No matter how much ale could be consumed, such a political marriage could no longer happen and the sheer act of savagery demanded retribution and tribute that could never make up for, or compensate for such a brutal yet clearly defined act of disrespect and overt sabotage amidst the tribes.

Above all, on the surface it appeared that the Romans had ensured the continued disunity of the tribes, however, their perceived reality was far from that truth. The effrontery at the most callous and insolent act was to galvanise not only the two tribes in question but all the tribes of the midlands who rose with one voice to join Boudicca on her rampage of retribution and revenge.

Swift and mercilessly Roman villas and settlements paid the initial price but then the military city of Colchester was put to the torch and burned to the ground. Then London the embryonic capital city was ransacked and raised and the raiders took to nailing landlords to the door of their inns and alehouses, their crime to serve good English ale to the invaders and quislings alike, a crime likened firmly to consorting with the enemy.

Drunk with victory her host blinded to even the remotest possibility of defeat swaggered across middle England with families in tow to watch and revel in the vengeful passage that showed no mercy. But her bloody passage was brought to a violent end in the Midlands when the highly disciplined cohorts of the Roman army systematically slaughtered all that took breath amongst her host, with the lady herself escaping to the woods now known as Epping forest where it is said that she drank a draught of ‘Watneys’ Red Barrel then crawled off into the undergrowth to die and deny the spectacle of her body being mutilated and paraded through Rome.

Pax Romano was the sympathetic term that related to the first unification of Europe albeit under the dictatorial governance of Rome, the Senate and of course Caesar. The rule was firm, single minded and without doubt and when required, quite vicious, yet it recognized the value of utilizing the skills and resources of the peoples, cultures and wealth of each of the countries it had over run and many were to benefit greatly by an allegiance that in time would be rewarded by certain death. None the less life in the good years was full of comfort and relative luxury, the prolific use of slaves globally was far more excessive than in later years during the 18th and 19th centuries and to those under the yolk, life was at least more comfortable and provision of basic worldly needs were covered.

But empires come and go and the sacking of Rome led inevitably to anarchy across the green swathes of Britain, decay set in at every level, structures fell into disrepair and any indigenous peoples known to have collaborated were summarily put to death in some most horrendous of ways. The dilemma left to the people was to assess whether the order represented by Rome was more acceptable than the chaos that followed, and that same theme was to replicate itself repeatedly over the course of time.

350-450 - Possibly the most well known leader in history was Arthur, or Uther Pendragon who lived in the later years of the Roman occupation during a time known as Romano Britain. Myths and Legends abound around this enigmatic character who gathered about him a whole host of knights and wizards he had come to know and trust as drinking partners in an inn ran by a man called Wadsworth.

The unusual shape of the building was said to have been because of a spell caste by Merlin and in the centre was a single round table with the names of all that sat there, with beer mats abundant and serving of ale prolific, the gatherings and musters were full of jovial and amiable union. The exact location of the Inn has never been revealed but scholars would have it placed in the very centre of Avalon and has been a source of speculation for centuries since.

Essentially the very character of Arthur was held on high as something to aspire to for many sovereigns that followed. Like most legends the more positive aspects shine through and perhaps even open themselves to question, but two facts remain firm in the mind of the indigenous peoples of this land.

Firstly should this land ever be threatened with tyrannical overthrow, then Arthur would raise with his host in his nations defence.

Secondly, however elevated the class of this great man was, he would always stand at a bar and have a pint with you, regardless of rank or station.

Mythologically Arthur was claimed in many parts of the island of Britain but two places hold major significance to this day; Glastonbury boasts the grave of Arthur and his queen yet many would declare convincingly that this were a Victorian folly and Tintagel was the place of his residence. Tenuous as this claim is archaeological evidence contradicts this claim, none the less, it does not deter the tens of thousands that visit each year on a pilgrimage that is only satisfied upon arrival.

387 - Patrick was born near Dunbarton, Scotland to his parents Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britain in charge of the colonies. At the age of sixty nine he left Britain to evangelize Ireland, however it is widely believed he had created a thick, dark fluid, with a healthy, creamy head he wished to develop but was rejected by the makers of the regular honey based amber liquid of these shores. Confident in his inner belief that what he had was of real worth and convinced of the value and quality of his creation, he sought willing and keen sponsors across the sea in Eire and to their good fortune, was to become the Patron Saint of Ireland.

450 - Came the arrival of the Jutes; Hengist and Horsa two brothers who led the first of many northern European incursions into Britain and founded the kingdom of Kent. Their prowess had gone before them as the petrified occupants of the last Romano British stronghold of Pevensey were slaughtered without mercy.

Vortigern invited the two leaders of such great repute to join his campaign against the Picts and Scots even though he had deep concern that they were avowed pagans. The new faith from Rome was hardly established and old habits were reflected by their comment, "We worship our country gods, Saturn and Jupiter, and the other deities that govern the world, but especially Mercury, whom in our language we call Woden and to whom our ancestors consecrated the fourth day of the week, still called after his name Wodensday. Next to him we worship the powerful goddess, Freya, to whom they also dedicated the sixth day, which after her name we call Friday."[

However liking the land that they saw they resolved to stay and settle in the south which caused consternation with Vortigern, a prolific drinker who could not tolerate the competition full time, so a battle ensued in which it was written that Horsa was killed c.455. Romantics and legend have it though that both brothers survived to seek anonymity by moving northward to establish a brewing dynasty under the pseudo name of ‘Smith’, a common enough name that allowed them to blend in with the locals.

