Battle of Maldon 991


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Maldon (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 86758 05586



Of all the Viking attacks in Western Europe, those against Britain were the most savage and the most unremitting. The major Viking expedition which reached England in AD 991 pillaged Folkestone, Sandwich and Ipswich before it was confronted at Maldon by a force of East Saxons led by Ealdorman Brihtnoth.

The Vikings had established themselves on Northey Island, linked to the Essex mainland by a causeway submerged except at low tide. The crossing was blocked by the East Saxons. Brihtnoth, needing to defeat the Vikings or risk them taking to their ships and continuing to raid the coast, agreed to let them across to engage in battle. In a bloody encounter, with heavy casualties on both sides, Brihtnoth was killed and the Vikings were victorious.

The battle began the process which led to Anglo-Saxon England becoming incorporated for a quarter of a century into a Scandinavian empire. In its aftermath, the English sought to buy peace with a payment of œ10,000. The main source of the battle is a contemporary poem, The Battle of Maldon, one of the finest battle poems in English literary history.

In 991 the landscape was very different from that of today. The shoreline was firm and the land dry. The channel between the mainland and Northey Island was only half its present width. Sea-level rise over the last 1,000 years led first to flooding then to the reclaiming of the land by means of a sea wall by 1822. Mud has accumulated on the seaward side, so that the creeks now present give a misleading impression of the nature of the battlefield in 991.

AMENITY FEATURES Public access along the dyke path allows easy appreciation of the topography of the battlefield and subsequent land changes. The line of the causeway is obvious even at high tide. The existing Maritime Trail leads visitors around much of the battlefield.

OTHER DESIGNATIONS All of the battlefield area is part of the Coastal Protection Belt. Northey Island is a Special Landscape Area and, together with the nearby salt marsh, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Part of the battlefield is designated an amenity area.

KEY SOURCES Whitelock, D, 1979, English Historical Documents c 500-1042 Scragg, D, 1991, The Battle of Maldon AD 991

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment to the Selected Sources on 10/04/2019


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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English Heritage Battlefield Report: Battle of Maldon 991 (Published 1995), accessed 10th April 2019 from


This battlefield is registered within the Register of Historic Battlefields by Historic England for its special historic interest.

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