Martin Wall came west for work. Rescued from the ‘ghetto’ of a Nottingham tower block, the would-be author’s new role with psychiatric emergency services in Worcestershire placed him in the Clent Hills.
The discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard in 2009 has captured the imagination and stimulated renewed interest in the history and culture of the Anglo-Saxons. The discovery poses some interesting questions. Who owned the treasure and how did they acquire it? Was it made locally or did it originate elsewhere? Why was it buried in an obscure field in the Staffordshire countryside?
Wall writes in detail about the different Celtic tribes, whom the Romans thought ‘war mad’, as indeed they doubtless needed to be. He also relates how the landscape of Britain was changed by such activity with castles being built looking out to sea, souterrains or underground tunnels for storage constructed, especially in Cornwall, and large-scale forest clearance undertaken as a result of the need for building hill forts and with early industrialization, such as smelting iron in large quantities.
The Anglo-Saxon age was one of turbulence and constant bloodshed, but there was more to it than this. Central to it was a dream, a dream of England in which a united land existed under one absolute sovereignty with no foreseeable rivals. Many would share this idea, whether Saxon or Dane, and many more would die for it. But it wouldn’t be until the Norman Conquest that such a thing was fully achieved.
As one of the generation who was introduced to English history by the ‘Kings and Queens’ principle, and thoroughly enjoyed it, I have long since regarded the centuries between the Roman invasion and the Norman conquest as a bit of a blur. For me it is a rather ill-defined area, punctuated by the likes of Hengist and Horsa, Alfred the Great and Ethelred the Unready, not to mention the Athelstans, Edgars, Egberts and others who are so often little more than names. In order words, what exactly did they do, and what was their impact on the land they ruled? This admirable title in Amberley’s exemplary series has helped to bring it all into focus.