Wirral's Hidden History Revealed

Wirral Archaeology


The Burh (pronounced as Borx by the Anglo Saxons) system was designed and initiated to combat marauding Viking war bands and armies.


Amongst many of the sagas, including that of the Norse Kings, a class of warriors are exalted and feared above all others. These were the Berserkers (Bersirkir in old Norse). Sometimes they were also referred to as ‘wolfskins’ (Ulfhednar).

Battle of Largs

On the 2nd of October 1263, on the banks of the firth of Clyde in what is now North Ayrshire, the last Norse Viking army to invade mainland Britain was defeated by the Scots. The age of the Vikings was over!
The Viking’s last battle on British soil.

Battle of Ethandun

The battle of Ethandun or Eddington was fought in the year of 878 AD, between the 6th and 12th of May. I have referred to it as Alfred’s the Great’s last stand because defeat would have led to the last bastion of Anglo Saxon rule, the Kingdom of Wessex, being destroyed and would have left the whole of what is now England under the control of the Vikings.


Athelstan was the grandson of Alfred the Great and the son of Edward the Elder. His aunt was Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercia.

Anglo Saxon Tribes

Three groups of Germanic tribes people settled in Britain in the immediate years after the Roman army departed from the Island.

The Anglii or Angles hailed from Friesland and what is now the German Baltic coast.
The Jutes came from Jutland in what is now Denmark.
The Saxons came from what is now the eastern Netherlands and northern Germany.

Anglo Saxon Riddles

Anglo Saxons loved riddles. Many have survived in a 10th century book called the Codex Exoniensis (Exeter Book)

Anglo Saxon Navy

Then King Alfred ordered that warships be built to meet the Danish ships. They were nearly twice as long as the others; some had sixty oars; some more, and they were both swifter and steadier and had more freeboard than the others. They were built neither after the Frisian design nor after the Danish, but as it seemed to him that they could be most serviceable.

Anglo Saxon Military Tactics

Like all armies, the fighting techniques and military organisation evolve and adapt over time and through lessons learnt. The Roman army of Julius Caesar would not have been recognisable to Roman armies of the 2nd or 5th centuries. Nothing with regards to the military is constant and they constantly develop and adapt to whatever the current or likely threats may be.

Anglo Saxon Cavalry

Despite assumptions made by many historians that the Anglo Saxons did not use cavalry the evidence suggests that they did.

Compared to the studies of the militaries of the ancient world, where cavalry were used by the Greeks, Persians, Romans and the steppe peoples, like the Sarmatians, little is known about Anglo Saxon battle tactics, let alone, about their use of cavalry.

Anglo Saxon and Viking Warfare

Despite popular myth, the Vikings were not invincible. From the time of Alfred the Great’s victory at Ashdownin 871 the Anglo- Saxons had realised that unity and the implementation of the ‘Burgh’ or Burghal Hidage system would enable them to counter and usually defeat Viking armies.

Aethelflaed and Athelred

If you’ve been watching the Last Kingdom lately, you will have seen that Athelred is portrayed as a monstrous and cruel character who mistreated Aethelflaed and humiliated her at every opportunity.
There is no truth in this and in fact the evidence that is available indicates that they had a healthy relationship.

The boat beneath the car park.

In 1938 workmen who were building the Railway Inn at Meols found what they described as “a Viking boat” in one of their excavations. They were told to ignore it and get on with the work of building the pub. No other investigations were carried out. A year later World War II started so there were other more urgent priorities to deal with.

Wirral Archaeology and the Search for the Battle of Brunanburh

For centuries, Historians, Scholars and Antiquarians have debated and argued as to where the battle took place. Academics too, have studied the various chronicles and many have advocated several locations with many placing the battle as having been fought on the East Coast, near the River Humber or in Lancashire, near Burnley. Other locations claim the battle, but the current Academic consensus, is that it was fought on the Wirral.

The Cheshire Shore

Wirral has a fascinating history along our sea-coast to the Irish Sea that has been long forgotten by most people including communities living in the area. We hope that this project will help to revive interest in the history of this area, and its place in our local and national heritage.

The Irish Sea coastline that we see now was very different in the past and extended much further out to sea. The coast has been gradually eroded away by the sea over the centuries, and the erosion would have continued to this day without the construction of the sea wall along most of the coastline. Many places that were once inhabited have been inundated. The township of Meols itself has probably migrated inland over the centuries as the sea gradually took away the land.