Viking Stories - Leicester

The Thurcaston Hoard was found at Thurcaston, outside of Leicester. The coins are dated to around the time that Lady Æthelflæd of Mercia brought an army to Leicester to bring the town back into Mercian control and out from under the Danelaw. The following is a fictional account of how this event could have influenced the burial of the Thurcaston Hoard.

Spring, c. 920
For more than ten winters I have lived at Leiceaster, and I have grown up in this land. My parents came here with the Great Army, but afterwards decided to settle. Raiding could only get you temporary wealth, they said, but settling in this fertile land gave more certainty. Now, we who have settled here and established our own society, we are being faced with the army of Lady Æthelflæd of Mercia. It is said that this army is here to reclaim Leiceaster from Viking rule and restore Saxon control. My parents may be Danes, so I have Viking blood, but this is the land where I have always lived – I am not a raider. Even those who can recount their ancestors living here do not want this Saxon army to invade. They say they are Anglian, not Saxon; their lives are fine and they have no problem with Viking settlers, but they take issue with Saxon invaders. We have all heard claims that the army will plunder us all – Viking or not – simply for being under Viking territory and control. We do not care in whose territory we are, so long as we can carry on with our lives. The army sees itself as liberators, but they are invaders who threaten our persons and our town.

Late Spring, c. 920
We received news that the army is not far away now. They should be here within a week. I have heard too many stories of their plundering antics at this point; I am not risking losing everything I have built for myself here. Yesterday I went out of the town to hide what wealth I have, before it was too late. If those Saxon invaders came here looking for plunder, they will not find anything from me! I visited my brother, Thorketill, to check that he is well defended against the invaders. He lives outside of the town, and I occasionally bring items from the market to him, so no one thought it suspicious that I left the town carrying goods and came back with nothing. I buried my possessions last night, when no one could see what I was doing. I am taking no chances that those thieving soldiers should get their hands on my wealth!

Summer, c. 920
The Saxon army finally arrived several days ago. They look to have surrounded the town, and are guarding the river in both directions. Those of us in Leiceaster have been meeting each day since their arrival to decide what we should do. The army seems so large it surely cannot stay long. But that could hasten them to attack us. If we try to wait them out, we risk losing our crops to them; even if they then leave we will eventually starve. So, we have finally come to the decision to surrender and submit to their rule. If they think they control the town, they will hopefully depart sooner. It makes no odds to us as to who rules – we will trade with Angles, Saxons, and Danes regardless. It will be better to give them what they want, and then we can proceed as we will, or so we hope. And this way we do not risk endangering ourselves or the town. What is important now, is that we survive.

Summer, c. 921
It has been more than a year since the Saxon army supposedly departed from Leiceaster. Little seems to have changed from before their arrival – we still live and trade pretty much as before. But we are all still on edge. The army still watches Leiceaster, to ensure that the town does not return to Viking control. They are farther away than if we were truly under scrutiny or threat, but still too close for comfort. I dare not retrieve my wealth from where I buried it, for fear that they will then invade the town and take it. Whilst it is true we still trade, it is slightly more stilted when an army watches the trade routes. I have enough to get by, but I worry that one day the trade will stop and I won't be able to get to my hoard to replenish myself until that storm passes...

Autumn, c. 922
Finally the soldiers who were watching us are gone! Apparently they were called to fight in other parts of the country, but so long as they are not here we are happy. In the month since they left the town feels freer, and the air less heavy and oppressive. With the news that the army is no well away from us, I decided to retrieve my treasure. It took me two days, but I eventually found it! Thorketill annoyed at me for having dug up nearly half of his meadow pasture, but that will resolve itself in time. I doubt I have recovered everything I buried; it took me so long to find the main pot, I no longer care about a few coins – I have most of it back. Besides, I would rather the coins be in the earth than in an invaders pocket.

To see the remaining coins from the Thurcaston Hoard, and to learn more about Viking settlement, visit Danelaw Saga: Bringing Vikings back to the East Midlands at Nottingham Lakeside Arts.

To learn more about the origins of place-names, and how ‘Thorketill’s farm’ became ‘Thurcaston’, visit the Key to English Place-names at .

Written by Harriet Clark.