Battle of the Winwæd (Whinmoor?) 655 AD

The Battle of the Winwæd was fought on 15 November 655 between King Penda of Mercia and Oswiu of Bernicia, ending in the Mercians’ defeat and Penda’s death.  Bede recorded that the battle marked the effective end of Anglo-Saxon paganism.

Penda had succeeded in gaining Mercia’s success in dominating England.  Before his success, the Northumbrians had been dominant.  Northumbria had formed from a coalition of Bernicia and Deira, Bernicia being the Anglo-Saxon kingdom covering the east of England north of the Tees and Deira, the Angles settlement covering the East Riding of Yorkshire.  They first combined around 606 in an on-off relationship and finally merged in 654.  The western boundary of Deira was said to be the River Wharfe.

Penda defeated the Northumbrians, killing Edwin of Northumbria at Hatfield Chase in 633.  Later he defeated and killed Oswald of Northumbria at Maserfield (Oswestry) in 642.  In 655 Penda invaded Bernicia, besieging Bamburgh.  The shaky link with Deira was such that Deira supported Penda rather than the Bernicians.

The two armies met near a river named the “Winwæd”.  There have been conflicting claims as to where this was but the favourite seems to be the River Cock at Whinmoor on the outskirts of Leeds.

The immediate outcome of the battle was that Northumbrian dominance was restored. Mercia itself was divided, with the northern part being taken by Oswiu outright and the southern part going to Penda’s Christian son Peada, who had married into the Bernician royal line. Northumbrian authority over Mercia was overthrown within a few years, however.

If and how Tadcaster was involved is unknown, nor which side it supported


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