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HER Number:MDV11743
Name:Bloody Corner, Northam


Supposed site of a battle between Danes and Saxons in AD 878. Recent research suggests a later battle between Harold and Brian son of Eudo in 1069.


Grid Reference:SS 454 292
Map Sheet:SS42NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishNortham
Ecclesiastical ParishNORTHAM

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS42NE/31

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • BATTLEFIELD (VIII to Late Medieval - 701 AD to 1539 AD)

Full description

Arnold, N., The Defeat of the Sons of Harold in 1069 (Article in Serial). SDV358035.

In June 1069 two sons of the slain King Harold raided Devon with a fleet of at least sixty-four ships. The raid ended in complete defeat. In the course of two battles fought in a single day, the raiders lost most of their army. Conflicting locations for these events offered by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Orderic Vitalis have hampered any reconstruction of the raid or an appreciation of its significance. However close study of the sources and the estuary of the Taw and Torridge suggests that Northam in north Devon was the most likely battlefield.

Risdon, T., 1811, Choreographical Description or Survey of the County of Devon, 424-425 (Monograph). SDV20653.

Risdon refers to the victory of the Earl of Devon over the Danish during the reign of King Alfred and that the Danish entrenchments and the way they took back to their shops can still be seen. The Danish though rallied during their retreat, and checked their assailants pursuit in a desperate stand at a site now known as 'bloody corner'.

Ordnance Survey, 1932/1938, 12SW (Cartographic). SDV12744.

Supposed site of a battle between the Danes and the Saxons, (AD 878.)

Rogers, I., 1938, A Concise History of Bideford (Monograph). SDV360460.

It is inferred that bones found at the location of Bloody Corner during road works in 1906 may be associated with the slaying of Hubba in 878.
During the winter of this year Hingwar and Hubba coming out of South Wales with their Danish Followers landed at Appledore from 23 ships and laid siege to Bideford. Oddune the Ealderman of Devon alarmed at this invasion fled with his followers to the Castle of Kenwith. He made a sudden sally on the Danes and defeated them. The danes made a stand at Bloody Corner, Northam where Hubba was slain and the 'Raven' standard captured. He was buried on the shore near his ships.

Rogers, I., 1948, The Invasion of North Devon by Hubba the Dane, 119-126 (Article in Serial). SDV12738.

Hubbe the Dane, forced to retreat towards his fleet at Appledore was overtaken by the Saxon army at Bloody Corner where he was defeated and killed. Human remains and coins have been found at Bloody Corner and an ancient iron axe was dug up in the vicinity. Coins have since disappeared. A tablet recording the defeat of the Danes was fixed to the wall in 1890 but the date ascribed to the battle (AD 892) is inaccurate.

Hoskins, W. G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon, 445 (Monograph). SDV17562.

There is no authority for identifying this site with the battle of AD 878.

Grinsell, L. V., 1970, The Barrows of North Devon, 98 (Article in Serial). SDV7849.

Twelfth century writer Geoffrey Gaimar stated that the brother of Ivar and Halfdene who sailed from South Wales in the winter of 877/8 and landed in Devon, presumably North Devon, was Ubba or Hubba. He goes on to say that he was killed there and was buried in a cairn not far away. Assuming that the site is in North Devon, there appear to be three sites which merit discussion. The supposed Hubba Stone between Bideford and Appledore is the creation of early antiquaries, particularly R.S. Vidal at the beginning of the 19th century, and can in the writers opinion be rejected. There are no know barrows anywhere near the great earthwork on Wind Hill above Countisbury, now identified by normally reliable authorities as the probable site of the battle. The present writer suggests that another possible site for the battle is Clovelly Dykes, a quarter-mile to the west od which is a barrow CLOVELLY 1 which would fit Geoffrey Gaimer's description. That is a roughly circular barrow. Hubba could have been buried in a round barrow or on an oval ship-barrow of Viking type. Another possibility is the barrow at Gallantry Bower (CLOVELLY 2).

Arnold, N., 2015, Request to update HER Monument MDV11743, Northam (Correspondence). SDV358036.

Recent research indicates the battle of AD 878 did not take place in this location, but instead shows it may have been the battle between the sons of Harold and Brian, son of Eudo, which took place in 1069 (Please see SVD358035).

Gore, D., 2016, Bloody Corner, Northam (Correspondence). SDV360461.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle's account of AD 1069, when the sons of Harold I (HER edit – should be Harold Godwinson/ Harold ii) brought a mercenary army of Irish ships and men to the South-West. It is unknown precisely why they came. Harold's family estates in the south-west were considerable. His sons led expeditions here in 1068 and 1069.
ASC gives the following about the 1069 expedition: 'Towards midsummer the sons of Harold came from Ireland with 64 ships into the mouth of the Taw, and went up there carelessly. And Earl Brian came against them by surprise, with no little company, and fought against them, and killed all the best men who were in the fleet; and the others, with little company, fled to the ships. And Harold's sons went back again to Ireland.'
There is no mention of a specific battlefield, although a case for a site at Northam has been made (Arnold, 2015).
In AD 878 an Anglo-Saxon army fought against a ship-army of Vikings, which had been raiding in Wales at Cynuit. This is now thought to be modern Countisbury rather than Northam. Bloody Corner at Northam is a later tradition associated with two interpretations. Kenwith Castle was proposed in the 17th century as the site of the battle of Cynuit because of the similarity of the name. Antiquarians suggested that a cairn of stones on the bank on the river Torridge, washed away before 1630, was 'Ubbe' 's burial mound. This later material is fanciful and unreliable.