In the course of time, their domain grew in a more productive vein and two separate breweries were to evolve through competition and rivalry in William and John’s new empire, but this was to the profit and gain of the fine northern folk.

461 - Legend has it that St Patrick had been lured back to the mainland but had passed away in Glastonbury leaving the secret recipe for his ale with the leprechauns of Ireland.

465 – Incursions occurred on a seasonal basis as various northern cultures sought more fertile land with less hostile weather conditions and not always well received the battle of wippeds fleet (or Richborough) was where the Britons defeated the Saxons with great slaughter on both sides. The invading Saxons took winter on the Isle of Thanet and there was comparative peace for some time. One of their hosts was known as ‘Neame’, another likened to ‘Sheppard’ and both, in partnership were to stay and settle and make great contribution to industry in the region of southeastern England at the edge of a secure tidal inlet in the north of Kent called Faversham.

471- A warrior in the service of King Ceretic of Strathclyde returned from a visit to a family member in the isle of Eire and talk of a dark liquid with exquisite creamy taste that is available in the counties. This report sparked off an exploratory raid that was repulsed by fervent defence and denied confirmation of the quality of the drink so cleverly used to bait King Ceretic, but speculation was further reinforced by the discovery that it was fermented by the renowned St Patrick’s and great recognition was thus afforded this legendary elixir.

496-550 - After the great victory at Mt Badon, the Saxon advance ran out of momentum and caused them to return to their strongholds to regroup and re-arm for a short period. During this lapse in hostilities a whole generation enjoyed a period of peace and tranquility, little knowing that it was but a thin veneer that concealed corrupt leadership, public apathy and after a short time, civil turmoil which opened the way for a final and conclusive Saxon incursion. With regret, having settled well into the countryside they harvested a crop that would yield an ingredient of more golden hue to the beverages enjoyed at that time and expanding their land mass could only enhance this.

530 - Remnants of the true Britons were defeated on the Isle of Wight at the Battle of Carisbrooke by King Cerdic of Wessex a wise leader who had seen the benefit of utilizing the skills and crafts of prisoners of war and captives. One such hostage was to become a respected resident on the mainland and took his name from one of the weathers elements ‘Gale’

549 - Brings a plague given the title of ‘Yellow death’ and decimates the population in both Britain and Ireland. However, for reasons yet unknown the Saxons were less affected and it can only be assumed it was the purity of their consumption and reticence to drink alien fluids that spared them from the contagious disease.

597 - Christianity was adopted and accepted by Rome reaches Britain delivered with great enthusiasm by St. Augustine, the missionary sent from Pope Gregory to convert the Saxons. Augustine founded a monastery and the first church at Canterbury, and was proclaimed its first Archbishop. It was not until the first anniversary of his cathedrals service that he admitted he selected this location having reliable information that partners Sheppard & Neame were nearing maximum distribution capacity of what they referred to as Holy Water.

731 – A British monk known respectfully as the Venerable Bede completes his written work on the history of the Church in England and, as a footnote records all the houses that he could locate that had a hop bush hung above the door, the so secret symbol of an alehouse that was generally unknown to the uninitiated. It was also noted that another aspect of the old Pagan ways still prevalent was the propensity for ales to be given the name ‘Hogsback’ in reverence to the wild boar that often adorned their war helms

735 - Shocked by the discovery of such covert demonic worship the Venerable Bede passed away quietly at night. Our pagan Nordic ancestors whether Angle; Saxon or Jute shared a passionate love of ale. Its consumption offered a cohesive meeting place in which to dream, plan and initiate more adventurous undertakings whilst revelling in the Mead-hall extending an activity that bonded chieftains to his followers. By the same token the importance of female input into those times was further recognized by their brewing the fine ales of the time and serving the drinks to their oft lubricated manhood allowing them to keep abreast of projects as yet unfolded.

As with the multitude of skills our female partners enjoyed, some were better at brewing than others. The more successful nutritious ales would be sold within their village, and close locality, whilst the increase in the reputation of the male of the household was greatly enjoyed, he looked on with great pride when the better ales were sometimes consumed in the family home and, as such, the informal alehouse was born.

However this arrangement was likely to be part-time or when the brewer had enough money to brew. We know that as early as the seventh century the number of ale-sellers was restricted by Ethelbert, the King of Kent, so perhaps the population was becoming a little too skilful at brewing.

Three centuries later, another King of Kent, Edgar, regulated the size of drinking vessels, which suggests that ale was served and drunk at a particular location. Incidentally this drinking vessel was shared and each measure was marked by a peg, requiring the drinker to drink down to the peg and then pass the vessel on. However the drinker often drank beyond the measure...taking the next drinker 'down a peg or two' an expression which is still used today.

The spread of Christianity did nothing to lessen the English thirst for ale and many Pagan rituals, which involved drinking were adopted by the Christian church. Ales were sometimes brewed especially for church festivals or to raise funds, these were known as 'scot ales', and those who brewed secretly to avoid giving the church its share were drinking 'scot free'.

793 - The first raids of the Norsemen commonly known as Vikings were first recorded in this year. These people were of Scandinavian origin, especially Denmark and Norway. Scandinavia at the time had a growing population and with inland areas inhospitable, the Vikings looked eagerly overseas for new territories to settle and wealth with which to fund such migration of whole families, even communities.

Not only did they require land to grow and develop crops for domestic needs, their lives were blighted by the mountainous terrain that prevented the propagation of wheat or malt, the essential ingredients of home brewed ale.

Those that remained in the land of their birth were to struggle against the elements and topography of the land with little more than their own families for comfort and if this were not enough, their government put such heavy tax on alcohol that a king’s ransom would be needed to consume even a modest amount or recreational ale.

