Posted by: madkentdragon | March 20, 2011

Aylesford Part 2 Battles


Come on let’s go back to the old bridge, it’s quiet and peaceful here isn’t it? You wouldn’t think that two major battles have been
fought right beneath us on the Banks of the Medway!

In 54 AD the Romans as directed by the Emperor Claudius invade Britain and landed in Kent at Richborough where the local tribe the
Cauntii welcomed them, they had been trading with Romano Gaul for some time and were already “Romanised”. However slightly further north, the tribes fought back and under the united leadership of Togodumnus and Caractacus (yes he was a real person!) took up a stand against the Romans on the banks of the Medway – believed to be here at Aylesford.

The legionaries swam and forded the river in full armour to attack the British tribes but despite their full armour and stronger weapons
against the iron age armour, weapons and woad adornments, the Romans were not fully successful. The battle lasted three days which in itself was unusual for any Roman attack against this type of enemy and the Britons tactically withdrew to the Thames where they had a strategic advantage as they could call on other tribes to support them. Unfortunately they lost this battle and eleven tribes surrendered to Claudius.

Some may dispute the site of this battle, but as this is a narrow part of the Medway and could then be forded at low tide, it is the most
likely position especially as the legions would have followed the original trackways, building their roads after the original conquest, and there is a known prehistoric trackway from the landings in Richborough through Aylesford, although when they built their famous roads they built it on what is known as Watling Street through to Rochester.

Right, now to tell you about the second battle, this one was called the Battle of Aylesford, so there’s no denying that it happened here,
and entailed mercenaries bigamy and betrayal, whetted your appetite? Well here goes….  In 455 AD, after the Romans had left Britain, much of it reverted to local fiefdoms but this time it was the Saxons/Angles/Picts who were invading.

Vortigern, who had successfully established himself as the main Chieftain to whom other tribes paid allegiance found that he was fighting
two battles simultaneously, one in the North against the Picts and one in the South against the Saxons, so he hired in some Jutes under the command of two brothers called Hengist and Horsa to repel the Saxons and they were, at this time quite successful. However Vortigern couldn’t pay them, so they faced each other at Aylesford (in some ancient chronicles it’s called “Epsford”) – and to add insult to injury Hengist and Horsa allied themselves to the Saxons! During this battle Horsa and Vortigern’s Second son Catigern were both killed and
buried nearby.

The only way for the Britons to solve this was to call for a truce and to sign a treaty in which Vortigern set aside his wife and married
Horsa’s daughter, but peace did not last and two years later at Crayford, the Britons lost control of Kent to the Saxons. It has been noted by several historians that these two crafty fellows kept bringing more and more people in to fight the battles as they liked what they saw of the area and probably intended to settle there!

It is rumoured that the people were getting fed up with Vortigern, and backed by the Church Ambrosius Aurelanius defeated Vortigern and his troops in a stronghold in the 460s by burning it all down.

There are two legends attached to this, one is that at the peace treaty Hengist agreed to settle for an amount of land whose circumference
was covered by a cow-hide, what Vortigern did not realise was that Hengist would cut the cow-hide into a very long thin strip and the area that it surrounded was half the size of Kent.

The other rumour is that Ambrosius Aurelius had a brother whose name was Uther Pendragon!

Vortigern has been documented by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his “histories”

Sorry the burials and standing stones will be the next one!

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