Today In Fact, 4 January

I once lived in a town called Reading in Berkshire, some 70 kilometres due West of London. The town is situated on the confluence of the Thames and the Kennet Rivers, making it a strategic location as both rivers are navigable.

There is a public park in the town known as the Forbury Gardens just next to the Abbey ruins. In this park there is an unpretentious mound overlooking the main road.

Now in the last half of the ninth century, the Vikings were not just raiding coastal towns around Britain but were serious engaged in a colonizing project. The Danish Vikings at this stage in their history were not Christians but followers of Odin and the Saxons who ruled much of what is England today were Christians, if of a martial and unrefined variety.

Early in 870, a Viking raiding party led by Bagsecg and Halfdan Ragnarssen had taken their longboats and the raven banner up river from London to conquer the Kingdom of Wessex. They made their winter camp on a piece of dry land at the confluence of the Kennet and Thames rivers in the little hamlet of Reading.

On this day in 870, King Æthelred led an attack upon the Danes at the Battle of Reading and his Saxons were badly beaten and repulsed by the Danish Vikings. The mound in the Forbury gardens is the site of the battle. Halfdan and his Vikings remained in Reading for over a year before returning to London. Halfdan was regarded as unusually cruel even by Viking standards and was finally killed in a raid on Devon some seven years later.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (serendipiday.blogspot.com)

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