Nevertheless, as fearsome as these warriors were they were artistic, talented and painstakingly clean of body, where hygiene and clean living was only wavered when rolling about drunk in the great mead halls in celebration of life and victory. Contrary to contemporary writings, they were a highly cultured collection of Norse races in contradiction of the only written word of their time, recorded by Christian clerics who saw them as a direct threat to their God and Holy directives from Rome.

865 AD - St. Edmund arrived in the fenland to become King of the East Angles and later the first patron saint of England. According to myth he was captured by Danes who demanded that he denounce his faith and give up his kingdom. The young and popular king refused and was bound to a tree, shot with arrows so that he looked like a hedgehog and then beheaded.

When the Danes departed the ex king’s loyal followers retrieved his body and searched for his head so that they could bury him but it could m not be found. Then one of the townspeople heard a calling voice form a copse nearby in which they found the head between the paws of a large grey wolf. His faith decried that it was God that sent the wolf to protect the head until the followers could retrieve it but a wolf such as Freki or Geri are more synominous to Odin, the pagan God of the Norsemen.

His body restored St Edmund was given a fitting memorial and in his honour the local ale was named after his religious station and was known from that time forward, as ‘Abbot Ale’.

885-886 - The Vikings is a term that loosely referred to those that were classed as sea raiders who were also prone to raid inland through the great rivers of Europe on down to the Black Sea and on to Constantinople, whilst still taking to the sea as far as Italy. These river raiders when embarked were considered to be going a ‘Rus-ing’ and as settlements along the river bank expanded those that dwelled there gave their region a name ‘Rus-sia’.

Ventures in search of riches oft took them up the river Seine to lay siege to the city ruled by King Charles the Fat of Paris, with Parisians feeling much besieged they fought hard and long to withstand the ferocity of the attacks they endured.

These highly adventurous people launched raids deep inland form river estuaries and inlets and in the year 884, they sailed down the river Seine and lay siege to the capital of France, ‘Paris’. Motivation being profit rather than slaughter would often bring a pause in the proceedings to allow negotiations to be introduced, and in this case, a major offer that was designed to prevent all future raids was extremely well received and negotiations ensued that gave the raiding Norsemen a large tract of land at the estuary of the River Seine in which to settle and propagate, in return for which, they were to obstruct and prevent further river raids laid down upon Paris. Hrolfganger, the great Viking warlord agreed readily and with great tribute set up a large community area named after his people. The Norsemen called Norsemandy or Normandy.

And thus came to a pass a new breed of warrior who took to the four legged horse in place of the sea horse. With direct lineage to English Kings, their offspring were to invade and take possession of lands in England in years to come. In the meantime a new style of warfare was practiced to a fine art and a solid line of defence evolved that was unknown at that time called a castle. The new homeland was fertile, intermarriage with European royalty expanded the area of influence and if that didn’t work, there was always the plain and simple conquest.

980 – The Danes renew their raids on England attacking Chester and Southampton, both locations being surprise to the crown of England as they were walled cities with strong defensive capabilities. Of course they were also fully supported by an abundance of domestic and fiscal buildings, amidst domestic dwellings and ancient hostelries.

991 - at the Battle of Malden: Byrhtnoth of Essex was defeated by Danish invaders and betrayed by AEthelred II who buys off the Danes with 10,000 pounds of silver (Danegeld). What the King of England dare not admit to his subjects was that the Danegeld included a substantial carted convoy of good English ale and mead. For to know of such treachery would be a betrayal of the very lives of men whose words in battle were thus:-

Byrhtwold spoke, shield raised aloft he was an old loyal retainer and brandished his spear; he very boldly commanded the warriors:

"Our hearts must grow resolute, our courage more valiant,

our spirits must be greater, though our strength grows less.

Here lies our Lord all hewn down, goodly he lies in the dust.

A kinsman mourns that who now from this battle-play thinks to turn away.

I am advanced in years. I do not desire to be taken away,

but I by my liege Lord, by that favorite of men I intend to lie."

So then did Aethelgar's child embolden them all, Godric to battle.

Often he sent forth spears, deadly shaft sped away onto the Vikings; thus, he on this people went out in front of battle, cutting down and smiting, until he too on battlefield perished.

Don’t argue, it’s your round!

992 - AEthelred makes a truce with Duke Richard Ist of Normandy who by now had acclimatised himself largely to drinking the local wines, but he secretly knew his thirst could never be quenched until he could secure supplies of his favoured fluids called ‘Harvey’s’ brewed in the county of the East Saxons in a town called Lewes. An earlier visit of diplomatic origin caused the first tasting and the firm promise to create a stronghold there to defend those that could create such amber nectar.

994 - Danes under Sweyn and Norwegians under Olaf Trygvesson combine forces and sail up the river Thames to besiege London where AEthelred bought them off as the cheapest option. It was with bitter experience that Danegeld was paid as can be illustrated by the ancient poem known as ‘London Bridge is falling down.

The oldest record of this children’s rhyme takes it back to Roman times where the first bridge forging the river was constructed of timber and clay and some hundreds of years later, it was literally torn down by ravaging Vikings.

It was recorded that they constructed a great awning over the whole rowing deck and placed hides and shields to act as a roof covering. Then, knowing the citizens of London would hurl, rocks, weapons, empty beer barrels and other weights of potential harm, they were protected from above as they rowed under the bridge. Once on the landward side they tied grappling hooks to the columns of the bridge and rowed for all they were worth until the bridge collapsed under the strain. Soon after it was reconstructed with defensive towers and stood in good stead right up to the Dutch incursions of the late seventeen hundreds.

