Battle of Ringmere
The Battle of Ringmere in 1010, on heathland five miles north of Thetford, was a turning point in the defence - or in this period lack of defence – of England against the raiding Norsemen, their brutal killing of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1012 perhaps the nadir of English prestige. The incursions had been taking place again for some 30 years, with poorly organised resistance to the Viking forces whose arrival could come out of the blue, though in East Anglia Ulfcytel, probably the regional Ealdorman, nearly defeated Swein Forkbeard in 1004.
It was that same Ulfcytel, thought to have been a son-in-law of Ethelred, who had gathered a formidable force to face a Viking army led by Thurkil the Tall in 1010. Ulfcytel’s name is of Scandinavian origin, and at this time East Anglia was part of the Danelaw, dominated by the descendents of earlier Norse invaders who had accepted the authority of English kings, though ancient kinship gave the Danelaw no immunity from attack by the sea-raiders.
The raid had already taken in Ipswich and Thetford. For whatever reason, rather than avoid a pitched battle as was their normal strategy, the Vikings opted to meet Ulfcytel’s host. It may be that their confidence came from having traitors in the defenders’ camp, as once battle commenced most of the East Anglian fighters ran away, their cowardice sparked by one Thurcytel who led the flight from the battlefield. Only men from Cambridgeshire and a few others – leaders from Bedfordshire and Huntingdon died in the battle – stayed to fight. The raiding army crushed their remaining opponents, slaughtering many. Ulfcytel survived this clash, to perish six years later at the Battle of Ashingdon .
Ringmere did not only sweep away resistance to the Vikings in East Anglia. Further afield local leaders found discretion the better part of valour, avoiding confrontation with them as the horde pillaged the country. Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire were attacked in turn, Thurkil’s army reaching deep into Wessex before leaving these shores in the winter.
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