the M4 out of Swindon, we climb the hill into Wroughton.

Not long ago, this was a distinct village, nestling on the Northern slopes of the Marlborough Downs, but now it's well on the way to becoming a suburb of burgeoning Swindon.

It's an ordinary place - not a picture-postcard village, but one part of it holds a place in history. Off our road, the signpost points to Ellendune. If you follow it, you won't see much - just an undistinguished housing estate, but nearly 1200 years ago, the battle of Ellendun (I don't know ehere the extra "e" came from) was another of those pivotal events in England's history.

The battle was between King Beornwulf of Mercia and King Egbert of Wessex. For 100 years, Mercia had been the top dog amongst the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, but things were changing. Beornwulf had attacked Egbert to emphasise his superiority, but the battle of Ellendun broke the illusion.

Mercia remained a strong kingdom for some time after, but Wessex was now recognised as the leading force in Anglo-Saxon England. Shortly after Ellendun, Egbert was able to bring Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Essex under his control. Thus, Wessex controlled the whole of Southern England. In following years, he also conquered Mercia and received the submission of Northumbria. He was the nearest thing to a King of England we had yet seen.

However, it probably more important that he was able to leave this strong inheritance to his successors, who were able to build on the foundations - not least his grandson, Alfred.

Barbury Castle Barbury Castle The Flying Museum Wroughton
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