Bid to find king’s last resting place

editorial image

The spot where an Anglo-Saxon king died in battle may not be in Doncaster, according to history experts.

King Edwin, who ruled Northumbria, was thought to have been killed at the Battle of Hatfield Chace, north of Doncaster, in 632AD.

But now historians are calling for the grounds of a Nottinghamshire church to be excavated, to reveal the spot where the ancient monarch died.

The Battle of Hatfield Investigation Society believes St Edwin died at Cuckney, near Mansfield, and their theory is based on 200 skeletons found beneath St Mary’s Church in the village in 1951.

Society chairman Joseph Waterfall said a dig could ‘re-write English history’.

Mr Waterfall said while English Heritage believed the skeletons found in a mass grave at the church were from a medieval massacre, the society believe they belonged to King Edwin’s army from the Battle of Hatfield.

“From 1951 to the present day, there has been no excavation at the church,” he said.

“It has been left for 62 years and we just don’t know for definite which of the sites was the location of the battle.

“King Edwin was the first Christian king of Northumbria and no-one knows for definite where he was slain.

“We need to know this. Certainly for Nottinghamshire, this will re-write English history. It should be corrected.”

He said an application was being submitted to the Parochial Church Council for permission to excavate at the church.

Mr Waterfall is certain a study of the bones can be provide evidence that Cuckney was where King Edwin died and where his son was buried.

The society is to work with Mercian Archaeology on the project and is currently in the process of sourcing up to £60,000 in funding.

The king’s body was later buried in Whitby – while his head went to York. He was honoured as a saint after his death.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that a Scottish king who ruled nearly 700 years ago could be buried beneath a Post Office in Doncaster town centre.

Historians and archaeologists believe one time King of the Scots Edward Balliol could have his last resting place in the town, although there are no plans for a dig.

So just who was King Edwin of Northumbria?

Edwin was born circa 586 and was also known as Eadwine or Æduinus and was the King of Deira and Bernicia – which later became known as Northumbria – from about 616 until his death at The Battle of Hatfield Chace in 632.

His son Osfrith also died in the same battle and could be buried among the skeletons in Cuckney.

Local legend claims the Nottinghamshire village of Edwinstowe is where the king’s body was originally hidden, as ‘stowe’ means ‘resting place’

The Hatfield Chace name lives on, through the name of a popular pub, below.