The Battle of
Hatfield Chase (Old English: Hæðfeld; Old Welsh:
Meigen) was fought on 12 October 633 at
Hatfield Chase near
Doncaster (today part of South Yorkshire, England). It pitted the
Northumbrians against an alliance of Gwynedd and Mercia. The
Northumbrians were led by Edwin and the Gwynedd-Mercian alliance was
Cadwallon ap Cadfan
Cadwallon ap Cadfan and Penda. The site was a marshy area about
8 miles (13 km) northeast of
Doncaster on the south bank of the
River Don. It was a decisive victory for Gwynedd and the Mercians:
Edwin was killed and his army defeated, leading to the temporary
collapse of Northumbria.
Edwin, the most powerful ruler in Britain at the time, had seemingly
defeated Cadwallon a few years before the battle.
Bede refers to Edwin
establishing his rule over what he called the Mevanian islands, one of
which was Anglesey, and another source refers to Cadwallon being
besieged on the island of Priestholm (AC: Glannauc), which is off
the coast of Anglesey. Later, Cadwallon defeated and drove the
Northumbrians from his territories and then allied with Penda
(Cadwallon being the stronger member of the alliance). Penda's status
Mercia at this time is uncertain—
Bede suggests he was not yet
king, but became king soon after Hatfield; the Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle, however, says that he became king in 626.
Results of the battle
The battle was a disaster for Northumbria. With both Edwin and his son
Osfrith killed, and his other son Eadfrith captured by Penda (and
later killed), the kingdom was divided between its constituent
Bernicia and Deira. Eanfrith, a son of the former king
Æthelfrith, returned from exile to take power in Bernicia, while
Edwin's cousin Osric took over Deira. Cadwallon continued to wage a
war of ruthless slaughter against the Northumbrians, and was not
stopped until he was defeated by Oswald at the Battle of Heavenfield
(also known as Deniseburna, AC : Cantscaul) a year after
The historian D. P. Kirby suggested that the defeat of Edwin was the
outcome of a wide-ranging alliance of interests opposed to him,
including the deposed Bernician line of Æthelfrith; but considering
the subsequent hostility between Cadwallon and Æthelfrith's sons,
such an alliance must not have survived the battle for long.
Notes and references
Bede gives the date as 12 October in his Ecclesiastical History of
the English People (book II, chapter 20), but the Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle gives the date as 14 October.
Bede also gives the year as
633; however, a question about what
Bede considered the starting point
of the years as he used them has raised the possibility that the
battle may have actually taken place in 632.
Bede Ecclesiastical History, book II, chapter 5; D. P. Kirby, The
Earliest English Kings (1991, 2000), page 71.
^ Annales Cambriae, year 629; Kirby, page 71.
^ Bede, Ecclesiastical History, book II, chapter 20.
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 626.
^ Bede, Ecclesiastical History, book II, chapter 20; book III, chapter
1; book III, chapter 2.