Marauding armies were to settle in a designated tract of land that became known and was supervised under the loose title of the ‘Danelaw’ and it was during that time that the most horrendous racist attack on these shores was perpetrated when the Saxons conspired and conducted the killing of all Danes regardless of age or sex if discovered anywhere outside of their designated region. This became known as the St. Brice’s day massacre by the English in 1002.

Much affronted vengeance would come later, but in the meantime, they strengthened their hold on the eastern tracts of England where the better beers were produced under the pagan God known as Greene King and so it remains to this day

1015 - Canute again invades England and war ensues between Danes and Saxons in the year after Edmund Ironside, son of AEthelred II, King of England divided the kingdom with Canute. The latter holding the north and Edmund Wessex but soon after Edmund is assassinated and Canute becomes King of England until the year of our Lord 1035. In the interim, in 1019 he contracts a political marriage with Emma of Normandy, the widow of AEthelred II. In national celebration, Inns and Hostelries stayed open for a whole weekend as revelry echoed freely across the land as such a marriage implied peace might at last come to these troubled shores

1040 - Any man with Viking blood in his veins dreams of death most glorious in battle. However, if one should die at sea in a long ship, then provided you wore a silver ring in your ear, you could buy your way into Valhalla. One other death was acceptable to all and sundry and Hardicanute died in these glorious settings, he died of drink in 1042. ‘Was hael - trinc hael’. It was this year that Edward the Confessor, son of AEthelred II, became King of England.

1052 - Edward the Confessor instructs the foundations of Westminster Abbey be laid and in the following year the influential magnate Earl Godwin departs his mortal coil and his oldest son, Harold succeeds him as Earl of Wessex, whilst his brother Tostig becomes Earl of Northumbria in 1055. Sibling rivalry of the most profound impact was to begin during this year and finally be resolved at the site of bridge in Yorkshire

1063 - The two brothers Harold and Tostig subdue Wales most viciously and out of sheer spite were to open the taps of ‘Ansel’ breweries to run free in the streams and add petulance that might slay Welsh farmers livestock.

1064 - William the Bastard of Normandy’s grandfather had been part of the retinue that was granted dominance over the land surrounding the estuary leading to the river Seine in Norsemandy and he shared indirect blood lineage to the Confessor. Nonetheless, that inheritance would soon come home to its bearer and the final invasion of Norsemen would impose their will upon the land that their ancestors had failed to subdue.

Meanwhile Harold on a journey of diplomatic cause was shipwrecked on the coast of Normandy and is taken captive by less understanding peoples. When hearing of this William negotiates his release to his own cognisance and acts as genial host to his cousin form across the channel. William cajoles him to support his own claim to the English throne. At the same time Harold and his entourage escort William and his army on campaigns to subdue invaders and each learn something of the others skills and tactics.

Whilst his captivity or moral ransom may well have been somewhat cordial, the measure of the man was made in contest whilst fighting with his host against opposing French knights. As for his skill and manner, he seemed uncomfortable with courtly etiquette and stood much taller when offered the rare and sought after ales from home. It was at this time that William displayed complete disregard for the well being of his mounted knights when he simply ignored the plight of one such warrior who had found himself stuck fast and sinking in a quagmire of mud. Without thought for his own well being Harold was said to have rushed to his aid along with several of his personal retinue and both man and horse were duly rescued.

With no small degree of self-righteousness, William had attempted and failed to persuade Harold of his claim upon the demise of the King to the English throne and some said he swore an oath upon holy relics to uphold that claim. However, this claim remained unproven and heartily denied by the king as well as those in his service and present whilst guest of this magnanimous regional Kingdom. Meanwhile something caused his host to release his distant cousin to return back to England which cannot help offering credence to the ‘Bastards’ claim and the event was to be recorded in the Bayeux Tapestry as if this gave it credence to such claim when mans word or recount did not suffice.

Viking legacy evolved in many place names but more discreet yet highly significant evidence of their legacy was to continue in these shores for a thousand years or more. Writing has been said to be the legacy of Monks and priests but they were not the only ones who recorded the recipe for good ales in these lands and whilst Latin made major influence, Viking writing and its symbolism took a most uncanny hue over the course of time. For example, every piece of military wares, worn in defence of these shores is ink stamped with what is known as the ‘Broad arrow’. A simple three lined arrow facing and pointing skyward but without flights.

In Viking times this was known as the Tyre Rune or the letter ’T’ and its significance represented victory in the name of Pagan Gods. So was it superstition that has been carried to victory over the centuries by our brave serving troops or something else? Think on that over a pint and see tis but one of many runes that exist today in our alphabet and offer pagan protection to those that understand it.

1065 – Whilst Harold enjoyed his brief sojourn in Normandy his brother Tostig ruled over his lands in Northumbria with an iron fist and a greedy hand. Local tolerance was stretched to its limit and men unable to live with his excesses rebelled against Tostig, who had acted appallingly against the women folk of his region. Frequently under the influence of ‘York Brewery’ ales and in a bleak state of balance and physical control he was fortunate to escape threat of life to be banished and cast out as an exile.

1066 – The decade was to see the birth of many legends of men’s prowess with few that could equal that accomplished by one of the greatest Viking warlords known was Harald Hardrada and was king of Norway from 1047 to 1066. He was the last of the great Viking aristocratic rulers whose fame extended throughout Europe, yet campaigned further to the Greek islands, Asia Minor, the Caucasus, Palestine, Sicily, and Bulgaria. Whilst being resilient, resourceful, cunning and persevering he was more than willing to turn to treachery as a means of victory and was both vengeful, and cruel.