2017, Battalia: An E-Journal Publication of the Battlefields Trust (Article in Serial). SDV364332.

This new journal, Battalia, highlights this partnership, publishing diverse articles to raise awareness of Britain’s unique battlefield resources.
In the summer of 1069 two sons of the slain King Harold of England sailed from Ireland to
Devon with either sixty four (Swanton, 2000, p. 203), or sixty-six ships (William of Jumièges,
1995, pp. 180-181). There they were defeated in two battles fought in a single day. According
to both English and Norman sources most of the invaders were killed. Unfortunately the
sources offer conflicting locations for the battles and the resultant divergent accounts have
obscured their historical significance. In the absence of battlefield archaeology it is only
possible to propose a probable location. However, close study of the sources and the historical
geography of the Taw and Torridge estuary suggests that the parish of Northam was a scene of
these events.
Although the English and Norman chroniclers apparently never read each other’s work, their
accounts are remarkably consistent and fit in well with the tide and dusk data. The only glaring
contradiction is the differing landing sites proposed by the Chronicle and Orderic. By locating
the battles at Northam, it is to be hoped that a clearer understanding of the raid and its
significance may be achieved.

Arnold, N., 2017, Bloody Corner, Northam (Correspondence). SDV360488.

In AD 1069 two sons of King Harold ii (killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066) fought two battles against an army led by Brian of Brittany. The battles are recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Chronicon ex Chronicis, the Gesta Normannorum Ducum, the Quedam Exceptiones and the Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis. The sons of Harold arrived from Ireland with either 64 or 66 ships and landed/went inland from taw mutha. There is a consensus that this is Appledore, which is named as the port of Tawmutha in 13th century records.
There were two 'battles' in the course of one day. The sons of Harold were defeated with the loss of 1700 men but were able to sail away. The first battle probably took place close to Northam village. The second battle was fought in the approximately 1700 metre-gap between Northam and Appledore, a confined area of peninsular bounded to the east by the River Torridge and to the west by the marshes of Northam Burrows. On the basis of the historic descriptions of the battle and local topography, Arnold argues that the heaviest fighting took place at a pinch point approximately 300 metres north of Bloody Corner.
In 1806 R.S Vidal identified Bloody Corner as the site of fighting associated with the earlier Battle of Cynuit (AD 878). However, twentieth century scholars tended to favour Wind Hill, Countisbury as the site of Cynuit. A more recent claim has been made on topographical terms for Castle Hill, near Beaford. In 1906 human remains were reportedly found under the road at Bloody Corner (Rogers, 1938). In the absence of further evidence it is impossible to offer definitive information about the age or nature of this find.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, Unknown, SS42NE4 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV12737.

Bloody Corner, supposed site of battle between Danes and Saxons AD 878.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV12737Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. Unknown. SS42NE4. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV12738Article in Serial: Rogers, I.. 1948. The Invasion of North Devon by Hubba the Dane. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 80. A5 Hardback. 119-126.
SDV12744Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1932/1938. 12SW. 6".
SDV17562Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954. A New Survey of England: Devon. A New Survey of England: Devon. A5 Hardback. 445.
SDV20653Monograph: Risdon, T.. 1811. Choreographical Description or Survey of the County of Devon. Choreographical Description or Survey of the County of Devon. Unknown. 424-425.
SDV358035Article in Serial: Arnold, N.. The Defeat of the Sons of Harold in 1069. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. Digital.
SDV358036Correspondence: Arnold, N.. 2015. Request to update HER Monument MDV11743, Northam. Digital.
SDV360460Monograph: Rogers, I.. 1938. A Concise History of Bideford. Digital.
SDV360461Correspondence: Gore, D.. 2016. Bloody Corner, Northam. Addition of HER record. Digital.
SDV360488Correspondence: Arnold, N.. 2017. Bloody Corner, Northam. Addition of HER record. Digital.
SDV364332Article in Serial: 2017. Battalia: An E-Journal Publication of the Battlefields Trust. The Battlefields Trust. Digital.
SDV7849Article in Serial: Grinsell, L. V.. 1970. The Barrows of North Devon. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 28. A5 Paperback. 98.

Associated Monuments

MDV11746Related to: Barrow at Appledore (Monument)
MDV24327Related to: Stone tablet at Bloody Corner, Churchill Way, Northam (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Jan 13 2023 10:57AM