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The Battle of the Winwaed : In 655, the future of England as a Christian nation hung by the slenderest of threads.
The Battle of the Winwaed

The Battle of the Winwaed saw the Kingdom of Northumbria reunited and restored to Christianity, despite odds of three-to-one and and apparently invincible pagan alliance.

KING Penda of Mercia defeated King Edwin of Northumbria at the battle of Hatfield Chase in 633, and then his successor King Oswald at the Battle of Maserfield in 642.

These were heavy blows to the spread of Christianity, which through St Aidan had taken firm root in Northumbria, for Penda was a pagan.

Consequently, when Oswald’s brother Oswy faced King Penda’s army - three times the size of his own - near the River Winwaed on November 15, 655,* there was more than Northumbrian pride at stake, more even than the life of his son, held hostage by Penda.

But without warning, Penda’s allies Cadafael of Gwynedd and Ethelwald, Oswy’s disloyal nephew, deserted him.

Penda was suddenly very exposed, and Oswy routed his forces in torrential rain and floods; and in the peace that followed, St Hilda, St Cuthbert and St Bede worked tirelessly in Northumbria to spread the Gospel once more.

* There is no agreement on where the River Winwaed was, though the River Went and Cock Beck, both near Leeds, are favoured candidates.

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Picture: © Carol Rose, Geograph. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
The River Went near Little Smeaton a few miles from Leeds in Yorkshire. This is one of the possible locations for the River Winwaed named by Bede as the site of the battle.
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow

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