The mere mention of his name brought men to quiver with fear and the sight of his standard, the famed "Land-waster" became a portent of doom and destruction

All protagonists to the throne had indirect lineage to King Canute and by this claim alone they made further claim to the throne of England that could only be resolved by conflict. Thus Hardrada chose to stake his claim on England and to enforce his birthright he arrived with a fleet of some three hundred longships on the northeast coastline. Establishing a bridgehead his main fleet was left under guard and with the greater part of his manpower he rowed up the river Ouse to give battle to a force of local fyrdsmen at Fulford Bridge.

To celebrate this victory and following a banquet in York, he embarked with his Norwegian force of some 7,000 men to rest and recuperate at Stamford Bridge. Not full used to good English ale many suffered hangovers from the revelry the previous night and were not well ready to address the scene of a bright shining reflection moving slowly across the peak of a hill coming steadfastly toward them. This light was the suns reflection upon the body armour and war helms of Harold Godwinsons’ army having been mustered in the south and made all haste northward over two hundred and thirty miles to take on the great warlord.

With scant regard for the withering march northward Harold Godwinson strode energetically with head high and chest proud toward the opposing army to be confronted by his banished, brother Tostig.

Banished and resentful Tostig had arrogantly joined forces with the Viking captain in return for a promise of his lands being restored to him, but now, his brother was King, and jealousy added bitterness to his cause, yet not so to betray the identity of his brother of whom he asked what Hardrada might expect as settlement if a battle could be averted, whereupon King Harold's voice grew stern and answered,

"He shall have seven feet of English ground for a grave, or a little more perhaps, as he is so much taller than other men."

"Then," said the earl, "go and tell King Harold to get ready for battle, for it shall never be said that Tostig brought his friend to England to betray him."

Then the brothers separated for the last time, sad and angry each rode back to his own side and destiny.

Swift talk and fast anger did not reconcile Hardrada’s annoyance at learning from Tostig that he had been addressing his brother and not an emissary, but regardless of distraction, he barked orders to his war captains to make ready and they gathered what weaponry to hand and formed a deep shield wall to the eastern side of the river Ouse.

Meanwhile a brave, lone Viking stood rock solid in the centre of the single horse bridge swigging cool ale so that it slurped over the edges of the drinking horn and dribbled glittering through his straggly long beard. He was a giant of a man of enormous stature, dwarfing even Harold Hardrada (putting him at over 2 metres in height) and he simply terrified the English army. Worse still was the gleeful look in his eye as he beckoned Saxon warriors to step forward to meet their maker. Some raced forward with anger that concealed effrontery but such temperament would offer no shield to the cutting edge of his axe and as each man fell they created a natural barrier of quivering flesh at the feet of this man giant.

The bridge remained un-assailable for over an hour until finally a resourceful Saxon took to a coracle and thrust a spear from below so savagely that it shattered whilst delivering his deathblow. From that time on the Saxon became known, as ‘Brakspeare’ and his family were to settle with honour in that land and be the ancestor of a fine family of yorkshiremen.

The battle was fierce and not much helped by the hangovers of revelry from the night before. King Harald Hardrada took an arrow through the throat leaving a second entry where ale may be consumed and Godwinson won the day. Survivors were so few that they returned to their homeland in scant thirty ships that bore the body of the chieftain’s son, whilst his retinue pledged troth to ne’er return to these shores. As was oft the case, the bodies of the fallen lay unattended but for pilfering and raven feasting. The bones much whitened over the next three years just faded into time.

Enthusiastic consumption of the ‘Smith’ brother’s ale that night was rudely disturbed when a breathless messenger delivered the knowledge that William of Normandy had landed at Pevensey bay an Old Saxon Shore fort where he established a safe and solid beachhead. Well entrenched he sent strong mounted contingents inland to burn and plunder as a deliberate act of intimidation to draw his opponent, Harold Godwinson into battle. Furthermore, to ensure his troops of mixed European origin did not falter in their task, he had the landing fleet of some six hundred ships sunk to prevent any weakness in resolve or thought or opportunity of retreat. Bodies still warm in the long grass of Yorkshire and William of Norsemandy had launched a vicious and merciless quest to goad a battle with Harold and do it on his own terms.

Harold’s thoughts went out to determine a meeting point in which to muster yet another army and selected the location of an old grey hoare apple tree. Well known in the region this most distinctive, gnarled and aged trunk had born witness to invasions and incursions into this land by a multitude of cultures, leaving traditions and customs as legacy aplenty of their arrival. And effectively the anticipated engagement was perhaps the culmination of a long and bloody campaign of the northern races which had begun with invasion and expanded into settlement and migration nearly four hundred years prior.

Cultural incursions transformed the nation into one that was becoming known as Angle-land or England, but transition had not evolved to the extent that petty feuds and wars continued between one region and another across this still somewhat divided land. Ingredients and secret additions for respective ales were jealously defended. True, there was slow and steady increase in the democracy and representation of its people that national government strove hard to implement. But the tenacity in which the Angles and Saxons held on to the concept of freedom and self-reliance was unequaled.

Continued division however had impact upon what support could be called upon from different regions and in the absence of acceptable beers, it was almost impossible to attract the support of the men of Mercia or Anglesey to offer a cohesive and unified defence against a common enemy. Family rivalry was divisive and conflict ridden and whilst factions concentrated their venom on each other, it served only to compound more widespread descent and rivalry between one region and another. All too often feuds stemmed from ancestral disputes of high station where the cause or reason had been lost in the passage of time. However loyalty continued the momentum and regional communities supported them even if they did not always know why.

