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12 The Teacher  1-2 (187) 2022 Culture ❯❯❯ that his father had been dispossessed of his lands and his brother killed by the Normans. Hereward took revenge by killing 15 Normans who were responsible and then went to Peterborough to be knighted by his uncle Bishop Brand. He then went with a small group of followers back to Flanders. In 1070AD Hereward came back to England and took part in the insurrection against the Normans using the Island of Ely as his base. Ely stands on an island of rock well above the then marshy floor of the Fens. The insurrection was mainly instigated by the Danish King Sweyn Estrithon who had sent a small army to Ely. Sweyn Estrithon was related to King Canute the Great who had ruled England when it was part of the Danish Empire in the early 11th century. After the Danes were ousted by the English King Æthalstan, King Sweyn wanted to re-establish England as part of the Danish Empire. He was also joined by Mercer, the former Duke of Northumbria, who had been an important person before the Normans came and who had also been dispossessed. From their base at Ely they travelled to the Cathedral at Peterborough and took all the treasure accumulated in Saxon times, allegedly to prevent it being used by the Normans. There is uncertainty whether this was an actual raid Fig. 7. Hereward fighting the Normans, a 19th century illustration. Fig. 8. Hereward attacking the causeway constructed by the Normans. or the raid was carried out with the agreement of the Cathedral. King Sweyn then took the treasure back to Denmark. There were repeated attempts by the Normans to take the island fortress of Ely (Fig. 7). On two occasions the defenders destroyed wooden causeways which had been constructed by the Normans across the marsh which resulted in a large loss of Norman soldiers and horses who drowned from the weight of their armour when they fell into the water (Fig. 8). The Normans also tried to intimidate the Saxons with a witch who preached from the top of a wooden tower, but the Saxons managed to set fire to the tower. It is said that the Normans, probably led by one of William’s knights named Belasius or Belsar then bribed the monks of the island to reveal a safe route across the marshes, resulting in Ely’s capture. An earlier Iron Age hill fort now known as Belsar’s Hill (Fig. 9). sits astride the much older route known as Aldreth’s Causeway, which would have been a direct route from the Isle of Ely to Cambridge situated to the south, the route by which the Normans would have come.

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