Even religion at this time was still unstable and divisive as ancient pagan beliefs based upon nature and things that were tenable fought for survival in the expansion of Christianity, already one thousand years in the coming but yet to be fully adopted or accepted.

With drunken protestation Harold mustered his surviving Huscarls and loyal fyrdsmen to race south hoping to increase his number as he travelled. His force was heavily diminished as the men of the north opted to revel in their victory, bury their dead, rebuild their homesteads and take succour in the provisions left open to them after the raid. This ill conceived act would cost dear as the northern fyrdsmen’s absence would prove sorely missed in a struggle that was within a fairly short period of time to engulf them and destroy all that they had held dear. Short sightedness, simple fatigue and dehydration caused by alcohol had manifested a soft option and physical extraction from the yet unknown peril in the south. The long march south was grueling to say the least and messengers were deployed to try to raise another army and meet at the designated place in advance of the new King.

After a forced march the vista was broken by the plumes of smoke that scarred the horizon in white billowing mists that emitted from earth’s natural produce either on land or field or thatched roof of home.

Thoughts of loved ones, intertwined with confusion and concern over the scant news that reached the ranks, which were intermittently disturbed by the arrival of a growing number of individual and groups of fyrdsmen. There were familiar faces acknowledged by a simple nod of the head or casual wave of hand which seemed to suffice. Nevertheless, their arrival yielded another source of broken information. There desperate refugees bore witness to that fact that William had ordered the harrying of the land and burning of farmsteads in the home county of the king.

A loud buzz of indistinct, varied dialects and accents spread across the fast growing muster as they caught sight of the increasing army and gave resolute cheer to welcome the far too distant mass yet unable to hear them. It was hard to determine how many had gathered as the number increased steadily amidst the prone figures stretched out from one field to another. By recognition alone, individuals joined familiar faces and introduced early signs of natural organisation and cohesive groups of men preferring to fight alongside each other.

That said, it was ancient custom and belief causing common knowledge of the location of a specific hoare apple tree. It had been a known meeting point for generations in that region and was considered to mark an ancient pagan site, with pagan origins that had disappeared in the mists of time. But, for the moment, musing on all that had preceded this day was no more than a mental diversion of the sobriety of what may soon transpire in those hallowed fields.

The call to arms gained momentum as Harold’s force gathered on the prow of the hill to the welcoming roar of the ever-increasing retinue. Many took comfort by purchasing rich golden ales being sold by opportunist traveling salesmen, whilst with eager eye, each head turned to witness the Long Man banner being unfurled and risen on the peak of the highest point. Its presence indicating without word a muster of regional commanders being naturally drawn to the direct vicinity, where quite clearly, a council of war would ensue. Other standards flew proudly on that crest including the wyvern being of tubular design like a windsock and the raven banner captured at Stamford Bridge.

Outriders thundered toward them with pony’s nostrils steaming and bodies dripping sweat with the urgency of passage. Reports of local scorched earth and wanton slaughter reached the ears of the area’s prime figurehead, the king himself. His rage was heartfelt yet silent in mind, as each act of cruelty strengthened his resolve to repel this heartless enemy. Strong encouragement for victory may well serve the call to victory over the invading forces, but anger shrouded judgement and could blot out good sense in place of vengeance.

Quite obviously this was a battle of conquest, no quarter given or expected and the largely mercenary army William had mustered, reveled in the promissory expectation of land, riches and profuse quantities of the golden amber nectar, as their chosen master spread his tentacles of power across this fertile land held even then, in great esteem.

It had also been rumoured that William had declared this a Holy Crusade and bore the blessed banner given his host in Papal protection from the Vatican in Rome. A gift from the Pope, whose ambition of expansion knew no boundaries or limits, especially with the potential revenue having marketing control over English recreational drinks and abundant fertile soil that could yield nutritious ingredients. Still further no less than a major weapon given to his arsenal with the promise of Holy redemption in excuse of violent invasion. William had recruited manpower from the territories of Charlemagne as well as Saxon lands and the multitude of Germanic tribal origins, all under the protection of the Holy Cross.

Effectively, the cultures of middle Europe, with strong essence of Celtic, Nordic and Germanic blood lines had been partially displaced by the Angles and Saxons in this land and were now in effect coming home to the place formerly inhabited by their forefathers. This racial lineage and religious quest added strength of will and purpose to the marauding army, whose prowess was yet untested and battle tactics untried. Unity and obedience would be a key factor in taking on a home grown army such as this.

Knowing the region well Harold has selected the high ground upon which to deploy his growing force of defendants and as they formed into a shield wall that was ten men deep, the breadth of the force spread firmly across the crest of the hill to become known as Senlac (the lake of blood). Whilst Williams forces paced steadily across their front and formed into three distinct phalanxes’ to turn and face their foe just prior to dropping to knee in receipt ort prayer and mantins from a cluster of monks led by one who was clearly a bishop. Four thousand or so were sat on horse and bowed their head in reverence or removed their helmet in mark of respect.

Numbers seemed fairly equal, albeit the Norman host was much boosted by a great number of mounted knechts (Knights) as was the way of European conflict and much shuffling ensued at the outset. To break the monotony a lone knight known as Taillefer took it upon himself to lay encouragement at the feet of his fellow knights and galloped jubilantly to the fore of the mustered Norman hoist and recited ‘The song of Rou’ whilst juggling his sword high skyward as he went.

Affronted by the audacity of this lone Norman a Saxon warrior strode forward and offered challenge where conflict ensued, but the encounter was short and the Normans reputation enhanced further as he dispatched his adversary with relative ease and returned quite casually to his recital.

Taillefer, qui mult bien chantout,

Sor un cheval qui tost alout,

Devant le duc alout chantant

De Karlemaigne e de Rollant,

E d’Oliver a des vassals

Qui morurent en Rencesvals.

Roman de Rou, lines 8013–8019

I include but a segment as it would appear that the author is either dyslexic or Welsh.

The song not short was received with great enthusiasm and upon its completion he charged headlong up the hill of Senlac and straight into the solid liden wood shield wall that swallowed both man and mount to close upon him to his total disappearance. This brave act of sacrifice and suicide aroused the hearts of the invading army as his quest was accompanied by a great roar of approval that would give way over the centuries to an immortal act of great repute.

At one point the right hand flank of the Norman army, the Bretons broke rank and fled with great haste away from the solid wall of wood and steel. The less disciplined left flank of the Saxon host gave way to testosterone and entered into frenzied pursuit but were thankfully halted under the course command of Hakon, King Harolds brother and the line regrouped.

King William gained sight of this seemingly insignificant incident and raised his helm to his forehead to take a clearer view of a ruse that formed slowly in his mind. He recalled somewhat humourassly that the only time he had seen such enthusiastic race of mankind between one place and another was upon a former visit to Edward the Confessor when in an ale house he witnessed the panic that followed the bell which rang last orders

Further assaults ensued by enthusiastic riders whose weight alone did not falter or sway the strength of the Saxon shield wall. Favour went to one side then the other and archers were used to no great avail due to the steady incline and solid wall of shields to detract arrows path. Cavalry failed to break the line and the long exhausting conflicted raged throughout the day until light began slowly and perhaps thankfully to fade.

The ploy William conceived earlier would now be implemented as a line of Normans assailers faltered and the eager but weary Saxons took advantage in foolishly breaking the defensive line to pursue the fleeing foe. Instantly William’s keen eye took the opportunity and directed his cavalry to cut them off and slaughter them to a man. Helplessly, their Saxon comrades looked on dismayed and the final decline and loss was set in motion.

Harold had witnessed the strength and shock value of Williams’s use of men on horse and whilst the Saxon way was inherent from the Vikings, horses were used as transport only. A good warrior fought with his feet firmly placed on the ground. Harold also knew that William had witnessed the power of his Huscarls and axmen, but had not really experienced the strength and tenacity inherent with an Anglo Saxon shield wall.

The value of archery was as yet undeveloped, but many short bows existed as rural use for hunting game and ease of acquisition. Several wagon loads of arrows had been ordered and arrived for dispersal amongst the lower ranks of farm hands and fyrdsmen. The number of arrows distributed was considered adequate bearing in mind the minimal belief held in the value of them in hand to hand contest.

As dusk showed sign of altering the colour of the horizon William ordered his archers to loose high into the sky launching a black cloud of Norman arrows blanking out the sun as they rained down on the heads of the weary warriors. And whilst Harold was rigorously defended by his Hus Carls he was mercilessly cut down with arrow injury to his face and simply butchered. The day was Williams and fighting had lasted some eight hours.

All this over a spilled pint!

As a man of vision William instructed that an Abbey be built on the site and knew that in the fullness of time this would become a place of pilgrimage and curiosity, and thus an abbey might profit by its goods and chattels until a town grew up and Inns supported the needs of those that would become known as tourists.

Although the last substantial attack by Viking settlers came in the form of the Normans or Norsemen in 1066, the very last raid recorded within the Kingdoms of Britain was at Largs in Scotland in 1220. Much dis-satisfied with the acidic tang to Scottish ale, they retired to return to their homeland to recoup then to migrate to distant shores of Iceland or Greenland as season allowed.

1067 – At the very outset of his occupation William embarked upon a campaign of constructing what would become four thousand castles. A whole new concept to the English and a clear and certain signal that William was going to defend vantage points and good watering holes for the duration and nothing would challenge that. Perhaps as a caution, he also introduced small but significant part of folklore and mythology by installing Ravens in the grounds of The White Tower, soon to become the Tower of London. Ravens were the message givers of Odin as Hugin and Munin kept the Allfather informed of all that happened on earth, both past and present. Now it is said that should the ravens leave the Tower then England would fall, so their wings are clipped and they are kept ill informed of the traitorous and treacherous acts of modern government.

1069 – Total conquest was not secured in great measure until 1069 when in order to set an example William subdued the north of England in an action that became known as the "Harrying of the North” where the whole region was laid to waste. Not a living, breathing thing was to survive his vengeance but the memories of richer things survived and ale houses rebuilt on the embers of burnt out cottages and homes. In the rest of the country, he administered justice without compassion yet was not prone to hanging as a form of punishment but took to lopping of hands to no longer hold a pint mug, and thus serve as a walking lesson of his power and rough justice for all to see.

1072 - William receives the submission of Hereward the Wake who had led a Saxon revolt lasting two years in the fens and thus Norman retinues were free to consume some of the best ales of the land made by Greene King in Bury St Edmunds. The romantic adventures of Hereward were to lend license to later folk heroes such as Robin Hood, but he did have one major advantage in conserving all that was good in the fenlands and ensuring its produce supped well for the decades that followed.

1080 - Much in character William, in a letter to the bishop of Rome states that as the King of England he owes him no allegiance, by which he dismissed and ignored the favour of Pope’s dispensation by blessing his Crusading banner. William’s quest was all but complete and his need for Papal support diminished, whilst in the meantime he made no secret of his increasing need for good English ale to the annoyance of his immediate entourage

1086 - William the Conqueror instructed the collating of a national record of every man, woman, pig and child as well as cottages, churches, alehouses and Inns were recorded in his newly acquired kingdom. This first national record was called the Domesday Book and the very first ‘Good Beer Guide’.

1087 - he embarked upon a crusade in Europe . He had attempted to capture the French town of Mantes, where the king, "who was very corpulent, fell ill from exhaustion and heat." William of Malmesbury, reported that William’s stomach protruded over the forward part of his saddle, and his beer gut suffered an injury when he was thrown against the pommel and his internal organs ruptured. William retired to Rouen and his health deteriorated until death and an un-gamely funeral without respect or favour.

1099 - Since Christianity first reached the shores of Great Britain, Jerusalem had been accepted as the Holy centre of the faith and to ensure this location remained safe within the hands of Christian Europe Godfrey of Bouillon was elected King of Jerusalem. This seemed expedient at the time as alternative religions hovered in close proximity to the city refused all consumption of alcohol and evolved a lucrative trade which had the poppy as the main ingredient offering light relief to traveling pilgrims to the city.

1113 - Founding of the Order of St. John is formally acknowledged by the papacy as the formal defenders of the Holy land. Descendants from this organisation can be seen every weekend as the St John’s Ambulance Brigade offering help and succor to the needy after closing time.

1118 - Hugues de Payens founds the order of Knights of Templar’s who were to offer great assistance to the Order of St John in defending the rights of Crusaders to make refreshments whilst resting from their journey.

1189 - saw the Saracen under the enigmatic leader Saladin lay siege to all Christian strongholds in the Middle East. Such a threat was much compounded by the fact that the religious edict from whence came his beliefs excluded all consumption of alcohol in totality. The result of this was the army of England being raised by the legendry Richard IIIrd, or Richard the Lionhearted to defend Christendom against this ludicrous and alien concept.

1215 - English barons force John to agree to a statement of rights by the signing of the Magna Carta. This document was the forerunner of democracy and became the basis of multiple legal documents including the Bill of Rights in the U.S.A., whereby each mans property was protected and his right of access to produce products indigenous to the land. It was however quite a racist document but in redemption it offered free trade and commerce with such national treasures as ale. Such considerations of global import may well have been influenced by the fact that it was written and composed in the East Anglian town of Bury St Edmunds boasting the birth place of such a declaration as well as the national brewery producing Green King fine ales, the actual word ale coming from the Old English ‘Alu’ from a prehistoric Indo-European word for ‘bitter’.

Did you know?; The superstition where an individual fears bad luck should they walk under a ladder goes back to medieval times. It was during these times that officers representing the law started the quant habit When a person was to be hung, they would place a ladder against a tree or overhead beam, and the victim would be forced up the ladder by men with sharp weapons, then the noose put in place and the ladder twisted from under the feet of the victim who would tumble to his death.

Licensing laws were unfixed at these primitive times but enforced by force of arms and severe landlords.

1256 - Since Saxon times Kings and the Godwinsons had aspirations to capture and possess the green hills of Wales, whose indigenous people had sought independence for just as long and when the combination of fresh mountain water was combined with alcoholic beverages, the Welsh sovereign thought he had access to an asset that all in Europe would seek to secure, and as such, gave momentum to the quest for independence and fiscal autonomy. Strongly supported by his people Prince Llewellyn swept the English from Wales. However the Regent, ever curious about the claims regarding the water defeats and kills Llewellyn and executes Llewellyn's brother David and the conquest of Wales was completed in 1283

1295 - Model Parliament was initiated for the first time by Edward I, who summoned knights and burgesses from the English shires and towns to act as representatives in parliament. Such an extreme measure instrumented by the crown was seen as a means of monitoring the growth of influence being exereted by landlords and landladies of public houses.

Did you know? The origin of the saying ‘Pull the other one!’ comes from a time when hangings were public spectacles and a victim might well hope a member of his family, or friend would attend the hanging and pull on one or other of his legs to break his neck to avert the slow and painful death by strangulation.

1336 - Edward places an embargo on English exports of wool to Flanders, or so the public were told, the truth being that he had opened negotiations to provide much of Europe with English beer in an attempt to avert continued attacks upon its sovereignty to simply steal such valuables. However his attempt went in vain and in 1337 Philip declares Edward's fiefs forfeit and begins harassing the frontiers of Aquitaine; Edward III, provoked by these attacks on his territories in France, declares himself king of France and "The Hundred Years' War " begins.

1337-1453 - The two main causes of friction between the two nations was Flemish trade, being dependant on English wool, and Gascony, held by the kings of England as vassals of the kings of France. The exact nature of that relationship had caused conflict before, but the Hundred Years War was intensified by Edward III's claim to the French throne.

The war had been triggered by the confiscation of Gascony by Philip VI, although that had been done before as a diplomatic ploy, and had not led to long drawn out conflicts. This time, there were other causes of friction between the two nations, not least of which was French support for the Scots, which culminated in the movement of a large French fleet from Marseilles to Normandy, considered by English tacticians as possibly in preparation to aid the Scots.

These political machinations could not be tolerated in the light of the failed expansion into Europe of the R

Jan 06, '13

This story continues but I am not sure if it has registered, when I discover the truth I will post the rest if required.

Thank you

Jan 06, '13
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